Barroso’s European Commission-go-round

Depending on who you listen to, Roumyana Zheleva, Bulgaria’s nominee to the new European Commission is set either for a high post or humiliation when EC President Jose Barroso unveils his line-up.

The names of all candidate commissioners have been confirmed officially, but negotiations and meetings about portfolios were continuing on November 26 2009. Further complicating matters is, reportedly, Barroso’s intention to shake the bag by reassigning the portfolios of commissioners returning for a second term.

It is not clear when Barroso will announce the list of which candidate commissioner has been nominated to each portfolio. Various sources have suggested that this could happen in the next few hours, or around December 7.

The Lisbon Treaty takes effect on December 1, at a ceremony planned to be held in Lisbon, and Barroso may also be expected to want the new commission’s line-up to be announced by then.

All that is certain is that the list will be announced before the December 10 and 11 meeting of the European Council. European Parliament committee confirmation hearings of candidate commissioners are scheduled for January 11 to 15 2010.

Reports in the past week have said, variously, that Zheleva, currently Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister would be given the internal relations and communications portfolio; or enlargement; or, more recently, justice and home affairs. The only trend in speculation about the job to be given to Zheleva is that the degree of significance and seniority attached to the portfolio increases by the day.

Bulgaria has signalled that it would like to have the energy, enlargement, regional policy or possibly even science portfolios.

There has been a consistent trend in reports about some of the heavyweight portfolios, with sources in Brussels indicating that Finland’s Olli Rehn would leave the enlargement portfolio to get the economic and monetary affairs portfolio and Spain’s Joaquin Almunia would move from economic affairs to become competition commissioner, with current competition commissioner Neelie Kroes moving to telecommunications.

Guenther Oettinger, from Germany – a country that is in the top rank of influence in the EU but as yet has no top job in the new order of things – is said to be headed for the energy job.

Among Central and Eastern Europe EU member states’ nominees, the Czech Republic’s Stefan Fuele has been tipped for enlargement, the portfolio in which Bulgaria and Slovakia also have expressed interest.
Not unrelated to the share-out of EC posts is the question of the future of the president and vice-president posts at the European Central Bank, scheduled to change in mid-2010 and late 2011, respectively. Reports have suggested that given that Germany has not taken any of the top EU leadership posts, a German will be given the leadership of the ECB.

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