New British EU commissioner to lead counterterrorism efforts

Britain's future EU commissioner should be given responsibility for counterterrorism and efforts to step up security across the bloc, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed Tuesday.

If confirmed, this would put London's nominee, Julian King, in charge of an important policy area following a spate of terrorist attacks across the European Union. However, security issues are first and foremost a matter for member states, limiting the commission's ability to act.

Britain, like every member state, is entitled to a top post in the EU's executive as long as it remains in the 28-country bloc.

London has not yet said when it will formalize its intention to leave, a process that takes at least two years. A majority of Britons voted for a so-called Brexit in a referendum on EU membership in June.

King is currently Britain's ambassador to France. He was nominated after the country's previous EU commissioner, Jonathan Hill, resigned as a consequence of the vote. Hill's financial services portfolio was handed to commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis.

The British government welcomed Juncker's decision on Tuesday, stressing that the country would continue to fulfil its rights and obligations as an EU member state until it leaves the bloc, according to comments out of Downing Street.

Juncker wrote to King earlier Tuesday, outlining what his main tasks and responsibilities would be, after consulting with the European Parliament and informing British Prime Minister Theresa May of his decision.

In the newly created security role, King would be expected to work closely with commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

His key priorities would include EU measures to fight terrorism and the threat posed by foreign fighters - Europeans who join extremist groups in Syria or Iraq and may return radicalized and ready to strike.

King would also be tasked with efforts to improve information and intelligence sharing between member states, to fight cybercrime and to better protect key infrastructure and soft targets such as public areas where people congregate.

EU commissioners are expected to put aside national interests.

King must now appear before EU lawmakers, who have a say in his appointment. An exchange of views is expected to take place in "early autumn," the commission said. Most EU institutions have entered their summer break.

The 27 other EU capitals must also approve King's appointment.

Last update: Tue, 02/08/2016 - 13:59
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