Musical chairs: Officials take turns at European Commission


Since the presentation of the new team of European commissioners by José Manuel Barroso, officials have been busy swapping seats in a round of 'musical chairs' that involves some of the most powerful EU jobs in Brussels.

The new college of commissioners was announced by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on 27 November 2009.

Ever since, the process of nominating their closest collaborators - their heads of cabinet and the directors-general who lead the Commission's departments - has been underway, with top officials moving between key positions according to internal rules on rotation. 

More discrete than the commissioners themselves, these high-ranking officials greatly influence policymaking in Brussels. 

The European Parliament's final vote on the incoming Commission took place on 9 February (EURACTIV 09/02/10). The new Commission took office the following day. In this LinksDossier, EURACTIV tries to shed light and offer transparency on the new appointments.

Should you have different information, or should you wish to comment, you may either react publicly on Blogactiv or send us a private message in confidence.

The college of commissioners is composed of 27 commissioners, one per member state. The distribution of portfolios is decided upon by the president of the European Commission, currently José Manuel Barroso. Depending on the portfolio, each commissioner usually covers one or several directorates-general (DGs) or agencies dealing with specific policy areas or services.

Several organisational issues are actively being negotiated within the Commission. For example, the 'Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion' portfolio covers the DG on Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (EMPL), the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) and the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (EU-OSHA).

Each DG covers a specific policy area or service and is headed by a director-general who reports to the relevant commissioner. The director-general runs the day-to-day work of the DG and as a rule stays in the shadow of his/her commissioner.

Commissioners are also helped by their 'chefs de cabinet' or heads of cabinet. Like director-generals, heads of cabinet are top officials, who play a leading role in setting their commissioners' policy and operational agendas. They too can wield a major influence in the prioritisation of policies. 

Cabinets feature up to seven people, mixing both internally-appointed Commission officials making a swift rise and trusted nationals brought from home by the commissioner.

Deputy heads of cabinet also play an important role, especially when the commissioner is new to Brussels, chooses an official from within the Commission as 'chef de cab' and brings along a fellow national as deputy.

Choosing figures for both jobs - directors-general and 'chefs de cabinet' - is not an easy task. National and political balances need to be respected, and the commissioners are not entirely at liberty to make the choice themselves. National governments, industry and civil society groups, as well as political parties and lobbyists, all try to put in place their candidates. 

Now that the new commissioners have taken office, a reshuffle of the top positions of directors-general and deputy directors-general will be necessary, according to the EU executive's own management mobility rules. Directors-general are supposed to rotate into another position after five years (or in exceptional cases, seven), and no director-general should be from the same country as his/her commissioner.

Three rotations already

The Prodi Commission (1999-2004) introduced the principle that "all senior officials serve a minimum of two years in any function and a maximum of five years", extended to seven years in exceptional cases, such as imminent retirements elsewhere.

Three rotations took place among senior Commission staff under Barroso's first mandate (2004-2009), involving directors-general and deputy directors-general or their equivalent. The first of these took place in November 2005, a year after the new commissioners had taken office on 22 November 2004 (EURACTIV 10/11/05). The other two reshuffles occurred in November 2006 and January 2009.

The last reshuffle affected some of the most prized jobs in the Commission hierarchy, including the head of the legal service and the competition and environment directors-general. Most of these changes are expected to be unaffected by the appointment of the new Commission.

Two top 'nationals' never together

Though the Commission tries to prevent particular posts from "belonging" to particular nationalities, the positions of director-general and deputy director-general are jobs in which national governments have traditionally taken a keen interest.

Thus, even if commissioners do not represent their countries, "as a general rule, the commissioner and the director-general responsible for the same directorate-general should not have the same nationality" to counter-balance his or her national influence.

It is not by chance that with French politician Michel Barnier taking on the internal market and services portfolio, his department will be headed by UK national Jonathan Faull, currently director-general of the justice, freedom and security DG. Barnier claimed it was "his initiative" to suggest appointing Faull as his right-hand man in a sign of conciliation towards London, where in some circles the idea of the City being controlled by a Frenchman was offensive (EURACTIV 30/11/09).

Indeed, EU member states often try to "mark their territory," put in place safeguards or influence commissioners' decisions by placing a director-general in critical positions.

Only two director-generals will have to be replaced due to their nationality: current Publications Office Director-General Martine Reicherts and her new commissioner, Viviane Reding, both come from Luxembourg; Fokion Fotiadis, director-general for maritime affairs and fisheries, is Greek – as is her new commissioner, Maria Damanaki.

