BRUSSELS (AFP) – The EU’s incoming chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker won the approval of parliament Wednesday for his new team of commissioners after vowing to revive the stagnant economy and tackle a raft of foreign policy challenges.
Lawmakers at the European Parliament in Strasbourg voted by 423 to 209 in favour of the new European Commission with 67 abstentions, allowing Juncker’s line-up to start its five-year mandate as planned on November 1.
In a speech before the vote, Juncker said he would present a huge 300-billion-euro ($380-billion) investment package to boost jobs and growth by Christmas, amid global fears of a return of the eurozone debt crisis.
He said the EU must do more to tackle issues such as the Ebola outbreak in west Africa, the threat of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria, and the wave of migration from across the Mediterranean.
“Let’s get Europe moving again,” said Juncker, the former Luxembourg prime minister.
The European Commission includes one member from each of the 28 nations in the EU, a bloc that covers more than 500 million people and taken together represents the world’s biggest economy.
Juncker’s team risked missing its start date after parliament forced him to reshuffle some of his team but the final members made it through the last of more than two weeks of gruelling confirmation hearings on Monday.
He takes over from Portugal’s Jose Manuel Barroso, whose 10 years at the head of the commission saw the EU gain greater powers even as Brussels became increasingly unpopular with sceptical European voters.
It is widely regarded as the most powerful institution in Brussels as it drafts laws, enforces national budgets, and is responsible for negotiating trade deals between other countries and the EU.
Juncker promised to take a careful look at a controversial yet central clause in a proposed giant EU-US free trade deal that allows corporations to sue governments.
He said “secret courts” would not be allowed to “have the final say in disputes between investors and states” as a result of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Juncker, a member of the centre-right European People’s Party, also urged lawmakers to back his investment package to boost the economy.
World markets plunged last week on concerns that the fragile eurozone economy was set for a triple-dip recession, sparked by debt-ridden Greece’s plans to exit its international bailout early.