Saturday

1st Oct 2016

Six commissioners head for EU election campaign trail

  • Seven of the EU's twenty eight commissioners are standing in May's European Parliament elections (Photo: European Parliament)

Six EU commissioners will officially hit the campaign trail later this month as part of their candidacies for May's European elections.

Economic affairs chief Olli Rehn, justice commissioner Viviane Reding, industry boss Antonio Tajani, administration commissioner Maros Sefcovic, EU budget chief Janusz Lewandowski, consumer protection commissioner Neven Mimica are all standing for the EU assembly.

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In a statement on Wednesday (2 April), European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso granted electoral leave to the Commissioners between 19 April and 25 May, with the exception of Rehn whose electoral leave will start next week on 7 April.

Under the rules of the EU executive's Code of Conduct the leave period is unpaid and during that period the commissioners are forbidden from using the commission's resources. All commissioners on electoral leave will return to work on 26 May, the day after the votes of Europeans are counted.

Of the seven commissioners hoping to win over voters, Finnish economic affairs official Olli Rehn, who has been the commission's point-man throughout the eurozone crisis, is the most well known. Despite being defeated by Belgian Guy Verhofstadt as the pan-EU Liberal party's candidate for commission president, Rehn is widely expected to win a seat running on the ticket of Finland's liberal centre party.

In the meantime, Estonian transport commissioner Siim Kallas will take over Rehn's responsibilities.

Elsewhere, In a reshuffle of portfolios, Sefcovic will have his duties taken over by Barroso.

Meanwhile, Reding's portfolio will be taken over by Johannes Hahn, the Austrian commissioner for regional policy, while internal market chief Michel Barnier will take over Tajani's post.

Latvian development commissioner Andris Piebalgs will take responsibility for Lewandowski's role, and Hungary's Laszlo Andor will add Mimica's consumer portfolio to his employment brief.

All the candidates have been placed at the top of their party's election list and are almost certain to be elected in May.

Meanwhile, trade commissioner Karel De Gucht will also try to get an MEP post. But he is just the 12th and last candidate for the Verhofstadt-led Flemish liberal party in Belgium and will not actively campaign, leaving him free to continue his EU duties.

If elected, those who decide to take up their seat in the 751-member Parliament will be expected to resign from the commission by the end of June.

But some argue that commissioners elected as MEPs should immediately stand down from the EU executive to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Analysis

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Faced with a difficult referendum campaign, the Italian prime minister is playing the antiestablishment card, including verbal attacks on the EU and Germany.

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