Winds of change begin to blow in Brussels

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The next European Commission may feature as many as twenty new faces this autumn, as most of its current members are expected to leave the EU executive on their own initiative or as a result of changing national political contexts.

While there seems to be no serious alternative to replace current Commission President José Manuel Barroso, himself keen to stay in the post, many others are expected to be called back home.

Just five other commissioners are likely to stay for a second term, according to EURACTIV sources. These include Italian Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani, who wants to stay in his current post, Estonian Siim Kallas (administration and anti-fraud), Finn Olli Rehn (enlargement), Luxembourger Viviane Reding (information society) and Bulgarian Meglena Kuneva (consumer affairs).

Slovenian Janez Poto?nik (science and research) and Latvian Andris Piebalgs (energy) might, according to sources, also have a chance of being offered a second mandate. 

While others may also wish to continue, such as UK Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton, they still lack backing from their own governments. However, Ashton could be “well-placed”, as she is a woman and is the incumbent, an EU trade official told EURACTIV.

Over at the European Parliament, Socialist Group leader Martin Schulz, a German MEP, may find himself as the EU assembly’s next president for two-and-a-half years, followed for another two-and-a-half years by the current chairman of the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, centre-right Polish MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, chief negotiator for Poland’s EU accession.

According to persistent rumours, Tony Blair may be on track to become the first permanent president of Europe, a new top job to be created by the Lisbon Treaty. He is said to have the backing of key EU statesmen, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy (see EURACTIV 07/04/08 and 12/01/09) . 

Dutchman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, currently NATO’s secretary-general, is being mooted as the first ‘High EU Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy’. The post is another of the top jobs introduced under the Lisbon Treaty, and merges the current positions of external relations commissioner (held by Benita Ferrero-Waldner at present) and EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, currently held by Javier Solana.

De Hoop Scheffer’s current post could well be filled by Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski or Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra.

In France, Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier has been nominated to head the EU elections list of the centre-right UMP party of President Nicolas Sarkozy in the Paris region. However, the former regional policy commissioner is keen to return to Brussels, where he is eyeing a major economic portfolio. If elected to the Parliament, he may well leave his seat to Rachida Dati, currently justice minister and second on the list.

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