Barroso’s New European Commission

Yesterday José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, announced the portfolio responsibilities for the next Commission. Several new portfolios were announced including Climate Action, Home Affairs and Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. Barosso also reconfigured other portfolios including Education, Health and Consumer Policy and Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.

The composition of the incoming commission reflects the political balance of power in Europe, with 12 conservatives, eight liberals, three unaffiliated and four left-wingers. The selection also strengthens the trend toward large member state dominance. EU heavyweights France and Germany were awarded the internal market and energy portfolios respectively, while Italy's commissioner was handed the industry portfolio.

Fourteen of the 27 proposed candidates, including Mr. Barroso, are already commissioners. The commission, which operates as the EU's executive arm in Brussels, is expected to officially assume office when parliamentary hearings start in January and will remain in power for five years.

Ireland’s commissioner, Maire Geoghegan Quinn has been allocated the Research and Innovation portfolio. The portfolio has a broad remit, covering areas such as Information and Communication, Technology and Science and crucial policy areas such as climate change and energy efficiency. Geoghegan Quinn will oversee a budget of in excess of €50billion over seven years. Brian Cowen said the portfolio "resonates very strongly with our own smart-economy agenda". However, the appointment is considered retrograde from the higher-profile Internal Market portfolio, held by Charlie McCreevy in Barroso’s last commission.

Geoghegan Quinn’s nomination ends a lengthy 15-year absence from senior political office. However, her appointment has not been without controversy. The Irish Times accused Geoghegan Quinn of “serious misuse of power in the last domestic political office she held”. As Minister for Justice in the early 1990’s, district justice Patrick Brennan brought Maire Geoghegan-Quinn to court because she had set aside or changed so many of the sentences he had handed down. The High Court essentially upheld Brennan’s contention and found that Maire Geoghegan-Quinn had indeed been misusing her powers and operating a “parallel system of justice”. Prior to Friday’s nomination, there were also calls from the opposition for Geoghegan Quinn to clarify her past business relationship with Lisbon 'No' campaigner, Declan Ganley. After she retired from politics 1997, Ms Geoghegan-Quinn worked briefly with Mr Ganley's group of companies.

In fact there are a number of controversial choices among Barroso’s line up, not least the first full-time president and the foreign policy chief, announced on November 20, which many consider little-known compromise figures.

Barroso’s selection must be approved by the European Parliament, which holds hearings in January. Parliament has the power to delay the process or force the replacement of candidates. The centre-right European People's Party, the largest grouping in the EU Parliament, has indicated that it may target nominees with a Communist past, saying that individuals associated with “repressive regimes and undemocratic organizations” should be denied the post of Commissioner. This is could cause problems for the Czech, Hungarian and Greek nominees.

Barroso has said that the new commission "reflects a balance of gender and political orientation," and that he has "moulded a college which can deliver change."

The New Commission:



President: Herman Van Rompuy

Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy will be the EU’s first permanent president. The Belgian Flemish politician is a member of the Christian Democratic and Flemish party. He has been the Prime Minister of Belgium since December 2008. A devout catholic, Van Rompuy was a relatively obscure choice for the job. However this may have been an instrumental factor in his selection because he has few enemies among his fellow EU leaders

During his political career, Van Rompuy has earned a reputation as a consensus-builder and quietly-competent Economics Minister who contributed to the reduction of Belgium’s huge deficit. He was also instrumental in Belgium joining the Euro.

However, his appointment has received criticism from commentators who argue that his limited international reputation will hamper his ability to command attention when he travels on behalf of Europe.  British MP and former Europe Minister, Denis MacShane said of him; “I am sure he is a nice guy but, my goodness, you wonder why you bothered working so hard to get the Lisbon treaty through if we end up with senior figures who are virtually unknown.”

Van Rompuy has previously spoken of his opposition to Turkish accession. More recently he has called for a tax on financial transactions within the bloc to fund the EU. The President of the Commission’s tasks will include liaising with EU leaders and arranging the regions annual summits. He has said that tackling climate change and lowering EU unemployment rates are among his top priorities.

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security/Vice-President of the Commission: Catherine Ashton



Baroness Catherine Ashton was a popular British labour politician, winning awards accolades such as "Minister of the Year" and “Politician of the Year". Channel Four have also voted her "Peer of the Year”. In 2007, as Leader of the House, she was responsible for passing the Lisbon Treaty through the House of Lords.

