The guardians have failed us


Hinkley Point is decided. The so-called guardians of EU law failed us, the single energy market broken, the rule of law diminished, and Europe’s so-called “energy union” still born. If we’re lucky it will take us five maybe ten years to recover from the Hinkley scandal. If we’re unlucky, then never.


Austria has said it will seek an ECJ annulment while three other states have said they are considering to join too. Perhaps the Court will apply EU single market rules where the Commission lacked the guts to do so, though its recent record is patchy. The Luxembourg process will take 1-2 years which provides time for others to recover their senses and potentially a change of UK government next May. The legal issues I’ll return to after EC’s text is out except to say here the applicants have a good case based on the fundamental legal principles at stake.

Farage fear fever

So what’s the context for this car crash? Whether it be more efficient vacuum cleaners or massive nuclear subsidies, it seems everyone is scared of the tyranny of UKIP and its ring-leader Nigel Farage.

This week Cameron has finally been reduced to gibberish, saying he will give Europe “a last chance” to reform even before the UK has said what reforms it wants. Huh? If the UK’s unspecified demands are not met, Cameron says he will vote for an EU exit in a 2017 UK referendum. Panicking or what?

Faced with this growing Brexit fever, up on the Berlaymont bridge Captain Catherine Day ordered the guardians to roll-over, put aside the rule of law and say to the UK it can burn its citizens money on a vanity project that in cash terms out-sizes the Channel tunnel.

Claims by VPs Almunia and Oettinger that the EC decision, to be published in the Official Journal Lex series, still does not create legal precedent are hard to reconcile with every other non-EC commentator (and some inside the EC) who take the opposite view.

By allowing Farage to hold Cameron and Day hostage, what exactly are we getting in return?

Commission wreckage

ENER, CLIMA and ENV are nominally the lead teams on the internal market and environmental protection (competences the Union shares with national administrations).

But it seems these services were ambushed by an unholy coalition of SG, SJ and COMP leaderships, reversing the initial grave scepticism tabled by the Commission at the end of 2013. On the final act, reducing the inter-service consultation (ISC) from three weeks to three days and hiding the process behind the EP Juncker hearings were key elements in Day’s manipulation.

What does all this mean for the effective functioning of the Commission in the future remains to be seen. Nothing will change much so long as Captain Day remains on the bridge (almost nine years in the job and counting). The incoming Juncker matrix will take months or perhaps years to find its equilibrium, so centre of power remains with SG. (Perhaps the matrix was even designed for that purpose?)

On Tuesday this week, DG ENER held a rapidly-organised event both to say ‘goodbye’ to Oettinger and formally to confirm Brussels worst kept secret that the internal energy market will not be “complete” by the end of this year. After speaking in favour of the single market, Oettinger then went on to admit he’d voted against it, underlining the extent to which his disparate services in Rue De Mot and Luxembourg have been left high and dry by the centralisation of power in the Berlaymont.

And so to new guardians?

Will Šefčovič and Arias Cañete et al be the best guys to help us recover from the Hinkley Point wreckage? That’s a discussion for another day.


It’s not fair to single out Bratušek


Bratušek’s “grilling”  just ended. It became painful to watch and outside of her prepared statements not a word in any language other than Slovenian.

Let’s say I think her chances of survival are a good way below 50%. But I also think it is not fair only to blame her for problems that already exist elsewhere and pre-date her portfolio designation just two weeks ago.

“Energy union” as a concept was first raised only in March, by PL PM Donald Tusk, shortly after the Ukrainian crisis deteriorated. There are already many different and competing concepts in circulation, most are vague and many folks are reasonably asking what exactly does it mean?

The original Polish 9-page plan is the most detailed, albeit containing some elements certain not to gain consensus or even majority support elsewhere (e.g. “rehabilitation of coal” and collective buying).

Others (esp. Van Rompuy, Juncker, EUCO) got around these “known unknowns” by diluting the Polish prescriptions, adding a parallel emphasis on climate change and concluding privately that someone somewhere would fill-in the gaps later.

Which left Bratušek in a tight and lonely spot today. To expect her to arrive, from a standing start, in only two weeks, with a plan and strategy all worked out was not going to happen. The mix of domestic and group politics only made things worse.

If I were in her chair today, with my >10 years knowledge and experience of this stuff, I know I could not be in a position to make any policy promises simply because the power to act on energy (per se) in Europe is already weak and diffuse and has been so for a long time.