Few director-generals from 'new' member states

The Commission's policy is "to seek a broad balance in the appointment of senior officials to reflect nationality and management experience," but thus far there has not been a director-general from a 'new' member state. 

Jan Truszczynski, a Pole, will be the first top DG official from the 2004 enlargement countries. He is expected to take up his duties as director-general of the education and culture department on 1 May 2010. But this remains one of the least-powerful directorates, reflecting the difficulties new EU member states are having in placing their civil servants in top Brussels positions. 

All the director-generals belong to the AD 15 or AD 16 grades, the highest levels in the EU civil service hierarchy. According to data released by the European Commission on 1 March 2010, only ten civil servants from Central and Eastern Europe featured among the 233 AD 15 grade officials (three from Hungary, two from the Czech Republic, two from Poland, one from Estonia, one from Slovenia and one from Slovakia). None were at AD 16 level (Blogactiv 25/09/09).

However, EU institutions will work hard to fill management posts with administrators from new member states by the end of 2010, European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šef?ovi? said 11 March, presenting a major overhaul of the EU's recruitment procedure (EURACTIV 12/03/10).

"We're doing very well on quotas. They have been filled for administrators, and we intend to use this year to make sure we fill our quotas for high-level and management positions to ensure that geographical balance is properly represented," the new Slovak commissioner said.

Table of expected changes among the director-generals


Outgoing or current director-general*

Start-End Date

Possible (or recent) replacement



Catherine DAY (Irish)

Nov. 2005

No change expected (unclear whether she is affected by rotation rule)

Legal Service

Claire-Françoise DURAND (French)

Dec. 2008-June 2009

Luís ROMERO REQUENA (Spanish, 54)

Director-general of DG Budget (2002-01/06/09)

Economic and Financial Affairs 

Marco BUTI (Italian)

Dec. 2008

No change expected

Communication (under commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship)

Claus SØRENSEN (Danish, 58)

Jan. 2006

Max. 2011-2013

Enterpriseand Industry

Heinz ZOUREK (Austrian, 59)

Nov. 2005

Max. 2010-2012


Philip LOWE (British, 62)

Sept. 2002

Alexander ITALIANER (Dutch)

Deputy Secretary-General, DG Competition (2006-01/11/09)

Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion  (previously Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities)

Nikolaus van der PAS(German, 66)

June 2006-June 2009

Robert VERRUE (French)

Director-General for Taxation and Customs Union (07/2002-06/2009), Director-General for Education and Culture (2000-2005) 

Agriculture and Rural Development

Jean-Luc DEMARTY (French)


No change expected

Energy (previously Energy and Transport)

New DG: Departments in the former Transport and Energy DG dealing with energy issues and the Task Force Energy, which will be transferred from the External Relations DG

New DG

Philip LOWE (British, 62)

Director-general of DG Competition (09/2002-11/2009)

Mobility and Transport (previously Energy and Transport)

Alfred Matthias RUETE (German)


Max. 2011-2013


Karl-Friedrich FALKENBERG (German)


No change expected

Climate action

New DG: Relevant activities in DG Environment, activities in the External Relations DG related to international negotiations on climate change and activities in the Enterprise and Industry DG related to climate change

To be established before summer 2010

Jos DELBEKE (Belgium)

Deputy Director-General in Environment DG

Research, Innovation and Science (previously Research)

José Manuel SILVA RODRÍGUEZ (Spanish)

Jan. 2006

Max. 2011-2013

Joint Research Centre

Roland SCHENKEL (German)

Nov. 2005

Max. 2010-2012

Digital Agenda (previously Information Society and Media)

Fabio COLASANTI (Italian, 63)

Jan. 2005-1 April 2010 (retiring)

Paul Robert MADELIN (British)

Director-general of Health and Consumers (2004-2010)

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Fokion FOTIADIS (Greek)


Same nationality as commissioner

Internal Market and Services

Jorgen HOLMQUIST (Swedish)


Jonathan FAULL (British)

Director-general of justice, freedom and security DG (since 2003)

Regional Policy

Dirk AHNER (German)

Jan. 2007

No change expected

Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud (previously Taxation and Customs Union)

Robert VERRUE (French)

July 2002-01/06/09

Walter DEFFAA (German)

Director-general, Internal Audit Service (2004-01/06/09)

Education and Culture

Odile QUINTIN (French, 64)


Jan TRUSZCZYNSKI (Polish, 59)

