Presumably a bit wounded by the defeat of the left in the recent Italian elections, and the fact that he had to see Berlusconi-ally Franco Frattini strutting his stuff as EU Justice & Home Affairs Commissioner for 2 years, Romano Prodi seems to playing one final card – to stitch up Frattini’s replacement in the European Commission for the left. Have a read of this article from Euractiv. It’s rather complex but fascinating to follow and – interestingly – the final determining factor will be Barroso’s decision. Does he allow all the speculation about Frattini to fester, or wrap it up quickly but with a nominee from Prodi? I suspect all of this will end up with some measly compromise, but it’s pleasant to hope it might work out otherwise.
[UPDATE – 24.4.08]
According to Mark Mardell the scheming is even more complex – with Jacques Barrot having been moved from transport to justice and home affairs in the Commission as Barroso gets tired of Berlusconi’s dithering. Mardell even thinks there’s a prospect that Berlusconi would nominate Rocco Buttiglione once more. Cannot surely be true? Does Berlusconi, back for his third term as PM, think he’s so full of himself that he could poke fun at the EU institutions in that way?
Well, JHA Commissioner is nice as you can do all that oppressive stuff at EU level that parliaments, media etc. don’t let you do at national level…?
As for whether JHA is more important. Hmmm. There’s more changing there I suppose? Plus transport is a more minor matter in a national government, while the interior ministry is not?
Overall I think Barrot has not been too bad. He’s a bit too pro-transport (environmental concerns seem to matter little) but he’s kept his head down and worked hard.
I think what annoys me about this beyond the obvious is the idea that JHA is by default a more important area to run as Commissioner than transport.
You might remeber the hooting in the UK press when the UK “got” trade and France “only got” transport. Transport is a single market area with big cross-border implications and a real day to day impact on people’s lives. It’s also an area of co-decision so the Commissioner needs to be strong enough not only to deal with recalitrant self-interested Member states but recalcitrant self-interested MEPs too. Presumably whoever is nominated and accepted by Barroso would need to go in front of the EP too? I can’t see why they shouldn’t.
OK I’m feeling a bit calmer now 🙂