On 1 April, after more than a year of rumours hinting at Robert Madelin leaving the helm of the European Commission’s Health and Consumers DG (DG SANCO) (he held the position for six years despite the fact that Director-Generals are expected to move on every five years), it finally happened.
Musical chairs – Madelin replaces Fabio Colasanti, who is retiring from the post of Director-General for Information Society and Media (DG INFSO). And as expected, Paola Testori-Coggi, who has been Deputy Director-General for Health and Consumers (DG SANCO) since July 2007, was appointed to replace Robert Madelin.
So what? Well, potentially this could mean quite a few changes. Madelin had transformed the way the health and consumers directorate was run. He has been high profile, taken risks and established what he called “co-operative voluntarism” as the new way of doing things: getting stakeholders to sit around a table and sign up to voluntary commitments, as an alternative to legislation.
Madelin’s departure does raise a question over the future of the European Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, which brought stakeholders together around one table to tackle the obesity pandemic. The same applies to the alcohol forum and its set of voluntary actions.
Ms. Testori-Coggi will most probably keep a lower profile than her predecessor but her scientific background and broad experience of food safety issues and emerging technologies could be seen as real added value now that biotechnologies have been transferred to the health portfolio.
As for Madelin’s new post, there seems to be a consensus in Brussels around the fact that he will be instrumental in shaping Europe’s Digital Future. His health experience could benefit DG INFSO in digital consumer and health related topics such as e-health. As for his trade experience (Madelin used to run the Trade DG), it could help him tackle key challenges of the EU Digital Agenda such as the much needed deployment of next generation access networks.
Director-Generals may be more discrete than Commissioners, but they are some of the most powerful players in Brussels – so watch this space, we certainly will!