Deputy director-general of education and culture DG (2008-01/05/2010)

Health and Consumer Policy (previously Health and Consumers)

Paul Robert MADELIN (British)


Paola TESTORI COGGI (Italian)

Deputy director-general of health and consumer policy (since 2007)

Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship (previously Justice, Freedom and Security)

Jonathan FAULL (British)


FAULL will become director-general of Internal market and Services

External Relations

Eneko LANDABRU (Spanish, 61)


João VALE DE ALMEIDA(Portuguese, 52)

Barroso's head of cabinet (since July 2004)


David O'SULLIVAN (Irish, 56)

Nov. 2005

João AGUIAR MACHADO (Portuguese)

Deputy director-general of DG RELEX (July 2007-July 2009)


Stefano MANSERVISI (Italian)


Max. 2011

Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy (previously Enlargement)

Michael LEIGH (British)


No change expected

EuropeAid-Cooperation Office

Koos (Jacobus) RICHELLE (Dutch)


Max. 2011

International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response (previously Humanitarian Aid)

Peter ZANGL (German, 63)


No change expected


Walter RADERMACHER (German, 57)


No change expected

Personnel and Administration

Claude CHENE (French)

2004-May 2009

Irène SOUKA (Greek, 55)

Deputy director-general, DG Personnel and Administration (June 2008-April 2009) 


Francisco GARCÍA MORÁN (Spanish)

Nov. 2005

Max. 2010-2012

Financial Programmingand Budget(previously Budget)

Luís ROMERO REQUENA (Spanish, 54)

June 2002-01/06/09

Hervé JOUANJEAN (French, 59)

Deputy secretary-general in charge of inter-institutional relations (Jan. 2007-July 2009)

Internal Audit Service

Walter DEFFAA (German, 58)


Brian Gray (British)

Deputy director-general for budget (2003-June 2009)

European Anti-Fraud Office

Franz-Hermann BRÜNER (German, 64)

Feb. 2000-Jan. 2010 (deceased)

Nicholas ILETT (British, 58)

Until a permanent appointment is made


Marco BENEDETTI (Italian, 59)

Jan. 2004

Max. 2011


Juhani (Karl-Johan) LÖNNROTH (Finnish)


Max. 2011

Publications Office

Martine REICHERTS (Luxembourg)

August 2007

Commissioner Reding is also from Luxembourg

Bureau of European Policy Advisers


March 2007

Meglena KUNEVA (Bulgarian, 52), declined offer

(EURACTIV 22/02/10)

* Name + Nationality + Age (as of 01/01/10)

Choosing 'chefs de cabinet' 

Commissioners are also assisted in their daily work by a private office, a 'cabinet' in Commission jargon. According to a December 2009 paper published by Hill & Knowlton, a consultancy, "assembling a cabinet is no easy feat. Hundreds of CVs stream in from the moment the new commissioners are known".

Besides a candidate's experience and knowledge, commissioners need to consider a whole range of other attributes, including a person's political affiliation, gender, language and nationality (West-East and North-South balances).

Nationality also plays a major role, as each cabinet must contain no more than four members of the same nationality as the commissioner. Moreover, the 'chef' and his/her deputy must be of different nationalities, and the spokesperson cannot come from the same country as the commissioner.

'Chefs de cabinet' are expected to fight their commissioner's corner and to defend his or her interests, particularly in the intense lobbying that goes on between different commissioners on more controversial issues. Indeed, according to the 'collegiality principle', commissioners should have an opinion on all decisions, which is only made possible thanks to the advice of competent cabinet members.

As in the previous Commission, about a third of the proposed new 'chefs' come from the UK, France or Germany. Only three women have been put forward as heads of cabinet this time around.

As 14 commissioners, including the president, were already members of the outgoing college, many current heads of cabinet will follow their commissioners to their new posts. According to Hill & Knowlton, of the 27 'chefs', 24 will return from existing cabinet positions and 14 are currently heads.

Several officials are also being promoted, with some spokespeople becoming heads of cabinet. Anecdotally, quite a few of the future 'chefs de cabinet' worked for a time at DG Competition, seen as the most powerful Commission directorate.

