Buttiglione may lose Civil Rights competences

By EDRi · October 20, 2004

José Manuel Barroso, the designated President of the European Commission, is working hard to find a compromise on the position of Mr. Buttiglione, the Italian candidate Commissioner for Justice and Civil Liberties. By a small majority, the Europarl Committee on Civil Liberties rejected his candidacy on 11 October, knowing well they can not oust single candidate Commissioners.

Barroso has met with leaders of the PSE (Social-Democrat) and ALDE (Liberal / Centrist) Groups in an effort to find a compromise that would be acceptable to the Italian government as well as to the MEPs opposed to the right-wing Conservative politician being in charge of anti-discrimination and Civil Liberties.

One option that is currently being discussed would be for Mr. Buttiglione to keep his job as the future head of the Justice, Freedom and Security Directorate General, but to have to pass competences in the fields of combating discrimination to other Commissioners, for example to Wladimir Spidla, who will be in charge of Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

If such a solution should still not satisfy angry MEPs, it may be doubled up by a Commission Initiative for an EU Anti-Discrimination Directive. The Commission has the sole right of initiative for Directives. MEPs have tabled a catalogue of seven requirements the EU Commission would have to fulfill in order to satisfy them and eventually get a positive vote for the Commissioners-yet-to-be. These requirements include increased competences in evaluating and even sacking Commissioners if they prove incompetent and an obligation for the Commission to submit all proposals submitted to the Parliament immediately.

The vote on the Barroso Commission will take place next week, as part of the Parliament’s Strasbourg session. The new Commissioners should enter into office on 1 November. The Green Group, who are opposed to three more Commissioners whom they deem incompetent – Ingrida Udre (Latvia, Tax and Customs), Stavros Dimas (Greece, Environment), and László Kovacs (Hungary, Energy) – have already declared they will vote against the Barroso Commission.

There are also rumours that Mr. Buttiglione will announce his resignation shortly. In that case, Italy would have to send another candidate. This would give Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi an opportunity to delay the inauguration of the new Commission, thus forcing his rival Romano Prodi to stay in Brussels and work on with a Commission most members of which have already taken posts elsewhere – the EU would effectively be left without an executive branch.

Financial Times: European Deputies issue ultimatum on Buttiglione

(Contribution by Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU Affairs Director)