New Commissioners and ominous footnotes

Development Policy30 Nov 2009Niels Keijzer

Last Friday, European Commission President Barosso presented his proposed 27-strong team and the policy portfolios for each of them. Reactions in the press on the proposed team of Commissioners are on average ‘tentatively positive’ of the mix of experience and new blood, while also starring one woman more than the present team. It goes without saying that the European Parliament is quite anxious to organise the hearings for the proposed Commissioners in the first weeks 2010.

Columnist Nicu Popescu has published an interesting analysis of the Commission’s press release and description of portfolios in a blog on the EU Observer website. In his column, he notes that 5 of the 6 footnotes in the Commission’s description concern the division of tasks between the Commissioners that are part of the ‘External Relations family’. Popescu notes in his column that “EU footnotes are usually pandora boxes for inconsistencies”, and that the Commission’s foreign policy will remain fragmented between various actors.

The proverbial External Relations family is also increased by the decision to split the current portfolio for development and humanitarian aid into two by entrusting the development portfolio to Latvian candidate Andris Piebalgs, while the Bulgarian candidate Rumiana Zheleva would take care of international co-operation, humanitarian aid and crisis response.

Reading through the Commission’s portfolio description, it’s further interesting that the development commissioner will in the future politically represent the Commission in EU Foreign Affairs Council, and will be responsible for the ‘development part’ of the EuropeAid Cooperation Office. While time will tell whether this qualifies as a ‘Pandora box footnote’, it does already raise a whole bunch of questions that will hopefully be addressed soon.