Friday 27 May 2022

Dutch foreign minister to be EU president’s ‘right hand man’

Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans is to be the new ‘right-hand man’ to EU president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Presenting his new line up on Wednesday, Juncker said Timmermans will be the ‘first vice president’ – out of a group of seven.

The Netherlands had campaigned hard for a heavyweight job for Timmermans who speaks several languages fluently, including Russian, and won plaudits for the way he dealt with the aftermath of the MH17 plane crash.

Regulation

Timmermans main role will be to oversee the ‘better regulation agenda’. This will guarantee ‘every Commission proposal is truly required and that the aims cannot best be achieved by member states,’ the statement from Brussels said.

Timmermans will also act as a watchdog ‘upholding the charter of fundamental rights and the rule of law in all the Commission’s activities.’

In a reaction on his Facebook page, Timmermans said he considered the role a great honour. ‘I will do all I can to ensure the EU is once again something for and from Europeans,’ he said.

The Netherlands has been at the forefront of moves to trim the Commission’s reach and Timmermans in June 2013 unveiled a strategy outlining which policy areas the Netherlands considers should be left up to The Hague.

‘The Netherlands hopes this initiative will stimulate a process which takes as its starting point: European policy where necessary, national policy where possible,’ Timmermans wrote at the time.

For example, the EU should not interfere in ‘media diversity’, there should be no further harmonisation of EU social benefits, and health and safety regulations should only be the subject of a broad European outline, the briefing states.

Experience

The new-look Commission, which also includes 20 commissioners, is ‘strong and experienced’ the statement said, comprising five former prime ministers, 19 former ministers and seven returning commissioners.

One-third actively campaigned in the recent European elections and nine are female.

The BBC points out that Juncker has given the two top EU economy jobs to France and Britain. Former leader of the House of Lords Jonathan Hill will oversee financial services while France’s former finance minister Pierre Moscovici will run EU economic policy.

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