With less than four months to go before 15 new countries join the European Union, accession states are quietly lining up candidates for top Commission posts. The deadline is just six weeks away.
As the May 1 date for enlargement creeps closer, the race is on in new member state capitals to find 'their' commissioner for Brussels. With the accession countries trying to find candidates who are both well respected in Europe as well as having support in their own country, public interest and speculation has been growing ahead of the end of February deadline for submission. European Commission President Romano Prodi, who will make recommendations to EU leaders before they choose the final list of candidates, has said that he would like to raise the quota of woman Commissioners - at the moment four of the twenty Commissioners are women. At the moment Poland, Latvia and Lithuania all appear to have fulfilled the gender criteria as they are set to propose Danuta Hübner (Minister for Europe), Sandra Kalniete (Foreign Minister) and Dalia Grybauskaite (Finance Minister) respectively. Estonia is set to nominate former Prime Minister Siim Kallas; Slovenia will probably go with its Minister for Europe, Janez Potocnik; Malta with its foreign minister, Joe Berg, and Cyprus also with its foreign minister George Iacovou. Still undecided are Slovakia who may nominate either Jan Figel (chief EU negotiator) or Ivan Stefanec (former Coca Cola manager). Hungary could choose former EU chief negotiator Endre Juhasz or the ambassador to the EU Peter Balazs, and the Czech Republic where it is a toss up between the former environment minister Milos Kuzvart, Pavel Telicka, the former Czech chief EU negotiator or Ivana Janu, a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. EU leaders will select one Commissioner per new member state during the European Council on March 25-26. Two weeks later between April 13-15, the European Parliament will put the candidates through their paces by subjecting each to a hearing. According to the treaty, MEPs have to give their approval to the list. Two weeks later, the new commissioners will take up their posts. ( EUobserver.com)