The incoming head of the European Union's executive body has announced changes to his group of commissioners and says he is ready to go to the European Parliament to seek its approval of his team. The announcement of the reshuffle came as EU leaders began a summit overshadowed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's medical condition and President Bush's re-election victory.
Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, the former Portuguese Prime Minister who will preside over the European Commission, waited all day for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to decide who he would appoint to replace Rocco Buttiglione as EU justice commissioner.
Mr. Buttiglione, a devout Roman Catholic, offended liberal and leftist European Parliament members during his confirmation hearings last month when he called homosexuality a sin even though he vowed to uphold the rights of homosexuals. The legislators vowed to veto Mr. Barroso's commission if he did not jettison Mr. Buttiglione.
Mr. Buttiglione stepped down last week, and Mr. Barroso announced his replacement Thursday.
"The Italian commissioner-designate has been replaced by Mr. Franco Frattini, who is the foreign affairs minister of Italy," Mr. Barroso said. "He is an experienced politician, knows European institutions inside out."
Mr. Barroso also said that Laszlo Kovacs of Hungary, who was roundly criticized by European legislators for being unprepared for the post of energy commissioner, has now been switched to the taxation portfolio. Latvia's Andris Piebalgs, who replaced his compatriot Ingrida Udre, also found wanting by EU lawmakers, will take over as energy commissioner. All three of the new nominees must appear before the European Parliament in the days ahead.
Mr. Barroso made his announcement as EU leaders met for a two-day summit to discuss how to make their 25-nation bloc's economy the most competitive in the world. They are also trying to harmonize their immigration policies. But the illness of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has cast a pall over the meeting.
The EU, which is considering taking on a bigger role in rebuilding Iraq as part of an effort to forge stronger ties with the United States now that President Bush has been re-elected, also plans to push Washington to get more actively involved in peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians.