The UK in the EU

As the debate on the UK’s membership of the EU intensifies, more and more people are stepping forward and making the case in favour of EU membership. See what they say

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The New European Commission 2010-14

Introduction

The members of the new College of Commissioners have been nominated by Member States and their proposed portfolios allocated by the President of the Commission. The European Parliament must give its consent to the appointment of the Commissioners; it did so in a vote on 9 February 2010, after oral hearings. The new Commission then took office on 10 February. During the oral hearings, the initial Bulgarian nominee, Rumiana Jeleva, withdrew after she failed to convince MEPs that she had the necessary skills.

Catherine Ashton, Vice President of the Commission, took office on 1 December 2009 in her capacity as the High Representative of the EU for Foreign & Security Policy but will need to be approved by the Parliament in her capacity as Vice President responsible for External Relations.

The Commissioners marked with an asterisk below all share part of the external relations responsibilities of the Commission which will be co-ordinated by the new Vice President for External Relations, Catherine Ashton.

The Commissioners & their Responsibilities:

Joaquín Almunia [Spain]

Competition a Vice-President of the Commission

Almunia was EU Commissioner for Economic & Monetary Affairs from 2004-2009. He was leader of the Spanish Socialist Party from 1997-2000 and had served as a Minister in the Spanish Government from 1982-1991.

László Andor [Hungary]

Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

Andor is an academic economist who worked at the University in Budapest and served as a director of the board of the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development.

Catherine Ashton [UK]

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security and Vice-President of the Commission

Catherine Ashton was an administrator in CND from 1977 to 1983, Director of Business in the Community from 1983-89 and chairman of Hertfordshire heath authority 1998-2001. Made a life peer in 1999, she joined the Government of Tony Blair in June 2001, holding posts at Education, Constitutional Affairs and the Ministry of Justice before being made Leader of the House of Lords in 2007. She was appointed EU Trade Commissioner to succeed Peter Mandelson in 2008. As Leader of the Lords, Ashton was responsible for steering the legislation enabling ratification of the Lisbon Treaty through the House.

Michel Barnier [France]

Internal Market and Services

Barnier is a member of the UMP party in France and served as Minister of Agriculture 2007-2009 in the Government of President Sarkozy. He had previously been Minister for European Affairs (1995-97), Foreign Affairs (2004-05) and a member of the Commission (1999-2004), responsible for regional affairs. He was elected as an MEP in June 2009.

Dacian Ciolos [Romania]

Agriculture and Rural Development

Ciolos is an agricultural expert with qualifications from both Romanian and French universities. He worked at the European Commission and in his own country on the agricultural aspects of Romania’s accession to the EU. Whilst serving as an official in Rumania, he was appointed Minister for Agriculture in 2007, serving until the government left office in December 2008.

John Dalli [Malta]

Health and Consumer Policy

Dalli is a Maltese politician who served in the parliament from 1987 to 2009, holding senior office as Minister for Finance [1992-96, 1998-2004] and as Minister for Foreign Affairs [2004].

Maria Damanaki [Greece]

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Damanaki was elected to the Greek Parliament as a Communist MP in 1977. She later became President of the radical left Synaspismos Party, which she founded, and more recently served as an MP for Pasok, the Greek Socialist Party. She was a spokesperson for the Socialist Party in opposition on education and culture.

Karel De Gucht [Belgium]

Trade

De Gucht is a former MP for the Flemish Liberal & Democratic Party, serving in both the Flemish Parliament and the Belgian national parliament. He was Foreign Minister of Belgium from 2004 to July 2009 when he was appointed Development Commissioner in the previous Commission, after the election of Louis Michel to the European Parliament.

Štefan Füle [Czech Republic]

Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy *

Füle served as Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 2003 to 2005, when he was appointed Czech permanent representative to NATO. He was appointed Minister for European Affairs in the interim Government of Jan Fischer in May 2009.

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn [Ireland]

Research and Innovation

Maire Geoghehan-Quinn was a Fianna Fail member of the Dail from 1975-1997, serving in several Ministerial posts during that time, including as Minister in the Department of the Taoiseach responsible for EU matters and as Minister for Justice. She was appointed a member of the European Court of Auditors in 1999 and reappointed in 2006 for a second term.

Kristalina Georgieva [Bulgaria]

International Co-operation, Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Response

An economist by training, after a career in academia Georgieva went to work for the World Bank in 1993. There she held a number of senior posts, most recently as Vice President and Corporate Secretary of the World Bank Group.

Johannes Hahn [Austria]

Regional Policy

Federal Minister for Research and Science in the Austrian Government since 2007, Mr Hahn is from the Conservative Party.

Connie Hedegaard [Denmark]

Climate Action

The Minister for Climate and Energy in Denmark since 2007, Hedegaard served as a member of the Danish Parliament from 1984-1990, then left to pursue a career in journalism, returning to politics as an MP in 2004. She was Minister for the Environment, 2004-07.

Siim Kallas [Estonia]

Transport and a Vice-President of the Commission

Kallas was elected three times to the Estonian Parliament as a representative of the centre-right Estonian Reform Party. He served as Minister of Finance [1999-2002] and Prime Minister [2002-03] before being appointed a European Commissioner in May 2004. He was responsible for the Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud portfolio from 2004-09.

