Dáil Éireann - Volume 417 - 10 March, 1992

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Irish EC Commissioners' Reappointment.

5. Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if it is intended to extend the term of the present Irish Commissioner to the EC beyond the original terms of appointment or if it is intended to renew the appointment upon termination of his term; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach: An announcement on this matter will be made at the appropriate time.

As the Deputy will no doubt be aware, the term of office of the Commission expires on 5 January next. Under the present treaties, persons are in the first instance nominated by the member states and are then formally appointed for a four year term by the Governments of the member states by common accord.

At the Maastricht European Council last December, it was agreed that the term of office of the Commission should parallel that of the European Parliament. Accordingly, the Treaty on European Union effectively provides that, in order to bridge the gap to the next elections to the European Parliament scheduled for mid-1994, the term of office of the new Commission to be appointed in January next year will be for two years only.

At the end of this period, in other words, beginning from January 1995, the term of office of the Commission will be five years, as is the case now for the European Parliament.

In addition, the Maastricht Treaty provides for the European Parliament to have a greater role in the appointment of the President and the members of the Commission. This new procedure will be applied for the first time in the appointment of the Commission whose term of office will begin in January 1995.

The Government, in their decision on the Irish Commissionership from 1993, [12] will, of course, take fully into account the best interests of this country and of the European Community, including the fundamental importance we attach to the Commission's pivotal role under the treaties.

The distribution of portfolios will continue by collegiate decision of the Commission itself. I should also mention, for the information of the House, that the proposal that there should be one Commissioner only per member state was not resolved during last year's intergovernmental conference and, in a Declaration to the Maastricht Treaty, it has been agreed that this issue will be considered by the member states before the end of this year.

Mr. Kenny: Assuming that the Maastricht Treaty is passed and in the knowledge that the Commissioners must operate from a European perspective, is the Taoiseach satisfied, as head of Government, with the performance of the Irish-appointed Commissioner? If an extension of his term is to be approved, would it be the Taoiseach's intention to reappoint Commissioner MacSharry for the further two years involved, or might the Taoiseach be in any way nervous that he might return?

The Taoiseach: Would the Deputy be nervous, because I would not? I fully endorse the Commissioner's very difficult role, if I may say so, in performing the task of Agriculture Commissioner in Europe in recent years. The question of reappointment has not arisen yet. We wish him every success in his continuing deliberations in the GATT; indeed, it would be in all our interests that that matter be resolved to our satisfaction and, of course, in relation to the Common Agricultural Policy as well. He is doing a good job. We will consider the other two years in due course.

Mr. Shatter: Can the Taoiseach indicate whether there is any truth in the rumour that a number of prominent backbenchers in his party have been sending curriculum vitae to him in the [13] hope that they may be appointed next January?

An Ceann Comhairle: We are having a broadening of this question now.

The Taoiseach: I have not received any of them yet.

Mr. Shatter: Some of them are well travelled.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Bruton: Does the Taoiseach expect that a pattern will be agreed at the European Council to the effect that most of the existing Commission will be reappointed for the remaining two years, or does he expect that the pattern will be, in most cases that new appointees will be appointed for a two year period? Has there been any such discussion to date at European level to establish some general pattern?

The Taoiseach: No pattern is emerging as yet. There seem to be differing views as to the question of reappointment, certainly in relation to some member states where elections are taking place. It is totally uncertain what may happen. No definite pattern has emerged as yet.