In 2008, Ashton replaced Peter Mandelson as the UK's European Commissioner in Brussels. Her appointment as Trade Commissioner was criticised by some who claimed she lacked adequate experience for the role. Daniel Hannan, a British Conservative MEP said at the time, she "has no background in trade issues at a time when the EU is engaged in critical (trade) negotiations".

Like Van Rompuy, Ashton’s appointment to ‘High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security’, which makes her one of the most powerful women in the world after Angela Merkel and Hilary Clinton, has been widely questioned. Ashton is a relatively obscure choice for the job and critics, while agreeing that Ashton is charming and personable, claim that she will be completely out of her depth. A Whitehall source told the Guardian  newspaper: "Cathy just got lucky...the appointment of her and Herman Van Rompuy [as European Council president] were a complete disgrace. They are no more than garden gnomes”.

At her first press conference after the appointment, Ashton herself hinted that gender may have been a more important factor in her appointment than credentials saying: "I am proud of the fact that women have been recognised as being as capable, as able to do the senior jobs in Europe as any man. I am very proud of being a woman and holding that role."

Competition/ Vice President of the Commission: Joaquín Almunia



Currently the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Spaniard Joaquín Almunia is a Harvard graduate and prominent socialist politician.

Although the economic affairs post has relatively few executive powers, as the incumbent Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Almunia has played a central role in the EU's response to the financial crisis. An economist by trade, Almunia oversaw reforms of EU budget rules. He was also instrumental in the EU's participation in the October 2008 bailout of Hungary.

However, during the present crisis, Mr. Almunia hasn't pushed as hard as the incumbent competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, for tough sanctions on bailed-out banks, preferring instead to focus on financial stability. Almunia and the Commission came under some criticism during the financial crisis for failing to coordinate national governments' responses.

Almunia’s job will involve fining companies for anti-competitive practices. The current competition commissioner has utilised the role’s wide authority to penalize companies, hitting Intel Corp. in May with a fine of €1.06 billion for monopoly abuses.

Transport/Vice-President of the Commission:  Siim Kallas



Estonian Siim Kallas is a member and former leader of the free-market liberal Estonian Reform Party. He was previously a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Prior to this appointment, Kallas held the post of European Commissioner for Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud and also Vice-President of Commission.

During his time as Commissioner for Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud, Kallas has made numerous attempts to achieve significant improvements to the transparency of EU institutions, with varying success.

Kallas has recently criticised the EU recruitment policy, and expressed a wish to open the “very rigid system” to more outsiders and “find the right jobs for the right people”.

Digital Agenda/Vice-President of the Commission: Neelie Kroes



Neelie Kroes, a former Dutch liberal politician, was appointed as competition commissioner, one of the most powerful jobs in Brussels, in 2004. Her appointment attracted controversy because of her close ties to big business. At the time of her appointment, she was on the supervisory boards of a number of companies including O2, Volvo, Dutch Railways and Royal P&O Nedlloyd, but resigned from them all before taking the EU post.

During her period as competition commissioner, Ms. Kroes has fought a long-running ‘anti-trust battle’ with Microsoft and forced through the radical break-up of Britain's banking system. In 2005, Kroes caused the IDA huge embarrassment when she blocked €170m in grant aid to Intel for the construction of a new microchip facility at Intel's Leixlip campus; Intel built the €3bm facility anyway.

Kroe’s new role, although less powerful, is likely to worry sectors of the telecoms industry, who believe she is less willing than her predecessor to fight the corner of smaller telecoms companies trying to compete against the former incumbents.

Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship/Vice-President of the Commission: Viviane Reding



Viviane Reding is a Luxembourg politician and former journalist. She served as European Commissioner for Information Society and Media in Barroso’s last commission. As the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Reding has championed consumer rights in the telecommunications and IT arenas, slashing the cost of mobile phone roaming charges across the EU.

In her new role as Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Reding will have to oversee a re-write of the European Union's 15-year-old data protection laws which is due to start next year.

Industry and Entrepreneurship/Vice-President of the Commission: Antonio Tajani



Antonio Tajani is an Italian politician, law graduate, former journalist and former Vice President of the European People's Party. He was appointed as Italy’s EU Commissioner in June 2008 and received the transport portfolio.

