Musical Chairs at the New European Commission

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

The European Union’s Lisbon Treaty is set to officially go into force on Tuesday (December 1), but the breakthrough that finally assured that that would happen after all came a month ago, when Czech president Václav Klaus finally signed it on November 3. By that point it was also clear that Commission President José Manuel Barroso had enough support to be re-appointed to his position for another seven-year term, so that Klaus’ signature set off a scramble, led by Barroso but by no means under his full control, to name the appointees for the EU’s list of top jobs a list slightly-expanded by the new treaty.

The headlining appointments were of course the new posts of EU President (actually, “President of the European Council”) and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. These went, respectively, to Belgian premier Herman van Rompuy and to the English Baroness Ashton, who has been serving as EU trade commissioner – two relative nonentities whose selection says quite a lot, most of it discouraging, about the sort of political horse-trading that lies at the heart of how EU politics operates. But just as significant is the composition of the new 27-member team of EU commissioners, with Mr. Barroso at their head, since this truly constitutes the EU’s “cabinet” of leaders heading bureaucratic departments (actually termed “Directorates-General”) covering specific areas of policy. It is the changes and personnel-shifts occurring here that offer insights into transformations in policies and priorities over the past five years since the last EU Commission was formed. (more…)

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