STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - The next European Commission, the powerful regulatory arm of the European Union, should be in place by the end of January, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Tuesday.
The last of 27 nominees for Commission posts, one from each EU member state, was proposed on Tuesday, meaning consultations now begin on how to distribute the portfolios in the body that initiates laws and implements decisions across the EU.
“We should already have a new Commission by now and we have not. I hope to have it at the end of January,” Barroso told members of the European Parliament at a meeting in Strasbourg.
“Just today I received the final name of the 27 members’ designated commissioners, only today. That is why we are in fact going a little bit late,” he said.
Some Commission portfolios, particularly competition, internal markets, monetary affairs and trade, have broad powers and are highly sought after by member states.
France is angling to take on the internal markets portfolio in the next Commission, which could give it a say in regulating financial services. Germany is interested in the industry, trade or competition portfolios, diplomats says.
Under EU rules, the Commission should have been formed by the beginning of November. But a series of delays, including the need to ratify the Lisbon reform treaty that streamlines EU decision-making, has caused the process to be pushed back.
Commissioners serve for a five-year term and can build up widespread influence in that time. The competition commissioner, for example, has oversight on mergers and acquisitions and is responsible for enforcing anti-trust regulations.
Outgoing Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, from the Netherlands, developed a reputation as a tough enforcer of rules on state aid and as a champion of consumer rights.
Kroes has been put forward again by the Netherlands to serve in the next Commission, although it is unlikely that she will get the competition portfolio again.
“I’ve heard that Barroso has decided no one will continue in their current position and that people will rotate,” Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos told Dutch TV on Tuesday.
Barroso has said he would like to have more women in the Commission. Given nominations so far, he could have nine women in the next Commission, up from eight in the outgoing one.
Barroso, who won support from the European Parliament for a second five-year term as president in September, is expected to announce his Commission line up in the coming days.
The European Parliament will then invite nominees for hearings, most likely during January, after which a vote will be taken on the full Commission. Parliamentarians do not expect that process to be completed before February 1.
Barroso said on Tuesday a focus of the next Commission, and the European Union as a whole, would be the fallout from the economic and financial crisis on the EU’s 500 million people.
“We have a situation of urgency regarding social matters, mainly because of rising unemployment,” he said.
“There is a risk of a decade of low growth and high unemployment and that will put severe strain on our social models and our living standards, that’s why I really think it is important to work on the matters of social inclusion.”
Writing by Luke Baker, additional reporting by Darren Ennis