José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, (right) has unveiled 25 appointments for the Commission’s next five-year term. The new commissioners – one from each European Union member state– will play an influential role in pursuing Europe’s agenda in key areas such as climate change, energy policy, competition and internal harmonisation of the 27-country bloc.
Mr Barroso is Portuguese, and so his country does not get an additional commissioner. Britain has already secured the new post of high commissioner for foreign affairs for Baroness Catherine Ashton (right), so it is not involved in Friday’s list – although she will have a seat on the new Commission as well.
Thirteen of the 27 commissioners currently in place return for another term, with nine of them women – one more than the previous college.
Below is a list of the responsibilities of each nominated commissioner and details on the main portfolios.
Internal market and services: Michel Barnier (France)
Upholding the internal market – the notion that goods, services, people and capital can move and trade freely across the EU bloc – is clearly one of Brussels’ key jobs. It is also one which has become more complex and difficult as the focus has shifted from establishing an internal market in goods to one covering services. A large element of the internal market directorate’s work is now devoted to the financial services sector – an area of considerable importance and sensitivity to many member states, thus raising the political tempo.
Accordingly, there have been some suggestions that overseeing the financial services work should be carved out into a separate job. But it is less clear exactly where the dividing line would be drawn – where, for example, would accountancy issues live? There have also been suggestions that other parts of the internal market portfolio could be reorganised, such as its oversight of intellectual property issues, which overlaps with at least two other directorates.
There were few surprises that the competition commissioner’s job went to Joaquin Almunia, the Spanish nominee and holder of the economic and monetary affairs job in the current commission. A member of the Spanish Socialist Party, he studied law and economics at the prestigious University of Deutso and subsequently worked as an economist.
Competition lawyers in Brussels generally welcomed his appointment, describing him as “considered and reflective” and “an experienced hand”.
His predecessor – the tough-minded Neelie Kroes – has resolved many of the long-running competition cases, and will hand over a fairly clean cupboard. But observers will be interested to see whether the new commissioner maintains the high-fining policy for antitrust offences, or pursues policies making it easier for victims to claim private damages for competition breaches, such as cartel behaviour.
Ms Kroes, with a strong belief in free-market principles, was notoriously tough on competition offenders. But some lawyers are wary of predicting much relaxation, pointing out that, in Spain, the Socialist Party has traditionally supported strong enforcement of competition law.
Industry and entrepreneurship: Antonio Tajani (Italy)
Lower-key than some of the big economic portfolios but still very influential in terms of big manufacturing sectors, from cars to pharmaceuticals. It also has oversight in the research-heavy space area, and a role in supporting innovation – meaning that intellectual property issues are sometimes shared, rather uncomfortably, with internal market.
Agriculture and rural development: Dacian Ciolos (Romania)
Agriculture accounts for the biggest share of the European Union budget – more than €50bn ($75bn, £45bn) a year – making the job of agriculture commissioner one of Brussels’ plum portfolios.
Above all, the next commissioner will be at the head of the debate on reforming the byzantine common agriculture policy (CAP), with its nettlesome system of payments and subsidies. The biggest challenge may be to preserve the CAP budget, and ease tensions between new and old member states about how the money gets divided.
The next commissioner may also have to address volatile prices in recent years for milk and other commodities, which have sparked outcries from both farmers and consumers. They will have to do so amid greater oversight from the European parliament, which will gain new powers over agriculture with the adoption of the Lisbon treaty.
Trade: Karel De Gucht (Belgium)
With the authority to negotiate agreements around the world, the trade commissioner is one of the few in Brussels with a truly international profile.
The next trade commissioner will inherit the Sisyphean task of trying to nudge forward the conclusion of the Doha round of international trade negotiations. While those talks have sputtered, the EU has pushed for bilateral free trade agreements with the likes of South Korea and India.
In addition to those assignments, the next commissioner will also have to manage trade relations with the US and China at a time when the economic crisis has led to a rise in protectionism around the world.
Climate action: Connie Hedegaard (Denmark)
One of the new briefs ordered up by Mr Barroso. The commissioner will take a leading role in co-ordinating the EU’s fight against global warming and its transition to a low-carbon economy. That task will touch on existing Commission policy areas, such as trade, industry and environment. It would also make the new commissioner a point-person for the EU’s efforts to negotiate and implement a successor to the Kyoto protocol.
Energy: Günter Oettinger (Germany)
Once a relative backwater, the energy portfolio has become one of the more sought-after in Brussels.
Günter Oettinger will be thrust into the ongoing Russia-Ukraine dispute that has made winter gas shortages in Europe an annual event. More broadly, he will have to further the development of a European energy policy that acknowledges the need to reduce its dependence on Russia while also promoting energy efficiency, wind, solar and other sources compatible with the fight against climate change.
Home affairs: Cecilia Malmström (Sweden)
and Justice, fundamental rights and citizenship: Viviane Reding (Luxembourg):
As expected, the judicial portfolio has been split between two commissioners: Cecila Malmström of Sweden (pictured left) gets the home affairs brief; while Viviane Reding of Luxembourg (pictured right) takes on a new justice, fundamental rights and citizenship role.
The main home affairs brief will assume new importance under the Lisbon treaty, with Brussels taking on areas of policy that had previously been the exclusive remit of EU member states.
The focus in the short term will be on harmonising EU policy on refugees, co-ordinating policing across the bloc and administering border policy for most EU members.
Economic and monetary affairs: Olli Rehn (Finland)
The economic and monetary affairs brief has grown in importance as the financial crisis has progressed, and is now identified as one of the “big economic” portfolios coveted by member states.
Olli Rehn will have the hard task of bringing the EU’s public finances back into shape. Most member states have flouted the bloc’s rules on budget deficits, but the Commission will look to start enforcing them once the recovery is on a more solid base.
Digital agenda: Neelie Kroes (Netherlands)
Neelie Kroes, the outgoing competition commissioner, will take over the telecoms and digital agenda brief from Viviane Reding.
Ms Reding had lobbied heavily to remain in her current post. Her departure will spark vivid reactions among the larger telecoms operators, whom she has antagonised with price caps on roaming charges, one of the signature achievements of the first Barroso Commission.
Mrs Kroes is familiar with the telecoms sector following repeated forays into the field in her competition job.
Employment, social affairs and inclusion: Laszlo Andor (Hungary)
Social affairs will be the remit of Laszlo Andor, currently a director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, who will immediately have to contend with revision of the working-time directive, a process expected to take most of his five-year term.
Budget and financial programming: Janusz Lewandowski (Poland, pictured left)
Development: Andris Piebalgs (Latvia, pictured right)
Education, culture, multilingualism and youth: Androulla Vassiliou (Cyprus, pictured left)
Enlargement and neighbourhood policy: Stefan Fule (Czech Republic, pictured right)
Environment: Janez Potocnik (Slovenia, pictured left)
Health and consumer policy: John Dalli (Malta, pictured right)
Inter-institutional relations and administration: Maros Sefcovic (Slovakia, pictured left)
International co-operation, humanitarian aid and crisis response: Rumiana Jeleva (Bulgaria, pictured right)
Maritime affairs and fisheries: Maria Damanaki (Greece)
Regional policy: Johannes Hahn (Austria, pictured left)
Research, innovation and science: Maire Geoghegan-Quinn (Ireland)
Taxation and customs union, audit and anti-fraud: Algirdas Semeta (Lithuania, pictured right)
Transport: Siim Kallas (Estonia, pictured left)
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