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Gabriel returns to the Berlaymont

Mariya Gabriel is another well known face in the Von der Leyen Commission. A former MEP, she became Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society in 2017 and focused on disinformation, fake news, digital skills, especially for women, and cybersecurity; she also coordinated the European media policy.

Graduated from the Institute of Political Studies in Bordeaux, she was a teaching and research assistant there before being elected to the European Parliament. She won a seat in the parliamentary elections of 2019, but gave that up to take up the role in the new Commission, where she was tasked with the new Innovation and Youth portfolio. After some criticism from the cultural and cultural heritage sector about the removal of culture from the portfolio title, Von Leyen announced Gabriel as the Commissioner for Youth, innovation, Education, Research and Culture to the European Parliament.

Confirmation hearing highlights

She was positive about reviewing the E-Commerce directive

Determined to increase Horizon Europe funds, but skeptical about doubling the budget for Creative Europe

“As for the budget, I am clearly on the side of the European Parliament. I will vigorously defend the budget increase for the Horizon Europe programme, because it will have to be understood that the budget for Horizon Europe is not an expense, it’s an investment”

Believes that investment in tech will ensure strategic autonomy, echoing Von der Leyen’s digital sovereignty

Will work to create synergies and opportunities for youth

Committed to commission a study on the salary of researchers

“I will touch on a more sensitive question, it is the salaries of researchers. We have made a commitment to do a study, to follow the evolution and I am sure that this evolution will give us many lessons to be able to act more quickly.”

Stressed the importance of creating a European space of research, innovation, education, culture and sport, and ensure synergies between programmes

Mission letter

With regard to education, research and innovation her task for the next five years will be to ensure rapid agreement on and full implementation of the future Horizon Europe programme. As part of this she will have to ensure sufficient investment flows to disruptive research and breakthrough innovations, particularly through the European Innovation Council. She will have to work with Member States to build a European Research Area in which national and European efforts will be pulled together.

Von der Leyen wants her to ensure that research, policy and economic priorities go hand in hand involving work with Commissioners across all EU policies. As part of the next budget she should support the objective of tripling the Erasmus+ programme. She will also lead the work on making the European Education Area a reality by 2025 in close cooperation with regional and national authorities. It should remove barriers to learning making it easier for learners to move between countries. Promoting excellence and networking among European universities will also be one of her education related tasks as well as to focus on digital literacy and education to close the digital skills gap. She should play a leading role in the updating of the Digital Education Action Plan. Lastly, Gabriel will have to maximise the potential of the existing exchange programs to foster international cooperation in education, research and innovation.

As the name of the portfolio implies, she will have a varied set of tasks and policy areas. With her focus on culture, youth and sport ‘’it is ever more important to promote and preserve our cultural heritage at a time when things move quicker and seem more short-lived than ever before’’. Gabriel will have to ensure the full implementation of the New European Agenda for Culture and develop ways to strengthen Europe’s commitment to preserving and protecting cultural heritage. The promotion of creative industries will be important for innovation, jobs and growth and maximise the potential of an ambitious Creative Europe Programme. She should promote sport as a tool for inclusion and wellbeing and as a part of this expand the #BeInclusive EU Sports Awards and further the European week of Sport. As a part of the EU’s partnerships with countries around the world she should aim to foster cultural cooperation.

What she will be working on

Horizon Europe

With the rolling out of the Horizon Europe programme being mainly in the hands of Member States representatives in the Council, Gabriel pledged to involve the European Parliament in the implementation process. She also stressed to be “on the side of the European Parliament”, and will fight for a budget increase for the programme. In line with the aim of the programme, she insisted on her will to develop information campaigns to bring science closer to European citizens. Gabriel also included humanities and social sciences within the scope of Horizon Europe.

European Research Area

The Commission will issue a Communication on the European Research Area in the second half of 2020.

Artificial Intelligence

Although AI is not directly falling under her responsibilities, Gabriel insisted on the need for a human-centric approach when developing AI systems.


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