“If you haven’t heard yet, Jeleva, former MEP, is said to be appointed as next Bulgarian Commissioner and she might take the Regional policy portfolio.”
So says the first email in The Lobby’s Monday morning email inbox. Further enquiries led us to the website of current Bulgarian Foreign Minister Rumiana Jeleva, which features a piano rendition of Ode to Joy on the homepage. So she likes Europe then, which is nice, and having been an MEP for the last two years she ticks all the boxes for a Commissioner-elect.
From now until October Brussels will turn itself in knots as it tries to predict the make-up of the new European Commission. There are many reasons why this is more interesting than a usual government reshuffle.
First and foremost, national interests come into play. France wants the Internal Market portfolio, but having recently gone in for some protectionist measures of its own, might this be seen as being somewhat contradictory? (Moreover, will the Internal Market Commissioner still be responsible for financial regulation? Spies tell us this may not be so…)
Perhaps Romania is owed big-time for being stuck with the – ahem – Multilingualism portfolio, so should be given a decent portfolio this time round (possibly agriculture, or so we have heard). What portfolio is small enough for Malta, population 414,000? Might Ireland be punished for obstructing the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty? And who gets the politically sensitive dossiers such as enlargement, economic & monetary affairs, and justice & home affairs?
Secondly, a Commissioner’s mandate lasts for five years, longer than the usual national equivalent, and a Commissioner can only leave if he or she wants to, or is lured away by a lucrative position in their own country (as happened several times in the current College).
Individual Commissioners can’t be voted out by the European Parliament or the Member States, which leads us to our third point – the process is almost entirely undemocratic. Backroom deals and horse-trading will make or break the fate of Ms Jeleva and the many other potential candidates, out of sight of the prying eyes of the media and political commentators. Voters? Ha, you must be joking.
So all we in Brussels can do is pontificate on “potentialities” and keep our ear to the ground. With the Commission having sole right of initiative, whoever does make up the new College will set the debate for the next five years right across the policy spectrum. Watch this space. Ms Jeleva certainly will be.