2 December 2009
On 27 November, President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, announced his new team of commissioners. Of the most influential portfolios overseeing economic matters, Barroso nominated Spain’s Joaquín Almunia for competition, Belgium’s Karel De Gucht for trade, Finland’s Olli Rehn for economic and monetary affairs, and France’s Michel Barnier for internal markets.
Mr Barroso said the new Commission will face huge challenges in “steering Europe towards recovery and a sustainable social market economy that works for the people.” The most important tasks for the incoming Commission will be reducing soaring budget deficits, resisting protectionism, reforming the financial system in order to avoid another financial crisis, and deciding when to curtail emergency financial measures that were used to support the economy.
The important trade portfolio will go to Karel De Gucht, currently commissioner of development and humanitarian aid. Mr De Gucht will be replacing Baroness Catherine Ashton, who has been appointed as High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Mr De Gucht, Dutch-speaking Liberal who served as a Belgium’s Foreign Minister from 2004 till 2009, will inherit the task of trying to advance the stalled Doha round of international trade negotiations, as well as take charge of negotiating bilateral trade deals, including the stalled FTA negotiations with ASEAN.
The new Commission must be approved by the European Parliament before it takes office for a five-year term running until 31 October 2014. The commissioners will appear in individual hearings before Parliamentary committees from 11-19 January. The final vote of consent on the new Commission as a whole is planned for 26 January. The new Commission is expected to take office on 1 February 2010.
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