EU Commission line-up before reshuffle

By EDRi · November 3, 2004

After the withdrawal of his first line-up on 26 October, the designated President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durrão Barroso, is expected to present a new team tomorrow (4 November), during the European Council meeting in Brussels. Two of the most controversial Commissioners-designate will not be part of the college Barroso is expected to present. Rocco Buttiglione, who was to become Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, has withdrawn his candidature, while the Latvian government has withdrawn Ingrida Udre, whom Barroso had appointed to the taxation brief.

While the government in Riga has already nominated Andris Piebalgs – a former Finance Minister and Ambassador to the EU – to replace Mrs. Udre, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi still keeps the replacement of Buttiglione secret. The odds are high that the new candidate will be the country’s present Minister of Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini.

Such a decision would however disturb the delicate balance within Italy’s government coalition, where the right-wing regionalist Lega Nord is asking for more influence. A more elegant solution for Berlusconi would be to send his Education Minister Letizia Moratti, who has served him in many positions before and would have the additional advantage of keeping the Brussels Commission’s woman quota at the same level as in Barroso’s first line-up. In addition, Buttiglione would be qualified to take over Mrs. Moratti’s Italian portfolio, which could help avoid major reshuffles of the Italian cabinet.

It is uncertain that the new Italian Commissioner will keep the important Justice and Home Affairs brief. Barroso is said to consider the Greek Commissioner-designate for environment Stavros Dimas, who has come under criticism because of his country’s poor transposition of EU environmental law, Mr. Dimas is a lawyer and has represented Greece’s Conservative Nea Dimokratia party both in the Parliament, of which he has been a member since 1977, and in various ministerial posts, not involving Justice and Home Affairs (he was Minister of Trade in 1980 and 1981, Minister of Agriculture in 1989 and 1990 and Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology in 1990 and 1991).

Other Commissioners criticised in the European Parliament hearings include the Netherland’s Neelie Kroes, who was to take over Mario Monti’s Competition portfolio but is said to have too many links to transnational companies; Hungary’s Commissioner-designate for Energy Laszlo Kovacs, who’s hearing was a disaster in which he almost admitted being incompetent for his brief; and Denmark’s Mariann Fischer Boel, who was to take over Agriculture even though she is married to the owner of a big farming enterprise who receives large amounts of EU subsidies every year.

Barroso speech to the European Parliament (26.10.2004)

Commission Press Room

(Contribution by Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU Affairs Director)