Following the European Parliament’s vote approving the new European Commission led by President José Manuel Barroso – the so-called “Barroso II Commission”, the new Commissioners formally assumed their new positions on 10 February 2010 for a five year term.

The Parliamentary vote was the final stage of a lengthy confirmation procedure, during which every Commissioner-designate responded to lengthy written inquiries and also took part in oral hearings before the European Parliament. Through this process, the new Commissioners offered insight into the policies and priorities likely to dominate the Commission’s agenda for the next five years.

The new Commission will face important institutional challenges, such as the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon and the aftermath of the financial crisis – a topic which features prominently in several dossiers. The new Commission must also address the specific issues affecting the private sector and left open by the previous Commission.

This paper surveys the main policies that are likely to feature centrally in several key Directorates General over the next five years.

Competition: Joaquín Almunia

Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia of Spain is an incumbent Commissioner from the Barroso I Commission, where he served as Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs. Commissioner Almunia previously held significant political roles in Spain, including as leader of the Spanish Socialist Party and as Minister of Public Administration and Minister of Employment and Social Security. Given this background, Commissioner Almunia is noted for his technical and political prowess.

As Competition Commissioner, Mr. Almunia has signalled that priorities and enforcement are unlikely to change significantly from his predecessor, Commission Neelie Kroes. In particular, Commissioner Almunia stated that he considers the current level of cartel fines to be “appropriate” to have a “dissuasive effect”.

There are, however, two areas in which Commissioner Almunia’s priorities may depart from Commissioner Kroes’ approach. First, Commissioner Almunia intends to focus heavily on State aid, and intends to revise the procedures applicable to State aid, in particular the way investigations are conducted possibly requiring an improvement of investigative methods and instruments. Commissioner Almunia’s ambitions in respect of State aid dovetail with another major priority: developing a strategy to facilitate effective restructuring in the financial sector and real economy. Specifically, Commissioner Almunia estimates the phasing-out of the State aid temporary measures should cease by the end of 2010 for the real economy, although the timing for such measures to cease in the financial sector remains uncertain.

The second area of departure from Commissioner Kroes’ policies relates to private damages actions in competition cases. While Commissioner Almunia’s specific approach is yet to be made public, litigation may not be the centrepiece given his remarks that “non-legal” and “non-litigious” solutions may also be appropriate. This departs from the controversial approach advanced by Commissioner Kroes, which would have mandated rules for private litigation in competition cases throughout EU Member States’ national courts. Other areas that will arise during Commissioner Almunia’s term are the implementation of the new Vertical Block Exemption Regulation, as well as sectoral Block Exemption Regulations in the insurance and motor vehicle sectors.

Internal Market and Services: Michel Barnier

Commissioner Michel Barnier of France served between 1999 and 2004 as the European Commissioner responsible for regional policy. He is also a former Member of the European Parliament. In France, Commissioner Barnier is a member of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and is Vice President of the European People’s Party. He has served as the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for European Affairs and Minister for the Environment.

Commissioner Barnier stated that his three priorities as the new Commissioner for Internal Market and Services are:

  • Reinforcing the single market
  • Emerging from the financial crisis and ensuring the stability of the financial system
  • Developing a knowledge-based economy

The financial sector, as well as intellectual property reform, feature prominently in Commissioner Barnier’s plans.

Commissioner Barnier’s first objective, to reinforce the single market – a cornerstone of the European Union – represents a continuation of long-standing policies. Commissioner Barnier emphasised that he intends to take a transparent approach and involve all stakeholders, in particular in the financial sector. Commissioner Barnier has articulated specific interests in strengthening the single market for services, including cross-border online services, and consumer protection issues.

Second, Commissioner Barnier stated that the financial sector must be reformed and stabilised, and favours “intelligent” regulation without excessive constraints. While sceptical of excessive regulation, Commissioner Barnier stated that he intends to advance legislative action that will affect the financial sector. He identified several specific initiatives, including the creation of a legal framework for crisis management and resolution and the implementation of European deposit guarantee funds and resolution funds. He also indicated that he will work on the revision of other directives, such as the so-called “market abuse” directive and the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID). Commissioner Barnier also intends to legislatively establish deadlines for migration to Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) products for direct debits and credit transfers, as well as an initiative to improve governance.

On a global level, Commissioner Barnier opined that the European Union must work with its international partners “especially the United States and China, to agree on a common frame of reference” in the area of financial regulation.

Finally, Commissioner Barnier emphasised the need to modernise the European intellectual property system. He supports an exhaustive and consistent legal framework for copyright law that will help to face new challenges, such as digitisation. He also intends to conclude negotiations on the Community patent and the unified patent litigation system and to improve the legal framework for trademarks.

