Brussels announces commissioner and surprise restructure

The European Commission's transport department was plunged into uncertainty late last week following the appointment of a new chief.

Jacques Barrot, a French lawyer who is now EC commissioner for regional affairs, will become transport commissioner in November, replacing the respected Loyola de Palacio. In announcing his new team, EC president elect José Manuel Durão Barroso unexpectedly separated the existing transport and energy (Tren) directorate general (DG), leaving EC officials "foxed" as to the future structure of the new administration. "It is not clear whether we have two DGs, or a DG with two heads or whether the existing staff will be distributed to other departments," says a source within DG-Tren.

Barroso has promised that transport funding, including aviation, will be a key focus of his five-year term, but insiders fear chaos in November with a new team of inexperienced transport officials grappling to come to grips with the DG's changing structure.

More controversy has been created by Barrot's appointment because current director general Fran‡ois Lamoureux is also French and there is an unwritten rule that the two most senior posts within a DG cannot be held by compatriots.

However, Daniel Calleja Crespo, de Palacio's head of cabinet, is to be appointed director for air transport, in a move that will be welcomed by many aviation experts in Brussels. He will enter a post left vacant since May when Michel Ayral left.

De Palacio, widely admired for her tough negotiating skills, pushed through several key air transport reforms during her tenure, including the implementation of the Single European Sky legislation. It is accepted that de Palacio will not see her final ambition of securing an Open Skies deal with the USA before she leaves to teach European Studies at an Italian university.

Other aviation-related appointments include Janez Potocnik taking the science and research portfolio, Neelie Kroes replacing Mario Monti at competition policy and Peter Mandelson taking over responsibility for trade.

* An EC group of experts tasked with providing advice on transport accidents has held its first plenary session to define its remit.



Source: Flight International