New European Commission portfolios unveiled

Brussels, Nov 27 (DPA) European Union veterans from Finland and Spain obtained two of the most prestigious seats in the new European Commission, which was announced Friday.

Olli Rehn of Finland, an economist and outgoing enlargement commissioner, was awarded the powerful economics affairs portfolio, while the post’s incumbent, Joaquin Almunia of Spain, was moved to the influential competition portfolio.

The appointments follow days of secretive consultations in Brussels and not-so-secret horse-trading among the bloc’s 27 national governments.

EU heavyweights Germany and France were awarded the energy and internal market portfolios respectively, while Italy’s Antonio Tajani was to become industry commissioner.

As the official charged with defending the EU’s internal market, Michel Barnier, a former foreign minister of France, will also oversee the upcoming reform of the bloc’s financial sector.

Good relations between Berlin and Moscow were thought to have played a key role in the decision of Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to appoint Guenther Oettinger, prime minister of Germany’s Baden-Wuerttemberg state, to the energy portfolio.

The EU imports most of its gas from Russia.

Britain was the only country to know in advance which post it would be holding following the appointment of Catherine Ashton as foreign policy chief at an EU summit last week. Ashton will also act as one of Barroso’s deputies inside the commission.

The 27-strong team, which operates as the EU’s executive arm in Brussels, is not expected to formally assume office until parliamentary hearings due to start in January. It is to remain in power for five years.

Along with the team leader, there are 13 new faces. The others were already members of the outgoing college.

“This is a perfect blend of experience and new thinking,” Barroso said in announcing his team.

Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard, who will host next month’s UN talks on climate change in Copenhagen, was given the climate action post, a new position created by Barroso, while the coveted enlargement portfolio went to Stefan Fuele of the Czech Republic.

The composition of the incoming commission reflects the political balance of power in Europe, with 12 conservatives, eight liberals, three unaffiliated and only four left-wingers.