Belgium finally names EU commissioner

4th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Belgium finally named its next European Commissioner on Thursday, giving Jean Claude Juncker one of the last members in the new team that will run the 28-nation bloc for five years.

The choice of Marianne Thyssen, a European parliamentarian from the Flemish Christian democrats, also raised hopes of an end to a three-month wait for a national government at home in Belgium.

An increasingly irritated Juncker had set a Thursday deadline for a nomination from Belgium, where talks on forming a coalition have dragged on since elections in May, making it one of the last EU nations to name a candidate.

Thyssen fulfils one of the major criteria set by Juncker, who has called for more female commissioners and said that countries who pick women can expect better portfolios.

Juncker's spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud told a daily briefing on Thursday that Thyssen, 58, was an "excellent choice" and would be interviewed by Juncker later Thursday.

Juncker is expected to unveil next week the full line-up of his new European Commission, the powerful executive bloc of the EU which drafts laws and polices national budgets.

European nations have been battling behind the scenes to win the coveted economic positions from Juncker, who was named to lead the commission in July.

But the nomination also bodes well for Belgium, which is a founding member of the EU but is bitterly divided between a Flemish-speaking north, which tends to be richer but more conservative, and a French-speaking, more liberal but poorer south.

After elections in 2010, it took the politicians 18 months to form a national government, a world record, and there were fears that after May's elections there could be a similar wait.

Belgium's King Philippe in July appointed two leading centre-right politicians -- Flemish Christian Democrat leader Kris Peeters and the head of the French-speaking Liberals, Charles Michel -- to form a government. A Flemish nationalist party and a Flemish liberal party are also involved in the talks.

The fact that they have finally agreed on a European Commissioner candidate means they have also moved some way to deciding on a prime minister to lead the government.

Under the carefully balanced negotiations, the nomination of a Flemish Christian democrat like Thyssen to go to the EU means that the next premier will most likely be from the liberal side, Peeters said Thursday.

The most likely candidate for the premiership is the French-speaking Michel, 38, who would become one of Europe's youngest leaders, with a government possibly formed by the end of September.

The current prime minister is Elio Di Rupo, a Socialist politician known for always wearing a bow-tie, who is effectively in a caretaker role following elections in May.

© 2014 AFP

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