France tightens grip on EU finances

France has secured control of the key European Commission internal market
portfolio for the next five years, according to the new team unveiled today by
the Commission’s president José Manuel Barroso.

The move, if confirmed by the European Parliament in January, is sure to
spark concerns amongst supporters of liberalization, given the French
government’s usual support for bureaucratic controls on the economy.

Its appointee will be Michel Barnier, a former European commissioner for
regional policy and French agriculture minister. He is currently an MEP for
President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party. As
such, he could be expected to follow the French government policies of
protecting national champions in the European market place, and opposing major
liberalisation initiatives.

In this he will be a major contrast to his predecessor outgoing internal
market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, an advocate of light-touch regulation.

In a communiqué, Barroso said he wanted his new team to shape “globalisation
on the basis of [Europe’s] values and interests.” Barnier’s nomination is not
unexpected, and there was talk after the UK secured the new EU foreign affairs
portfolio (for Labour Baroness Catherine Ashton) that France would take internal
market in return. Germany’s prize is to take the powerful energy commissioner

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