France’s former Internal Market Commissioner is on his way back to Brussels in the guise of Jean-Claude Juncker’s new special advisor on defence and security. EURACTIV France reports.
Michel Barnier, Juncker’s competitor within the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) for the presidency of the European Commission last year, has been named special advisor for defence and security policy by his old rival.
The new role for the former Internal Market Commissioner will be to advise the European Commission, and particularly Eu foreign affairs boss Federica Mogherini, on questions of security and defence.
In a statement published yesterday (17 February), Jean-Claude Juncker said that “Michel Barnier has vast experience in the field of defence and security and is the right man to advise me and also the High Representative and Vice-President Federica Mogherini on these important matters for the future of Europe”.
Barnier’s responsibilities will include helping to prepare the Commission president’s contributions to the European Council’s work on defence policy. This will be a voluntary, part-time position, but one that signals a return to the corridors of power for the French politician, who served as Commissioner under Prodi (1999-2004) and Barroso II (2010-2014).
“When this Commission took office, we said that we need to work on a stronger Europe when it comes to security and defence matters. Yes, Europe is chiefly a ‘soft power’. But even the strongest soft powers cannot make do in the long run without at least some integrated defence capacities,” Juncker continued.
Michel Barnier stood against Jean-Claude Juncker and the former Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis for the EPP nomination for the Commission presidency. At the EPP congress in Dublin ahead of the election of the new Commission, the Frenchman found himself Juncker’s only opponent, as Dombrovskis withdrew from the race and announced his support for the Luxembourger, who won by 382 votes to 245.
After leaving the European Commission, Michel Barnier lost out to the MP Laurent Wauquiez for the UMP nomination in the Rhône-Alpes-Auvergne regional elections.