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Europe's top jobs

Gavin Hewitt | 12:52 UK time, Friday, 27 November 2009

Berlaymont, Brussels - Commission HQEurope learnt today who will be its new powerful commissioners. There are 27 jobs but all eyes were on who would get the powerful economic portfolios.

France, in the face of determined British opposition, emerges a winner. After some hard lobbying by President Sarkozy the important post of Internal Market Commissioner has gone to a former French agriculture minister, Michel Barnier.

The concern in Britain was that he would have control over financial services for the next five years. His responsibilities would include the City of London with its hedge funds and private equity funds. The suspicion in Britain was that France was eyeing up new regulations to rein in the City. Britain made clear to the President of the Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, its concerns. Barroso signalled he would stand his ground against all the lobbying and pressure. In Paris they believe that the French president made some late-night calls to ensure he got his way.

There had been suggestions that, as a way of buying off the British, responsibility for financial regulations would be hived off into a separate portfolio. It did not happen. France got its way, although a British official will head the department under Michel Barnier.

The unknown question is how determined Michel Barnier will be to regulate complex financial markets.

The other powerful economic posts go to Finland and Spain. Finland's Olli Rehn has got the economic and monetary affairs portfolio and will be in charge of reviving Europe's economy. Joaquin Almunia is the new Competition Commissioner. Both men are experienced and competent and trusted by Barroso.

The Competition Commissioner is tasked with enforcing strict rules on state aid and preventing protectionism. During the recent recession it sometimes seemed that the EU was not upholding its own rules, as nation states embarked on rescues of banks, car-makers and other key industries. Barroso has vowed to make it a priority to resist the appeal of protectionism.

The Germans have got the energy portfolio and it is an indication of the importance attached to ensuring Europe's energy supplies.

In all the horse-trading over recent weeks over Europe's top jobs there have been three winners. France and Germany have underlined their position as key power-brokers and Jose Manuel Barroso has ensured that no appointments have eclipsed his influence as president of the Commission.


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