October 26, 2020

Three Spanish ministers compete to be commissioner of the European Commission

Three Spanish ministers compete to be commissioner of the European Commission


The European Commission, the technical government -the day to day- of the EU, will be renewed after the European elections on May 26. Spain has the right to a position, now held by Miguel Arias Cañete -Commissioner of Energy and Climate Action- and who will not renew, because his replacement will be chosen by the current Government, foreseeably that of Pedro Sánchez. The decision will still take some time. However, the race to occupy the police station that corresponds to Spain may have started on the same day that the leader of the PSOE acceded to the Presidency of the Government. The favorite for the position -the portfolio she would occupy would come out of the balance of power in the Commission- is the Minister of Economy, Nadia Calviño, who has also been the highest Spanish civil servant in the history of the EU, since she occupied the General Directorate of Budgets. Calviño has spent a good part of her professional life in Brussels, where she lived with her husband, Ignacio Manrique de Lara, and their four children, and where they had all taken root and were very comfortable. It is no secret that Sanchez, when he formed a government, was looking for someone with prestige and mastery of the twists and turns of Brussels, which is very convenient for maintaining relations with the community authorities. Sánchez, it seems that at the suggestion of Joaquín Almunia, he chose Calviño, whom he did not know, a very technical woman, very unpolitical and more or less socialist, with the pedigree of being the daughter of José María Calviño, the historic first general director of RTVE in the time of Felipe González, with the sponsorship of Alfonso Guerra. The new minister left Brussels and returned to Madrid, but from the first moment circulated the theory -which nobody denied- that, after passing through the Sánchez cabinet, her goal was to be a European Commissioner, the only position she has yet to fill in. the community administration, where it is very appreciated.

Calviño, however, is not the only candidate for one of the most attractive political / administrative posts in the old continent, better paid -20,000 euros per month, with very low taxation- and with spectacular exit or withdrawal conditions. José Borrell, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Luis Planas, Minister of Agriculture, also sound in the socialist offices as aspirants. For both, it would be a spectacular climax as well as an attractive one for their political careers and, in passing, guaranteeing a golden retirement. Both have community experience. Borrell was even president of the European Parliament and Planas, as well as a member of the European Parliament, he was Pedro Solbes' chief of staff when he was European Commissioner and has been Spain's ambassador in Morocco and before the EU and general secretary of the European Economic and Social Council. And they both have ages-Borrell, 71; and Planas, 67, in front of the 49 of Calviño- to which being in front of a European police station would be irresistible for two characters, convinced Europeans, who want to remain active, but far from the fights of Spanish politics and forget, between other things, from the "sawdust and dung" that produce figures like Rufián, as the Foreign Minister himself snapped.

Relevance in Brussels

The three candidates have strengths and weaknesses and, although in theory part of Calviño favorite, nothing is decided. In addition, if Borrell, as some theories defend, leads the PSOE poster to the European elections, the map could also change. The advantage of Calviño is his experience, good poster and mastery of European ins and outs. There is no rival. Also, it's a woman. Juncker, the president, already tried to have more women in the Commission and got it halfway, but everything indicates that his successor will also pursue that goal. Calviño, on the other hand, is the author of the EU Budget for 2021-2027, now under discussion. No one knows him better than her and perhaps nobody would apply it with greater effort, and it is more than a trillion euros. Its weak points come from its scarce political relevance. Besides not being a militant, his relationship with the organization has been minimal. His political experience is also scarce and during his career in Brussels he has had an aversion to dealing with the media, which according to some of his closest ones, "have always dreaded him", although now he begins to defend himself acceptably. Finally, there is the episode of the company with which he acquired a house in Madrid, a company that also operated in Belgium. There is nothing illegal, although it is aesthetic if you pay attention to what Sanchez declared in his day. Maybe that's why her husband, who runs a scientific research company in Brussels, Brainvestigations, has left something of that activity, to the point that the company's website is not operational. However, although Manrique de Lara carries out some activity in Madrid, in the technology sector, the family keeps his home in Brussels.

The advantages of the candidates

Borrell and Planas have in their favor the weak point of Calviño, his past and political present. The two are characters with a long and important history in the PSOE and the party would see his appointment well, something that is not so clear in the case of the Minister of Economy. They have less experience and mastery of community affairs than Calviño, but neither are they beginners. Planas, in addition, is a person of total confidence of the vice president Carmen Calvo.

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