Table of expected new 'chefs de cabinet', Deputy heads of cabinets and spokespersons


'Chef de cabinet'

Deputy head of cabinet


José Manuel Barroso (President)

Johannes LAITENBERGER (German), formerly Barroso's spokesman

Fernando FRUTUOSO DE MELO (Portuguese), formerly director in Secretariat-General

Koen DOENS (Belgian), formerly Karel De Gucht's head of cabinet

Joaquin Almunia (Competition; Vice-president)

Carlos MARTINEZ-MONGAY (Spain), formerly Almunia's head of cabinet at economic and monetary affairs

Guillaume Loriot (French), formerly head of unit, anti-trust and merger case support at DG COMP

Amelia Torres (Portuguese), formerly spokeswoman for economic and monetary affairs, former journalist (Reuters, Diario de Noticias)

László Andor (Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion)

Anabela GAGO (Portuguese), formerly deputy head of cabinet for Tax and Customs Union Commissioner Kovacs

Éva TÖRÖK (Hungarian), former attaché at the Hungarian Permanent Representation in Brussels

Cristina ARIGHO (Irish), formerly budget spokeswoman, former news producer

Catherine Ashton (EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs; Vice-President)

James MORRISON (British), formerly Ashton's head of cabinet at DG Trade

Lutz GÜLLNER (German), formerly Ashton's trade spokesman

Michel Barnier (Internal Market and Services)

Olivier GUERSENT (French), formerly Head of the European Commission's cartels department in DG Competition, former member of competition commissioner's cabinet

Kerstin JORNA (German), previously head of cabinet for former Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot, and worked for Barnier when he was regional affairs commissioner

Chantal HUGHES (British-French), formerly spokeswoman for employment and social affairs

Dacian Ciolos (Agriculture and Rural Development)

Georg HÄUSLER (Austria), formerly Head of unit for budget and audit in DG agriculture

Ionel-Sorin MOISA (Romanian), formerly in Commission's DG Tansport

Roger WAITE (British), formerly agriculture journalist (Agra Facts & Agra Focus)

John Dalli (Health and Consumer Policy)

Joanna DARMANIN (Maltese), formerly Deputy head of cabinet for Malta's Joe Borg, the current fisheries commissioner

Nils BEHRNDT, formerly in DG enterprise

Frédéric VINCENT (French), formerly member of Education Commissioner Maros Sefcovic's cabinet and formerly education spokesman

Maria Damanaki (Maritime Affairs and Fisheries)

Georgios MARKOPOULIOTIS (Greek), formerly Head of unit for geographical coordination at DG Competition

Maja KIRCHNER, formerly in Joe Borg's cabinet

Oliver DREWES (German, Dutch), formerly spokesman for internal market and services

Karel De Gucht (Trade)

Marc VANHEUKELEN (Belgian), formerly De Gucht's 'chef de cabinet' at Development and Human aid


John CLANCY (British), formerly overseas development spokesman, former journalist (AP, Euronews)

Štefan Füle (Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy)

Simon MORDUE (British), formerly Head of unit at DG Transport and Energy (TREN), previously Verheugen's deputy head of cabinet 

Jana Katarina LOLI? ŠINDELKOVÁ (Czech)

Angela FILOTE (Romanian), has worked in Commission Representation in Bucharest and Delegation in Cairo

Johannes Hahn (Regional Policy)

Hubert GAMBS (Austrian), formerly in cabinet of Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner

Nicola de MICHELIS (Italian), formerly in DG REGIO

Ton Van LIEROP (Dutch), formerly enterprise and industry spokesman, former journalist (Dutch news agency ANP)

Connie Hedegaard (Climate Action)

Peter VIS (British), formerly Member of Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs' cabinet

Michael Starbæk CHRISTENSEN (Danish), formerly senior climate advisor in the office of the Danish Prime Minister

Maria KOKKONEN, formerly working for European Commission representation in France

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (Research and Innovation)

John BELL (Irish), formerly 'Chef de cabinet' for Meglena Kuneva, the Bulgarian consumer affairs commissioner

Ana ARANA ANTELO, formerly in DG Energy and Transports

Mark ENGLISH (British), formerly member of spokesperson's service

Kristalina Georgieva (International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response)

Jochen RICHTER (German), formerly Deputy head of Multilingualism Commissioner Leonard Orban's cabinet

Dimitar KYUMYURDZHIEV (Bulgarian), formerly Rumiana Jeleva's head of cabinet in the Foreign Ministry

Interim: Ferran TARRADELLAS ESPUNY (Spanish), formerly energy spokesman

Siim Kallas (Transport; Vice-President)

Hendrik HOLOLEI (Estonian), formerly Deputy director general for enlargement since June 2009 and previously Kallas' head of cabinet

