Dutch foreign minister named for EU Commission job

2nd September 2014, Comments 0 comments

The Netherlands has named Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans as its candidate to be a commissioner in the new administration of EU President Jean-Claude Juncker, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Tuesday.

"The cabinet has nominated Frans Timmermans as the Dutch candidate for European Commission membership," Rutte announced ahead of a debate in the Dutch Parliament.

His nomination "fits into the cabinet's strategy to obtain an important portfolio for the Netherlands," Rutte said.

"His exceptional qualities, both within the Netherlands and in Brussels are well-known."

Timmermans held talks with Juncker in Brussels on Tuesday on the possibility of having a role in the commission policy for the next five years, Dutch media reported.

Timmermans, from the centre-left PvdA party, is in the running to become one of the Commission's vice presidents, state broadcaster NOS reported, as well as possibly having an economics portfolio.

Polyglot Timmermans gained international renown following his emotive speech at the UN in the aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July, in which 298 people died, most of them Dutch.

Timmermans is a former Europe minister and assistant to former commissioner Hans van den Broek.

He could become a so-called "super-commissioner" as Juncker's right-hand man, Dutch media reported.

Former development minister Bert Koenders, currently heading the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, would likely replace Timmermans at the foreign ministry if he went to Brussels.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem -- also the head of the Eurogroup of 18 eurozone nations -- is reportedly no longer a commission candidate, although there is uncertainty over whether he will stay on as Eurogroup head when his terms expires next year.

Juncker has been hard-pushed to obtain women candidates and Dutch foreign trade minister Lilianne Ploumen has also been tipped as a possible commissioner.

Juncker is expected to name his team on September 9 or 10, according to EU officials.

The two top roles were filled on Saturday when Polish premier Donald Tusk was appointed president of the European Council -- which brings together the leaders of the 28 EU states -- and Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini was named head of the foreign affairs service.

Senior researcher Louise van Schaik said she believed Timmermans "could get a good position within the European Commission (EC)."

"He can accomplish more... at the EC than in the Netherlands. Europe is simply more of a world player than the Netherlands," added Van Schaik, who specialises in the EU's internal policies.

© 2014 AFP

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