"A commissioner is a political man or woman," Barnier told journalists in Paris on Friday (27 November) after his appointment as the EU's new internal market commissioner had been announced.
Barnier gave few details of his intentions for his new role, saying he will save such comments for his approval hearing before the European Parliament on 11-19 January.
But he did give clear indications as to the political flavour he wants to give to the internal market portfolio, which has until now been held by Irishman Charlie McCreevy, whose light-handed approach to regulation irritated the French during the financial crisis.
"I want to ask the political questions on how to deepen the internal market and how to reconcile social [policies] with market [policies], draw the lessons from the crisis and put the internal market at the service of the knowledge economy," Barnier said.
In his new role, he said he would priorities industry, services, financial services and the knowledge economy as his four main areas of action. His roadmap will also be determined by "the decisions of the G20 in terms of global governance and regulation," he said.
Britain 'the big loser', says Sarkozy
Barnier's appointment was seen as a blow for the City of London, Europe's biggest financial centre, which lost a key ally with McCreevy. On the sidelines of the Commonwealth Summit yesterday (29 November), French President Nicolas Sarkozy went as far as saying "the English are the big losers in this business" (EurActiv 30/11/09).
"The loss of an Anglo-Saxon voice in the Commission's top economic team is of concern given the recent spate of over-prescriptive economic and financial legislation to come from Brussels," said Timothy Kirkhope MEP, who leads the Conservatives in Brussels.
But Barnier dismissed suggestions that he would over-regulate the financial services industry to the detriment of the City of London. "I don't need to be convinced about the importance of the financial places of London, Paris or Frankfurt. What I am interested in is to do more internal market, not less."
The Frenchman said it was "his initiative" to suggest appointing Jonathan Faul, a Briton, as the new top official at the Commission's directorate-general for internal market, in a sign of conciliation towards London. The appointment was announced by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on Friday, together with the distribution of portfolios in the college of commissioners.
In his new role, Barnier said his intention is "to deepen the internal market, with which the French are sometimes a bit angry" because it is seen a excessively driven by large corporate interests. "I want to use all the tools that the market offers for large companies but also more than what was done in the past for SMEs and citizens, for increased competitiveness, growth and jobs."