By Darren Ennis
Nov 25 (Reuters) - The European Union on Wednesday named the candidates to be members of the next European Commission, the EU executive, which has strong legislative and regulatory powers.
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will divide up the portfolios among the 27 member states, each of which has nominated one representative, and will then seek the approval of the European Parliament.
Below is a factbox on the procedure and what EU diplomats say about how the main portfolios will be shared out.
WHO HAS BEEN NOMINATED TO BE IN THE COMMISSION?
Barroso is Portugal’s representative. He was chosen by EU leaders and approved by the parliament in September for a second term. EU leaders have also chosen Briton Catherine Ashton as foreign affairs chief, but she still requires European Parliament approval.
The other representatives are: COUNTRY NAME CURRENT ROLE Austria Johannes Hahn (Science minister) Belgium Karel De Gucht (EU development and aid chief) Bulgaria Rumiana Zheleva (Foreign minister) Cyprus Androulla Vassiliou (EU health commissioner) Czech Rep. Stefan Fuele (Europe minister) Denmark Connie Hedegaard (Climate and energy minister) Estonia Siim Kallas (EU audit/anti-fraud commissioner) Finland Olli Rehn (EU enlargement commissioner) France Michel Barnier (European Parliament member) Germany Guenther Oettinger (Baden-Wuerttemberg premier) Greece Maria Damanaki (Member of Greek parliament) Hungary Laszlo Andor (Economist) Ireland Maire Geoghegan Quinn (Former parliamentarian) Italy Antonio Tajani (EU transport commisisoner) Latvia Andris Piebalgs (EU energy commissioner) Lithuania Algirdas Semeta (EU budget commissioner) Luxembourg Viviane Reding (EU information society chief) Malta John Dalli (Social policy minister) Netherlands Neelie Kroes (EU competition commissioner) Poland Janusz Lewandowski (European Parliament member) Romania Dacian Ciolos (Former agriculture minister) Slovakia Maros Sefcovic (EU education commissioner) Slovenia Janez Potocnik (EU science/research commissioner) Spain Joaquin Almunia (EU economic affairs chief) Sweden Cecilia Malmstrom (EU affairs minister)
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Once awarded a portfolio by Barroso, each of the nominated commissioners undergoes approval hearings before committees in the European Parliament. The assembly later votes whether to accept or reject the Commission — it cannot simply reject individuals. Parliament officials expect the hearings and the final vote to take place in January. If Barroso’s line-up is accepted, the new Commission should take office on Feb. 1.
WHO MIGHT GET THE MAIN PORTFOLOIS?
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Ashton, until now EU trade commissioner, takes up her new job on Dec. 1 although she will not have parliamentary approval by then. She will also be Commission vice-president and will run a new EU diplomatic corps.
Former French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier is widely expected to take over the sought-after post of overseeing the EU’s single market — ensuring free movement of goods and services among member states — but it is unclear whether the portfolio will include the important financial services sector. Some EU diplomats suggest Barroso may create a separate post to oversee EU banking reform and that Barnier may not want the internal market job if this happens. Dutchwoman Neelie Kroes, currently the competition chief, and Spain’s Joaquin Almunia, now monetary affairs commissioner, could also be contenders.
Diplomats says Almunia is frontrunner to become the bloc’s anti-trust chief, responsible for overseeing free and fair commercial competition, company mergers and state aid. German Guenther Oettinger and Finnish EU enlargement chief Ollie Rehn could also be in the frame, and Barnier could seek the job if he cannot secure control of financial services.
The holder of this post can impose fines on companies for anti-competitive practices such as taking part in cartels or abusing a dominant position in the marketplace. The commissioner upholds the EU’s strict state aid rules, which have come under fire from some countries that want to invest billions of euros of funds in their economies to offset the economic downturn.
ECONOMIC AND MONETARY AFFAIRS
Many countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium are keen to have this post overseeing the most difficult test to EU budget rules so far — the return to fiscal discipline after huge spending to prop up the economy. Almunia could yet keep his post, but Barroso has said he would prefer to appoint a new commissioner to every portfolio.
Germany leads the field of interested parties to become the bloc’s chief trade negotiator. Rehn and Kroes are also contenders, EU officials say. Spain, Italy and Poland have expressed an interest, but diplomats say their traditional protectionist policies are unlikely to win favour when leaders are trying to broker a deal to liberalise world trade and avoid protectionist measures.
Diplomats say Barroso may bolster this portfolio by merging it with innovation, or dilute it by hiving off the enterprise department, leaving the new commissioner in charge of small and medium-sized industries. Germany was long expected to keep this post, currently held by Guenter Verheugen, but Berlin may not be interested if it is diluted.
ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Barroso has said he will create a climate change commissioner to oversee implementation of the EU’s C02 emission targets and try to negotiate a binding global climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. He is also expected to appoint a more powerful energy commissioner to negotiate with Europe’s energy partners, notably Russia, to prevent any new gas crises. Germany is interested in the energy portfolio, diplomats say, and Scandinavian countries want the climate role. (Compiled by Darren Ennis; Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach, Julien Toyer, John O’Donnell, Timothy Heritage and Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)