The only thing anyone could really do new in such a position is to describe the dilemmas out there, the achievements to date, the balances that need to be struck, and appeal for the cooperation and coming together of everyone to get more stuff done; within and among the institutions, and among countries, citizens and companies in Europe. Strategy comes incrementally. Previous energy commissioners took time to settle in.

Bratušek said, too often, that energy mix is a national competence. This claim is an unhelpful mis-reading of the treaties, endemic in the Commission and elsewhere. It’s not her fault if she was badly briefed by others who ought to know better.

Theoretically, she could have mentioned some new ideas e.g. treaty change to rectify the energy chapter weaknesses (see my earlier suggestion) but as treaty change is such a political hot potato, such a radical move would have needed more confidence.

Bratušek aside, European energy policies today are in a mess and has been for some time. For five years Oettinger has failed to provide leadership and structure, to draw diffuse interests together, and consequently all around him are pitching things in different directions beyond his ability to control and go forward. I’ve said for some time that it will take years to get over the Oettinger-Barroso years. I think that stronger now than ever.

The governance of European energy systems relies on several chapters of the treaties. Energy (Art 194) is the youngest and weakest of all of them. Our progress on energy in Europe (integration, innovation, interconnection, lessening demand and lowering pollution) to date has relied more on other chapters, especially internal market, competition and environment and all this over decades of slow but steady work.

If the EU’s constitutional set-up remains weak, and Council delegations (member states) especially remain reluctant to cooperate or integrate further, there is naturally a limit to what European institutions, faced with certain vetoes, and armed only with democracy and majority voting can actually realise.

Someone once said we get the politicians we deserve. After the blood on the carpet is cleared up, can we get back to work?



DG Competition has lost the argument on HPC


DG Competition has lost any rational argument on the Hinkley Point C (HPC) state aid case. If approved, the UK gov’t deal would allow around €20 billion subsidy over next 45 years for two new nuclear power plants in south-west England.

Reading the draft decision, on which the college of Commissioners may vote next week, it is clear that single market and competition rules, environmental protection goals, and even general treaty principles such as consistency and continuity have all been set aside. Changes to the original plan (reported in the FT this morning) are largely cosmetic.

Instead COMP’s argument for allow the aid to go ahead relies on 1950s Soviet-styled Euratom treaty provisions, as if they presented some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card for an expensive failing technology to be pulled from a dusty top shelf when desperate means are called for. Spineless anonymous officials in BERL and MADOU buildings find it easier to fudge and fillet OUR law than to do their jobs properly.

This is a tragic state of affairs. In a week when new Commission candidates proudly preen their common-interest ideals before Parliament, over on the other side of the Maalbeek valley, competition control, one of the most powerful Commission functions and a cornerstone of the single market, looks about to turned over to internal intellectual corruption and external political bullying, with the occupants of BERL top floor calling the shots. Barroso’s legacy takes another tumble.

The Lowe principle

Compatible state aid can only be “necessary, proportionate and time-limited“, the recently-retired EC director-general Philip Lowe told a hundred Brussels audiences in recent years. The draft Hinkley Point decision describes none of these. Instead we see the opposite: weak analysis based on vague concepts outside the law such as “de-carbonisation”, whatever that means. Creeping regulatory and governance failure is allowing industry players such as EDF to milk policy and rule-making to their own advantage.

If using state aid control Europe can shut-down ship-yards and airlines in Poland and Greece that are shedding cash, why not the bankrupt nuclear power sector too? If after due process etc. Apple or Fiat can be required to pay their proper taxes in Ireland or Italy, why can’t nuclear operators pay in full for their radioactive waste too?

Euratom, strong or weak?

Euratom is seen by many as a skeleton hidden away in Europe’s constitutional cupboard. The Euratom treaty sits alongside the two Union treaties; the Euratom legal personality sits alongside the Union’s legal personality. Euratom, unchanged since 1957, continues its zombie existence because member states cannot agree by consensus what to do with it.

Any potential court challenge to a Hinkley precedent will rely on a close reading of its provisions. In the draft, the Commission (COMP & SJ) essentially pretend Euratom is strong, providing carte blanche for any amount of effort to accelerate “the speedy establishment and growth of nuclear industries“, as its Article 1 announces so dramatically.

In reality, Euratom is much weaker than it seems at first sight, because Article 2 confines the scope of its application only to provisions actually in the treaty, which when you read them is not that much. As I’ve said before here, Chapter 4 on “investments” is only about monitoring activities and fantasy scenarios.

