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By Stephen Gardner. European Commission supremo-elect Jean-Claude Juncker certainly cannot be faulted for lacking a sense of mischief.


First, in his proposed new commission, he has created a layer of five vice-presidents, uber-commissioners to “coordinate” – ie dictate – work in key areas. All five come, like Juncker, from the EU's small countries, and will no doubt enjoy bossing around their colleagues from big member states. Three of the five are affiliated, like Juncker, to the centre-right European People's Party. The other two, from Estonia and Slovenia, are liberal democrats.

Second, a sense of mischief-making seems to have been behind the handing out of some portfolios – not least the allocation of financial services to Britain's commissioner, the former lobbyist Jonathan Hill. Another amusing allocation has been to give environment policy to Karmenu Vella, a Maltese career politician whose new responsibilities will no doubt fit well with his financial interests in hotel and construction firms.

Climate and energy policy, meanwhile, has been given to tainted former Spanish agriculture minister, Miguel Arias Cañete, who must pass scrutiny by the European Parliament, but has enraged some MEPs by making derogatory comments about women. The climate and energy portfolio might be Juncker's way of setting him up for a fall. 'Caveman' Cañete had a large shareholding in companies linked to his family that trade in shipping fuel. He has sold his shares but his continuing family connections to the business will be more ammunition for MEPs seeking to block his appointment.

And just in case Cañete does make it through the hearing, Juncker has ensured that his decisions will be signed off by a woman – former Slovenian prime minister Alenka Bratusek, though the decision to nominate her as a commissioner, made by, er, herself, might itself be questioned. 

And while Jonathan Hill's financial services responsibility might seem like a coup for David Cameron in his bid to shield the city from EU regulation, Juncker might have the last laugh. Hill will have to work closely with the commissioner for financial affairs and taxation – French socialist and former member of the Revolutionary Communist League, Pierre Moscovici!

A version of this article was published in Private Eye.

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