European Union Gets a New Team ; Prime Economic Posts Go to Denmark and France; Briton Gets Markets Role

By Kanter, James | International New York Times, September 11, 2014 | Go to article overview

European Union Gets a New Team ; Prime Economic Posts Go to Denmark and France; Briton Gets Markets Role


Kanter, James, International New York Times


The next president of the European Union's executive branch selected a team that will face economic and energy challenges.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the incoming president of the European Union's executive branch, nominated his team on Wednesday, a crew that will face challenges including reviving the flagging eurozone economy, curbing reliance on Russian energy and controlling immigration.

The nominations are part of a change in personnel that occurs every five years after European elections. They are subject to approval by the European Parliament that was elected in May and which is expected to hold hearings with each commissioner- designate. The Parliament can accept or reject the team as a whole.

Among the most coveted posts doled out by Mr. Juncker were those designed to oversee the economy.

Margrethe Vestager, a former economy minister of Denmark, was nominated to one of the most powerful positions: enforcer of the far- reaching antitrust laws. She would take over from Joaquin Almunia of Spain in deciding whether giant American technology companies like Google and energy titans like Gazprom of Russia should be fined for abusing dominant market positions in the European Union.

Another closely watched nomination was for the oversight of economic and financial affairs, with the authority to review budget plans for countries in the euro currency union. That post went to Pierre Moscovici, a Socialist and former French minister of finance, who would succeed Olli Rehn of Finland.

Mr. Juncker, a former prime minister of Luxembourg, is scheduled to take over as the president of the European Commission in November. He succeeds Jose Manuel Barroso, who has been widely criticized in countries like Britain as having failed to curb bureaucratic overreach.

"We have to be open to change," Mr. Juncker said in a statement on Wednesday. "We have to show that the commission can change."

In other important economics jobs, the nominee for the trade portfolio is Cecilia Malmstrom of Sweden, who would replace Karel De Gucht of Belgium in leading talks on a far-reaching trade agreement with the United States. The discussions face widespread opposition among Europeans, who say any deal would threaten environmental and health standards.

In an apparent victory for the British, the oversight of other aspects of financial services and capital markets would go to Jonathan Hill, a member of the Conservative Party. Mr. Hill would take over from Michel Barnier of France in a sensitive role that includes deciding how banks in financial centers like the City of London should be regulated. Putting a Briton in that job might help win support in the City of London for keeping Britain in the European Union.

The nominee for overseeing digital policy is Gunther H. Oettinger of Germany, who would oversee the push by the European Union to rein in the way American technology giants like Facebook and Google use and share citizens' personal data.

A Greek nominee, Dimitris Avramopoulos, who has served as his country's defense minister, was selected to oversee migration and home affairs.

European commissioners wield huge influence by proposing and enforcing laws on matters as wide-ranging as online privacy, how much carbon dioxide cars can emit and even the way cellphone calls are priced. They can also take countries to court for breaking European Union laws.

But the composition of the commission has been made vastly more complex by the addition this time of vice presidents who will have enhanced powers and will be tasked with overseeing colleagues' agendas and with vetting their legislative proposals. …

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