Does Almunia want this? Does he care?

It’s the end of term. Retiring Commissioners and their staffers are all de-mob happy, with one eye (at least) on their next assignments. I spent a couple of hours with Almunia last week at an unrelated event where he raised the HPC case himself in conversation. It’s obviously on his mind. (“One more big case before I leave.”) What was noticeable in his tone was that he did seem to want to win the decision and he even showed some reluctance to be in the position he was. The 13th floor again?

In the club, so follow the rules

Is this all about Britain? Probably. The majority of Brits, including most in government and most in the media, still have no idea what Europe is about and what it is for. It’s no surprise they think they want to quit.

The country has spent the last 13 years getting wound-up about its nuclear wet dreams. Most of the people running policy today were not there at the beginning and have forgotten all the history in between. Tony Blair, who kicked things off in June 2001, newly return to his second term, has since been replaced by two prime ministers and one change of government. The political appreciation of the global climate crisis has gone through many hues in that time, both in London and everywhere else.

On Europe, the principle applying to the UK and all member states ought to be simple; if one’s in a club, one follow the rules; if one’s not in a club, one can do whatever one wants. Being in the club but then breaking the rules is the worst of all outcomes, because other members and the club’s officials (the institutions) become corrupted by the same intellectual detritus.

The UK nominally calls for reform in Europe but in reality it first fails to define reform positions and then it drag us down because it doesn’t understand or believe that fundamentally Europe is a place where we solve common challenges together. Sorry to repeat myself but the rule of law beats the rule of war.

Democracy wins?

I may be angry but I’m not despondent. What happens in the next five days could still surprise us. First, there could be a delay; other commissioners will not appreciate Almunia bouncing them into a wrecking precedent with long-lasting implications.

Second, as more Commissioner realise what is at stake (end of single market, damage to rule of law, weaker climate protection) more of them will rally against it. If a meaningful Europe itself is on the line here, a critical mass of commissioners could emerge at least to delay if not to resolve. Surely a new nuclear subsidy regime in Europe at least deserves a public debate, doesn’t it?

A revolt in the College happened at least once before in recent times. In July 2010, where (again) Barroso and Almunia, faced losing a vote over eight more years of coal subsidies, caved-in and accepted to table a legislative proposal to end coal aid in only half that time.

Even though the anti-democrat Barroso hates voting, the College decides by simple majority (Article 250) and has voted once already on a state aid file this year. Even before any Court actions are considered, we could still be in for some surprises.


Before you ask, NO, I’m not going to share my leaked draft. COMP, SJ and SG were so proud and confident of their work they only sent limited numbers of marked copies to other services. This means sharing copies widely could easily reveal sources to those people who don’t want you to know what they are doing in your name.

Hinkley Point briefing

Following is the text of my two-page briefing sent to the European Commissioners (28 private offices) yesterday. It is also available here in PDF.


At-a-glance: HINKLEY POINT C (HPC)

Mark Johnston, 28-IX-2014


Thirty-five years operating aid for two new 1600 megawatt nuclear units side-by-side at one location in Somerset, SW England. An index-linked fixed ‘strike’ price on all output at approximately double the current wholesale power price. Up to £17.6bn (€21.8bn) NPV total revenue to EDF spread across all UK customers. Loan/credit guarantee. Political shut-down guarantee. Options to vary & potentially increase operating aid levels after 15 and 25 yrs operation, without re-notification. HPC output = ~7% of UK power supply. Twelve-unit total programme around 35% of UK supply. In February 2013, VP Oettinger described the concept as “Soviet” (link).


No tendering process

Infringement of electricity common rules (Art 8(1) of Directive 2009/72; ‘3rd package’) and therefore unfair exclusion of all alternative providers of those capacity options that continue to be permitted by UK consents policy under same framework rules (Art. 7, Ibid.) This includes e.g. gas-fired generation, which continues to be consented thus also demonstrating no market failure in (interconnected) UK power or gas markets.

Incomplete state aid notification, two aspects

First, UK policy is to give aid for upto 12 reactors, not just the 2 units in this notification. This includes two more (same-size, same-type) EDF-planned stations at Sizewell C, Suffolk. Second, a foreseen UK-wide radioactive waste transfer scheme, whereby some long-term risks of managing used nuclear fuel would be covered by the state, has still to be notified to COMP. This extra measure will, in effect, provide additional aid to HPC over its life-time.

