Saturday

17th Apr 2021

EU commission musical chairs begins in Brussels

  • The Berlaymont building is home to the 27 commissioners in Brussels (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission's current term still has over a year to go but already a number of commissioners are looking to new political careers, threatening to undermine the tight ship run by President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Last week, it was officially confirmed that Markos Kyprianou, EU health commissioner, had resigned from his job to become foreign minister of Cyprus following the election of a new Cypriot president.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Italian commissioner Franco Frattini, one of the most high-profile of the 27-member team and in charge of the important justice and home affairs portfolio, may follow suit.

He wants to take four weeks off to campaign in Italy's snap general election on 13-14 April and is said to be eyeing a ministerial job should political ally Silvio Berlusconi get back into the prime minister's seat.

More lately, there have also been suggestions that the man in charge of the heavy-weight economic and monetary affairs post, Spain's Joaquin Almunia, may also jump ship if Spanish Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero wins a general election this weekend.

Rumours had also circulated about whether fisheries commissioner Joe Borg, a Maltese national, will return to the small Mediterranean island to contest the general election there on 8 March, although the Times of Malta recently reported that Mr Borg is unlikely to take this step.

Commissioners sloping off before their five-year term ends is not new. It is a phenomenon that tends to mark the twilight years of each commission period.

Former commission President Romano Prodi, who himself openly campaigned on the national political stage as his term came to a close, had to contend with the departure of several of his colleagues for different jobs.

Monetary affairs commissioner Pedro Solbes became finance minister in Madrid, regional commissioner Michel Barnier took on the job of French foreign minister, while Finland's Erkki Liikanen, in charge of industry, became head of a bank in Helsinki. Greek employment commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou also resigned her post early.

The current unrest in the commission is set to be followed by more changes at the beginning of 2009, when the new EU treaty is supposed to come into force.

If, as expected, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, from Spain, takes on the more powerful role foreseen in the treaty, he will become vice-president of the commission as well as retaining his foreign policy role.

This will have the knock on effect of leaving Austrian commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner without much to do - she is currently in charge of external relations - and prompting the departure of Spain's Mr Almunia, as the treaty only foresees one commissioner per member state.

Political animals

So far the commission has taken the start of the game of political musical chairs in the Brussels executive with equanimity, repeating that the commissioners are political animals and it is a sign of their quality as politicians that they are in the running for high-profile posts back home.

But it does give Mr Barroso a political headache. The former Portuguese prime minister has to hold the team together until his term ends in autumn 2009, while maintaining the political unity needed to present a strong outward face.

In addition, the commission changes means that the European Parliament also takes on a role in the power play, as each new commissioner has to be heard and approved by MEPs.

For his part, Mr Barroso will have to maintain a full and leading role until the very end if he has a chance of having another term in office, something he has often hinted he is interested in.

Nonetheless, he is likely to continue to see at least some familiar faces until his last day in office.

Irish commissioner Charlie McCreevy, in charge of the internal market, recently told Irish journalists he was not going anywhere before his post was formally finished.

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

Analysis

Relief in EPP group, as Orbán's party finally leaves

The debate over Fidesz had become an unbearable political burden on EPP - but it also represented a core dilemma for many centre-right, mainstream parties struggling to deal with their populist challengers.

EPP group moves forward to suspend Orban's Fidesz

MEPs are scheduled to vote on Wednesday to change the rules of procedure of the centre-right European People's Party parliamentary group to allow the suspension of a member party.

News in Brief

  1. EU postpones decision on labelling gas 'sustainable'
  2. MEPs call for mass surveillance ban in EU public spaces
  3. Greek and Turkish ministers trade jibes in Ankara
  4. Biden repeats opposition to Russia-Germany pipeline
  5. Navalny in danger, letter warns EU foreign ministers
  6. Lithuania keen to use Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines
  7. Gas plants largest source of power-sector emissions
  8. Study: Higher risk of blood clots from Covid than vaccines

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. US rejects Slovenia-linked plan to break up Bosnia
  2. Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line
  3. Could US sanctions hit Russia vaccine sales to EU?
  4. Polish court pushes out critical ombudsman
  5. Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave
  6. Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub
  7. Over a million EU citizens back farm-animal cage ban
  8. Three options for West on Putin's Ukraine build-up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us