MEPs back Juncker EU Commission team in key vote

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Media captionJean-Claude Juncker believes that flexibility is needed on all sides

MEPs have voted by a large majority in support of the new European Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker.

The vote went 423 for, 209 against and there were 67 abstentions. It means the Commission can take office next month.

The commissioners underwent gruelling cross-examination at individual hearings in the European Parliament.

Mr Juncker reshuffled some appointments after objections from MEPs. The Commission drafts EU laws, oversees national budgets and enforces EU rules.

Nine UK Conservatives abstained from the vote, but six voted for and three were against.

Hardline Eurosceptics, including the UK Independence Party, opposed the Commission, as did the Greens and leftists. But the main party blocs voted for the new team.

The 28-strong team has one official from each EU nation.

Speaking before the vote, Mr Juncker said it was "pathetic" that he had been unable to appoint more than nine women to the Commission, despite having urged national governments to put forward more women. MEPs applauded him for making that point.

He asked MEPs to lobby their national parties to raise awareness about gender equality.

For many years he was prime minister of Luxembourg and is a veteran of EU integration efforts.

"I'm a bit embarrassed about this because Luxembourg didn't appoint a woman," he said, adding in English: "in the short term I won't be able to change my sex".

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Media captionNigel Farage, UKIP, speaking ahead of the vote: "We will be voting against the Commission... because it is anti-democratic"

New structure

Mr Juncker is from the main centre-right bloc, the European People's Party (EPP), which won the May European elections.

He has created the new post of first vice-president, appointing Frans Timmermans from the Netherlands, another EU veteran, with whom he has worked for many years.

One of Mr Timmermans's key tasks is to look at the question of subsidiarity - that is, issues that can best be addressed at national rather than pan-European level.

The UK and some other countries have urged the Commission to cut red tape and devolve more power to national governments.

Mr Timmermans will also be responsible for sustainable development - something that MEPs had demanded during the hearings.

Other vice-presidents will oversee some other key areas, such as the EU budget, jobs and growth, and energy.

The UK's Lord Hill will be commissioner for financial services, overseeing banking - a post welcomed by the UK government. However, he had a rough ride in the hearings, as MEPs recalled him for a second round of questioning.

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Image caption Parliament President Martin Schulz (left) leads the centre-left - the second-largest MEP bloc

More overlap

Mr Juncker told MEPs that he would present a 300bn-euro (£237bn; $380bn) investment package to boost jobs and growth by Christmas.

He regretted that only two eurozone countries had retained triple-A credit ratings - Germany and Luxembourg.

"I'd like the EU to equip itself with a social triple-A rating - that's just as important as an economic and financial triple-A," he said.

He also vowed to break down "silos" in the Commission, to end "commissioners working in their corner behind closed doors, which is a rather provincial approach".

"The big loser of this new structure is me. I have delegated a lot of my presidential powers to the vice-presidents," he said.

Under pressure from MEPs Mr Juncker nominated a different candidate from Slovenia - Violeta Bulc - to the post of transport commissioner. Slovenia's ex-PM Alenka Bratusek was the only candidate to be rejected by MEPs.

He also named Slovakia's Maros Sefcovic as vice-president responsible for energy union, in another concession to MEPs.

Greens leader Rebecca Harms said her group voted against because the new Commission was not prioritising environmental action. The Greens also opposed two nominees - Spain's Miguel Arias Canete (energy) and Hungary's Tibor Navracsics (education and culture), she said.

Structure of the European Commission

Vytenis Andriukaitis (Lithuania) Health and food safety

Miguel Arias Canete (Spain) Climate action and energy

Dimitris Avramopoulos (Greece) Migration and home affairs, citizenship

Elzbieta Bienkowska (Poland) Internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs (small and medium-sized businesses), space projects

Corina Cretu (Romania) Regional policy

Johannes Hahn (Austria) European neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations

Jonathan Hill (UK) Financial stability, financial services and capital markets union

Phil Hogan (Ireland) Agriculture and rural development

Vera Jourova (Czech Republic) Justice, consumers and gender equality

Cecilia Malmstroem (Sweden) Trade

Neven Mimica (Croatia) International co-operation and development

Carlos Moedas (Portugal) Research, science and innovation

Pierre Moscovici (France) Economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs

Tibor Navracsics (Hungary) Education, culture, youth and sport

Guenther Oettinger (Germany) Digital economy and society

Violeta Bulc (Slovenia) Transport

Christos Stylianides (Cyprus) Humanitarian aid and crisis management

Marianne Thyssen (Belgium) Employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility

Karmenu Vella (Malta) Environment, maritime affairs and fisheries

Margrethe Vestager (Denmark) Competition

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