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ISSUE 68 page 5

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Juncker springs surprises as new team has ‘foxes in charge of hen coops’
 INCOMING EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER has made a number of innovations in the selection of his team of commissioners. The main themes to which commentators have drawn attention are the enhanced importance of appointees from the eastern Member States, the new two-tier structure and the ‘foxes’ being put in charge of ‘hen coops’. Four of the seven newly powerful Vice-Presidents are from the eastern countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007. The seven will oversee the work of the other commissioners, although Mr. Juncker insists ‘there are no first or second-class commissioners – there are team leaders and team players’, these appointments, added to that of the Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk, as President of the Council of Ministers (European Council), mark the assumption of equal status for the easterners. In the second tier it seems President Juncker has called the bluff of several countries who have problems with particular areas of EU policy. Despite some vitriolic criticism of him in its press, Juncker has rewarded the U.K. with the financial services brief where its defence of the interests of the City of London has led the British government into direct confrontation with EU laws on bonus caps and its Financial Transactions Tax (see our last issue). Similarly France has been allotted economic and monetary policy; the new commissioner Pierre Moscovici will be in charge of enforcing the 3% deficit limit on the budgets of Member States having recently failed to stick to it as the French finance minister.
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The new team must now be interviewed and approved by the European Parliament and this may not be a straightforward procedure. Although the new Commission contains nine women, a minimum requirement of MEPs, there are likely to be objections to Jonathan Hill, the U.K.’s nominee as too close to the City and Spaniard Miguel Arias Cañete, an oil man put in charge of climate action and energy who has also made sexist comments on television. ‘We promise to be very tough with Lord Hill’ said the Socialist group leader Gianni Pittella. Environmental groups are unhappy that there is no longer a separate climate or environment directorate. As well as Mr. Cañete they have doubts about Karmenu Vella from Malta having responsibility for bird conservation as the Maltese propensity for bird-hunting has led to the country infringing EU law. Ten Green groups accused President Juncker of a ‘de-facto shutdown of EU environmental policymaking’. Unions reacted positively to the institution of a Vice-President for ‘Jobs, Growth and for Social Dialogue’ and to the appointment of Marianne Thyssen from Belgium as Commissioner for employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility, ‘someone who understands the need for dialogue with trade unions’ according to ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Ségol. The European Federation Industriall  urged the new holder of the  industry portfolio  Elzbieta Bienkowska to continue an expansionist policy with €300 billion likely to be spent in this area..

The Commission’s 28 new faces

Other paradoxes include a Hungarian promoting civic rights when his country has been accused of trampling on its own constitution and Greece overseeing migration and justice when its record in this area has been consistently excoriated by human rights monitors.

 

 




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