The European Commission began seven days of hearings on Jan 11 for 26 aspiring European Union commissioners, and the European Parliament will vote on the body as a whole on Jan 26. The nominees will be tested on their knowledge of their assigned portfolios. Once on the job, they will be expected to adhere to the aims of the Lisbon Treaty of Dec 1, a key goal of which is to give Europe a greater voice on the world stage in talks with major powers like China and the United States.
Belgium's Herman Van Rompuy, Britain's Catherine Ashton and Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, will be the public face of the European Union under the Treaty. Meanwhile, the six-month rotating presidency system is unlikely to lose its appeal to individual EU member countries. A challenge for the new European hierarchy will be persuading rotating presidents to toe the Treaty line. Spain, which takes the helm of the European Union on Jan 1, will be the first test of how member states work with the new EU president and foreign policy chief. Critics say the Lisbon Treaty allows too much scope for overlapping roles, potentially allowing a rotating presidency state to further its own agenda. Ashton, the European trade commissioner named EU foreign policy chief, can expect a grilling as she is seen as a novice in her new area of responsibility. Other nominees for the major portfolios include: Olli Rehn, in charge of economic and monetary affairs; Joaquin Almunia in charge of competition, Dacian Ciolos, in charge of agriculture and Janusz Lewandowski overseeing the budget. Jan/10
Date written/update: 2010-01-26