A Belgian lawyer and former deputy prime minister is the surprise nomination for the justice and rule of law portfolio in the new European Commission announced by president-elect Ursula von der Leyen today.
Didier Reynders, 61, was educated at the University of Liège and practised as a lawyer from 1981 to 1985. He has served in several government posts including finance minister and is currently foreign minister and defence minister in the country's caretaker government.
Outside Belgium, Reynders is perhaps best known for the controversy that followed his wearing of 'blackface' paint at a charity event in 2015.
He takes over the justice portfolio from Vera Jourova, the Czech Republic's nominee. She remains in the new commission as vice president responsible for values and transparency. Another vice president, Margaritis Schinas of Greece, is responsible for 'protecting our European way of life'.
Malta’s nomniee for the commission Helena Dalli, who had been tipped for justice commissioner, takes on the equality portfolio. The UK did not nominate a commissioner following an announcement by Theresa May in July.
The appointments are subject to approval by the European Parliament, which has to give its consent to the entire college of commissioners.
Presenting the team today, von der Leyen said that the commission will apply the ‘One-in, one-out' principle to new laws and regulations. 'This will be a commission that walks the talk. We have a structure that focuses on tasks not hierarchies,' she said. 'We need to be able to deliver on the issues that matter the most rapidly and with determination.'