Kristian SCHMIDT (Danish), remains as deputy head of cabinet for Kallas

Helen KEARNS (Irish), formerly spokeswoman for consumer affairs, previously worked for former European Parliament President Pat Cox

Neelie Kroes (Digital Agenda, Vice-President)

Antony WHELAN (Irish), Kroes' current 'chef de cabinet'

Lorena BOIX ALONSO (Spanish), remains in same position

Jonathan TODD (British), formerly competition spokesman, former journalist (Europolitics, Sunday Times)

Janusz Lewandowski (Budget and Financial Programming)

Marc LEMAITRE (Luxembourg), Head of cabinet of outgoing Polish Commissioner Samecki

Patrizio FIORILLI (Belgian), formerly head of press and communication at CEMR and journalist for BBC

Cecilia Malmström (Home Affairs)

Maria (Mia) ÅSENIUS (Swedish), State secretary to Malmström in her role as Swedish Minister for EU Affairs

Laurent MUSCHEL (French), formerly deputy head of cabinet to outgoing Justice, Freedom and Security Commissioner Jacques Barrot

Michele CERCONE (Italian), formerly justice, freedom and security spokesman, former journalist (ANSA)

Günter Oettinger (Energy)

Michael KÖHLER (German), formerly Head of cabinet for Commissioner Borg

Olivier ONIDI (French), formerly in DG Energy and Transport

Marlene HOLZNER, formerly European Commission spokesperson for development

Andris Piebalgs (Development)

Christopher JONES (British), formerly Director of 'New and Renewable Sources of Energy' in DG TREN

P?teris USTUBS (Latvian), former political director of Latvian Foreign Ministry

Catherine Ray (French), formerly science and research spokeswoman

Janez Poto?nik (Environment)

Kurt VANDENBERGHE (Belgian), formerly Poto?nik's current 'chef de cabinet'

Matjaž MALGAJ (Slovenian), formerly member of Poto?nik's team 

Joseph HENNON (Irish), formerly spokesperson for institutional relations and communication strategy

Viviane Reding (Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship; Vice-President)

Martin SELMAYR (German), formerly Spokesman for Commissioner Reding

Viviane HOFFMANN (Luxembourg), remains in post already occupied for ten years

Matthew NEWMAN (French), former journalist (Bloomberg)

Olli Rehn (Economic and Monetary Affairs)

Timo PESONEN (Finnish), formerly Special adviser on international affairs for former Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen

Stéphanie RISO (French), formerly member of Economic Affairs Commissioner Joaquín Almunia's cabinet, responsible for Eurogroup and EMU governance

Amadeu ALTAFAJ Tardio (Spanish), formerly member of Spokesperson's Service, former journalist (El Mundo, Spanish news agency EFE). 

Maroš Šef?ovi? (Vice-President of the Commission for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration)

Juraj NOCIAR (Slovak), formerly Former Deputy Permanent Representative of Slovakia

Bernd BIEVERT (German), formerly member of Šef?ovi?'s cabinet

Michel MANN (British), formerly agriculture spokesman, former journalist (Agra Europe, European Voice, Financial Times)

Algirdas Šemeta (Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud)

Stephen QUEST (British), formerly Head of cabinet for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud

Baudouin BAUDRU (Belgian), formerly in Dalia Grybauskait?'s cabinet

Emer TRAYNOR (Irish), formerly press officer for taxation, customs union and consumer protection

Antonio Tajani (Industry and Entrepreneurship; Vice-President)

Antonio PRETO(Italian), formerlyTajani's 'chef de cabinet'

Diego CANGA FANO (Spanish), lawyer in Spain before becoming an EU official in 1991

Fabio PIROTTA (Maltese), formerly transport spokesman

Androulla Vassiliou (Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth)

Philippe BRUNET (French), formerly Vassioliou's 'Chef de cabinet' for Health

Despina SPANOU (Cypriot), remains as deputy head of cabinet

Dennis ABBOTT (British), formerly regional policy spokesman, former journalist (The Sun and European Voice)


  • 27 Nov. 2009: Announcement of portfolio distribution in the Barroso II college of commissioners (EURACTIV 27/11/09).
  • 1 Dec. 2009: Lisbon Treaty enters into force (EURACTIV 01/12/09).
  • Dec. 2009: New cabinets informally start working with commissioners-designate.
  • 11-19 Jan. 2010Commissioner hearings in European Parliament.
  • 10 Feb. 2010: New Commission takes office.
  • Later, possibly in several waves: Rotation of director-generals who have not moved recently. 

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