Andrew Duff -  On Governing Europe


One knew, of course, that Jean-Claude Juncker is well possessed with a dry sense of humour. How delightfully on display is his sharp wit in the disposition of portfolios to his new college of Commissioners.

While claiming falsely, but as he must, that “I have given portfolios to people – not to countries”, Juncker has identified the trouble spots and appointed the Commissioner-designate from the most troublesome country to look after that very dossier.

So Frans Timmermans of the eurosceptic Netherlands, who has been agitating for less regulation, more subsidiarity and more powers for national parliaments (at the expense of the European Parliament), is put in charge of regulation, subsidiarity and ‘inter-institutional relations’.

The German Gunther Oettinger who hails from the country that is the most protectionist against US digital enterprise is given the digital agenda portfolio.

Jonathan Hill, who comes from the most eurosceptic country of all which also happens to have suffered Europe’s largest banking crisis, is put in charge of fighting the City of London over the harmonization of financial services. The Irish, like the British, are filled with self-congratulation about their Commissioners’ job. Both are equally deluded: Mr Hogan has the bankrupt CAP.

Pierre Moscovici, from the eurozone country with the most rickety fiscal stance, is put in charge of the excessive deficit procedure. It’s rather like putting a Greek in charge of immigration policy – Oh!

Johannes Hahn is to manage EU enlargement. He comes from Austria, a country which has scarcely recovered from finding the Turks at the gates of Vienna, and whose Crown Prince was recently assassinated by a Serb in the Balkans. And Tibor Navracsics, the nominee of Viktor Orban, that stickler for civil liberties, of course gets citizenship.

Overall can already admire Mr Juncker’s handiwork. His college promises to be edgy and more political than Barroso II. The elevation of all those ex-prime ministers to vice-presidencies may make this Commission more collegiate and less presidential than the last. Perhaps it is Catherine Day, the powerful Commission Secretary-General, who has most to fear from the new regime.

Given that Jean-Claude Juncker had to find 27 jobs for people he did not pick and hardly knew (if at all), he has filled almost every possible policy dossier, sometimes twice. One is left wondering what on earth would a new Commissioner be given to do were he or she to turn up soon from Scotland.

* As you ask, GSOH is the abbreviation for ‘Great Sense Of Humour’ used by frantic lonely hearts in their personal ads.

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