EU commissioner portfolio decisions this WEEK
By Honor Mahony
A major piece in the making of the EU institutional puzzle is to go into place next week when incoming EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker hands out portfolios to his team of commissioners.
Expected to happen on Wednesday, the dossier-assignment saga has been gripping Brussels for several weeks as each country lobbies and speculates on what 'their' commissioner will get.
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Juncker's task will be trying to give meaningful tasks to 27 commissioners with the key portfolios only numbering around a handful.
The top jobs include the economic affairs portfolio, internal market, trade and competition. At the other end of the scale are social affairs, climate change and consumer affairs.
The only fixed positions are Juncker's own presidency and one vice-presidency (for Italy's Federica Mogherini, who will also be the EU's next foreign policy chief).
Adding to the dynamics are returning commissioners - who won't want to be demoted - and incoming heavy-weights (such as former PMs) who also expect to be politically compensated. The Juncker team has already made over 50 drafts of how the new commission could look and function.
EU defence ministers will kick off the week with a meeting on Tuesday in Milan, northern Italy, which is set to focus on EU battlegroups and the European Defence Agency. The talks come amid the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine which has, amongst other things, served to highlight the defence spending discrepancies between the US and the EU.
MEPs will in the parliament's defence committee on Thursday will also look at EU defence in the light of the Ukraine situation. The committee will host a discussion with Maciej Popowski, deputy secretary general of the EU's diplomatic service and James Appathurai, Nato's deputy assistant secretary general for political affairs.
Ukraine will also feature in the foreign affairs committee as deputies discuss and vote on plans to fast-track the ratification of the EU-Ukraine association agreement - the trade deal that sparked the deterioration in Kiev-Moscow relations that was eventually followed by Russia annexing Crimea and to the current fighting between the two sides.
The European Commission will on Thursday unveil two annual reports looking at the state of industrial competitiveness in the EU while euro ministers will on Friday discuss the economic outlook for the euro zone and the latest round of troika talks with Greece.
Swedish voters will wrap up the week by going to the polls with current predictions suggesting that the opposition Social Democrats will win, followed by PM Fredrik Reinfeldt's conservative party. The anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats may emerge as the country's third largest party, winning around 10 percent of the votes.