Dutch name emerges for EU post amid doubt about his chances

  
Frans Timmermans at the opening night of the Crossing Border Festival 2008 [Flick/Maurice]
Frans Timmermans [Maurice/Flickr]

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans was due to meet the president of the European Commission today (2 September) about a senior role in the European Union's executive body, Dutch public broadcaster NOS reported on Monday.

The Netherlands hoped that by sending Timmermans, a long-serving diplomat who has worked in the European Commission before, the Netherlands could secure a big portfolio, NSO and other Dutch media said.

Each of the EU's 28 member states delegates one public servant into the college of commissioners, meaning competition for weighty portfolios is intense. The reports said the Netherlands hoped Timmermans might be named as the Commission's first vice-president.

The Netherlands is seeking a vice president Commission post with for Timmermans, de Volkskrant said earlier on Monday, citing unnamed sources in Brussels.

Dutch officials declined to comment.

Long wait for Dutch candidate

Analysts said it was far from certain the Dutch will succeed in gaining a top position after waiting so long to put forward a candidate.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who heads the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, had been mentioned earlier as a possible candidate but failed to gain support.

The name of Trade and Development Minister Lilianne Ploumen has also come up, but she has less foreign experience. She and Timmermans are both from the Labour Party, which is expected to get the seat after several conservative politicians.

Incoming European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he wants nine of the 28 commissioners in his new team to be women, so nominating a man could weaken Dutch chances. He will hold consultations this week with Commissioner-candidates about the distribution of portfolios within his new team.

>> Read: INFOGRAPHIC: Who's who in the new European Commission?

"The Dutch never had a formal candidate and didn't play their cards very well," said Louise van Schaik of the Clingendael think tank.

"This doesn't have much chance of succeeding, especially because Juncker is having a problem finding enough female candidates."

Van Schaik said Timmermans, a fluent Russian speaker, is highly suited for a new eastern policy "super commissioner" position. But he would rank second after the newly appointed EU foreign policy chief, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, who will also hold a commission vice president seat.

Timmermans gained international prominence with the widely-admired and emotional speech he gave at the United Nations following the July 17 shooting down over Ukraine of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, which had 196 Dutch nationals on board.

The speech was widely credited with swinging many European Union countries round to favour tougher sanctions against Russia, which is believed to have been shot down by Russian-backed separatists.

His office could not immediately be reached for comment.

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