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17th Apr 2021

Barroso has full house of commissioner nominees

  • Half of the commissioners will return to the second Barroso team (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday (24 November) received the final names of commissioner nominees, meaning that he can start the distribution of portfolios, a process keenly watched by national governments.

Reflecting the electoral landscape in the EU, the 27-strong commission will be dominated by the centre-right (13 commissioners), followed by the liberals with eight commissioners and six commissioners from the centre-left.

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The would-be new team contains nine women and 14 returning commissioners, including Mr Barroso himself. Of the 14 returning names, some are relatively new such as Briton Catherine Ashton, who came to Brussels last year to replace Peter Mandelson on trade. Belgium's Karel de Gucht, Slovakia's Maros Sefcovic and Lithuania's Algirdas Semeta are also latecomers.

Old hands returning include Luxembourg's Viviane Reding, the Netherlands' Neelie Kroes, Siim Kallas from Estonia, Andris Piebalgs from Latvia and Olli Rehn from Finland.

France's Michel Barnier, meanwhile, is re-treading old ground, having served as a commissioner under Romano Prodi (1999-2004).

It is now up to Mr Barroso to decide who gets which dossier, with internal market, competition, trade and economic and monetary affairs traditionally seen as the key portfolios.

"Let's be blunt, all of us are subject to pressure and requests," he admitted on Tuesday in front of MEPs.

The Portuguese national knows that he has two sets of masters to please - the member states and the European Parliament - who will later put the nominees through their paces during individual hearings in the run-up to a general vote of approval.

Complicating the entire process is that the portfolios range from ones with global importance, such as trade, to those with very little power, such as communication.

Mr Barroso has indicated that he will create completely new posts so there will be commissioners in charge of climate action, justice and fundamental rights and internal affairs.

So far, the only post that is certain is that of Catherine Ashton, who will become the EU's foreign policy chief and a vice-president of the commission.

Le Monde last week reported that Mr Barnier will be given the internal market dossier, but a key point will be whether financial services - essential to the City of London - will be moved somewhere else. Meanwhile, German newspapers report that Guenter Oettinger may be given industry with something else tacked on to flesh out the portfolio, and Dutch papers say that Ms Kroes is in line to get information and communications technology and be a commission vice-president. Spanish media is keen to know whether Joaquin Almunia will stay in charge of economic and monetary affairs.

Another key question will be whether the portfolios are rotated. Legally, there is no obligation to switch them around.

Mr Barroso is expected to announce his full team, complete with portfolios, at some stage next week.

The team will then have some weeks to do their homework before appearing in front of MEPs to be grilled on their competence. The hearings are expected to begin on 11 January.

If all goes without drama, the new commission could come into being at the end of January or beginning of February.

MEPs, however, may prove an upset. They are anxious to re-demonstrate the powers won in 2004 when they pressured an Italian nominee to be withdrawn.

Barroso Commission II

Austria - Johannes Hahn (EPP)

Belgium - Karel De Gucht (ELDR)

Bulgaria - Rumiana Jeleva (EPP)

Cyprus - Androulla Vassiliou (ELDR)

Czech Republic - Stefan Fuele (PES)

Denmark - Connie Hedegaard (EPP)

Estonia - Siim Kallas (ELDR)

Finland - Olli Rehn (ELDR)

France - Michel Barnier (EPP)

Germany - Günther Oettinger (EPP)

Greece - Maria Damanaki (PES)

Hungary - László Andor (PES)

Ireland - Maire Geoghegan Quinn (ELDR)

Italy - Antonio Tajani (EPP)

Latvia - Andris Piebalgs (EPP)

Lithuania - Algirdas Šemeta (EPP)

Luxembourg - Viviane Reding (EPP)

Malta - John Dalli (EPP)

The Netherlands - Neelie Kroes (ELDR)

Poland - Janusz Lewandowski (EPP)

Portugal - Commission President José Manuel Barroso (EPP)

Romania - Dacian Ciolos (EPP)

Slovakia - Maros Sefcovic (PES)

Slovenia - Janez Potocnik (ELDR)

Spain - Joaquín Almunia (PES)

Sweden - Cecilia Malmström (ELDR)

United Kingdom - Catherine Ashton (PES)

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