MARIANN FISCHER Boel is expected to take up her new job as EU agriculture minister before the end of the month, after some diplomatic shuffling by new commission president Jos Barroso.

Mrs Fischer Boel was one of several commissioner designates who failed to impress the European Parliament last month, leading to a delay in electing the new commission.

But most of the parliament’s vitriol was targeted at the Italian nominee, Rucco Buttiglione, for his ill-guarded comments on homosexuals and women. Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini has since replaced him as commissioner designate for the justice portfolio.

Latvian change

Latvia’s new comissioner has also been replaced, after a change of government, while Hungary’s Laszlo Kovacs, who also failed to impress MEPs, has been moved from the energy portfolio to taxation.

These changes appear to have worked. Martin Shulz, leader of the socialist group and the main protagonist againt the previous nominees, said the changes “should provide the required basis for broad support in the parliament”.

Officials said the new commission should be voted on by the full parliament on Nov 18, ready to take office the following week.

It will end weeks of uncertainty for Mrs Fischer Boel, the former Danish farm minister, who was strongly criticised for her evasive approach when cross-examined by the parliament.