On 22 October 2014, the European Parliament approved the new European Commission led by Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker.
Members of the European Parliament backed the new Commission with 423 votes in favour, 209 votes against and 67 abstentions. This vote was followed by the approval of the European Council on 24 October 2014.
The EPP, S&D and ALDE groups had given their support to the Commissioners, whereas the Greens, GUE/NGL, Eurosceptic and far-right MEPs had all announced they would vote against. The abstentions were from the British Conservatives and their Polish and German ECR group allies.
In order to secure support from the EP, Mr. Juncker was forced to make a number of concessions to the MEPs, which included a slight reshuffle of his proposed Commission’s portfolios. Of particularly high relevance was the decision to keep Units SANCO B2 (Health Technology and Cosmetics), SANCO D5 (Medicinal Products – Authorisations, European Medicines Agency) and SANCO D6 (Medical Products – Quality, Safety and Efficacy) within the remit of the health Commissioner elect Dr. Vytenis Andriukaitis rather than the single market Commissioner as was initially planned, a move which was highly criticised by MEPs across all political groups.
Mr. Juncker said he never intended to look like he cares more about business than health, and accepted arguments from the medical community and MEPs to keep the unit under the health commissioner.
While handled well, this nonetheless represents something of a step back for the new Commission President who perhaps did not expect such a rapid and strong reaction from the health community at large.
Although fears about such a change of portfolios abounded in the previous weeks, it is unlikely that any change would have had the impact imagined by health groups.