Richard North, 12/08/2004  

They have started the sharing out of portfolios in the new European Commission, though formal announcements will not be made till next week. It seems that Günter Verheugen, the present Enlargement Commissioner, will not get trade, which, smart money says, will go to Mandelson. (Smart money has been wrong before.) Nor will he be made an über-Commissioner, responsible for the economy.

Instead, Herr Verheugen will probably be given the Industry portfolio, presumably in recognition of Germany’s specatacularly successful industrial policy. With it will go the position of Vice-President.

Other speculations are giving Transport and Energy to Jacques Barrot, the French Commissioner and Agriculture to Marian Fischer Boel, the Danish one. Really, Agriculture ought to go to the Polish Danuta Hübner. That would, at least, make for an interesting five years.

The notion of a French Commissioner being in charge of energy, given France’s singular reluctance to open up its energy market may be risible. But think of Barroso’s dilemma. He has to parcel out the jobs and the Commissioners from the big countries have to have important portfolios. There are very few of those that the big countries have not made a complete mess of in the last few years.

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