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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Why Cameron needs to make a swift decision on the UK's next EU Commissioner

In a recent briefing, we stressed that David Cameron needs to pick a 'heavy-hitter' as UK's next European Commissioner if he wants to secure a key portfolio for the UK. Our point is reinforced by a quick look at the candidates being (more or less officially) lined up by other EU member states.

If the UK drags its feet on 'declaring' its candidate, and then sends someone not considered up for the job, we suspect its chances will pretty much have evaporated.

FRANCE - Former Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici is regarded as the frontrunner. The possible alternative could be Élisabeth Guigou, who has served as French Europe Minister, Justice Minister and Employment Minister.

GERMANY - Günther Oettinger looks very likely to stay on as German Commissioner. A former Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg, he has gained influence within Angela Merkel's CDU party during his five years as EU Energy Commissioner.
ITALY - Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini is widely tipped to become the new Italian Commissioner. She is currently regarded as the frontrunner to replace Lady Ashton as EU foreign policy chief. 

FINLAND - Former Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen will be the new Finnish Commissioner. He has already replaced Olli Rehn, who had to take up his seat in the European Parliament. Importantly, Katainen stepped down as Finnish Prime Minister precisely because he had set his eyes on a job in Brussels.

SPAIN - Former Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Cañete is the favourite to become the new Spanish Commissioner. He resigned in April after being picked by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as Partido Popular's top candidate in the European Parliament elections.

POLAND - Various names have been suggested. Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski remains the frontrunner (despite the recent wiretapping scandal). Former Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski and former EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski - recently elected as an MEP - are also in the race.

NETHERLANDS - The frontrunner is Finance Minister and Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is one of the two big contenders for the key post of Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner along with France's Pierre Moscovici.

ESTONIA - Former Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, leader of the liberal Estonian Reform Party, will be the new Estonian Commissioner, according to what Jean-Claude Juncker just said during his hearing with MEPs from the ALDE group.

What is somewhat different with this lot is that it includes a range of acting or former senior ministers still very much operating on the political centre stage in their respective countries. With some exceptions, the time when countries sent to Brussels whoever the sitting government tried to 'get rid of' seems pretty much over.

Cameron better get a move on.


Jesper said...

What were to happen if a country refused to nominate a candidate for the commission? Would that refusal prevent a new commission from being put in place?

David Horton said...

"In a recent briefing, we stressed that David Cameron needs to pick a 'heavy-hitter' as UK's next European Commissioner if he wants to secure a key portfolio for the UK"
Unless of course he is so frustrated and annoyed with the EU, that he deliberately chooses a lightweight so to enforce a further marginalising of Britain.

Hope so anyway.

If the EU does give UK a hefty portfolio, it will be little more than a dog-chew to keep us in our gilded cage. I'm not interested in what the EU can give us any more and I sincerely hope that Cameron tells them the same.

It really is time to let us have an in/out vote.

Denis Cooper said...

Jesper, that is an interesting albeit purely hypothetical question.

Article 17(7) TEU, which can be read here:


lays down:

"The Council, by common accord with the President-elect, shall adopt the list of the other persons whom it proposes for appointment as members of the Commission. They shall be selected, on the basis of the suggestions made by Member States, in accordance with the criteria set out in paragraph 3, second subparagraph, and paragraph 5, second subparagraph."

Because the EU is so concerned that its serfs, aka "citizens", should be able to easily understand how their lives are being run in great detail by the supremely wise members of the pan-EU elite, it often uses alternative terms such as "by common accord", "by unanimous agreement" and "by consensus" as if they were interchangeable, when that is not always so; but in this case it appears that "The Council, by common accord with the President-elect" does not mean that all 28 member state governments plus the President-elect must agree on the list, instead it means that the Council will if necessary use qualified majority voting to decide on a list which will be acceptable to the President-elect.


"Thus, actually, the European Commission, usually referred to as the Commission, is composed of 28 members (Commissioners), who are proposed by the government of each Member State and are appointed, for a period of five years, by the Council, acting by a qualified majority and by common accord with the nominee for President."

So presumably if the UK government declined to nominate anybody the other member state governments would say "Well, you've chosen not to put in any suggestion, so we'll have a vote on the other suggestions."

As far as I can work it out the requirement that the Commission must have a national of each member state will no longer apply to the next Commission.

But this is only hypothetical, because the UK government will certainly not pass up the opportunity to be able to pretend to the British people that we have "our" Commissioner in some important position, even though that person will in fact be the EU's Commissioner not ours.

Anonymous said...

EUSSR Commissioners have to renounce their domestic affiliations and consider only the EUSSR when performing their duties.

So it doesn't matter to the appointing nations which "portfolio" they get or who they send.

Edward Spalton said...

In the House of Lords Neil Kinnock recently read out the declaration made by EU Commissioners - in effect, their oath of loyalty wholly and solely to the EU.

Lord Tebbit pointed out that British Privy Counsellors made an oath of exclusive loyalty to the Crown - to maintain its sovereignty against all foreign powers whatsoever. So he wondered whether it was proper for a Privy Counsellor to become an EU Commissioner or vice versa.

This reminded me that many years ago some friends went to the late Lord Denning, former Master of the Rolls, in his retirement. They asked him privately to compare the two forms of words and asked whether it was possible for anyone to subscribe to both in good faith at the same time.

His answer was "I cannot resolve the contradiction. They must decide which sovereign they will serve".

So, whoever is appointed is of little importance. He will be willing to live a lie - if he is also a Privy Counsellor, that is. I think all of them have been thus honoured, so far,

Philip S. said...

@Denis.Cooper, while the outcome is the same, your argumentation is not wholly convincing.

The 'common accord' does not refer to a decision-making arrangement, but to the obligatoin to cooperate with the president-elect of the EC, in casu Juncker. We saw that principle in practice with Junckers remark about the political background of the future finance commissioner.

Art. 17 states that 'THE council adopts', which does not refer to the European Council, but to the general affairs council. Art.16 TEU than shows that QMV is the standard DM-modus. Them the list Goes for consent to the EP, and finally the European Council appoints the Commission by QMV, as art. 17 (7) explicitly mentions in its final sentence.

As far as my knowledge stretches a member-State is not obliged to nominate a national from it's own state, though art. 244 TFEU is clear about the difference between any pair of nationals may not exceed one. The UK can appoint an Irish national once, but not twice. This article relates to art. 17(5) meant to reduce the site of the EC. As result of the Irish referendum this article is de facto temporarily suspended.

Anonymous said...

There must be a mass murderer due for release, at least he would have more integrity than whichever failed politician is put forwards, why not just send clegg he like s the place after all and would be welcomed with open arms.

Denis Cooper said...

Philip S, just out of interest, where does it say that the UK can nominate an Irish national once but not twice?