Commission’s top management reshuffle takes Brussels by surprise

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The Commission announced the nomination of 17 Directors-General in a complicated reshuffle. Catherine Day has been given the top position as the new Secretary General of the Commission.

Eight Directors General and nine Deputy DGs are being transferred as a result of this very complex reorganisation which needs to balance the criteria of merit and expertise, gender balance and geographical balance. Some of the most interesting moves (by default from 1 Jan 2006) are the following:

  • Catherine Day (Ireland – DG Environment) becomes the first woman ever to take the important job of Secretary General of the Commission, replacing her compatriot David O’Sullivan, who moves to DG Trade (for both from 21 November 2005);
  • José Manuel Silva Rodrigues (Spain – now DG Agri) goes to DG Research. Current Research DG Achilleas Mitsos becomes “hors classe advisor” in DG Research;
  • Odile Quintin (France – DG Social) moves to DG Education and current DG EducationKlaus van der Pas (Germany), takes her place at DG Social;
  • Peter Carl (Denmark) moves from DG Trade to DG Environment (from 21 Nov 2005);
  • François Lamoureux (France – DG TREN) does not leave the commission as some had expected, but stays as “hors classe advisor” to President Barroso;
  • Jean-Claude Demarty (France) moves from Deputy DG to Director General for Agriculture;
  • Heinz Zourek (Austria, now Deputy DG) becomes Director General for Enterprise, with immediate effect;
  • Mike Leigh  (UK) takes over at the helm of DG Enlargement;

Sixteen posts of Director General and Deputy DG have been declared vacant and will be filled by internal or external recruitment next year, among them very important ones like DG Internal Market (when Alexander Schaub retires in July 2006), Director General for Communication and the post of DG for DG TREN.

Although women seem to have made progress in this reshuffle, the new member states did not get any of the top posts. 

The Commission also appointed a new chief spokesperson, replacing Françoise Le Bail with German Johannes Laitenberger, who is now working in Mr Barroso’s cabinet. Françoise Le Bail becomes Deputy Director General in DG Enterprise.

The British media claim that this reshuffle strengthens the position of the liberal reformers in the Commission's services. The UK's Daily Telegraph even writes: "Once the bastion of Franco-German corporatism, the European Commission is now slipping ever further under the control of Thatcherites."

But long-term Brussels expert and Founding chairman of the European Policy CentreStanley Crossick,  is more cautious. "We should not overanalyse this new composition," Crossick told EURACTIV, "the most remarkable feature of this reshuffle is how well it remained secret until the end; even the Financial Times got it completely wrong on the morning of the decision, announcing Ms Day would take over DG Trade". Mr Crossick said he did not see that much "doctrine" in the new nominations. 

It could even be argued that the appointment of Catherine Day, although she is generally seen as a market oriented official, strengthens the environmental influence in the core team of Mr Barroso.

The long-awaited reshuffle of top positions of Directors General and Deputy Directors General had already been expected during the beginning of summer but was postponed due to direct intervention of Commission president Barroso. Although several media have tried to predict the outcome of this difficult internal management exercise, the final package included several surprises. The reshuffle was necessary because of the Commission's own management mobility rules (Directors General are supposed to rotate to another position after 5 years and no Director General should be from the same nationality as his/her commissioner).

  • EURACTIV will have more reactions to the Commission's internal reorganisation at the beginning of next week. We will then also publish a full list of Directors General after this reshuffle.

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