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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
EU commissioners get to know each other

By Angus Roxburgh
BBC correspondent in Brussels

They won't actually take office until 1 November, but the 25 members of the EU's next Commission got together on Friday in Brussels for a first informal, get-to-know-you session.

Peter Mandelson (centre) speaking to fellow commissioners Markos Kyprianou and Charlie McCreevy
New commissioners will have to learn to do business with each other

They met in a building just across the road from the Commission's Berlaymont headquarters, which has been closed for 11 years for total refurbishment and should finally re-open in time for the new commissioners to move in.

As they arrived, cameramen and reporters outside frantically tried to identify them from photographs of the new team, most of whom are unknown outside their own countries.

The first meeting was described by the Commission president-elect, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, as an opportunity for "team-building".

He wants his new Commission to project a fresh image, and this meeting was the start of the process.

For the last five years, for example, each commissioner was based in a separate building, together with his departmental staff.

The new members will all be housed together in the Berlaymont building, in the hope of creating a more cohesive body.

Professional integrity

Mr Durao Barroso planned to talk to his team about the Commission's "code of conduct" - making sure they all understand the rules about conflicts of interest, and hoping to avoid the kind of fraud and mismanagement scandals that brought down a previous Commission in 1999.

The immediate task for the 25 commissioners-designate is to prepare themselves for a series of possibly gruelling confirmation hearings before the European Parliament.

Margot Wallstrom
Margot Wallstrom has the Institutional relations and communication portfolio

These start at the end of September, and some MEPs are expected to give the prospective commissioners a tough time.

The candidates will be questioned about their suitability for the jobs to which Mr Durao Barroso has appointed them, and about their personal and professional integrity.

MEPs will then vote on whether to accept the 25 members as a group.

The Commission plays a crucial role at the heart of the EU.

It draws up legislation for consideration by EU member states and by the European Parliament.

And once laws and directives are approved by the governments and MEPs, it is the Commission's task to make sure they are properly implemented.

Mr Durao Barroso has put the economy at the top of his agenda.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso
Durao Barroso will set out how his team will work together

He wants the EU to work harder at implementing the so-called "Lisbon agenda", aimed at deregulating the economy to make it more competitive.

Fluent in English and French as well as his own Portuguese, he also wants the Commission to communicate better with the European public.

The present commission, headed by Romano Prodi, has been widely regarded as failing in this respect, and with referendums on the new EU constitution coming up in many countries, the new Commission will have an important role to play.


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