Commission hit by third resignation in five weeks

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The Independent Online

The European Commission was yesterday left looking like a lame duck, after the third resignation in five weeks from its team of 20 top officials underlined its waning authority.

The European Commission was yesterday left looking like a lame duck, after the third resignation in five weeks from its team of 20 top officials underlined its waning authority.

Michel Barnier, the Commissioner for regional policy and the constitution, quit yesterday to become France's Foreign Minister following a government reshuffle. His move follows Pedro Solbes' decision to leave to become Spain's Finance Minister when its new government is formed, and Anna Diamantopoulou's departure for Greek domestic politics.

With the Commission due to finish its mandate at the end of October, the three departing commissioners are not alone: most senior officials are scrambling for political life-rafts. Mario Monti, the Italian commissioner responsible for competition policy, is tipped to be the head of the International Monetary Fund, and the Commission's President, Romano Prodi, is a likely challenger to the Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Yesterday Mr Prodi said the appointments underlined the calibre of his team and of the Commission's importance "as a breeding ground for top government ministers". But the departure of key staff is bound to lessen its authority as it prepares to decide whether to recommend that the EU starts membership negotiations with Turkey and as it prepares for the next EU budget talks.

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