New new commissioner

11 November 2004

The nuclear industry is likely to be disappointed with the transfer of Hungary's László Kovács away from the energy portfolio in the new European Commission expected to take office in mid-November. His removal follows a lacklustre performance at a European Parliament hearing that led MEPs to brand him 'incompetent' as a potential energy commissioner.

Following the parliament's refusal to confirm a new Commission that contained Kovács as energy commissioner, president-elect José Manuel Barroso has replaced him with Andris Piebalgs, of Latvia. He owes his own place on the Barroso Commission to another parliament-inspired change: MEPs branded his co-patriot Ingrida Udre as unqualified to be tax commissioner, the job now awarded to Kovács

Piebalgs is a former education and finance minister. As a liberal from a country whose energy mix is dominated by hydropower, he is not expected to be as pro-nuclear as Kovács revealed himself to be at his parliamentary hearing. However Barroso is backing Piebalgs to the hilt as energy commissioner, saying his scientific background "will be a considerable asset to make a success of this important policy." He also "knows EU policies across the board" as a former ambassador and through helping to negotiate Latvia's entry to the European Union.

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