Barroso wants more female EU commissioners

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Jose Manuel Barroso, the new president of the European Commission, yesterday put pressure on key governments to nominate a female European commissioner, promising to use his "leverage" to ensure that women are given good posts.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the new president of the European Commission, yesterday put pressure on key governments to nominate a female European commissioner, promising to use his "leverage" to ensure that women are given good posts.

After being endorsed by a large majority of MEPs yesterday, Mr Barroso said he would begin immediate talks with EU prime ministers to try to ensure that a third of the 24 commissioners were women.

Although he admitted that it was up to national capitals to put forward names, he warned: "I have discretion in the allocation of portfolios, I have some leverage in that discussion.".

The powerful top economic posts in the European Commission are highly sought after. Several countries have yet to name their nominees.

Graham Watson, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, said: "Mr Barroso has committed himself to seeking at least one-third of women commissioners. There are at least three high-quality female contenders [in the UK]."

The three British female names which have surfaced are Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Baroness Scotland, Minister of State at the Home Office and Baroness Amos, Leader of the House of Lords. However, Peter Mandelson was last night set to be appointed to a Commission post. Formal nominations have not been made although officials say five or six female names have emerged, including Poland's Danuta Hubner, Latvia's Sandra Kalniete, Lithuania's Dalia Grybauskaite and Sweden's Margot Wallstrom. But Mr Barroso may struggle to find two or three women from those yet to come up with a name, including Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. The previous commission, led by Romano Prodi, had five female commissioners from its team of 20 when it was set up in 1999.

Mr Barroso said he was determined to get "a better balance of genders". The president, who received 413 votes to 251 yesterday, promised to have the allocation of portfolios decided at the latest by the week of 23 August. He also reversed a reform initiated by his successor when he decided to reunite all 25 European commissioners in one central building. Mr Prodi had dispersed them to the offices occupied by their officials all around Brussels.

In a series of appearances before MEPs, Mr Barroso has impressed with his linguistic ability and communication skills. Yesterday the 48-year-old former Maoist student leader turned centre-right politician called for a "coalition of the willing to advance with the European project." That use of phrase was an unintentional reminder of his support for the US-led war in Iraq, an issue which divided MEPs yesterday.

Martin Schulz, leader of the socialists - most of whom opposed Mr Barroso - said he had offered "no satisfactory answers concerning Iraq and the so-called weapons of mass destruction''. But many Spanish and British socialist MEPs backed the former Portuguese premier, who said: "Do not believe in the caricatures of my political profile."

Comments