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Europe

Schröder's Man in Brussels

The German government wants EU commissioner for expansion, Günter Verheugen, to stay in Brussels and become the first "super commissioner" for industry and economics. But the conservative opposition is unenthusiastic.

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Schröder wants him to remain in Brussels

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has made it clear that Germany will suggest Günter Verheugen to be the country's one commissioner on the European Union's executive body.

"Günter Verheugen is one of the most respected commissioners in the current commission in Brussels," government spokesman Hans Langguth told reporters Monday in Berlin. "His work is praised everywhere there, and incidentally, it is also praised by the German opposition. The federal government will, as a matter of course, nominate Günter Verheugen for the office of German commissioner," he added.

Schröder stressed over the weekend that the one German in the European Commission should be responsible for economic policy. For some time, Germany, along with France and Britain, has championed creating the new position to coordinate all business and economic issues within the Commission. The officeholder would also be vice president of the body.

Germany's conservative opposition has backed Schröder in pushing for a commissioner for economics, but its politicians remain skeptical about Verheugen, a Social Democrat like Schröder, filling the position. "From my point of view, it's inappropriate now to make this decision so quickly because it ultimately hampers us in the search for a suitable candidate," Christian Democratic party (CDU) leader Angela Merkel commented.

Opposition criticism

Merkel criticized that the CDU wasn't consulted before the decision to nominate Verheugen was made. She did acknowledge that Verheugen had built a solid reputation through his work since 1999 as the EU's commissioner for expansion, a job that effectively came to an end when 10 new member states joined the EU on June 1. But she said a proven specialist in business and economics should fill the new post. Other opposition politicians have mooted the name of Merkel's deputy, Friedrich Merz, the CDU's financial expert, for the post.

But government spokesman Langguth dismissed Merkel's comments, saying that they were merely motivated by partisan considerations. The fact is, the government isn't obliged to pay heed to the opposition's criticism, since it alone is responsible for nominating a German commission member. Each of the governments generally aims to suggest candidates that the other member states will be satisfied with, who the European Parliament must then confirm. The new commission will start its work on November 1. Large countries, like Germany, which have so far fielded two commissioners for the body, will only fill one spot as the Commission will grow from 19 to 25 due to the recent EU enlargement.

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