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The real no2 at the European Commission

There is a great deal to reform in the way the European institutions are run.

The appointment of new personalities should be an occasion to make notable change.

For example a consensus seems to have formed on the need to bring clusters of the Commission's competences within the responsibility of Vice-Presidents for the improved coordination of 

the commissioners' work together with their services.

In depth changes are also expected to correct some patent failures, as in the area of energy and financial services, ideas that are out of date - competition - , economic governance and the disastrous communication policy.

But there is one area that seems to have been neglected and on which the Union's dynamism depends: that of external relations.

The accumulation of the two positions of 1st Vice-President of the Commission and the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy comprises one of the most important portfolio. 

It makes their holder - if they exercise their role to the full  - the real no2 at the Commission.

The leading executive has the authority to coordinate the work of many powerful Commissioners and services, in liaison with the Member States, whilst simultaneously taking full part in the College's decisions. If these tasks are undertaken to the full and well they can change the Union's work entirely.

Ms Ashton focused her work on the creation of the common diplomatic service, unfortunately neglecting her duties as Vice-President of the Commission, in other words the coordination of

nearly 12 billion euro in annual spending in development or humanitarian aid, crisis management, enlargement and neighbourhood and major negotiations on international trade.

In addition to that she did not even look at the still unclaimed sector of European Defence but which was however hoped for in the Lisbon Treaty. She only did half of the job. This has to be corrected.

And yet in the negotiations that have started between Jean-Claude Juncker, the Member States and Parliament, the interest in this post only seems to be relative. In all likelihood this is because national diplomacies are slightly jealous of their prerogatives. This is a big mistake. What better than a Vice-President responsible for Foreign Affairs who can effectively support the policy of the Member States on whom he/she also depends?

Maybe it is also because the Member States focus on struggling economic sectors the revival of which by Europe might only succeed however with the dynamism of the States - energy for example?

Isn't a Vice-President who is a strategist necessary to the Commission at the end of the day?

Nothing could be worse than thinking that this post is secondary, melting into the grand bargaining for the attribution of positions, after the portfolio that are still too many and too badly distributed.

The Union needs an experienced woman or man, who knows all about managing major national civil service departments, who in Brussels demands a superior, who is interested in military affairs, has thorough diplomatic and European knowledge - someone who respects the European Parliament and national parliamentsa and who takes full part in the Commission's deliberations.

In its bid to rise beyond the traditional opposition between the community and intergovernmental methods regarding issues that still fall within the realm of national sovereignty the Lisbon Treaty offers many possibilities that have not yet been explored.

Can we still act in Europe outside of the planetary village that the world has become?

Can we foresee an external policy that is distinct from that of the Member States? The Ukrainian example shows us what we must not do.

Is it possible for the Commission to continue talking behind closed doors, without taking on board the external aspect of all of its decisions?

The European Council has to choose a person for this post who accepts two missions in a difficult post to the full, i.e. someone who can reconcile the institutions with the Member States and of course the citizens. The choice cannot be just a residual one. It is vital.

A young stripling or some lightweight will not do!