Wednesday

26th Jun 2019

EU development commissioner to take unpaid leave

EU humanitarian aid and development commissioner Louis Michel will take a one-month unpaid leave of absence from the European Commission while seeking to re-enter politics in his native country Belgium.

Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso agreed to relieve Mr Michel of his duties as commissioner as of 12 May "so he can be a candidate for his party in the next legislative elections in Belgium" on June 10, the EU executive said in a statement on Saturday (17 March).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Mr Michel - who oversees the EU's multibillion-euro aid programmes for developing countries - will run for a seat in the Belgian senate, the upper house of the parliament.

"I think it's important to take action for these elections which are vital for the future of the country," Mr Michel - a former Belgian foreign minister - told national television station RTL, according to Reuters.

During his election campaign, Mr Michel will not receive his EU salary, and EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn will replace him in his duties.

Mr Michel is popular in Belgium, where his liberal Mouvement Reformateur party is a coalition partner of prime minister Guy Verhofstadt's liberal-socialist government, writes the Associated Press.

He is almost certain not to be elected as he is at the bottom of MR's list of candidates, allowing him to return to the commission once elections are over, the press reports.

EU executive above national interests

Mr Barroso has not, however, guaranteed that Mr Michel can return to the EU executive, commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told Danish news agency Ritzau.

Moves between the European Commission and national politics can be sensitive as commissioners who act as the EU's administrators must carry out their roles by remaining above national interests.

However, it is not unusual for EU commissioners to take time off from their duties in Brussels to pursue a political career at home.

Mr Michel himself replaced Belgium's Philippe Busquin - research commissioner in the 1999-2004 Romano Prodi Commission - who took part in elections for the European Parliament and was elected.

In 2004, Greek commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou in charge of employment and social affairs took a period of unpaid leave to stand in the Greek elections in 2004.

Although her party, the Socialists, lost the election, she remained involved in Greek politics as a member of the parliament for the opposition. She was replaced by Stavros Dimas who is now the EU environment commissioner.

Greek Commissioner resigns

Greek commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou today officially handed in her letter of resignation to Commission President Romano Prodi. She will be replaced by 63 year old lawyer Stavros Dimas.

EU parliament gives extra time for leaders on top jobs

The EU parliament might allow an extra 24 hours for EU heads of government to first come up with the new EU leadership names. Meanwhile, EPP lead candidate Manfred Weber is meeting Angela Merkel and AKK in Berlin for backing.

News in Brief

  1. EU warns Turkey as 'Gezi Park' trials begin
  2. EU universities to share students, curricula
  3. Migrant rescue ship loses Human Rights Court appeal
  4. Denmark completes social democrat sweep of Nordics
  5. Johnson offers 'do or die' pledge on Brexit
  6. Weber indirectly attacks Macron in newspaper op-ed
  7. EU to sign free trade deal with Vietnam
  8. EU funding of air traffic control 'largely unnecessary'

Merkel and Macron split over Weber presidency

EU heads of government have their first face-to-faces discussions after the European elections on who should lead the EU commission. They are unlikely to decide quickly - with the parliament also divided over the candidates.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  4. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  6. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  7. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  8. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  9. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate

Latest News

  1. EU moves to end car-testing 'confidentiality clause'
  2. EU parliament gives extra time for leaders on top jobs
  3. Europe's rights watchdog lifts Russia sanctions
  4. EU-Vietnam trade deal a bad day for workers' rights
  5. EU 'special envoy' going to US plan for Palestine
  6. Polish judicial reforms broke EU law, court says
  7. EU study: no evidence of 'East vs West' food discrimination
  8. Russia tried to stir up Irish troubles, US think tank says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us