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EU ‘big three’ move to shake up commission

BRUSSELS, Feb 17 (AFP) – The European Commission on Tuesday rebuffed talk by Britain, France and Germany of reorganising the EU executive to focus on promoting the competitiveness of European industry.

The leaders of the European Union’s three most powerful nations are reportedly set to unveil proposals to shake up the commission when they meet for summit talks in Berlin on Wednesday.

According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, Germany wants to create a “super-commissioner” to oversee the internal market, environment, trade and industry portfolios.

The proposed restructuring is backed by Britain and France, and would create a hierarchy of commissioners with prominence given to boosting the EU’s competitiveness, the Financial Times said.

The spokesman for commission president Romano Prodi, Reijo Kemppinen, said Brussels could not comment on the details of the proposals before they were unveiled.

But reform of the commission must go hand in hand with reform of the way the EU Council of Ministers and European Parliament carry out their work, he told reporters.

“First of all whatever you want to do with the commission, you cannot do it in isolation, as if the other institutions did not exist,” Kemppinen said.

“If we deliver better and then everything fails in the council, it’s no good for the Union.

“Secondly the equality between commissioners I think will continue to be the leading principle for this institution, which has to be able to function for the benefit of the union,” he added.

Asked about the Sueddeutsche report on the “super-commissioner”, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said it would be for a new commission president to decide how posts were allocated.

“We cannot and should not preempt that,” he told reporters after talks with Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. “What we can do is give good advice but we do not make the decision on it.”

Reform of the EU’s institutions has been put on hold since the collapse of a summit in December aimed at forging a constitution for the 15-nation bloc as it prepares to take in 10 more member states.

The current commission, whose mandate ends in October, favours a new-look EU executive that would create groups of commissioners responsible for broad areas of policy, without undermining the principle of equality between them.

But Brussels argues that EU governments must also change their decision-making process. It has backed calls for expanding the scope of qualified majority voting by member states after enlargement.

Leaving nations with the right to veto in too many areas of EU policy will mean decision-making paralysis, it argues.

Germany is broadly sympathetic to this but Britain, and to a lesser extent France, are loathe to lose their veto in major EU fields such as tax and foreign affairs.


                                                              Subject: France news