As I write this, MEPs are once again heading for Strasbourg, to consider whether to support the re-shuffled team of European Commissioners proposed by President Barroso, following the enforced withdrawal of his unacceptable first attempt at teambuilding. In October, in an unprecedented move, four political groups in the European Parliament threatened to vote against the Barroso team.
The mini re-shuffle has not gone far enough to satisfy SNP MEPs, with only two of the five unsatisfactory candidates being replaced and one other being moved to different portfolio. We will vote against the new proposal since a number of questionable characters are still being put forward, and in protest at the fact that we must vote for or against the entire Commission rather than judging individuals on their merits.
One area of particular interest to Scotland is the nomination of a new Commissioner for Fisheries. Mr. Joe Borg, former Foreign Minister of the smallest EU member state, Malta, inherits the seat vacated by Franz Fischler.
What difference will Mr Borgʼs appointment make to Scotlandʼs experience of life under the Common Fisheries Policy? Not a lot, in my view.
Each nominee Commissioner was subjected to a three hour grilling in the European Parliament, in Mr. Borgʼs case by the Fisheries Committee. While he talked at length about listening, consulting and discussing issues with stakeholders, some of his responses to questions of important detail gave cause for concern.
When asked about Regional bodies acquiring a real Management role, he said: "the Commission could not take this on board, as fisheries governance has to remain compatible with the legal and institutional framework of the Treaty".
When I pressed him on whether Regional Advisory Councils could ever evolve into decision-making bodies, as promised by Ross Finnie, he said that executive functions are ʻentrusted to the EU Commissionʼ and that the legislation on RACs did not allow for devolution of power.
My verdict on Joe Borg as Fisheries Commissioner? Nice person – same old CFP. For Scotland, a far more fundamental change is required than just a new face in the EU Commission.
The CFP, reformed in December 2002, is detrimental to the interests of Scotlandʼs fishing communities. Real management power must be returned to Scotland if we are to have any hope of reversing the decline in this key Scottish industry.
Real management power will not, (cannot, according to Joe Borg), be devolved within the CFP.