The move has resulted from the change of government in Rome. Following the victory of the centre-right coalition in last month’s elections, Silvio Berlusconi has recalled Italy’s commissioner Franco Frattini to become Italy’s foreign minister.
Normally, Frattini’s replacement would take over Frattini’s portfolio (justice and home affairs) but the Commission president José Manuel Barroso wants Barrot to take over the justice role and Frattini’s successor to go to transport.
Some commentators suspect the president is worried that Berlusconi will appoint a commissioner who holds opinions that might conflict with justice issues. The last time Berlusconi had to appoint a commissioner, he put forward Rocco Buttiglione, but he was rejected by MEPs for his views on homosexuals and women. Italy’s media are suggesting the likeliest candidate is Antonio Tajani, who is believed to have strong views on immigration.
Barrot has been one of the lower-profile transport commissioners compared with his predecessors Loyola de Palacio and Neil Kinnock. In his first two years he proved unpopular with environmental NGOs who felt he gave too little attention to the environment, but in recent months he has been praised for bringing internalisation of external costs into the revised Eurovignette directive, and for his recent firm stand against US airlines that are resisting the EU’s attempts to tackle aviation’s impact.