22nd Mar 2019

New member states line up their Commissioners

As the 1 May date for enlargement creeps closer, the race is on in new member state capitals to find 'their' Commissioner for Brussels.

With the accession countries trying to find candidates who are both well respected in Europe as well as having support in their own country, public interest and speculation has been growing ahead of the end of February deadline for submission.

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So far, all of the accession countries have at least one strong or definite nominee for the powerful Brussels executive which both proposes and enforces EU legislation.

European Commission President Romano Prodi, who will make recommendations to EU leaders before they choose the final list of candidates, has said that he would like to raise the quota of woman Commissioners - at the moment four of the twenty Commissioners are women.

Aside from also saying that he wants to have "ten psychiatrists" as Commissioners, he has kept quite quiet on the matter.


At the moment Poland, Latvia and Lithuania all appear to have fulfilled the gender criteria as they are set to propose Danuta Hübner (Minister for Europe), Sandra Kalniete (Foreign Minister) and Dalia Grybauskaite (Finance Minister) respectively.

As for the rest, Estonia is set to nominate the former Prime Minister Siim Kallas, Slovenia will probably go with its Minister for Europe Janez Potocnik, Malta with its foreign minister Joe Borg and Cyprus also with its Foreign Minister George Iacovou.

Still undecided are Slovakia who may nominate either Jan Figel (chief EU negotiator) or Ivan Stefanec (former Coca Cola manager). Hungary could choose former EU chief negotiator Endre Juhasz or the ambassador to the EU Peter Balazs, and the Czech Republic where it is a toss up between the former environment minister Milos Kuzvart, Pavel Telicka, the former Czech chief EU negotiator or Ivana Janu, a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Tight timetable

Once the list is given to Mr Prodi at the end of February, a tight timetable will follow. EU leaders will select one Commissioner per new member state during the European Council on 25-26 March. They will also decide which new Commissioner should be assigned to which 'old' Commissioner for the first six months.

Two weeks later on 13-15 April, the European Parliament will put the candidates through their paces by subjecting each of them to a hearing. According to the treaty, MEPs have to give their approval to the list.

And a short two weeks later still - on 1 May - the new Commissioners will take up their posts in Brussels where they will swell the ranks from 20 to 30.

Although they will each be assigned to a Commissioner, the new members will be able to take part in the activities of other Commissioners as much as possible - they will not be rotated as had been previously suggested, said a Commission spokesperson.

The ten will be able to vote in the Commission - which decides everything by simple majority - but they will not be responsible for their 'own' portfolio.

November and beyond

After this six-month interim period is over, the ten Commissioners are likely to be re-elected for the Commission's new mandate which starts in November.

The number of the College will then be reduced to 25 as the larger member states - France, the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain - give up their right to a second Commissioner.

The new Commission's term will run from November 2004 until 2009.

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