New EU Leaders Announced Friday

EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso unveiled his new 'cabinet' on Friday. He picked Spain’s Joaquin Almunia to be the European Union’s antitrust chief and France’s Michel Barnier to lead a push for tougher bank regulation on a new team that will manage the EU’s $15 trillion economy as it emerges from the recession.

Barroso, president of the European Commission in Brussels, also chose Olli Rehn of Finland as economy commissioner and Karel De Gucht of Belgium as the EU’s top trade negotiator. Italy’s Antonio Tajani industrial-policy head.

The new five-year team announced today will take office as Europe is recovering from the credit crunch and the worst recession in more than half a century. Under Barroso, the EU’s executive arm has cracked down on cartels, pledged to sharpen scrutiny of banks, hedge funds and credit-rating companies, forced industry to reduce emissions blamed for climate change and broken down national barriers in the EU electricity and natural-gas markets, Bloomberg reports.

It was also reported, Belgian foreign minister Karel de Gucht -- a second top job for the EU's host country, will change Herman Van Rompuy after the latter was named full-time bloc president.

Outside the all-important economic areas -- where Brussels wields most of its power and influence -- Barroso also decided to name Denmark's Connie Hedegaard to the new job of climate commissioner.

She will lead EU preparations in negotiations on an international treaty to fight the impact of global climate change, something Barroso said "deserves... a dedicated commissioner" as the EU locks horns with the Americans, Brazilians, Chinese and others.

While many of these nominations, which have still to be vetted by the European Parliament early in the new year, were anticipated, the financial services decision marks a setback for Britain, AFP reports.

France's Michel Barnier, a former foreign minister, would be in charge of the EU's internal market and services sector.

Stefan Fuele, the deputy foreign minister of the Czech Republic, has been nominated as enlargement commissioner, charged with completing difficult negotiations to bring Croatia, Macedonia, Albania and — eventually — Turkey into the EU fold.

The EU commissioners do not represent their countries on the EU executive and when they take office they pledge allegiance to the cause of furthering European integration.

The European Parliament has scheduled confirmation hearings in the week of Jan. 18, The Associated Press reports.

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