Juncker announces shakeup of top EU jobs

21 Feb 2018 | News

Makeover at the top as director general for research and innovation, Robert-Jan Smits is replaced by Jean-Eric Paquet and new recruits are lined up for nine other posts

EU president Jean Claude Juncker and budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger. Photo: European Commission

The European Commission is replacing the directors general for research and innovation, climate action, education and employment, as part of wide-ranging makeover at the top of its administration, in which ten posts will change hands.

The Commission has appointed five new directors general, two of whom are women, and five new deputy directors general, four of whom are women, EU president Jean Claude Juncker and budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger said in a joint announcement.

French civil servant Jean-Eric Paquet will be replacing Robert-Jan Smits as director general for research and innovation. Paquet’s experience of 23 years at the European Commission working on deepening the Economic and Monetary Union and strengthening the European Semester process makes him “ideally suited for the new position,” the Commission said.

Estonian Signe Ratso, who has over 12 years of experience working at the Commission on market access and industry, has been appointed deputy director general for research and innovation. The Commission said Ratso’s previous experience working for the Estonian government will be relevant in her new position, “notably for the Commission's upcoming proposal on the new Framework programme for research and innovation.”

Mauro Petriccione is to become director general for climate action, replacing Jos Delbeke. “He really brings everything to the table which we need if Europe is to be a major player when it comes to climate protection,” said Oettinger.

Smits and Delbeke will become “hors classe” advisers at the European Political Strategy Centre, the Commission’s in house think tank. While Delbeke will advise the think tank on relations with the Florence-based European University Institute, the mission of Smits is “still to be determined.”

Meanwhile, the new director-general for education, youth, sport and culture will be Themis Christophidou, the first Cypriot to hold such a position inside the Commission. Viviane Hoffmann will be the new deputy director-general. 

Céline Gauer has been appointed deputy director-general for health and food safety.

Martin Selmayr, Juncker’s head of cabinet has been appointed secretary-general of the Commission, effective 1 March. Selmayr will be replaced by Clara Martinez Alberola, Juncker’s current deputy head of cabinet. Alberola is the first female head of cabinet of a Commission president.

The shakeup represents progress in making good on Juncker’s promise at the beginning of his mandate to increase the number of women in the middle and top management of the Commission to 40 per cent. The changes announced today push that figure to 36 per cent, up from 11 percent in November 2014. As for the remaining four per cent left to reach the target, Oettinger said he hopes to achieve it by the end of October 2019.

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