José Manuel Barroso is heading for failure in his bid to put together a college of European commissioners with a better gender balance than the existing College.
If Barroso's second administration is to have more women than the first, then almost all of the remaining seven countries that have yet to name their candidate for commissioner will have to be women.
Of the 20 nominees that are known, only three are women: Androulla Vassiliou from Cyprus, Viviane Reding from Luxembourg, and Rumiana Jeleva from Bulgaria.
Only eight of the current 27 commissioners are women, but Barroso is struggling to match even that figure for his next college.
The two most recent official nominations are for male commissioners. On Tuesday (10 November), the Czech government nominated Štefan Füle, currently minister for EU affairs, as its candidate for the Commission. On Friday (6 November), the Hungarian government nominated László Andor, an economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as its candidate for the Commission. Other recent nominees are Germany's Günther Oettinger, Romania's Dacian Ciolos¸ and Austria's Johannes Hahn. The number of male nominees stands at 17.
If Barroso is to match the current level of eight women he would need five EU governments from the remaining seven to propose women.
This is possible if, for example, the UK nominates Catherine Ashton, currently commissioner for trade, for a second term, Sweden nominates Gunilla Carlsson, the development minister, Denmark nominates Connie Hedegaard, the environment minister, and Ireland nominates Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, currently a member of the European Court of Auditors, and Greece nominates Anna Diamantapoulou, a former commissioner and currently education minister.
All the nominations have to be accepted by Barroso, the national governments and the European Parliament.
Barroso wrote to EU leaders in October urging them to propose female candidates so that he can propose a properly balanced team to EU governments and the Parliament, a call that he repeated yesterday (11 November) in a speech to the Parliament.
Barroso has indicated to governments that he will offer better portfolios to female candidates. In 2004, when he formed his first Commission, he rewarded the Dutch government for proposing a female candidate by giving Neelie Kroes the powerful competition portfolio.
Mark Gray, a Commission spokesman, said that Barroso wants “as many [female commissioners] as possible”.
In a letter to European Voice, a cross-party group of ten female MEPs has warned that the formation of the next Commission may depend on more balanced representation. They write that there is a “growing feeling that if the Parliament does not see more female candidates than currently sit in Barroso's outgoing Commission (eight), it will reject the whole Commission” and ask member states for more female candidates.
Barroso believes that he will need a week to put together his team of commissioners once EU leaders have decided who should be the European Council's president and the EU's foreign policy chief, a post that brings with it a seat in the Commission. National leaders are supposed to make those decisions at an extra summit meeting in Brussels on 19 November.
The Parliament had intended to start hearings for candidate commissioners on 26 November so that the Parliament could vote in plenary on approving the whole team in December. But the additional delay caused by a later-than-expected summit, means that the Parliament is likely to start hearings only in January and have a plenary vote on 20 January. Andrew Duff, a UK Liberal MEP, said the target was 20 January. “I don't know when we'll start the hearings. But I think we'll have to bring everyone back on 4 January,” he said. The next Commission may therefore not take office before February.