The EU's incoming chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker pictured
Strasbourg - AFP
The EU's Jean-Claude Juncker won parliamentary approval Wednesday for his new team of commissioners, allowing them to start work next month on reviving the economy and tackling challenges on the continent's borders.
Lawmakers at the European Parliament in Strasbourg voted by 423 to 209 in favour of Juncker's incoming European Commission, which will have a five-year mandate as the executive branch of the 28-nation union from November 1.
Juncker said he would start work immediately on readying a 300-billion-euro ($380-billion) investment package to boost jobs and growth by Christmas, amid global fears the eurozone is once again flirting with economic crisis.
He said the EU must do more to tackle threats such as the west Africa Ebola outbreak and the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria, although he made no mention of the crisis in Ukraine, which has raised tensions with Russia.
"Let's get Europe moving again," said Juncker, the former Luxembourg prime minister.
Juncker's team had 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.
But he won fewer votes than his predecessor Jose Manuel Barroso did for the previous commission, a factor Juncker blamed on growing disillusionment with Brussels among voters during Barroso's decade in office.
- World's biggest economy -The 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.
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.
"If you give us your support today, we will present the jobs, growth and investment package before Christmas," Juncker said.
"To those who think excessive austerity will automatically revive growth and create more jobs, they should drop those ideas."
- 'No Austerity' -
The EU is riven by debate between Germany and its austerity-loving allies and those such as France, which want to spend their way back into economic health.
Several MEPs held up banners saying "No Austerity" during the debate.
Juncker promised to be "tough when we need to be tough", with one of his team's first tasks likely to be dealing with France over its budget deficit -- despite the economic affairs commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, being a Frenchman.
The possibility of Britain leaving the EU in a planned 2017 referendum is another problem Juncker has to face. But while ruling out changes to migration freedoms demanded by London, he told a media conference after the vote he hoped Britain could get a "fair deal".
British eurosceptic leader Nigel Farage slammed the commission as "a bunch of non-entities" and the EU as an "anti-democratic form of government".
Juncker, meanwhile, said his team had to face up to a "more dangerous world".
"We only reacted when the Ebola problem arrived on EU shores. We should have acted much sooner," he said.
Referring to the Islamic State group that has taken over swathes of Iraq and Syria, Juncker said it was an "enemy of EU values".