Barroso aims for balancing act over key EU posts

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The Independent Online

José Manuel Barroso, the new European Commission president, has revealed who will be holding Europe's top jobs from November. His announcement, a week before deadline, sets out a fine political balance.

José Manuel Barroso, the new European Commission president, has revealed who will be holding Europe's top jobs from November. His announcement, a week before deadline, sets out a fine political balance.

The former Portuguese prime minister has crafted a "redesigned" executive with a jobs share-out that he hopes will please the European Union's big players, appease smaller states concerned about a "carve-up" and bring new European countries in on the act.

"Commissioners from new countries have equally important portfolios as commissioners from the 'old' 15 member states. All commissioners will have equal powers... there will be no first and second-class commissioners," Mr Barroso told journalists yesterday.

The EU's "big three" - Germany, France and Britain - pushed hard for top Brussels economic positions but Mr Barroso, while giving them key posts, has ensured his neutrality by handing plum policy portfolios in competition and the internal market to the Netherlands and Ireland.

The commission, the 25-nation EU's executive arm, proposes legislation, enforces anti-trust laws, manages trade policy and administers the bloc's €100bn (£67bn) budget. Mr Barroso, 48, aims to boost growth that slowed to its weakest pace in a decade last year. "I will make my first priority the process of reform in Europe," Mr Barroso said.

He is aiming to balance the demands of big countries for senior posts with a need to ensure some independence from national governments that put up the candidates for commissioners. In the new executive, commission vice-presidents are increased from two to five, which creates a new dynamic within key European policy sectors and sets up new "groups of commissioners" to fight the Brussels corner at councils of ministers, meetings that represent national governments.

Germany's Günther Verheugen, now the EU enlargement chief, heads a powerful enterprise and industry role as vice-president. He also chairs groups of commissioners on economic issues. Included in his empire will be Peter Mandelson. The former Northern Ireland secretary will be part of a "group of commissioners for the competitiveness council [of ministers]" chaired by Mr Verheugen. Mr Barroso denies that Germany has scooped a "super-commissioner" brief, although Berlin's EU chief will "co-ordinate" the work of at least six of his colleagues.

The UK, France and Germany also had their sights on the EU's internal market job, an important competition watchdog post, but Mr Barroso backed the former Irish finance minister Charlie McCreevy for the job, which will play up to a desired reputation for independence. The Netherlands' Neelie Kroes is appointed competition commissioner.

Spain's commissioner Joaquin Almunia stays in the important economic and monetary affairs job until he is replaced by Javier Solana. Europe's foreign policy chief becomes vice-president and European "foreign minister" in 2006 or 2007 under a new European constitution.

THE NEW COMMISSIONERS

INDUSTRY

Gunter Verheugen, Germany

COMPETITION

Neelie Kroes, Netherlands

INTERNAL MARKET

Charlie McCreevy, Ireland

TRANSPORT

Jacques Barrot, France

JUSTICE

Rocco Buttiglione, Italy

TRADE

Peter Mandelson, UK

INSTITUTIONAL RELATIONS

Margot Wallström, Sweden

ADMIN, AUDIT AND ANTI-FRAUD

Siim Kallas, Estonia

ENLARGEMENT

Olli Rehn,Finland

REGIONAL POLICY

Danuta Hübner, Poland

FINANCIAL PROGRAMMING

Dalia Grybauskaite, Lithuania

MONETARY AFFAIRS

Joaquin Almunia, Spain

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Austria

AGRICULTURE

Mariann Fischer Boel, Denmark

FISHERIES AND MARITIME

Joe Borg, Malta

ENERGY

Laszlo Kovacs, Hungary

ENVIRONMENT

Stavros Dimas, Greece

HEALTH AND CONSUMER

Markos Kyprianou, Cyprus

EMPLOYMENT, & SOCIAL AFFAIRS

Vladimir Spidla, Czech Republic

HUMANITARIAN AID

Louis Michel, Belgium

SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

Janez Potocnik, Slovenia

INFORMATION/SOCIETY/MEDIA

Viviane Reding, Luxembourg

EDUCATION AND CULTURE

Jan Figel, Slovakia

TAXATION AND CUSTOMS

Ingrida Udre, Latvia

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