No net greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions (i.e. no climate benefit)

(Cost-effective) GHG reductions in electricity sector i.a. are already provided for at EU level by harmonised emissions cap and trade scheme, EU ETS. Today’s ETS ‘carbon price’ already benefits nuclear for its absence of GHG emissions. This market-based reward is and will grow over time, both for existing and for new plants. The EU ETS law is an open-ended instrument with its current cap reaching zero GHG emissions around 2070. Granting aid to new nuclear (a mature technology) will, in GHG terms, only increase ETS allowance supply everywhere else, thus reducing the costs of burning fossil fuels in large installations, weakening key incentives for EU-wide change, and making no net contribution to the EU’s total GHG pollution cuts.

Substantial negative legal precedent with long-lasting damage to single market

HPC is a critical test case for Europe realising a harmonised single market or not. Long-term operating aid for new investments in mature energy technologies – nuclear, coal and gas – are already frequently mooted in other member states based on the proposed UK model. The key principle is if, following the Hinkley precedent, an MS can arbitrarily buy any large [low[er]-emitting] energy project, there would no longer be a single market to speak of in electricity, gas or carbon reductions. National governments would have taken over the role normally played by companies in judging the latters overall commercial strategies to provide energy.


“Consistency, effectiveness and continuity” of EU policy and action

The above are obligations on all Union institutions under Article 13 TFEU. Under Article 17 TFEU the EC in particular “shall ensure the application” of the EU Treaties, laws adopted thereunder, and ECJ judgements. In other words, EC shall be the ‘guardian of the Treaties’.

Shared competences and uses thereof

Energy, environment and internal market (‘approximation of laws’) are all shared competences (Art. 4 TFEU). National decisions on energy mix necessarily must be in accord with common rules adopted at EU level. (Art. 4 TEU), i.e. “energy mix” is not as such a national competence. Moreover, in shared competences, national authorities may only act to the extent the Union has not already done so (Art. 2 TFEU), in particular in this case with regard to the IEM provisions and GHG emission reductions described above.

Euratom is not ‘carte blanche’ for subsidies

Article 2 Euratom states its tasks shall be carry out “as provided in this Treaty”. Chapter 4, entitled “investment”, in fact only provides for the Commission to issue illustrative scenarios and to monitor activities. Where Euratom makes no provision, the Union acquis applies, i.e. all relevant TEU and TFEU provisions, legislation adopted thereunder, and ECJ judgements.

Please do not abandon Europe’s internal energy market rules for electricity,
gas and carbon to rescue one expensive failing technology.


Hinkley Point and South Stream are alike

Berlaymont buildingWhat is the job of the European Commission?

Often it is said to be the “guardian of the treaties“. While true, this is only a summary of the full job description (link) that includes upholding the rule of law as one of Europe’s fundamental values. The rule of law beats the rule of war.

In this context, law means also all the legislation and court judgements arrived at under the Treaties as well as Treaty provisions themselves. EU rules also have precedent over member state law.

So what happens when such a basic constitutional principle breaks down? Perhaps we are about to see.

South Stream

On 28 May, the Commission formally called for construction of the Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline project to be suspended (Conclusions, point 2) while key legal issues are addressed, in particular infringements of single market rules contained in the third energy package. The EC also opened new member state legal cases.

According to common market rules, use of gas transmission infrastructure across EU territory must generally always be open to competition. The EC can however allow certain exemptions for new pipelines on a case by case basis, after a project developer makes such an application.

The principle of non-discrimination means that, on EU territory, third-country firms and projects are treated by the same rules as those as those arising in member states.

So on South Stream, even if not supported by all member states, the Commission is essentially trying to do properly the job it has been assigned by member states (in the Treaties) and by the legislator (Parliament &/or Council).

Hinkley Point

Like South Stream, the proposed two new nuclear power plants at Hinkley Point in UK, will also infringe single market rules on the internal energy market, if the £16 billion mega-project proceeds on its present basis.

By its own admission, the UK gov’t has not respected chapter 3 of the electricity market common rules (Directive 2009/72) in particular by failing to conduct a tender in accordance with Article 8(1) of that law. This omission was already noted by the Commission last year when it asked the UK to explain its failure.

Unlike the rules for gas transmission described above, the tendering requirement in electricity generation is an absolute requirement with no possibility to use a derogation.


During a decade in office Joaquín Almunia has been a effective Commissioner who typically strives to do his job well. When he leaves on 31 October, he will not want his political legacy to be as the man who launched the beginning of the end for the internal market for electricity, gas and carbon in Europe.

