Blog AnalysisEuropean policy

Incidents along the way, historical precedents (v2)

(B2) Let's go back in time... The appointment of the European Commission was not always an easy journey

European Commission Barroso II holds the record for delay in taking office with almost two months behind schedule (credit: European Commission)

1991: a half-Commission

In 1991,, the Delors Commission was not extended. A new Commission has been appointed. But on an interim basis: for a limited period of 2 years. A necessary extension... to adjust to the European election calendar and the new five-year mandate entrusted to the Commission (and no longer four years). In this Commission, announced on December 22, 1992, seven commissioners are new out of the 17 present at the time (two commissioners for each "large" state, one for the "small ones").

Commission 1993: The British fail "Dehaene"

In 1993,, the Commission is effectively extended, but for 15 days! From January 6 to January 22 exactly. The time that the new Commission is in place, exactly. Because of the delay in appointing the Commission. At the Corfu Summit, the British refuse Jean-Luc Dehaene (Belgian Prime Minister); In July, comes the name of Jacques Santer, the Luxembourger. The European Parliament shows its bad mood, and drags things out. He is not happy with the distribution of portfolios. And is reluctant to entrust certain responsibilities to a few commissioners. The equality portfolio is thus taken away from the commissioner Padraig Flynn because he had made somewhat sweeping statements about the role of women. The three new member states have not yet ratified the treaty. And the Parliament requires that the new deputies participate in the vote (the vote scheduled for December is postponed to January). The Commission is there to expedite day-to-day business. And nothing more. The presentation of certain texts was postponed (Jacques Delors explained it personally to a certain Minister of Communication called... Nicolas Sarkozy! about the "television without frontiers" directive).

Commission 1999: an abbreviated mandate for the Santer team

In January 1999, the European Parliament threatens the Commission with a motion of censure. Dismissed... but the ax came close (232 votes for censure, 293 votes against, 27 abstentions). In question, the functioning of the Commission. Commissioner Edith Cresson is violently challenged both for the management of Leonardo program subsidies for the (fictional) employment of a consultant (friend) with inconclusive results... She is not the only one. The Spanish commissioner Manuel Marin is due to fraud in humanitarian aid. A committee of independent experts has been appointed. His report, submitted in March 1999, is severe for the institution, showing real dysfunctions. Even if the investigation proves that there was no personal enrichment, there was clearly favoritism. The two commissioners, however, refuse to resign. It is the clash of cultures between a more permissive Latin administration and a much less Anglo-Saxon administration (Read also: Brussels drops Cresson a second time). The motion of censure this time seems inevitable. President Jacques Santer therefore chose to resign along with his entire college. Former Prime Minister Romano Prodi has been called to the rescue to take over and prepare the next Commission. Appointed to the European Council in March, he constitutes the European executive in July. This one is dubbed by the Parliament and begins its work on September 18, 1999 to finish the mandate of the preceding Commission until January 21, 2000, before beginning a new mandate of 5 years.

Commission 2004: the Buttiglione incident

In 2004,, the Prodi Commission - scheduled to end on October 31 - is obliged to play the extensions, until November 22 for very political reasons. The 'damn' European Parliament, refused to entrust the "Internal Justice" portfolio to the Italian conservative Rocco Buttillion after hurtful statements about homosexuals. Two other "contenders" for the post of commissioner also failed their passing exam. The President of the Commission, José-Manuel Barroso, stubbornly wants to keep the Italian Buttiglione on board, Italy too. Finally, at the risk of being censored for the whole Commission, he threw in the towel. A new Italian commissioner arrives.

Commission 2009: delay in the Lisbon Treaty process and Jeleva incident = three months extension

The European Commission is extended on the one hand because of the delay in the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon (which does not enter into force until 1 December 2009 following Czech and Polish reluctance), i.e. one month after the implementation planned for the Commission. And, on the other hand, by another mishap. This time it was the Bulgarian Rumania Jeleva, approached to take charge of humanitarian aid and crisis response, who had a disastrous hearing in the European Parliament. Betraying a certain ignorance of the files, awkwardness and an attitude that may seem contemptuous, betrayed by a case in which her husband is involved, which she does not try to explain, she does not pass her 'grand oral'. Jeleva intends to resign. But his EPP colleagues are trying to keep it, or at least save their honor, by involving a Social Democratic commissioner, the Slovak Maroš Šefčovič. In turn, other commissioners like the liberal Finn Olli Rehn or the independent Latvian Algirdas Šemeta, particularly targeted by the socialists, only had their chance to catch up.

President Barroso does not want to see the precedent of 2009 repeated. Especially since the new Commission has already taken too long to take office. Bulgaria appoints a new commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva. And after a hearing, brilliant this time (with a phew! of relief for everyone), the new Commission can take office on February 9, 2010, dubbed by the European Parliament during a vote held the same day.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)


Read also: The great oral of the commissioners is not a synecure

Updated - January 2010

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).