Sunday, November 29, 2009

Not the mighty Quinn!

Despite all the spin from the Irish Government, the appointment of Maire Geoghegan Quinn as Research and Innovation Commissioner is a third tier appointment far removed from the plum post we got with McCreevy as Internal Market Commissioner in 2004. The disappointing appointment is probably a reflection of the fact that McCreevy has not done well in Brussels and that Ms Geoghegan Quinn despite being a formidable Minister in the 1980s and 1990s has not been a front line politician for over 13 years.

The new Commission is a reflection also of the changed environment. The appointments of Barnier, Almunia, Oettinger and Rehn as Internal Market, Competition, Energy and Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioners respectively is a repudiation of Le Monde Anglo-Saxon and the free market approach that dominated the first Barroso Commission epitomised by Champagne Charlie. It is good to see that consumer rights are more pronounced in the statements from Barroso prior to his re-appointment in September 2009.

What does the EU do for consumers anyway?

From a consumer prospective, we have a new Commissioner Mr John Dalli from Malta. In the last Commission the Health and Consumers portfolios were divided from 2007 when Bulgaria and Romania joined, however he takes up the post with the two parts of the job reunited. He has a hard act to follow coming after Ms Kuneva who was very active on consumer issues during her mandate. I know quite a few people from Malta and they were all very pleasant, friendly and practical people. And of course like Ireland, Malta was part of the British Empire, so their political and legal system has many similarities with Ireland and the UK. In relation to the draft Consumer Rights Directive he may be more amenable than Kuneva who appeared determined to bring in changes that would not always be good for consumers.

Apart from the appointment of Commissioners and their portfolios, Barroso made a number of changes to the portfolios. For example BEUC have been calling for a number of years for the units in the EU Commission dealing with pharmaceutical products and cosmetics to be moved from the Enterprise and Industry Directorate to the Health and Consumer Directorate. The good news is that Barroso has finally agreed to do this.

I wish Commissioner Dalli well in the new role.