Such a legacy would arise not just by allowing chapter 3 of the electricity common rules to be set aside but also, more fundamentally, by accepting the implied principle that member states, third-countries and big companies can ignore EU common rules whenever it suits them to make large anti-market energy investments.

So a lot rest of Almunia’s game over the next weeks.


Compared to Almunia, Gunther Oettinger on the other hand has been less than impressive in five years as energy commissioner. Recent energy successes have been in spite of him rather than because of him. As Oettinger has the main responsibility for upholding the internal energy market rules, so in the case of Hinkley Point and its lack of tender, he could have chosen to inform the UK authorities as early as 2011 that the planned approach on Hinkley was incompatible with the common rules. He failed to do so and his omission puts the Commission in a more difficult position today.

Game over for single energy market?

The EC cannot credibly hold Russia to our single market rules if it allows EU member states to disregard the same rules. Gazprom will not hesitate to point out a Hinkley precedent in order to defend its monopolistic South Stream ambitions.

In the longer run, the precedent set by allowing Hinkley Point to proceed unlawfully will be catastrophically damaging for the rule of law across the whole European energy sector. It would unleash a free-for-all spending-spree among member state governments and effectively be game-over for the single energy market (electricity and gas) and render the ETS carbon market redundant.

Final EC decisions on state aid cases have no time limit, and so October (end of mandate) is an arbitrary deadline. Any decision effectively to keep or to abandon the single energy market is so big it must not be taken in a hurry. As a minimum, Barroso must hand the big questions of our energy strategy — including any ‘Hinkley precedent’ — to the new Juncker College for it to considered as part of the “energy union” project.

If however this college gets the Hinkley decision wrong, there seems little point in our retaining “guardians of the treaties” or in having a common market for energy. In that case, would the last person leaving the Berlaymont please turn out the lights?


What is “energy union”? Part 1


So now a “resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate agenda” is on the table and a new EC VP is almost in the hot seat, we start to work-out what might go into such a thing. At the present time, certainly it’s far from clear. Since I expect I’ll post quite a few times about this set of questions, I’ll use numbered titles (as above). For Part 1, I simply share the key source texts in one place.

Treaties & legislation

First to note is that NOTHING substantially new has been published in the Official Journal*. The only relevant EurLex provisions are the Treaty provisions, as last amended by Lisbon five years ago, and all pre-agreed legislation, e.g. the 2009 third internal energy market package. (I’ll come back to the associated issues in a later post.)

“Strategic Agenda” 2014-19

On 27 June, EUCO agreed a strategic agenda” for the next five years, which it “invited” other institutions and MS to implement. The full PDF is here and the text of part 3 is extracted here.

All translations can be found annexed to conclusions of same date here. On the same day EUCO also nominated Jean-Claude Juncker as EC president.

Juncker’s political guidelines 2014-19

On 15 July, just ahead of his EP confirmation vote, Juncker (now President-elect) presented to Parliament his political guidelines also for the next five years. The full document in all languages is here and the extract re energy union is here.

Mission letters

On designation (10 September) Juncker sent a mission letters to each nominee. The letters do not add much to the main documents above, but they do help identify which Commission is charged with what responsibility, how the extended project team(s) fits together and therefore how “energy union” might fit in.

College mapping (‘Team Bratušek’)

Without forgetting Parliament and Council also have responsibilities for implementation of EU objectives (see Treaties etc. above), the Commission and in particular the Berlaymont becomes the first destination to discover or help arrange what ideas have half a chance of emerging into the daylight.

In that context, it will help to keep this College map at hand. The responsible vice-president will coordinate no less than seven portfolio commissioners and liaise with a further six. This means that, not even counting the President and first VP Timmermans, exactly half the College will be somehow involved.

Mission letters

On designation (10 September) Juncker sent a mission letters to each College nominee. The letters do not add much to the main documents above, but they do help identify in detail which person is charged with what responsibility, how the project team(s) may fits together and therefore how an “energy union” concept might form.

The Polish Non-Paper

Circulated informally in March this year, and subsequently supported by a PL PM Tusk speech in April, the Polish non-paper was the main pre-cursor document to the political texts cited above. Eventually Poland found the confidence to put the document on-line here in May.

Notre Europe’s Energy Community

Paris-based think-tank Notre Europe first floated the idea of new initiatives on energy in this 2010 study.


