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Europe

Latvia Gives Barroso a Hand

Latvia on Tuesday withdrew its criticized candidate for the European Commission at the request of incoming EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and picked an experienced Brussels bureaucrat as a replacement.

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Andris Piebalgs is Riga's new nominee for the EU's executive body

Latvian Prime Minister Indulis Emsis told reporters that the Baltic state was nominating Andris Piebalgs, who worked in Brussels as the number two under Latvia's first commissioner Sandra Kalniete. "After long discussions we decided that the Latvian candidate will be Andris Piebalgs. It was a unanimous decision of the government," he said.

Barroso had sent an official letter to the Latvian government asking the Baltic state to withdraw its previous choice, former parliament speaker Ingrida Udre.

Piebalgs told AFP he was ready to serve as commissioner: "If the government so chooses, I accept," he said.

Latvia's Udre, commissioner-designate for tax and customs policy, was among four or five nominees with questions marks over them, either because of alleged conflicts of interest or failure to impress EU lawmakers.

Latvia, a small Baltic former Soviet state, joined the European Union in May.

A divorced mother-of-two, Udre is a relative newcomer to politics, entering the Latvian parliament only two years ago. She was criticized for taking long trips accompanied by her stylist during her stint as parliamentary speaker.

Facing a threat by Socialist and Liberal members of the European Parliament to veto the entire commission because of their objections to controversial Italian nominee Rocco Buttiglione, president-elect Barroso withdrew all his picks last week. Buttiglione said Saturday he was stepping down as candidate for the post of commissioner for justice following a two-week dispute over his conservative views on homosexuality and the role of women.

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