Neelie Kroes [Netherlands]

Digital Agenda and a Vice-President of the Commission

A former businesswoman, Kroes served as a Transport Minister in Holland in the 1980s before resuming her business career from 2000-2004. In 2004 she was appointed EU Competition Commissioner, a post she served in until 2009.

Janusz Lewandowski [Poland]

Budget and Financial Programming

Lewandowski is an economist who served from 1980-89 as an advisor to Solidarity, later entering the Polish Parliament for the centre-right Civic Platform party. He was chairman of the budgets committee of the Polish Parliament, 2004-09.

Cecilia Malmström [Sweden]

Home Affairs

The Swedish Minister for European Affairs since 2006, Malmström is a member of the Liberal People’s Party. Prior to her appointment as a Minister, she had been a Member of the European Parliament.

Günter Oettinger [Germany]

Energy

A member of the CDU, Oettinger has been Minister President of the state of Baden-Württemberg since 2005. He has been a member of the Baden-Württemberg parliament since 1984.

Andris Piebalgs [Latvia]

Development*

Piebalgs was a Minister in the Latvian Government as Minister for Education [1990-93] and later Minister for Finance [1994-96]. He later served as Latvian permanent representative to the EU, 1998-2003 before being appointed EU Commissioner responsible for Energy in November 2004.

Janez Potocnik [Slovenia]

Environment

Potocnik served as Minister for European Affairs in the Slovenian Government, 2002-04, before being appointed EU Science Commissioner in 2004.

Viviane Reding [Luxembourg]

Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship and the senior Vice-President of the Commission

Reding served for 10 years in the Luxembourg Parliament as an MP for the Christian Social Party, a centre-right party. From 1989-1999 she was a Member of the European Parliament before being nominated as a European Commissioner in 1999. From 1999 to 2004 she held the portfolio of Education, Culture and Youth and from 2004 the portfolio of Information Society & Media. She is the longest serving Commissioner.

Olli Rehn [Finland]

Economic and Monetary Affairs

Rehn has served as a Member of both the Finnish Parliament and the European Parliament as a Liberal. He was appointed the member of the Commission responsible for Enlargement in 2004.

Maroš Šefcovic [Slovakia]

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

Šefcovic is a career diplomat who served as permanent representative to the EU for his country from 2004-09, when he was appointed a Commissioner.

Algirdas Šemeta [Lithuania]

Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud

Šemeta has twice served as Minister of Finance (1997-99, 2008-09) for his country, as well as a number of official posts, including Chairman of the Securities Commission. He joined the European Commission in July 2009 as Commissioner for the Budget.

Antonio Tajani [Italy]

Industry and Entrepreneurship and a Vice-President of the Commission

A founder member of Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, Tajani served in the European Parliament from 1994-2008. He is a journalist by profession but also served in the Italian air force.

Androulla Vassiliou [Cyprus]

Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

A lawyer, and wife of the former President of Cyprus, George Vassiliou, Ms Vassiliou was a member of the Cypriot Parliament from 1996-2006 for the Movement of United Democrats. She was appointed the Cypriot member of the previous European Commission in 2008, where she was responsible for health matters.

The Responsibilities of the New Commissioners

The Lisbon Treaty did not substantially change the powers or role of the Commission. It will continue to be the initiator of policy in most areas of the EU’s work; foreign affairs and security policy will remain the purview of the Council of Ministers. Despite some excited rhetoric about the role of the new Commissioner for Internal Markets, nothing in the Lisbon Treaty will enable any one Commissioner to set new laws affecting financial services; as at present, all proposals for new legislation in this field will be dealt with under the usual procedure, thus requiring the consent of the College of Commissioners, the Council of Ministers and the Parliament.

But the Lisbon Treaty will lead to some changes in the way the EU operates which will affect the Commission. Firstly, the decision not to reduce the number of Commissioners to fewer than the number of Member States – as originally foreshadowed in the Nice Treaty - has necessitated the creation of new portfolios. The Justice and Home Affairs brief, for example, has been split between a Commissioner for Justice and Human Rights, dealing with judicial co-operation and the European Fundamental Rights Agency, and a Commissioner responsible for police co-operation, external borders and other law enforcement related issues.

Secondly, the EU’s external relations now all fall within the responsibility of a single person, Catherine Ashton, in three different roles:

· as High Representative, management of the EU’s foreign and security policies, answerable to the Council;

· as Vice-President in the Commission, coordination of all the Commisson’s external relations responsibilities, including trade, enlargement and development, all of which will continue to have their own Commissioners;

· within the Commission, direct management of relations with third countries in the areas of Commission responsibility.

Working arrangements will have to be devised to enable this new arrangement to be effective. Within the Commission that will not be easy and there is also the question of who does what between the President of the European Council and the High Representative. All these questions can be solved with good will on all sides and Lady Ashton’s career to date suggests that this is the sort of thing she is good at. Catherine Ashton will be assisted in performing her different functions by the new External Action Service, answerable to her, comprising officials from the Council Secretariat, Commission and seconded staff from Member States’ diplomatic services, and taking over the Commission’s and Council’s present offices in third countries (about 130)..

Finally, almost all EU legislation will now be agreed through the co-decision procedure, involving the European Parliament as well as the Council of Ministers. This will significantly affect agricultural and budget matters as hitherto the part of the budget related to agriculture, and many agricultural policy questions, were decided by Ministers on a proposal from the Commission without the Parliament’s consent being required.

 

March 2010

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