epa11067217 European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders arrives to attend a meeting of the College of Commissioners in Brussels, Belgium, 10 January 2024. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER MATTHYS


Another Commissioner jumps ship: Reynders hopes to lead Council of Europe


European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders is set to run for the top job at the Council of Europe, becoming the latest EC bigwig to abandon EC President Ursula von der Leyen.

Von der Leyen had already seen two Commissioners leave for pastures new last year, with Mariya Gabriel from Bulgaria and Frans Timmermans from the Netherlands deciding to try their chances in their own countries rather than play on in Brussels.

Reynders’ run for office seems part of a growing trend of politicians looking for future employment elsewhere and may be connected to the recent decision of Charles Michel, the current President of the European Council, to seek other avenues.

With Michel’s announcement on January 8 that he will prematurely resign from office and run as an MEP in the upcoming European Parliament elections, things changed for Reynders, who is a member of the Liberal MR Party in Belgium, of which Michel is a former leader.

Although Reynders had said he was “open” to continue as a Commissioner, Michel’s running as the lead MR candidate in the elections has seemed to make that no longer viable.

With Michel heading the nominations, Reynders could realistically only hope for a third spot on the list at best, by no means guaranteeing a seat in a new European Parliament.

Political infighting in the Belgian Government has added to turmoil, such as long-winded discussions around the appointment of a new head of the nation’s Central Bank.

It will be the second time Reynders has thrown his hat into the ring for the Council of Europe secretary-general role.

In 2019, he was beaten to the position by the Croatian Marija Pejčinović Burić. Her term is wrapping up on September 17.

The decision on who takes the reins next is set for the end of June. Potential candidates have until 6pm on January 10 post job applications.

The 1949 Universal Declaration of Human Rights institution will review the candidacies at the end of January. In March, the chosen will be interviewed by the Council of Europe’s ministerial committee.

The Council of Europe’s secretary-general election is scheduled for June and will in all likelihood be decided through a larger horse-trading exercise among European leaders.