Socialists bid to grab key Commission portfolios

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Martin Schulz, leader of the centre-left group in the European Parliament, announced the Socialists’ intention on Thursday (2 July) to get several important portfolios in the next European Commission.

Speaking to journalists in Brussels, Schulz said his political family was under-represented in the current College of Commissioners, and said he intended to pressure the future Commission president on portfolios attributed to the social-democrats. 

Asked by EURACTIV what his group was expecting to obtain, Schulz enumerated the Industry portfiolio, Environmental policy, International cooperation, Development, Justice, Trade and Internal market portfolios.

At present, the centre-left holds the Industry, Communication, Taxation, Economic affairs, Employment and Trade portfolios.

As the newly-elected Parliament has fewer members than the previous one (736 against 785), Schulz said his political group of 184 MEPs had kept about the same proportion of seats than in the 2004-2009 legislature, where it had 215. It was therefore only logical that a similar proportion of portfolios be given to the centre-left in the next Commission, he said (see background).

Barroso vote

Schulz said he was satisfied that the Liberal group’s decision to oppose holding a vote on José Manuel Barroso’s re-appointment at the European Commission during the Parliament’s July plenary session (EURACTIV 02/07/09). His “objective” to delay the vote until the autumn had been attained, he said.

Schulz indicated that the Swedish EU presidency was now going to hold consultations over when the Parliament should hold the secret ballot, but he did not state what those consultations implied. He had accepted to go to Stockholm on 7 July, but feared that without preparation, the consultations would end up as “a nice chat”.

Socialists refuse contacts with ‘reactionaries’

For Schulz, the Liberals’ decision to refuse an alliance with the European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR) on supporting Barroso, was another victory (EURACTIV 23/06/09). The new anti-federalist group led by the British Conservatives — which he called “the conservative reactionary group” — was now sidelined, he said, and no decision could be taken without the centre-left in the newly-elected Assembly. Again, he slammed Barroso for counting on the ECR’s support for his nomination.

Schulz voiced strong personal opposition to another Barroso term at the Commission’s helm, but admitted that a decision on whether to support him would be taken on a collective basis in the autumn, “after all the conditions are met”.

Asked whether consultations had started with Barroso’s centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) on sharing the European Parliament’s Presidency, Schulz declined to comment, saying he had not contacted EPP leader Joseph Daul since the June European elections (EURACTIV 25/06/09).

He added that as the second largest group in Parliament, it was “only logical” for the centre-left to “use its influence” in those matters. Schulz himself is widely seen as the centre-left’s potential candidate for the job, and is widely expected to trade his group’s support for Barroso in exchange for the post, which would see him chair the Assembly from 2012 to 2014.

Name problem

Schulz admitted that many Socialists were unhappy with the group’s new name ‘Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in Europe’ (PASDE) (EURACTIV 1/07/09) and called for a rational debate on the issue. “The name will be decided after the recess, let’s for now call the group Socialists and Democrats,” Schulz said.

French socialists also expressed dissatisfaction that with the arrival of PASDE the rose, a traditional emblem of the centre-left group, had disappeared from official logos, EURACTIV France reported.

In theory the European Commission is not a political body and its mission is to defend the interests of the European Union as a whole. 

But in practice political balances should be observed, when constituting the European Commission. 

The present college of Commissioners in particular presents some disproportions. The liberal ELDR party for example proudly states in its webpage that nine out of the 27 commissioners represent the liberal democrat familly. But statistically, according to the European elections results from 2004, liberal democrats should get three or four portfolios.

The social-democrats have only six portfolios at present, while according to the same calculation they could claim seven or eight. The centre-righ European Peoples Party (EPP) holds the remaining 12 porfolios, while mathematically they should hold nine or ten. 

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