Other areas of interest for Commissioner Barnier include public procurement and defence. In respect of public procurement, Commissioner Barnier indicated an interest in re-evaluating EU directives applicable to public procurement in order to facilitate access to public procurement markets. A potential modernisation may be expected at a later stage. In respect of defence, Commissioner Barnier expressed the view that Europe must have a “European defence dimension” without compromising Member States’ sovereignty.

Trade: Karel de Gucht

Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, of Belgium, is an incumbent Commissioner from the Barroso I Commission, where he served as the Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid from July 2009. Previously, he served as a Member of the European Parliament for 15 years. Commissioner de Gucht has also held national offices in Belgium, including as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Affairs, Minister for International Trade and Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium.

The new Trade Commissioner’s priorities include:

  • The Doha Development Agenda
  • The strengthening of key bilateral and regional relationships
  • The development of a trade policy supporting broader policy goals such as social justice and protection of the environment both inside and outside the European Union

During his hearing before the Parliament, Commissioner de Gucht mentioned that he is “personally confident that we are going to conclude the Doha Round” but would not commit to whether this would occur in 2010 or 2011. He emphasised that the Doha Round must contain outcomes that assist developing countries.

Notably, Commissioner de Gucht supports Russia’s World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership, as he underlined during his hearing, provided that Russia fulfil all obligations of membership.

Commissioner de Gucht stated that several key issues, such as investments, public procurement, competition, intellectual property and other regulatory matters may not always be regulated sufficiently by the WTO. He believes that bilateral, multilateral or regional agreements may be appropriate fora for addressing these issues. In particular, Commissioner de Gucht indicated the need for dispute settlement provisions in the free trade agreements with Russia and Ukraine in the field of energy security. He also mentioned his commitment to addressing the problem of non-tariff trade barriers.

Commissioner de Gucht envisages the conclusion of free trade agreements or similar accords with counties such as the ASEAN countries, Canada, Euromed, India, Mercosur and Ukraine,. Moreover, Commissioner de Gucht wishes to attain a higher level of economic cooperation with China, Japan, Russia and the United States. He also appears to support free trade, observing favourably that a free trade agreement with South Korea is expected to be executed in spring 2010, while the Commission is also working towards free trade or cooperation agreements with Iraq, Peru and Colombia, as part of the Andean Community, among others.

Commissioner de Gucht identified several areas of legislative reform that will feature prominently during his term. First, an early priority will be legislation aiming at providing certainty for foreign investors. Commissioner de Gucht will also oversee the review and renewal of the Generalised System of Preferences as well as other technical proposals (e.g., regarding the resolution of WTO disputes).

Second, Commissioner de Gucht plans to monitor the modernisation of the Trade Defence Instruments. During his hearing, the new Commissioner indicated that anti-dumping measures should be reviewed after Doha talks. He also stressed that he did not agree with the introduction of carbon emission-related EU “border adjustment tax”. Finally, with respect to the fight against counterfeit products he promised to do everything possible to conclude an effective multilateral anti-counterfeiting trade agreement with the WTO.

Health and Consumer Policy: John Dalli

Commissioner John Dalli of Malta served previously in Malta as Minister for Finance, Economy, Foreign Affairs and Social Policies, among other political roles.

The issues expected to dominate the agenda of the Commissioner for Health and Consumer policies include controversial issues such as cross-border healthcare, information on food, the quality and safety of organs, novel and genetically modified (GM) foods, biocidal products and the packaging of pharmaceutical products.

Commissioner Dalli has expressed strong interest in the pharmaceutical package, which was recently transferred to DG Health and Consumer Policy from DG Enterprise and Industry. In particular, he stated that he wishes to “bring more patient perspective into the proposal.” Patients’ rights are also at the centre of Commissioner Dalli’s plan to work with the Spanish EU Presidency and the European Parliament to “hammer out a solution on patients’ rights in cross-border care.” In relation to this, Commissioner Dalli intends to take a hard line against counterfeit pharmaceuticals, citing them as a “danger to consumers but also to innovation.”

In addition, Commissioner Dalli will address a number of wide-ranging legislative issues over the next five years, including animal health strategy, the plant health strategy and the review of the seeds legislation, veterinary medicines, medical devices and clinical trials. Commissioner Dalli’s agenda is also expected to include the current Commission priorities of GMO labelling, an extension of the current “consumer scorecard” initiative and e-commerce.

Finally, Commissioner Dalli intends to continue his predecessor’s efforts to develop legislation concerning consumer redress. Commissioner Dalli articulated a commitment to working with other Directorates General on this issue. This is likely to include DG competition, whose previously drafted legislation to support private damages actions overlap broadly with DG Health and Consumer Policy’s ambitions.

