Sat, Nov 06, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Barroso adds new candidates to EU executive line-up


Incoming European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso revamped his EU executive for parliamentary approval and proposed Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini as candidate for justice commissioner.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, who is chairing the EU summit, welcomed the changes and said they would go a long way toward soothing the objections which brought the 25-nation EU to the brink of an institutional crisis last week.

"Mr. Barroso has a good and balanced team," Balkenende said on Thursday.

Barroso said he would present his new team to European Parliament leaders yesterday, barely a week after the legislature forced him to back down and jettison embattled Italian candidate Rocco Buttiglione.

After hearings for the new candidates, Barroso is expected to put his team to a parliamentary vote during the session of Nov. 15.

"Now I am ready to go to parliament," Barroso told reporters. "I have made the necessary and sufficient changes ... I have worked hard over recent days to build bridges and find a balanced solution."

Balkenende said Barroso should be confirmed as soon as possible.

"Lets hope that Mr. Barroso can get quickly to work with his new team," he told reporters.

Barroso completed his reworked lineup, which also includes the shuffling of two other candidates, after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi proposed, during an EU leaders summit, his foreign minister as Italy's new representative on the EU executive.

Frattini, who will also be a vice president on the new executive, replaces Buttiglione. The conservative Roman Catholic said during his confirmation hearings last month that homosexuality was "a sin" and later criticized single mothers.

Buttiglione's remarks and initial refusal to quit his nomination enraged EU lawmakers, and a majority of parties, including Socialists, Greens and Liberals, threatened to veto the new team.

Martin Schulz, the leader of the Socialist group in the European Parliament who led opposition to Barroso's team, welcomed the changes and told German daily Aachner Nachrichten, it was "a basis for good cooperation."

In other changes to his nominated lineup, Barroso said he would shuffle former Hungarian foreign minister, Laszlo Kovacs from energy to taxation and customs. He also accepted the new candidate from Latvia, former ambassador to the EU Andris Piebalgs, as a replacement for Ingrida Udre. And he said he would continue to back Dutchwoman Neelie Kroes, the candidate for the post of EU antitrust commissioner, who had come under criticism for her potential conflict of interest with major businesses.

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