THE CHIEF OF THE EU TRIBE: On Nov. 27, Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the EC, held his press conference on the portfolio responsibilities for the next Commission.
VILNIUS - On Nov. 27, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso unveiled the EU executive’s new line-up during his press conference in Brussels. Good news for the Balts - Barroso handed the key portfolio of economic and monetary affairs to Finland’s Olli Rehn. Lithuania’s Algirdas Semeta got a less important portfolio than in the previous Barroso-led commission.
The most influential Balt in the new EC will be Estonia’s Siim Kallas, who will be commissioner for transport issues - it could mean the resurrection of the Rail Baltica project. Latvia’s Andris Piebalgs will be responsible for development and humanitarian aid while Semeta will be commissioner for taxation and customs union.
“President [Dalia Grybauskaite] emphasized many times that Lithuania should fight for a portfolio of exactly such importance,” commented Linas Balsys, spokesman for Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.
“I estimate this appointment by European Commission President Barroso as a high evaluation of our policy in taxation and other spheres, which was pushed forward by Semeta and our government,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said.
At the end of last year, Semeta, Kubilius’ close personal friend, was finance minister responsible for the controversial increase in taxation which was followed by riots near the parliament on Jan. 16 this year. It was Lithuania’s worst rioting of the post-Soviet era - more than 20 people were injured and over 80 detained.
Since July, Semeta has been occupying the important post of budget and financial programming after replacing Dalia Grybauskaite, who was elected Lithuanian president.
Although earlier both President Grybauskaite and Kubilius were saying that they wish that Semeta would keep the budget portfolio, such statements were rather naive because all portfolios in the Barroso-2 cabinet were being reshuffled anew among the 27 member states.
The distribution of portfolios is the prerogative of the European Commission president. However, EU member states often state their preferences, in trying to influence his decision. According to the information from Marius Laurinavicius, political analyst of the daily Lietuvos Rytas, “it was any or almost any seekers for the post of commissioner who were responsible for taxation issues.”
From Jan. 11-19, 2010, hearings with the newly-nominated commissioners will be held in the European Parliament. On Jan. 26, the new European Commission is expected to be finally approved by the European Parliament. On Feb. 1, 2010, the new European Commission’s 27-person team, which will influence life for almost 500 million EU citizens, is expected to take office.