Barroso wijst commissiepositie op Justitie, Vrijheid en Veiligheid toe aan Fransman Barrot (en)
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has decided that Italy's new commissioner should take over the transport portfolio rather than keep the justice and home affairs job.
The announcement on late Tuesday (22 April) followed signals from Rome that the current justice chief Franco Frattini is to become his country's new foreign minister in the centre-right cabinet of Silvio Berlusconi.
French commissioner Jacques Barrot, previously in charge of transport, is now to take on the high profile justice and security post.
Mr Barroso said in a statement that Mr Barrot had substituted for his Italian colleague during Mr Frattini's temporary leave around the election "in an outstanding way".
For that reason, as well as "in order to fully ensure the coherence and effectiveness of the complex and sensitive work in the justice, liberty and security portfolio" he has asked the French commissioner "to take responsibility for the portfolio for the rest of the mandate."
The justice portfolio is considered one of the most prominent jobs in the EU executive, while the transport post would give an Italian commissioner an insight into Brussels' dealing with Alitalia, the struggling Italian airline
Italy's outgoing prime minister, Romano Prodi, has expressed disappointment over the portfolio swap. He said that while he is aware that it is up to the commission president to assign portfolios, these decisions should be made in conjunction with national governments.
Mr Barroso's move is likely to have been to try and pre-empt any controversy over Italy's possible candidate to replace Mr Frattini.
Several MEPs have been preparing for a tough hearing of the new Italian designate.
With Italian media mentioning Antonio Tajani, a centre-right MEP from Mr Berlusconi's party Forza Italia, as the most likely candidate, some deputies were concerned that he may share the tough views on immigration of his party boss.
In 2004, MEPs rejected Rocco Buttiglione, the original nominee of Mr Berlusconi's previous cabinet, for his views on homosexuals and women. Rome eventually substituted Mr Buttiglione with Mr Frattini.
Mr Barroso's commission is due in office until autumn 2009. So far, Mr Frattini is the third commissioner to take temporary or permanent leave from their European duties.
The Belgian commissioner in charge of development, Louis Michel, took part in national elections last year but then returned to his job in commission while the former Cypriot commissioner Markos Kyprianou left after he was appointed foreign minister at home.