* Often in the EU institutions, unpublished texts are referred to by the appropriate technical term “blah blah blah” (BBB). ;-)

The President’s brain is missing

juncker_brainPresident-elect Juncker today enacted a long-rumoured move to combine the Climate Action and Energy portfolios in the new European Commission.

There is no strategic rational for this and, if confirmed, it reduces our capacities to respond adequately to the global climate crisis both at home and abroad.

With the merger of the environment and fisheries portfolios, environmental protection overall has also been weakened by the new line-up.

Everywhere else in the European political arena environment and energy matters are with good reason handled separately. Greenhouse gas pollution and energy systems are quite different phenomena and so are measured and regulated in different ways.

In the Treaties, there is an environment chapter and there is an energy chapter. The environment chapter was specifically amended by the 2009 Lisbon treaty so as to make explicit reference to climate change and to frame this as an global issue.

The energy chapter, introduced only in 2009 also by Lisbon, is recognised as being the weakest of all treaty provisions governing European energy systems, that also includes e.g. provisions on single market, competition, free movement of goods and research.

In Parliament, there are two well-established committees, one for each set of issues. In the Council of Ministers, there two well-established ministerial configurations, one for each set of issues. In neither institution is there any suggestion of changing these arrangements.And in the Court of Justice, cases will judged in both areas on their respective constitutional provisions, which may be similar (both shared competences) but are not the same, as well as specific legislative acts.

Today’s wrong-headed move therefore will only create more confusion, further slow climate action and make Europe’s overall response to the global crisis weaker. Moreover, Miguel Arias Cañete, the Spaniard nominated to lead the new combined portfolio, will — if for other reasons he survives Parliamentary scrutiny — find himself facing twice the amount of inter-institutional and external representation and double the amount of interest group lobbying.

This could however be mitigated with the help of the new vice-president Slovene Alenka Bratušek for an as yet undefined “energy union”.

With the possible exception of energy savings, Juncker’s mission letters to Bratušek and Cañete are vague, leaving agenda priorities still to be determined at a later date, for example in next month’s European Council.

People matter most

The failures of the second Barroso commission to make adequate headway on the climate crisis were mostly down to people and not structure.

Barroso was first and foremost for ten years a weak president, disinterested in environmental issues, and toadying-up to the European Council (of which formerly he was a member) instead of leading an independent institution as guardian of the treaties. Juncker may lack excitement, but he is a little more his own man than Barroso was.

Second, the odd couple – Hedegaard and Oettinger – were never a team and generally set-out to undermine each other. Both were sent to Brussels by national leaders that for domestic reasons wanted to get rid of them. Both were conservatives too. In the case of Oetti, this meant he was simply captured by German heavy industry, while Hedegaard was too conservative to take any real risks or speak truthfully about the seriousness of the climate situation. She also to some extent was steered by Danish energy priorities.

Third, and less obvious but perhaps most important for climate as a global threat, the new External Action Service since 2009 has also had weak leadership and an agenda crowded-out by short-run crises such as the Iranian nuclear stand-off. Even though EU foreign ministers gave EEAS a mandate for climate diplomacy, so far it has hardly used it. With the continued failure of the technocratic UNFCCC to reach any meaningful agreement on its ultimate objective (Article 2),  the only way to change this dire outlook for the world will be with concerted efforts in the international diplomatic arena.

The ghost in the machine

But who is to blame in the Berlaymont for Juncker aiming so low today? The rumour of a potential CLIMA-ENER merger has been going around for years, long before Juncker was ever mooted for the job he is now about to assume.

Previously I thought the merger idea was a deliberate false rumour by BUSINESSEUROPE (or some such bad-guy outfit) as a way to damage DG CLIMA’s influence. While this may still not be untrue, I think now the main culprit is the EC’s long-serving secretary general Catherine Day.

Previously the director general for DG Environment, in the days when it was responsible for climate action, Day has been in the SG hot seat for almost nine years, two years long than the maximum allowed under the Commission’s own senior staff rotation policy.

Day has already been accused by others this year of being the main mover behind shaping the inconsistent and inadequate 2030 climate-energy framework proposals tabled in January and in particular for her preference for climate measures (such as ETS) over energy measures (such as efficiency or renewables).

Day will retire from her post next year, leaving Juncker and his colleagues to manage her legacy. Recovery in a policy sense from the Barroso-Day years will take time. Meanwhile the extent to which Juncker and his new colleagues might act in teams and might think for themselves remains to be tested in the months and years to come.