Industry and Entrepreneurship: Antonio Tajani

Commissioner Antonio Tajani of Italy has a long political career both in his home country and in Brussels, where he was both a Member of the European Parliament and Commissioner for Transport during the Barroso I Commission.

As Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Mr. Tajani has identified objectives in several different areas, ranging from promoting small businesses, emissions regulation, and space and tourism, to full implementation of the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances) Regulation.

First, Commissioner Tajani stated that the interests of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a top priority. He intends to take action to support SMEs’ growth and internationalisation, in particular through the implementation of the Small Business Act. Other legislative activities vis-à-vis SMEs are expected to include follow-up on the legislative procedure regarding the Late Payments Directive and close cooperation with the European Investment Bank.

  • Emissions Commissioner Tajani intends to oversee the implementation of the Directive underlining the European Emissions Trading System (ETS), and to draft a list of industrial sectors that could receive a larger share of emission allocations free of charge. Climate change is a clear interest of Commissioner Tajani, who stressed the idea of the “green economy in a marriage of convenience with industrial policy to fight climate change”.
  • Pharmaceuticals Commissioner Tajani stated that he is committed to promoting transparency in pharmaceutical innovation, and plans to create a task force that looks into the social responsibility of pharmaceutical producers.
  • Chemicals/REACH Commissioner Tajani also emphasised that he intends to support businesses in connection with their registration of substances required under the REACH Regulation. This suggests a pragmatic approach to the difficulties encountered by businesses preparing their REACH dossiers.
  • Space and Tourism Following implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, Commissioner Tajani’s Directorate General will exercise new powers in the fields of space and tourism. Commissioner Tajani has, to date, focused these powers on the European global satellite navigation system, Galileo. He intends to complete the transition of Galileo from research to operation and ensure its successful deployment. There is also some indication that Commissioner Tajani intends to use these new powers to contribute to solutions regarding climate change.

Finally, Commissioner Tajani’s hearings and written submissions indicate a continuation of current Commission policies in several areas. For example, following new legislation adopted during the Barroso I Commission, Commissioner Tajani intends to conduct information campaigns on the CE marking, which he believes is important to restore consumer confidence. Relatedly, Commissioner Tajani stated that under his supervision the Commission will draft a report on market surveillance by 2013. Commissioner Tajani also intends to further existing Commission initiatives by aligning legislation with respect to the new legislative framework for the marketing of products (by the end of 2010). He also plans to review existing legislation on machines and radio and telecommunications terminal equipment, as well as the legislative framework on emissions in the automobile sector (from 2012 to 2015). A “standardisation package” is also envisaged.

Digital Agenda: Neelie Kroes

Commissioner Neelie Kroes of the Netherlands has carried out political roles both in her home country and in Brussels. She was the Commissioner responsible for Competition in the Barroso I Commission, and will now serve as the Commissioner for Digital Agenda.

First, Commissioner Kroes aims to ensure that EU citizens have access to basic broadband by 2013. She also aims to stimulate the rapid and widespread upgrade to new generation networks for the next five to 10 years. The Commission will open new legislative and non-legislative procedures during Commissioner Kroes’ mandate such as the consultation on universal service obligations and the review of the Public Sector Information Directive.

Second, the new Digital Agenda Commissioner is committed to developing the e-economy. One of her priorities is the establishment of a single market for digital content. This will involve an analysis of licensing provisions and effective protection of intellectual property rights, among other things.

Third, Commissioner Kroes will continue to improve the quality of online services in both the public and private sectors. She will follow up on the eGovernment, e-Inclusion and eHealth action plans and ministerial declarations. She will also consider proposals for a regulation on the eCall vehicle safety system and for the development of a policy on information and communication technology (ICT) for energy efficiency. In relation to this, Commissioner Kroes has called for better conditions for private investments in ICT Research and Development and an improvement in the coordination of public support. She will also supervise the financial instruments under her portfolio.

Finally, Commissioner Kroes intends to tackle the controversial issues of net neutrality and the protection of personal data. With regard to net neutrality, Commissioner Kroes stated that “the core issue is whether internet access providers or network operators should be able to exercise control or limit users’ access to any content” and that the access may be limited only in cases of security issues and spamming. With respect to data protection, Commissioner Kroes has signalled that she intends to adopt the policies of, and work with, her predecessor (Commissioner Viviane Reding) in the supervision of privacy rules due to be transposed into national law by 2011.

Energy: Günther H. Oettinger

Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger of Germany will serve as the Commissioner for Energy. He has previously held important political offices in Germany and has been the Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg since 2005.

