The European Parliament always likes to assert itself by refusing to confirm one or two nominated commissioners in its confirmation hearings and the designate new farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos could be in their sights as the youngest and least experienced of the nominations. Although nominally an independent, he has been embraced by the centre right European People's Party, but they could easily drop him if the heat is turned up.
He got the nomination despite a late push by 'old' member states to nominate Ireland's Marie Geoghegan Quinn who was acceptable to France. However, they had left it too late to get the nomination for their candidate. Finland's Olli Rehn and Slovenia's Janez Potocnik were also in the frame at one time, while the favourite for a while was Latvia's Andris Pieblags who had shadowed Franz Fischler in 2004. To many it was a surprise that Ciolos got the nomination.
There have been complaints that Ciolos is 'too French' in the sense that his postgraduate education was undertaken in France and that his family and France's Michel Barnier's family are personal friends. He also has a French wife whom he met when both of them were trainees in DG AGRI. Ciolos was in fact appointed a director in DG AGRI earlier in the year, but was not able to take up the post.
His defenders argue that he is committed to a 'modern concept' of European agricultural and rural development policy in line with Commission thinking.
The appointment of John Dalli as the new Health Commissioner is also significant for farm policy. His appointment was perhaps even more surprising than that of Ciolos. Although the 61-year old is a big name in Malta where he was the longest serving Minister of Finance, he is less well known at a EU level.
DG SANCO will now take over responsibility for GMO cultivation and pesticides which currently resides with unit D.4 in DG ENVI. It is thought that this is because Commission president Barroso is looking for a more scientific, depoliticised approach to the GM debate.
Dalli has no prior experience of the food safety and animal health issues for which he will now take responsibility.