Intense workloads have prevented me from posting about the questioning of the new EU Commissioners that is going on from now until 8th October. Updates on the hearings seem to be cropping up on EurActiv most of the time.
The barks and growls were in response to the appearance of Neelie Kroes, the Dutch Commissioner who has been nominated as the person in charge of competitions policy – one of the Commission’s most powerful positions. Accusations of numerous conflicts of interest have been pursuing her for weeks over her past positions on the boards of twelve separate companies. Her defence is reasonable enough, ““My role is that of a referee … We demand impartiality in applying the rules, but we also want our referees to know the game inside out,” but it’s not going to be enough to convince everyone, even though she has resigned all her private posts, and even though she will not handle any cases which might involve her former employers.
With Britain’s own controversy-monger, Peter Mandelson (appointed to take over the Trade portfolio), still to appear, there could be some rough patches between now and 1st November, when the new Commission is set to take over. You’d think we’d all try and avoid placing more controversial figures into what is already one of the least-understood and most corrupt parts of the Euro regime, but apparently not…
Oddly, “the Parliament can only approve or vote down the entire commission and cannot pick out individual candidates for veto.” This could make for tough work for the new Commission president, Josï¿½ Manuel Barroso. Not only has he had no say in who his subordinates are (they are nominated by individual member states and he has to work with what he’s got), but he’s also been lumbered with some dodgy-sounding ones.
After all the controversy of the last bunch, who were dogged throughout with the usual charges of corruption and lack of democratic accountability, it’s a bit of a shame (to put it mildly) that the entire working of the Commission wasn’t rethought before the new lot take over. The fact that France and Germany are both a bit miffed that their candidates haven’t been given higher profile roles could create added difficulties.
Ever since Roy Jenkins‘ presidency, the successive heads of the Commission have been trying to get more control and say over the organisation they have to run, but to little avail. Not only does the Commission face opposition from the European Parliament, but from national governments as well. Yet without a strong Commission it is very hard to get anything done.
The whole process needs a rethink. Unfortunately, we – like Barroso – have to work with what we’ve got, and reform – as the efforts to sort out a workable, acceptable constitution have proved – is a tough thing to get going.