Commission's line-up looks beyond Europe

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The Independent Online
THE European Commission indicated yesterday that it intended to take a strong lead in the future formulation of foreign policy by its announcement of a new line-up giving the most powerful portfolios to two of its most heavyweight members.

The new Commission is looking to develop external rather than internal policies, in the aftermath of Maastricht battles, a fact reflected in the fact that for the first time, the responsibilites for the external affairs have been divided.

Sir Leon Brittan, who made a name for himself in his free-market approach to competition policy, will take charge of external economic affairs - relations with the EC's principal non-European trading partners: the US, Japan and China, the CIS and central and Eastern Europe. He will also be responsible for commercial policy where the EC negotiates en bloc. This puts him in the frontline of the current Gatt negotiations and the politically sensitive area of anti-dumping policy.

As a counterweight, the former Dutch foreign minister, Hans van den Broek will deal with external political relations. This will encompass the enlargement negotiations that the incoming Danish presidency has pledged to begin on 1 February, as well as common foreign and security policy.

This last is one of the new spheres of influence laid down in the Maastricht treaty, and Mr van den Broek will therefore be sailing uncharted waters. His task will be to move the Twelve towards a common foreign policy, and his experience last year in trying to broker peace in Yugoslavia and the respect that won him in national capitals should stand him in good stead.

The only other commissioner with foreign affairs experience, the former Portuguese foreign minister, Joao de Deus Pinheiro, gets a roving brief. Though a newcomer, he will be the commissioner responsible for internal relations with the European Parliament and the member states - the Commission's public face in the new age of openness and transparency.

The foreign affairs dossier has been further tidied by adding to the development aid portfolio held by the Spanish Commissioner, Manuel Marin, other elements of relations with the Third World, the Middle East and Asia, that was formerly handled by Abel Matutes, the junior Spanish commissioner. As he hoped, Mr Matutes will get instead energy and transport policy.

The 17-strong European Commission (16 commissioners plus the president) is a strange political animal rendered stranger still by the fact that its new appointees will unusually serve only a two-year term.

The Maastricht treaty, in the interests of democratic accountability, allows for the European Parliament to oversee the Commission's appointment in 1994. However, it is likely that many of those named yesterday will be re-nominated then, but Jacques Delors will not be Commission president.

The success of Mr Delors' decision to split the foreign affairs portfolio between two commissioners will depend largely on the working relationship between Mr Brittan and Mr van den Broek.

Another alliance to watch is that between the new competition commissioner, Karel van Miert (formerly transport) and the German Martin Bangemann, who will take over industrial affairs, information and telecommunications technology.

Although commissioners are not theoretically allowed to pursue national interest in office, this rule is often flouted. In the previous Commission, Britain and Germany were a powerful free-market alliance. This may weaken with Mr van Miert - one of the rare Socialists to take charge of competition policy - in the chair.

Mr Bangemann's internal market dossier will go to a newcomer, Raniero Vanni d'Archirafi from Italy. He adds to it institutional questions, financial institutions and small and medium-sized enterprises. The other Italian commissioner, Antonio Ruberti, is also a newcomer and will be responsible for science research and development and training.

The environment portfolio that was originally the preserve of Rome, goes instead to yet another newcomer, Ioannis Paleokrassas from Greece, who also takes over fisheries.

Luxembourg, in the shape of Rene Steichen, takes over agriculture from Ireland. Ray MacSharry's successor, Padraig Flynn, takes responsibility for social affairs and employment. Since this job will also include questions linked to immigration, internal and judicial affairs, it could prove to be one of the Commission's most important and politically explosive dossiers.

Henning Christophersen, the Danish commissioner, Peter Schmidhuber of Germany, France's Christiane Scrivener and the other British commissioner, Bruce Millan, will maintain their portfolios. They are, respectively, economic, financial and monetary affairs; the budget and financial control; customs and tax; regional policy.

(Photographs omitted)