Source: Šef?ovi? to get neighbourhood and enlargement portfolio

Maroš Šef?ovi?, photo Pravda, Czech Republic

Maroš Šef?ovi? [Pravda Slovakia]

Slovakia’s Commissioner Maroš Šef?ovi? is going to get the neighbourhood portfolio, which will also include EU enlargement, a senior Commission source said. EURACTIV Czech Republic reports.

The enlargement portfolio in the Juncker Commission will stay in the hands of a new member country. According to a European Commission source, the post would be given to Šef?ovi?, who has been responsible for Administration and Inter-Institutional Affairs in the second Barroso team. In the present college of commissioners, enlargement policy is the responsibility of Czech diplomat Štefan Füle.

“It’s not true there will be no enlargement portfolio in the new College,” the source said. This post is absent in the leaked draft organigram, which was published by EURACTIV last week. There is only a neighbourhood portfolio, which in this version, dated 2 September, was assigned to the current Austrian Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn.

In the meantime, many criticised the lack of enlargement portfolio, and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called it an “abdication of responsibility” vis-à-vis the countries on their way to EU accession.

>> Read: Bildt slams Juncker over absence of enlargement portfolio

The shortening of the name of the post from “neighgourhood and enlargement” to only “neighbourhood” doesn’t mean anything crucial. There will be no dramatic changes in the organisational structure, and competencies will probably remain similar, the source said.

“The enlargement is meant as the supreme level of neighbourhood policy,” said the source, who added that only the relation of the commissioner with the High Representative remained to be clarified.

In fact, three of the countries covered by the EU neighbourhood policy, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, have asked to be considered future EU members.

>> Read: East Ukraine crisis eclipses celebration of EU pacts

Šef?ovi? was given the Development portfolio in the mentioned document. That was interpreted as being a downgrade for Slovakia, which originally aimed for a stronger economic and political post, and to retain the position of Vice President.

But Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico hinted last weekend that the Slovakian nominee could receive a better post in the College. “The position of Maroš Šef?ovi? is so strong that President [Juncker] will be naturally interested to have Mr Šef?ovi? as close as possible to him,” Fico is quoted by the News Agency of the Slovak Republic as having said.

Šef?ovi?’s responsibility would therefore include the handling of Ukrainian crisis, as well as relations with Eastern Europe and North Africa. There is no expected enlargement in the next five years, although the accession talks with the candidate countries will continue.

It remains unclear what portfolio Hahn will get under such a scenario. It may turn out that the two swap portfolios with Šef?ovi?, and that the Austrian gets Development.

 Juncker has reportedly abandoned plans to make public the positions he will give to the 27 commissioner-candidates before Wednesday (10 September). 

The 30 August summit chose Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini to replace Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton later this year.

As planned, Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker announced the full list of commissioners within one week. 

Juncker will next present a second list outlining the different porfolios each commissioner will have. Currently member states are putting pressure on him to obtain “important” portfolios for their commissioners.

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