European Commission President-designate Jose Barroso has turned down a German request to make Günter Verheugen a "super commissioner." It's a smart decision in the interest of European unity.
Verheugen says he just wants to serve the European idea
No -- Barroso didn't want to include a "super commissioner" in his team. Weeks ago, the former Portuguese prime minister had made it clear that he didn't want a system of first and second class commissioners.
That's a smart decision, even if some members of Germany's government are disappointed: Inequality among the EU executive body would only create unnecessary tension within the European Commission -- especially now as it is growing to include 25 members as a result of EU enlargement.
Günter Verheugen was an outstanding member of the commission that's about to leave office: He's clearly done a good job as enlargement commissioner. None of the 10 countries that joined the union on May 1 can complain about unfair treatment. Verheugen didn't push German interests and instead acted as a European during accession negotiations -- just as one would expect from someone in that position.
Verheugen himself does not have to be reminded that he's not meant to represent national interests in Brussels. But that's not what some people in Germany believe -- who wanted to see him made a "super commissioner" as a trade-off for losing a second German commissioner. Such a move could have helped to sell the loss to the German population: We're losing something, but we're getting compensation in return.
European, not national interests count
But a German "super commissioner" would have sent a fatal signal to the other member states, especially the new ones: Germany demands a special position within the union and expects the German commissioner to support this point of view. Verheugen is probably immune to such thoughts. One can only hope that the new commissioners will develop a similar level of immunity that prevents them from being led by their national governments.
That's why Barroso (photo) should be lauded for turning down the German request in a quiet and sober but also decisive way. He's completed his first official task -- the distribution of cabinet posts -- in a way that is satisfactory for everyone. Even Germany didn't protest the new president's decisions. By doing so, Barroso has already laid the foundation for the respect he needs to receive from member states -- something outgoing Commission President Romano Prodi often struggled with. It could mean that people will soon forget that Barroso was a compromise candidate; The enlarged EU can function just fine without a "super commissioner" -- as long as it has a strong commission president at its helm.