France names ex-finance minister Moscovici as commissioner

  
Pierre Moscovici, France's candidate for commissioner and former finance minister. September 2012. [Philippe Grangeaud/Flickr]

President François Hollande formally proposed his former finance minister Pierre Moscovici on Tuesday (29 July) to be France's representative in the next European Commission which takes office later this year.

In a letter to the Commission's president-elect, Jean-Claude Juncker, Hollande did not say which job he wanted Moscovici to get, but French officials have made no secret that Paris is angling for a major economic portfolio.

Each of the 28 nations of the European Union has a commissioner and they must nominate their candidates by the end of July. The Commission, the EU's executive body, proposes and enforces laws affecting the bloc's 500 million citizens.

Juncker, a former Luxembourg prime minister, will then decide who gets which portfolio, with the economics, internal market, competition, trade and energy jobs particularly coveted.

"In light of both his personal qualities and his experience, Pierre Moscovici has shown his general competence and European commitment that will allow him to take on important responsibilities in an independent way," Hollande said in his letter.

Germany, the EU's biggest economy, has voiced reservations about handing the powerful economic and monetary affairs job to France, given its difficulty in respecting the bloc's deficit limits, though German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said he has nothing against Moscovici.

Juncker, a former head of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, is in the process of putting together his cabinet after being chosen by EU governments last month to head the next Commission, which takes over in the autumn.

Moscovici served as Hollande's campaign manager in the 2012 presidential election before becoming finance minister. Hollande replaced him in an April government reshuffle after a plunge in the president's poll ratings as the economy struggled to recover, taxes surged and unemployment rose.

A keen admirer of Keynesian economics, Moscovici has pushed back against Berlin's insistence on strict budget discipline in Europe, fighting with some success for a more growth-friendly focus in EU policy-making.

Comfortable speaking English and well-versed in many of the EU's more technical dossiers and procedures, the former Europe minister is viewed by many in Paris as a good fit for Brussels.

He has lobbied hard to become France's EU commissioner since leaving the finance ministry.

Timeline: 
  • By end July: National leaders designate their commissioners to Brussels
  • August-September: New president distributes portfolios within his team of 27 commissioners
  • September: Commissioners are scrutinised in individual hearings before Parliament committees
  • October: European Parliament votes to approve or reject new Commission College as a whole
  • 1 November: Target date for new Commission to take office
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