Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Who will be next agriculture commissioner?

The next agricultural commissioner will have the chance to shape the future development of the CAP. So who will it be?

We can eliminate three sets of member states. By convention the post cannot go to a large member state, ruling out the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain (and presumably Poland).

Former Romanian farm minister Dacian Ciolos is the name formally mentioned, but indications are that a candidate from a member state with such a large agricultural population, and possible problems with the use of its EU funding, would not be acceptable. Indeed, one can rule out the new member states altogether as the only two other possible candidates - former Slovenian farm minister Iztok Jarc and his Cezch counterpart Petr Gandalovic - have now left office and are unlikely to get support from their governments.

We can also rule out member states who have appointed non-agricultural commissioners: Belgium, Finland, Luxembourg and Portugal. While it would be interesting to have someone without an agricultural background in the post, it is unlikely to happen in practice. Sweden is also thought not to want the dossier.

Given the recent election in Greece, the unstable political situation in Ireland, and no agricultural expert being discussed from those countries, they are unlikely to provide a viable nomination - although Ireland could spring someone out of the hat at the last minute: remember that Fischer Boel was a late and unexpected appointment. An Irish nominee would certainly be welcome in Paris.

We are really left with Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria. A second Danish appointment seems unlikely. If climate minister Connie Hedegaard is the Danish nominee, she could occupy a similar portfolio at the European level. Farm minister Eva Kjer Hansen is also in the frame but could get a food safety/SANCO dossier if she comes to Brussels.

The Netherlands has perhaps the best qualified candidates in the form of current agricultural minister Gerda Verburg or former minister Cees Veerman.

But the smart money is on another Austrian, former farm minister Wilhelm Molterer, even though Vienna would prefer him to have the budget portfolio. It's certainly not a done deal and there could be a last minute surprise.

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