At last we have a European Commission

Labour Party

José Manuel Barroso

Cathy Ashton

Viviane Reding

Joaquín Almunia

Siim Kallas

Neelie Kroes

So we now have a European Commission, a mere eight months after the European elections at the beginning of June last year.  It’s been an interminably long process for no particular reason that is immediately obvious.

Yes, we did have the problems with Mrs Jeleva, Bulgaria’s original nominee for Commissioner who proved to be not up to the job at her European Parliament Committee Hearing and has now been replaced by Kristalina Georgieva.  While this necessitated another hearing, that’s hardly a good reason for the whole business taking eight months.

The fact that the EU moves slowly is hardly news.  More interesting is the decision taken by the ECR (the political group founded and largely made up of British Tories) to abstain when the European Parliament voted to agree the new European Commission yesterday. 

Antonio Tajani

Janez Potočnik

Olli Rehn

Andris Piebalgs

Michel Barnier

Androulla Vassiliou

Abstention seems a cowardly approach, neither one thing or the other.  If you don’t like the new arrangements, have the courage of your convictions and vote against. 

Jan Zahradil who spoke on behalf of the ECR during the debate in the European Parliament didn’t manage to shed much light on their pusillanimous behaviour, saying to Mr Barroso, Commission President,  “In 2005, you came up with the idea of cutting red tape by simplifying legislation. Why not revive this idea now?” He added “If you demonstrate that you’re a reformer, we shall back you, but if you follow well-trodden paths, we shall stand up and resist you”.  If the ECR doesn’t like Barroso, they should, of course, put their money where their mouth is and not hide behind abstaining.

Inevitably there have been criticisms of the way Barroso put together his team of Commissioners and allocated portfolios.  I have to say I am not at all happy with the way portfolios do not correspond to the work of European Parliament Committees.  For instance, on the Culture and Education Committee we have Mrs. Vassiliou as our main Commissioner covering education, culture, multilingualism and youth.  However we also have to deal with Neelie Kroes on the digital agenda and Vivian Reding for some of the wider communication brief including media pluralism.  This lack of alignment of portfolios to Committee responsibilities will, I believe, have the effect of weakening European Parliament Committees in their dealings with Commissioners, i.e. Barroso will stand a better chance of getting his agenda through.

President Barroso’s leadership style has, in fact, caused much consternation.  The Green Group put forward a motion, which was subsequently rejected, to the plenary session on the European Parliament yesterday.  I did, however, agree with some of it, notably its statement that Mr Barroso has weakened the position of individual Commissioners-designate by implementing a policy of divide and rule i.e. by defining and allocating portfolios without proper consideration for their abilities and affinities, and has even moved Commissioners away from portfolios in which, to date, they have demonstrated their competence.  This policy has arguably led, inter alia, to the resignation of one of the nominees.

The resolution went on to note that Mr Barroso has reshuffled portfolios within the Commission in a such a way that there is no clear division of responsibility in some key areas, thus confirming the trend towards a presidential model for the Commission, with the risk that the role of individual Commissioners may be reduced to that of advisors to the President, a state of affairs at odds with the spirit of the Treaties.  You may at this point be forgiven for thinking that Mr Barroso is seeking to become the real President rather than one of equal status to the EU’s other four presidents.

Meanwhile, here is the new European Commission as approved by the European Parliament yesterday.

Maroš Šefčovič

Dacian Cioloş

Kristalina Georgieva

Cecilia Malmström

Johannes Hahn

László Andor

Stefan Füle

Connie Hedegaard

Günther Oettinger

Maria Damanaki

Janusz Lewandowski

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

John Dalli

Karel De Gucht

Algirdas Semeta

3 thoughts on “At last we have a European Commission

  1. It took over eight months for a few reasons, but the primary issue was the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. Had the Commission been appointed before 1 December 2009, it would have been under the Nice Treaty and would have resulted in a reduction of Commissioners. Given that the Irish were promised a Commissioner per Member State, this would have caused problems.

  2. Jonathan, You are, of course, absolutely right about the Lisbon Treaty. Even so, it still took from 1 December to 9 February – a considerable amount of time. Much of the groundwork could, I think, have been done before 1 December so that we could have had a Commission in place before 2010.

  3. I can understand the frustration at the length of time taken to get the EU Commission in place; especially as there was no public voting involved but I do not share the impatience of others. A look at the backgrounds of the commissioners makes me wish that we had been left ungoverned for much longer.
    Would it have really been so terrible if we had been spared the directives of Mr. Barroso who only left off being a Maoist in 1977 or the rulings of more orthodox, soviet-style communists such as Slim Kallas, Maros Sefcovoc, Stefan Fule, Andris Piebags, Janez Potocnik and the enthusiastically pro-soviet Joaquin Almunia, who opposed the desire of the Baltic States for political independence.
    I would not have lost any sleep knowing that the EU was without Baroness Ashton. As far as I am aware she has not yet stated that she definitely did not accept donations to CND from the Soviet Union.
    No reasonable person would worry that the Pope was a member of the Hitler Youth. He was very young at the time and he probably had very little say in his membership but many of these EU Commissioners were promoting totalitarian regimes as adults.

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