Tajani caused controversy in September when he is alleged to have broken impartiality rules by taking part in a Ryanair "Vote Yes" stunt orchestrated by airline boss Michael O'Leary. Tajani flew across Ireland on a Ryanair Boeing 737, emblazoned with "Vote Yes for Europe" logos. The incident led Socialist MEP Joe Higgins to call for the the commissioner's resignation: "Mr Tajani as removed any remaining shred of the Commission's impartiality," he said. "This tour seriously compromises his position. Ryanair is one of the biggest airlines in Europe."

Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion: László Andor



Hungarian economist, Andor, has been a member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development board, representing Hungary, since 2005. He was also an economic policy advisor to the former Hungarian President.

Andor’s past makes him an unlikely member of the Commission. Andor is a well-known academic and editor of the left-wing journal ‘Eszmelet’. He has never been elected to any political position, never ran for office and never taken a formal job in government.

Hungary's political parties are divided over Andor's nomination. The ruling Socialist Party has declared its support.  However, the main opposition ‘Fidesz’ party accused the government of ignoring and undermining Hungary's democratic transition by delegating a banker with a communist background to the European Commission.

Vice-President of the Commission for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration: Maroš Šefčovič



Šefčovič, 43, a Slovakian career diplomat, only took over from Slovakia's previous commissioner Jan Figel on October 1 of this year. He assumed Figel's education, training, culture and youth portfolio.

He is a former Slovak ambassador to Israel and Slovak Permanent Representative to the European Union. Slovakia had expressed a wish to receive a more significant portfolio in Barroso’s new commission.



Internal Market and Services: Michel Barnier



Michel Barnier, a close ally of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has served as environment and agriculture minister as well as the regional aid commissioner. His appointment as Markets Commissioner served as a blow to UK officials and the City of London in particular, who did not want Mr. Barnier being in charge of writing rules for banks and hedge funds, due to concerns that France aims to diminish the City's role as Europe's financial centre. France had lobbied hard for Barnier to receive the internal market job, which is central to planned reforms of the financial sector.

It is likely that Britain will be closely observing Barnier’s actions as London tries to ensure its City financial district does not lose influence as a result of new regulations aimed at preventing any future economic crisis.

Agriculture and Rural Development:  Dacian Ciolos



Dacian Cioloş, a Romanian engineer and former Minister for Agriculture, was nominated as Romania’s EU Commissioner in October of this year. The cabinet which nominated him collapsed the day after his nomination following a motion of no confidence.

Although Ciolos has the requisite experience for the post, his appointment is controversial because Romania has a strong agricultural lobby, but a backward, unreformed farm sector and has also run into trouble with the EU Commission in the recent past over its management of EU funds.

The agriculture portfolio will significantly grow in the next five years as a consequence of the major revision of the European Union budget and of the Common Agricultural Policy. Ciolos will have to manage one of Europe’s key portfolios, which has an allocation of approximately €50 billion, almost a third of the budget of the European Union, for 2010.

Health and Consumer Policy: John Dalli



John Dalli is a Maltese politician and qualified accountant. Before Friday’s appointment, Dalli served as Minister for Social Policy.

In 2004, Dalli was forced to resign after an investigation into his purchase of air tickets for the foreign ministry from a company in which his daughter was a shareholder. Although he resurrected his political career, his performance as Minister for Social Policy has been criticised and Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has been forced to state that Dalli’s nomination to Malta’s European Commissioner was not an excuse to get him out of parliament.

In the past, Health and Consumer Policy have been separate portfolios. The new portfolio includes the pharmaceutical industry, which the European Commission is planning to make a focal point, together with the Policy on Genetically Modified Organisms.

Trade: Karel De Gucht



Karel De Gucht nomination for the powerful Trade post is came as a surprise to some, particularly after his compatriot Herman Van Rompuy had been selected as the first EU president. De Gucht, a centre-right liberal, is a native of East Flanders, Belgium's Dutch-speaking commercial heartland that includes Antwerp, one of the world's biggest ports. He is a proponent of free-market and free-trade economic policies. De Gucht’s role in the outgoing EU executive is Humanitarian Aid Commissioner.

De Gucht’s career hasn't been free from controversy. He has previously resigned from government over a conflict with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. He also caused controversy when he publicly criticised Congolese leaders in 2004 and when he called Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende "a mix between Harry Potter and a rigid bourgeois."

