'Maybe job is so gigantic we need two women ... or three men!' - Malmström - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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'Maybe job is so gigantic we need two women ... or three men!' - Malmström

Thursday, 21 January 2010
In what was then the last scheduled hearing, the Swedish Commissioner-designate Cecilia Malmström earmarked for the newly created Home Affairs portfolio, delivered a calm and collected performance on Tuesday pledging to fight for 'humane' asylum policies as hard as for increased border security and law enforcement.

Cecilia Malmström in her Hearing, 19/01/10 (Photo: European Parliament)Having been a prominent figure in Sweden's Presidency of the European Council which concluded on 1st January, Mrs Malmström (above), who previously has served as an MEP for seven years, is keen to complete the hat-trick and begin her work at the third EU institution as a Commissioner.

She will become the first commissioner charged solely to dealing with home affairs issues since in the outgoing Barroso I Commission the portfolio, held by Frenchman Jacques Barrot, included home affairs as well as justice and civil liberties which will now fall under the purview of Commissioner-designate Viviane Reding.

It was in a political agreement that cemented Jose Manuel Barroso's appointment for a second mandate at the helm of the EU commission that the decision was made to split the existing portfolio split into two: home affairs on the one hand and justice, fundamental rights and citizenship on the other.

Mr Barroso had confirmed this change in his second Question Time style appearance before the Parliament in Strasbourg in November, (see article) and justified this move stating that it mimicked what is now standard practice in national administrations.

The main home affairs brief that would be held by Mrs Malmström, will assume new importance thanks to the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, with more areas of policy that were previously the exclusive remit of EU member states, such as border patrol, falling into the EU's competency.

But the split has brought to light logistical issues, such as for example which Parliament Committee(s) would hear both candidates? And how would the issues that overlap the remits of both Commissioners be addressed?

Cecilia Malmström in her Hearing, 19/01/10 (Photo: European Parliament)Appearing before just the LIBE Committee on Tuesday morning in Strasbourg, Mrs Malmström in response to a question about how she would share responsibilities for justice, liberty and security issues with Mrs Reding, joked: “Maybe because the Stockholm Programme is so gigantic that we need two women. We might have needed three men.”

Following a moments applause and laughter from all sides and sexes in the chamber, she continued, "I intend to work closely with the Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship and our Directorate-General to ensure a smooth cooperation as our portfolios are interlinked and interdependent – and should be so."

In her mission letter from Mr Barroso, Mrs Malmström will be in charge of issues such as security, counter-terrorism and border control, whereas Mrs Reding (who was heard last week by the LIBE, JURI and FEMM Committees) will address issues of justice, fundamental rights, citizenship and given responsibility for the Commission's directorate-general for communication, for gender equality, for action against discrimination, civil society and social affairs.

But for Mrs Malmström, her priority will be implementing the Stockholm Programme and protecting citizens’ fundamental rights, which she said "must be the essence of the area of freedom, security and justice."

"I see my task," she said, "much as one seeking to establish a balance between ensuring respect for the freedom and integrity of the individual, and guaranteeing a secure Europe for our citizens and all who live here."

The Swede then told MEPs that this would not mean she will get the "bad cop" role, while Mrs Reding will be the "good cop."

"I have worked with human rights all my life. I assure you, I wouldn't have taken up this job if I wasn't confident of being able to put a strong imprint of fundamental rights [upon it]," she argued.

On the issue of migration, which she said "has been with us since Adam and Eve," Mrs Malmström said she was in favour of strengthening the capabilities of Frontex, the Warsaw-based border management agency, namely by providing staff with their own equipment so that they need not rely so heavily on member states' border assistance.

But asked whether she would be able to balance her work with Mrs Reding and strive to fulfil her pledges, Mrs Malmström said "I am not superwoman, but I will try to do my best."

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