As new Commissioner for Energy, Mr. Oettinger’s top priorities are:

  • A low-carbon economy
  • Considering low or zero carbon dioxide emission technologies
  • Supplying energy by means of a better infrastructure
  • Expanding the Internal Market by, amongst others, transposing the third Internal Market package
  • Strengthening and expanding the external dimension of energy policy

Commissioner Oettinger intends to initiate several projects during his term. First, he will create a roadmap for a low-carbon energy system by 2050, as well as a new action plan for energy efficiency and an energy infrastructure package. Moreover, in the first half of 2010 he plans to report on the functioning of the internal market and the implementation of the European economic recovery plan concerning projects in the energy sector. Other reports he intends to oversee will evaluate Member States' progress regarding the transposition of the Directive on renewable forms of energy and the rules on energy efficiency. Commissioner Oettinger also intends to introduce an energy infrastructure package, which is expected to contain priorities for the expansion of energy infrastructure until 2030 and legislative proposals for a new instrument regarding the security of energy supply and energy supply infrastructure.

Commissioner Oettinger also identified ambitious targets for renewable energy, stating that in the long term more than 20 per cent of energy should come from renewable sources. He also declared that he is prepared “to intervene strongly” in the areas of electricity generation, industrial production and buildings. With regard to nuclear energy he declared that he respected national decisions.

Transport: Siim Kallas

Commissioner Siim Kallas of Estonia has previously held important political roles in his home country, including Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia. On a European level he has already taken part in the Barroso I team as Vice-President responsible for Administration, Audit and Anti-fraud.

As the new Commissioner for Transport, Kallas pointed out that the most immediate challenge for the sector concerns the effects of the economic crisis, but the key issue now and for the future is addressing climate change. Several of Commissioner Kallas’ objectives are linked to the issue of climate change.

Commissioner Kallas has expressed willingness to advance legislative proposals related to transport in order to reach emissions reductions goals by 2020. He also stated that the European ETS should be more widely applied to the aviation industry. Moreover, Commissioner Kallas placed priority on ensuring adequate pricing mechanisms in all modes of transport to ensure the “internationalisation of external costs” related to the EU Climate Change Agenda.

Significantly, Commissioner Kallas identified objectives related to maritime and rail transport. In respect of maritime transport, Commissioner Kallas wishes to create a real “European maritime space” without barriers. Commissioner Kallas also intends to “remove the obstacles” to the proper functioning of rail transport. He also discussed, and may consider a priority, electronic reservation systems for rail transport. In relation to this, Commission Kallas is considering the creation of a “European Infrastructure Investments Fund.”

Other areas of interest identified by the Commissioner include a revision of the guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T), and a White Paper on the future of transport aiming at making it more sustainable. He also intends to stimulate innovation and establish a stable and reliable regulatory framework. Finally, Commissioner Kallas plans to oversee a European Road Safety Action Programme from 2011 to 2020.

Other Commissioners

In addition to the eight Commissioners profiled above, several other new Commissioners have identified priorities that are likely to be of interest to industry and the legal community over the next five years.

High Representative: Catherine Ashton (United Kingdom) This brand new office has been introduced by the Lisbon Treaty and covers the External Relations portfolio. Commissioner Ashton’s main priorities are:

  • Building the European External Action Service as an efficient and coherent service
  • Pulling the European Union’s weight in areas of crisis and conflict
  • Reinforcing the European Union’s cooperation with strategic partners such as Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia,and the United States

Climate Action: Connie Hedegaard (Denmark) This is a new portfolio for the Barroso II Commission. Commissioner Hedegaard’s main priorities are:

  • Following up and implementing the agreement reached at the United Nations Climate Summit in Copenhagen
  • Implementing the climate-specific instruments of the climate and energy package
  • Strengthening competitiveness and creating jobs through low-carbon innovation and technologies

Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud: Algirdas Šemeta (Lithuania) Commissioner Šemeta will focus mainly on:

  • Promoting the proper functioning of the Internal Market
  • Developing a new "green" taxation framework
  • Ensuring the security and safety of EU citizens in the field of customs policy
  • Strengthening confidence in the way taxpayers' money is collected and spent

Environment: Janez Potocnik (Slovenia) Commissioner Potocnik’s main priorities are:

Promoting a green economy Halting the loss of biodiversity Implementing and improving existing environmental legislation

Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship: Viviane Reding (Luxembourg) Commissioner Reding’s main priorities are:

  • Developing a truly European area of justice without borders
  • Developing a strong and coherent European area of fundamental rights
  • Strengthening the principle of a “citizens' Europe”

Research, Innovation and Science: Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (Ireland) Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will focus mainly on:

  • Putting in place a clear, strategic, EU-wide focus on the policy areas of research, innovation and science in order to achieve EU 2020 strategy
  • Establishing a modern European Research Area (ERA)
  • Simplifying the financial and administrative procedures currently in place under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)