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By Neill Nugent

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Extra resources for At the Heart of the Union: Studies of the European Commission

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The increasing political experience of more recent Colleges reduces the danger of a technocratic approach which might neglect public opinion. The growing ministerial background of Commissioners is likely to aid them in their work with the Council of Ministers. It increases their own political weight and prestige, and also furnishes them with contacts with their national counterparts. It also enhances the practice of Commissioners acting as an informal communications channel to their countries of origin (Middlemas, 1995).

While each College has a variety of political affiliations in its membership, the spread of opinion is no greater than is routinely accommodated within government coalitions in European countries which operate within a centrist tradition, leaning either to the right or left. Many of the Commissioners have personal understanding of coalition compromises from their ministerial and parliamentary experiences. The increasing political experience of more recent Colleges reduces the danger of a technocratic approach which might neglect public opinion.

There are a few cases where a professional political career started so early, usually via student politics, that other outside experience is minimal. European Commissioners, 1952-95 43 National political experience Table 2. 7 shows that, overall, more than two-thirds of Commissioners have previously held a clearly political office, such as membership of the national or the European Parliament (EP), or service as a government minister (senior or junior). The total figures of 62 per cent with parliamentary and 54 per cent with ministerial background should be considered in the context of a long term trend towards the politicisation of the College membership.

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