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Friday, July 18, 2014

The most important riddle of the summer: who will be the next Competition Commissioner?

Even as the summer reaches its highest season - and this can be seen all around us - the discussions on who will be appointed on which EU Commission job are also at reaching a peak. 
Unfortunately, the discussions surrounding the appointment are far from being transparent and even attention from the media is now low, due to the heat, the holidays and to the fact that most of the attention usually goes to the top job - that of President of the Commission – which is already settled. This is why I said that this is a riddle and not just a question. Behind the curtains, we are left guessing who might be in this and that position. 
However, there are several jobs where we hope that EU top politicians will nominate the best persons they can - the least politician of the politicians or the most technocrat of the technocrats, to be realistic! 
The Competition and State Aid position is one of the important jobs to be filled in over the summer. The next Commissioner is likely to have an even more difficult job than his predecessor - Mr.Almunia - who managed pretty well this area of the EU law and policy. There are several large challenges ahead for the to-be Competition Commissioner: the Google case (cases?), the Gazprom case, the enactment of the directive on private damages, as well as long disputed issues, such as those surrounding the way the decisions in antitrust matters are taken by the Commission, to mention only few of them. 
The selection looks more difficult than in the past - 2000 or 2008 - but not because of these challenges but due to other criteria, coming from the politics of the European Union. There are many persons who believe that the job will go to a Brit, in order to heal the wounds of the prime minister David Cameron, who lost his ill-fated battle for opposing Jean-Claude Juncker, and, hence, of UK as such, by assigning such an important job to a country on the verge to separate itself from the European Union.
I would be in favour of such a choice but not for the reasons listed above but because there is a higher chance that a person with a true belief in the market forces and in the free economy will take the position.  The European Union needs to re-discover its trust in the markets, which has been lost in past in the aftermath of the financial crisis, because of politicians who recklessly or purportedly put the crisis on the failure of the market forces rather than on their own mistakes and missteps. 
In a world where even the Chinese economy looks often more liberal than certain markets in the European Union and where there are ”tigers” of the economy in almost every region of the planet, the European Union must unleash the forces and the dynamism which accompany the market economy, rather than trying to put dams and plan the economic growth from offices in Brussels, London, Paris, Berlin or elsewhere. 
However, the (political) chances for a competition commissioner coming from London are rather slim (UK is more likely to receive a position of Vice-President of the Commission but in conjunction with another portfolio). 
The competition for the competition commissioner is more likely to take place between a person nominated by France (perhaps Pierre Moscovici) and the choice of Germany (the current Energy Commissioner Guenter Oettinger), with Germany keeping the highest odds. Mr.Oettinger is the only person who assumed directly and honestly his preference for becoming the next Competition Commissioner and he might be a decent choice for the job. 
Or we will witness a surprise - someone from the Eastern block?
Stay tune and watch! 

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