For a former head of the UK Labour party to become the European Commissioner responsible for transport may seem an unlikely move, but Neil Kinnock is no stranger to the political in-fighting posed by the job and has made his mark since taking up the post in January.

Kinnock cut his political teeth long before his celebrated nine-year role in opposition to UK Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A Labour Member of Parliament since 1970, he became party leader in 1983, succeeding in modernising what had become, something of a political dinosaur.

Kinnock began immediately to take a hand in the major issues confronting the Transport Directorate. In office for just over 100 days, Kinnnock has already become embroiled in a major aviation issue - the development of a European open-skies policy in the face of US attempts to secure separate deals with individual countries.

The liberalisation of European air transport will remain at the heart of departmental aviation policy, but Kinnock is likely to concentrate on something far bigger: the development of a common European transportation infrastructure. "He is very tough," says one senior European Commission policy-maker, smarting from the effort involved in launching the new open-skies policy a year ahead of the original time-scale. "Kinnock has a way of bringing people together round the table, and getting to the bottom of the issue," he adds.

Source: Flight International