In his new role, Mr. De Gucht's most pressing tasks will be reviewing anti-dumping import tariffs and representing the bloc's views on the Doha round of trade talks and protectionism at a WTO summit in Geneva next week.

Energy: Günter Oettinger



Guenther Oettinger, a German Christian Democrat and close ally of Angela Merkel, was designated German European Commissioner on October 24, 2009.  Prior to this he was the Prime Minister of the German Baden-Württemberg province. He is affiliated with the European People's Party.

The nomination of a candidate to the Energy portfolio from EU heavyweight Germany highlights the growing importance of energy in EU policy.  Oettinger’s appointment has prompted concern that EU energy policy could be modified to favour the interests of German energy giants, such as E.ON, RWE and EnBW.

Oettinger will manage efforts to create a common EU energy policy and negotiate with Russia if there is another gas crisis.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries: Maria Damanaki



Maria Damanaki is a Greek politician, former president of the radical left Synaspismos party and currently a member of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK).

Damanaki was initially elected to the Greek Parliament for the Communist party in 1977, then moved her mandate to the new Synaspismos party, where she was elected president in 1989.

If the centre-right European People's Party, the largest grouping in the EU Parliament does in fact target nominees with a Communist past, Ms. Damanaki is likely a target.

The Greek Prime minister has made it clear that Borroso specifically requested a female nominee. She does not appear to have any specific experience in relation to maritime affairs or fisheries.

Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy: Štefan FÜLE



Stefan Füle is currently Minister for European Affairs in the Czech Government. He was agreed upon as the Czech Commissioner only after weeks of deadlock between the two main parties in Czech government and Czech Interim Prime Minister, Jan Fischer, had his suggested candidate rejected. There is disagreement within the Czech Republic over the appointment of Mr Füle. Some believe that for a small country with a euro-sceptic reputation, sending a little-known diplomat instead of a well-known political figure is a mistake.

Štefan Füle himself is not without controversy. He has received criticism from some Czech MPs who claim that his membership in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and studies at the KGB-controlled Moscow Institute of International Relations in the 1980s disqualify him for a high-profile job in the European Commission.

Fuele may easily become the commission's first casualty in the European Parliament, with right-wing deputies vowing to vote against him on account of his former ties to the KGB.

Regional Policy: Johannes Hahn



Austrian Hahn is head of the Vienna branch of the conservative OVP party.

His nomination at the end of October came just as the science minister was under attack from Austrian students who were demanding better conditions at university and demonstrating against the re-introduction of university fees, a move which which Hahn fervently supported.

Hahn is a compromise candidate in the Austrian coalition who could only be found after weeks of very public political fighting and a failure to concur on any of the three primary candidates.

The appointment of Hahn to the regional policy portfolio provoked mixed reactions from politicians within Austria.  The SPÖ-ÖVP government have lauded the appointment as a success. However, opposition party ‘Alliance for the Future of Austria’ was less satisfied, branding the move a"relegation" for Austria.

Climate Action: Connie Hedegaard

Known as “Ms. Climate” in her native Demark, Connie Hedegaard is one of the more obvious choices in Barroso’s new commission.  She is a former journalist and member of the Conservative People's Party (DKF).

Hedegaard had quit politics and was the hosting a public affairs show on Danish television when she was recruited in 2004 to become environment minister. As Denmark's climate minister, she has spent two years travelling the globe attempting to garner political support for a post-Kyoto accord. Hedegaard is known for her strong personality, she has twice threatened to quit her cabinet post, the last time in April when Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen refused to take her along to a climate meeting with US President Barack Obama. Hedegaard got her way. She was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people of 2009 for her fight against climate change.

Economic and Monetary Affairs: Olli Rehn



Olli Rehn is a Finish economist and outgoing enlargement commissioner. The liberal democrat won respect as enlargement commissioner in the outgoing EU executive where he was viewed as a good organiser and skilled negotiator.

Rehn caused controversy when he stated that although he favours Turkish membership of the EU, he feels there should be permanent restrictions on the free movement of workers from Turkey, a stance which was seen by some as contrary to the whole purpose and spirit of the EU.

His main tasks in the new role will be to enforce EU budget rules following the economic crisis, increase coordination of the bloc's macroeconomic policies and, possibly, oversee the adoption of the euro by several countries in central and Eastern Europe.

