Phil Hogan's 'big job interview' in Brussels
IRELAND's Commissioner designate Phil Hogan will today meet his future EU boss in Brussels as speculation grows that he will secure the coveted Agriculture portfolio.
The incoming Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker, is meeting with all 27 incoming Commission nominees this week before considering the options over the weekend. An announcement on who gets what is expected next Tuesday.
Brussels officials said that Mr Hogan, a former environment minister, remains a strong contender for the post of Agriculture Commissioner which controls up to 40pc of the EU's annual budget of €150bn and carries considerable clout across the entire EU system.
His hopes have been buoyed by the Romanian government signal that they may not renew the mandate of their current Commissioner, Dacian Ciolos. who holds the agriculture post, and send a woman in his place.
President Juncker's efforts to get a reasonable quota of women on his Commission team were boosted as Poland nominated a woman yesterday. Officials in Warsaw said Deputy Prime Minister Elizbieta Bienkowska would serve in the Brussels executive for the coming five years - bringing the number of women nominees to seven and closer to the target of nine or 10.
The increased number of women nominees further eases pressure on Ireland to send a woman commissioner.
Last week President Juncker said he would give all senior posts to the few women already nominated to further gender balance, unless member states sent more women.
But Brussels officials said this stipulation could be overcome in Ireland's case.
Officials pointed to Irish support for Mr Juncker's presidential candidacy from day one, in spite of trenchant British opposition, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny's links with the EPP/ Christian Democrat group, to which Mr Juncker was also allied.
Mr Hogan spoke from Brussels by phone yesterday with the Taoiseach about portfolio options. Mr Kenny held talks on the issue in the margins of a series of meetings in the EU capital last Saturday and has taken a close interest in the issue.
Along with Mr Hogan, the name most often linked to the agriculture job is Spain's former agriculture minister, Miguel Arias Canete.
But the Irish government is down-playing an all-out bid for the farm job and instead stressing that they are looking for a job with a role in boosting the economy, growth and jobs.
Since Saturday's meetings in Brussels, the Taoiseach has on several occasions stressed the need for Mr Hogan to get a position with an economic dimension. A spokesman for Mr Kenny said this could include agriculture.