Loyola de Palacio to leave, László Kovacs to join

20 August 2004

The nuclear energy industry is losing a key ally in the European Commission, with the impending departure of energy commissioner Loyola de Palacio. She will be replaced in the Commission from November by Hungary’s current foreign minister László Kovacs.
Kovacs could continue where de Palacio left off, however, given his country’s reliance on its four nuclear reactors. Kovacs can be expected to press for continued Euratom funding for safety and performance improvements at eastern European Union (EU) nuclear plants.
Now a socialist, he was a senior official in Hungary’s communist regime, (and its last foreign minister), which created the country’s nuclear capacity. Assuming his appointment is conformed by the European Parliament in September, he will have more time to devote on energy issues than his predecessor, given that incoming EU president José Manuel Barroso has split off de Palacio’s transport portfolio and awarded it to France’s Jacques Barrot.
Brussels officials said de Palacio has not decided on her future, with no business or political offers yet on the table. She may lecture at the European Institute in Florence according to recent interviews but this would be short term. More likely, she will participate in future elections in Spain, where she is a senior conservative politician.

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