Brussels, 16 March 2007
José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, has agreed to Commissioner Louis Michel's request for leave to stand as a candidate for his party in the Belgian parliamentary elections on 10 June. As he had previously indicated, Mr Michel was determined that the President would be the first person to be officially informed of his decision. Mr Michel will be on unpaid leave from 12 May, when the electoral lists must be submitted, until 10 June 2007, the date of the elections. He has undertaken not to make use of Commission services, staff and property during that period.
The President has decided on Commissioner Olli Rehn as a temporary replacement for Mr Michel. Mr Rehn will provide continuity and good management for Mr Michel's portfolio.
1. The text of Mr Michel's letter to President Barroso
My party has requested my support in Belgium's coming parliamentary elections, and has asked me to stand as a candidate on the list for the Senate. I have accepted, on the understanding that I am to be the lowest-placed name on the list.
In line with the Code of Conduct for Commissioners, I therefore request unpaid leave from 12 May 2007, the deadline for the submission of lists, until 10 June 2007, the date of the elections.
It goes without saying that during this period I undertake not to not to make use of Commission services, staff or property (mobile phone, official car, etc.).
During the campaign I will, of course, refrain from any action which might reflect adversely on the Commission, and I will endeavour to enhance the work of all the European institutions.
Until the campaign begins, when expressing myself in a capacity other than that of a Commissioner, I will take care to speak with the degree of restraint that befits a member of our institution.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
(signed Louis Michel)
2. Relevant extracts from the Code of Conduct for Commissioners
"Commissioners may be active members of political parties or trade unions, provided that this does not compromise their availability for service in the Commission.
Commissioners shall inform the President of their intention to participate in an election campaign and the role they expect to play in that campaign. The President, taking into account the particular circumstances of the case, shall decide on whether the envisaged participation in the election campaign is compatible with the performance of the Commissioner’s duties.
Commissioners standing for election to public office shall also inform the President of their intended level of participation in the election campaign. If their intention is to play an active role in the election campaign, they must withdraw from the work of the Commission for the duration of the campaign.
Commissioners may not hold any public office of whatever kind."
There are numerous precedents, including the following:
Santer Commission: Jacques Santer himself and Emma Bonino both took part in the European elections of June 1999; when elected, they chose the Parliament and left the Commission in July.
Prodi Commission: Anna Diamantopoulou took part in parliamentary elections in Greece in March 2004, and left the Commission when elected (she was replaced by Mr Dimas). Viviane Reding and Philippe Busquin stood in the European elections in June 2004. Ms Reding was elected, but gave up her seat to join the Barroso Commission; Mr Busquin took up a seat in parliament and was replaced by Louis Michel.
Other precedents for participation in electoral campaigns include
1962 Vice-President Mr Marjolin
1963 Vice-President Mr Caron
1968 Commissioner Mr Deniau
1969 Commissioner Mr Hellwig
1976 Commissioner Mr Spinelli
1982 Commissioner Mr O’Kennedy