Meet Paolo Gentiloni: the Italian watchdog of European public finances

Meet Paolo Gentiloni: the Italian watchdog of European public finances
By Elena Cavallone
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The former prime minister has received the green light from MEPs to be the new European Commissioner for economic affairs


Heading to his new top position, Paolo Gentiloni is set to be the new European Commissioner for Economic Affairs. The 65-year-old Italian aristocrat has faced and convinced MEPs that he is the right man for this job. The reform of the euro area and the revision of EU fiscal rules at the centre of the hearing.

He said those rules are not perfect and should be changed but he reassured: he will work on debt reduction while giving flexibility if needed.

However, his conciliatory tones seemed vague to the German conservative Markus Ferber.

“I don’t find any concrete answer - he said-. He was describing the problems but we know already which are the problems. We need a commissioner who delivers solutions and that’s what is disappointing for me. I wanted to hear more commitments from him”.

His job will be all about money. As a watchdog of member states' public finances, he will have to balance the austerity prone northern countries with the demands for flexibility coming from countries drowning in debt, like his native Italy and Spain

Luis Garicano, liberal Spanish MEP confirmed the hearing was a bit vague, probably on purpose. "I think he knows he has to build consensus, he wants to avoid antagonizing one or the other side. But I think he did well in addressing the consensus of member states, in particular in showing his commitment to Europe”.

His nomination is creating expectations about the possibility of revising EU fiscal rules. According to Alberto Alemmanno, professor of European Union Law at HEC in Paris, he will have his hands tied. His senior commissioner and vice president Vladis Dombrovskis says it’s not a good idea.

"The institutional design of this commission includes filters, so the possibility of proposing changes by Gentiloni will somehow be controlled, managed, by a vice-president who believes in austerity and sticks to his own political background, coming from the Eurogroup. Therefore we will probably see tensions”.

But Gentiloni, who owes his success to the friendship with the former premier Renzi, has good negotiating skills.

As prime minister sealing important agreements such as the one with Libya to stem the flow of migrants. 

President-elect Ursula Von der Leyen indicated that his mission will be also to design economic policies to tackle climate change and introduce a European unemployment benefit scheme.

The Italian Commissioner is ready to take this challenge for the next 5 years.

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