Brittan gets Gatt mission: Delors shuffles top EC jobs to give priority to foreign policy and trade

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The Independent Online
THE NEW line-up of the European Commission, announced yesterday, demonstrated that it will make foreign policy and the speedy resolution of the stalled Gatt trade talks a priority.

Sir Leon Brittan, formerly responsible for competition policy, and Hans van den Broek, until last week the Dutch foreign minister, will with Jacques Delors, the Commission President, form its political powerhouse for the next two years.

Both Sir Leon and Mr van den Broek are self-confessed Atlanticists, and may thus be expected to make their first mission the resolution of the Gatt talks. Mid-January has been set as the target date for their conclusion, but France has still to be convinced of the virtues of the agricultural package, and there are complaints from other delegations that bode ill for agreement in several non-agricultural areas.

Mr Delors, who hands out the portfolios to candidates appointed by individual member states, has for the first time split the external affairs dossier.

Sir Leon will be responsible for economic affairs, including commercial policy such as Gatt, while Mr van den Broek will handle enlargement negotiations and the development of a common foreign and security policy.

For the division to work, it is acknowledged that Mr Brittan and Mr van den Broek will have to work as a team. Both are convinced they can do so.

The Netherlands, which is big enough to merit only one commissioner, is likely to provide Mr Delors' successor in 1995, in which case Mr van den Broek has said he would give way to Ruud Lubbers, the Dutch Prime Minister.

Whatever happens, the Dutch may be expected to dominate the Commission in the years to come, much as the French do now.

But with two years to run until the new Maastricht arrangements come into force, prompting a new president and another reshuffle, Mr Delors has been keen to dispel the notion that this may be a lame-duck Commission. The Commission has traditionally been named for four-year terms, but the new Commission will serve only until 6 January 1995.

Mr Delors has moved political heavyweights, many of them outsiders, to key positions, but kept the reins of power in his own hands by ensuring the administrative back-up is provided by some of his closest advisers.

In putting the emphasis firmly on foreign policy, he has not neglected other crucial areas. He has pared and regrouped the portfolios available so as to make the Commission's work, for example in the field of development and relations with the Third World, more coherent.

A new post has been created for the only other commissioner with foreign policy experience, Joao Deus de Pinheiro, a former Portuguese foreign minister.

The charmingly dynamic and multi-lingual Mr de Pinheiro will be responsible for relations between the European Parliament and member states. It will be his job to brighten the tarnished image of Brussels bureaucrats.

The appointments reflect certain unwritten rules. Agriculture, traditionally the preserve of a small state because it carries with it a large budget, falls to Luxembourg. Ireland, which held the portfolio before, will be responsible for the politically sensitive areas of judicial affairs and immigration, as well as social policy.

However, Padraig Flynn, as a member of Fianna Fail, does not display the impeccable Socialist credentials that have often been a prerequisite for the job in the past.

The powerful competition dossier goes to the Belgian Karel van Miert, who moves over from transport: it is unusual for a Socialist to hold that portfolio.

But Mr van Miert is, above all, a Commission insider and therefore unlikely to impose a radical change towards more dirigiste policies.

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