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17th Apr 2021

Barroso unveils new commission line-up

  • Containing 14 returning commissioners, including himself, Mr Barroso called his new line-up the "perfect blend of experience and new thinking." (Photo: European Communities, 2008)

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has unveiled his new team of commissioners putting new people in all portfolios, and giving the weightiest economic posts to a Finn, a Spaniard and a Frenchman.

Containing 14 returning commissioners, including himself, Mr Barroso called his new line-up the "perfect blend of experience and new thinking."

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Olli Rehn, previously overseeing enlargement, has taken the economic monetary affairs portfolio, a post vacated by Spain's Joaquin Almunia who steps on to the equally important anti-trust job. France's Michel Barnier scooped the internal market dossier, including financial services.

This is widely seen as a coup for Paris which had lobbied hard to get the post, annoyed at what it saw as the too market-liberal tendencies of the occupier of the post to date, Irishman Charlie McCreevy. Heading off potential UK nervousness about Mr Barnier putting a heavy regulatory hand on the City of London, the internal market unit, the administration behind Mr Barnier, will now be led by a Briton.

While the UK simply has a vice presidency post in the commission due to Catherine Ashton also being EU foreign policy chief, the other major EU player, Germany, has not got a major economic post with Guenter Oettinger taking on energy. However, EU officials say Berlin were keen to get the dossier because much of the job will later concern building innovative industry to meet climate change goals, an area Germany already feels it is ahead in.

The Netherlands' Neelie Kroes moves away from competition to take on digital agenda while Latvia's Andris Piebalgs moves to development, from the weightier energy portfolio. Poland takes on budget, Belgium takes trade, while a Romanian will be in charge of farm policy. This could raise eyebrows as Romania last year had millions of euros of farm aid frozen due to problems in the management of funds.

Mr Barroso, however, said it was an "insult" to suggest Dacian Ciolos, who was strongly backed for the post by the French, could not do the job for this reason.

New posts

Aware of the difficulty of giving meaningful posts all commissioner nominees, Mr Barroso has hidden away the obviously weak dossiers of the last five years. Multilingualism, currently a separate post, has been lumped in with education and culture and given to the Cypriot Androulla Vassiliou while the communications dossier, open to charges of propaganda and with no real powers, has been completely scrapped.

However some jobs do not appear to carry much weight such as the post for international relations and humanitarian aid, given to the Bulgarian Rumiana Jeleva while Slovakia's Maroš Šefčovič has institutional relations, a political post.

Meanwhile, the Climate Action commissioner, in the form of Denmark's Connie Hedegaard, is supposed to be a "horizontal competency" that "mainstreams" climate change in all the commission's policies. It remains to be seen how much clout she will have with commissioners usually keen to guard their own areas.

Wholly new posts include the Climate Action and International Relations post but also the justice and fundamental rights dossier (Luxembourg's Viviane Reding) and Cecilia Malmstrom's Internal Affairs post, in charge of justice, liberty and security.

Mr Barroso said he hoped his new commission would be "instrumental" in leading Europe out of the economic crisis.

All the commissioners have run the gauntlet of hearings in the European Parliament, to take place between 11 and 19 January.

While initial reactions to the line-up from parliament has been positive, MEPs have made it clear they intend to strongly grill all of the candidates with some anxious for a repeat of the display of powers in 2004 when they forced the retraction of the Italian candidate.

Barring any hiccups, a final plenary vote could take place end of January allowing the new commission to be on its feet by February.

Barroso Commission II

Austria - Johannes Hahn (EPP) - Regional policy

Belgium - Karel De Gucht (ELDR) - Trade

Bulgaria - Rumiana Jeleva (EPP) - International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response

Cyprus - Androulla Vassiliou (ELDR) - Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

Czech Republic - Stefan Fuele (PES) - Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

Denmark - Connie Hedegaard (EPP) - Climate Action

Estonia - Siim Kallas (ELDR) - Transport (Vice-President)

Finland - Olli Rehn (ELDR) - Economic and Monetary Affairs

France - Michel Barnier (EPP) - Internal Market and Services

Germany - Günther Oettinger (EPP) - Energy

Greece - Maria Damanaki (PES) - Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Hungary - László Andor (PES) - Employment, Soclai Affairs and Inclusion

Ireland - Maire Geoghegan Quinn (ELDR) - Research, Innovation and Science

Italy - Antonio Tajani (EPP) - Industry and Entrepreneurship (Vice-President)

Latvia - Andris Piebalgs (EPP) - Development

Lithuania - Algirdas Šemeta (EPP) - Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud

Luxembourg - Viviane Reding (EPP) - Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship (Vice-President)

Malta - John Dalli (EPP) - Health and Consumer Policy

The Netherlands - Neelie Kroes (ELDR) - Digital Agenda (Vice-President)

Poland - Janusz Lewandowski (EPP) - Budget

Portugal - Commission President José Manuel Barroso (EPP)

Romania - Dacian Ciolos (EPP) - Agriculture

Slovakia - Maros Sefcovic (PES) - Institutional Affairs and Administration (Vice-President)

Slovenia - Janez Potocnik (ELDR) - Environment

Spain - Joaquín Almunia (PES) - Competition (Vice-President)

Sweden - Cecilia Malmström (ELDR) - Home Affairs

United Kingdom - Catherine Ashton (PES) - EU foreign policy chief (Vice-President)

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