Barroso unveils lineup of new European Commission

AP News
Posted: Nov 27, 2009 8:15 AM

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Friday named the 26 people he wants to help him drive the EU's day-to-day agenda for the next five years, including nominees for new posts that reflect major shifts in policy priorities, notably climate issues.

The incoming EU executive of nine women and 18 men, including Barroso, must still clear confirmation hearings in the European Parliament in January.

The most eye-catching new position is an EU climate action commissioner. Barroso has nominated to the job Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's climate minister until last week, when she was put in charge of hosting the Dec. 7-18 global UN climate conference in Copenhagen.

The European Commission has never had an executive in charge of climate issues. And the title of the first such executive _ climate action commissioner _ suggests Barroso wants Europe to retain a leadership role in global efforts to reign in greenhouse gas emissions that stoke global warming.

Additionally, Neelie Kroes of the Netherlands _ the EU's active antitrust chief for the past five years _ has been nominated as the EU's digital agenda commissioner, charged with pushing Europeans to go online more, both at home and at work.

At the European Commission, the digital economy is seen to hold huge promise but it is felt governments must do more to increase access to digital content.

Only 7 percent of Europeans have ever shopped online abroad, according to EU data, and European investments in high-speed broadband and developing new sectors such as online advertising are lagging behind the United State and Japan.

A third significant appointment was that of Greece's Maria Damanaki, now a European Parliament member, as fisheries commissioner. She must get a grip on an EU industry that has long defied regulation triggering excessive overfishing, creating friction with Europe's neighbors.

Other nominations include:

_ Spain's Joaquin Almunia, the outgoing monetary affairs commissioner, who will replace Kroes as EU antitrust chief. Olli Rehn, the current EU expansion affairs commissioner will take over monetary affairs, watching over the health of the euro.

_ France's Michel Barnier, a former foreign minister, would be in charge of the EU's internal market and services sector.

_ Belgium's Karel de Gucht, now the EU development commissioner, would be put in charge of trade, with the key job of helping revive the long-stalled Doha global trade negotiations. He would succeed Britain's Catherine Ashton who has been named the EU's first foreign minister and who will also be a member of the European Commission.

_ Stefan Fuele, the deputy foreign minister of the Czech Republic, has been nominated as enlargement commissioner, charged with completing difficult negotiations to bring Croatia, Macedonia, Albania and _ eventually _ Turkey into the EU fold.

The EU commissioners do not represent their countries on the EU executive and when they take office they pledge allegiance to the cause of furthering European integration.

The European Parliament has scheduled confirmation hearings in the week of Jan. 18.