Romanian takes EU’s top agriculture job

Former Romanian agriculture minister Dacian Ciolos has been nominated as the next agriculture commissioner in Brussels, and is expected to take up the office by the end of January.

The nomination by EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso ends months of speculation on who would replace Mariann Fischer Boel when the current team of 27 commissioners stands down.

Mr Ciolos is a controversial choice, given that Romania has run into trouble with the EU Commission in the recent past over its management of EU funds.

But he has broad agricultural experience, and the suggestion that he might be suitable for the agriculture job in Brussels last September won instant backing from the French and the Polish.

Before taking up his new role, Mr Ciolos will have to be vetted by the European parliament, a process that all the new commissioners will have to undergo between 11 and 19 January.

Their approval is far from guaranteed, as in the past they have rejected certain commissioners-designate. Even Mariann Fischer Boel had to have a second so-called “confirmation hearing” in 2004, having performed badly at the first one.

Announcing his proposed team on Friday (27 November), Mr Barroso said he had designed a college “which can generate fresh ideas and new momentum on the biggest challenges we face in Europe today”.

The NFU said it welcomed the appointment, as Mr Ciolos was one of very few names with agricultural experience, “something that will be vital when looking at the agenda ahead, especially in terms of the future of the CAP debate”.

Having studied horticulture at university in Romania, Mr Ciolos also took a degree in rural development at Rennes in north-west France, and has a PhD from the University of Montpellier.

He worked on organic farms in Brittany from 1991 to 1996, then worked as an agricultural economist in the EU Commission in Brussels from 1997 to 1999.

He then returned home to help with the pre-accession process prior to Romania joining the EU, and then went into politics, being appointed minister of agriculture in 2007 – a job he held for over a year, until the National Liberal Party was voted out of government.

* For an assessment of Mariann Fischer Boel’s term in office, see Phil Clarke’s Business Blog