EU executive keeps Vestager in competition, puts Irishman in trade role

European Commission's president-designate Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium September 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The incoming head of the EU executive named her 27-strong team on Tuesday, keeping Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager in the critical competition policy and putting an Irishman in charge of settling future trade relations with Britain and the United States.

Ursula von der Leyen of Germany’s ‘college’ of commissioners, who will take office on Nov. 1, assuming they secure approval from the European Parliament - not a given after it only narrowly backed her in July.

Von der Leyen will become the first female European Commission president after promising a platform of a greener, fairer and rule-based Europe.

Her proposed team offers rough gender balance, a plus point for EU lawmakers, with 13 women and 14 men.

Irishman Phil Hogan, currently in charge of agriculture, will take up the post of trade commissioner, aware that he faces a battle to improve trade ties with the United States and will be in charge of establishing economic future relations with Britain after Brexit.

Vestager keeps the influential competition portfolio that she has had for the past five years, fighting monopolies and imposing hefty fines on tech giants Apple and Alphabet unit Google.

Competition is seen as a top job, with Germany and France pressing for the bloc to soften its anti-monopoly rules to help European industrial champions compete with rivals from China and the United States.

The economic portfolio goes to Italian Paolo Gentiloni at a time when the continent is struggling with weak growth, a possible recession in Germany, and battles with Italy over budgetary restraint.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by John Chalmers