Since his appointment yesterday, Rehn has already said that Europe’s economy needs to be moved in a greener, and more innovative direction and also that the EU’s international role must be strengthened.

Finland will be pleased with Rehn's appointment as his previous post of enlargement commissioner was viewed as a disappointment for Finland, who had hoped for their nominee to be given a portfolio relating to economic issues.

Environment:  Janez Potočnik

Slovenian Janez Potočnik will be moving from the post of European Commissioner for Science and Research to the environment portfolio.

Prior to joining the Commission, Potočnik was Slovenia's Minister for European Affairs.

The environment portfolio involves overseeing the European Environment Agency. Climate policy will be removed from the Environment’s remit in the new Commission and be set up as a separate directorate, with Denmark’s energy minister Connie Hedegaard as its Commissioner.

International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response: Rumiana Jeleva



Originally a sociology lecturer, prior to the new appointment, Rumiana Jeleva served as Bulgaria's Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Jeleva is a key figure in the ruling "Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria" political party and an active member of the European People's Party.

Since Jeleva’s appointment , Bulgaria’s former Prime Minister and the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party , Sergey Stanishev has publicly criticised Barroso’s decision, declaring that the  portfolio of International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response as one of “assistant commissioner” and claiming that it is  second-rate one and an indication of the the attitude of the EU towards Bulgaria.

Budget and Financial Programming: Janusz Lewandowski



Janusz Lewandowski is a Polish economist and politician.  He is also affiliated with the centre right European People's Party.  Prior to this appointment he held the position of Chairman of the Committee on Budgets on the commission.

Perhaps his most notable career achievement was that he was instrumental in the founding of the foundation of the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Lewandowski’s appointment is an accomplishment for Poland, as he will be in charge of the EU's nearly 150-billion-euro annual budget  as a major spending review will take place in 2014.

Home Affairs: Cecilia Malmström



Cecilia Malmström is a Swedish politician, who until her surprise nomination as European commissioner last week, was serving as Minister for European Union Affairs in the Swedish government. Prior to her appointment as Minister for EU Affairs on 6 October 2006, she had served as a Member of the European Parliament since 1999. She is a member of the Swedish Liberal People's Party, part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

The fact that the liberal newcomer was offered the substantial portfolio which covers police, migration and organized crime came as a surprise to many. The post is considered to be one of the more heavyweight jobs on offer.

Malmström's portfolio includes justice authorities such as Europol, the narcotics bureau ECNN, the border-control authority Frontex, and visa issues.

Development: Andris Piebalgs



Latvian politician and diplomat, Andris Piebalgs will be moving from Energy to the Development portfolio. He has previously held the position of Latvian ambassador to Estonia and ambassador to the EU where he played a significant role in his country’s accession talks.

Piebalgs was joint founder of the centrist Latvian Way party, however since his 2004 European Commission membership, is only affiliated with the center-right European People's Party.

The Economist named Piebalgs "Eurocrat of the Year" in 2007, saying that he "understands both the technicalities of his brief and its political dimensions, and has the nerve to take on the powerful energy lobbies in Europe’s biggest countries”. One major area of Piebalgs’ new role will be looking after relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific states.

Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud: Algirdas Šemeta



Algirdas Gediminas Šemeta a Lithuanian economist and former finance minister who is affiliated with the centre right European Peoples Party.  Prior to yesterday’s appointment, he held the position of European Commissioner for Financial Programming & the Budget.  He had only been in this position since July of this year.

Šemeta’s summer appointment came at an opportune time for the finance minister of a country whose economy had contracted by 22.4 per cent in one year. In May 2009, members of the Lithuanian opposition initiated a no-confidence vote against Šemeta, accusing him of implementing destructive tax reforms and abetting social unrest. Although he survived the vote, less than one month later he was sent to Brussels.

Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth: Androulla Vassiliou



Androulla Vassiliou is a Cypriot politician. Prior to yesterday’s appointment Vassiliou held the position of health commissioner since March 2009. In this capacity, Vassiliou has overseen EU policy on the Swine Flu epidemic and also a plan to instigate ant-smoking legislation in all EU member states by 2012.





The new commissioner’s C.Vs can be inspected here

The commissioners blogs can be read here