Portfolio is key to public profile

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The Independent Online
ONE thing is certain about Neil Kinnock's arrival in Brussels: he will have a higher public profile than Bruce Millan, his predecessor, writes Andrew Marshall in Brussels.

Mr Millan went virtually unrecognised in Britain and his name was hardly up in lights in Brussels either. He has been in charge of regional policy in the Commission since 1989, an area that mainly involves carving up cash when the big political decisions have already been made by member states. That meant that unlike previous British commissioners, or his Tory colleague, Sir Leon Brittan, he was rarely at the forefront of attention.

That he was so little known in Britain is partly because EU cash is relatively unimportant for the British economy, or at least has been in the past. But for countries that see EU cash as economically vital, Mr Millan was the goose that laid the golden eggs and attracted attention to match. Colleagues describe enviously his reception in Ireland, Greece or Portugal.

He is certainly one of the most genial and approachable of the 17 Commissioners. His critics would say that he was essentially unpolitical: 'He lacks the killer instinct,' one Commission source said. When the EU divided up its structural funds cash in 1993 for the next six years, Mr Millan fought long and hard to get agreement, but it was only when Jacques Delors, the Commission president, intervened that a deal was struck.

Both Mr Delors and Sir Leon have the instinct for confrontation that Mr Millan lacks, and that has helped them to get the public eye. Mr Kinnock may have it too. But the new Commission that takes office in 1995 is likely to include some other stars such as Edith Cresson, the controversial former French Prime Minister, and top-notch appointees from Sweden and Finland set to join the EU next year.

The level of Mr Kinnock's profile will be crucially affected by what portfolio he is given - and he is unlikely to get one of the top Commission jobs.

(Photograph omitted)