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MNI (London)
--Technocrat Best Bet To Boost Chances Of Senior Appointment
--Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi Possible Candidate
By Silvia Marchetti
     ROME (MNI) - Political chaos in Rome could impact Italy's hopes of securing
a senior European Commissioner post, further poisoning relations with Brussels,
sources close to the government and familiar with EU negotiations told MNI.
     Italy must nominate candidates by August 26 and the current government
upheaval makes it unlikely that a leading party politician's name will be
forwarded to Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming Commission president, for
selection.
     "It's a really bad timing. The only way forward is if a transition cabinet
appointed by head of state Sergio Mattarella names a technocrat, not a
politician tied to any specific party," one source told MNI.
     Following victory in May's European Parliament elections, the Lega party
were expected to nominate a candidate for the Brussels job, but that option
appears to have gone as they attempt to collapse the current governing coalition
and force early elections.
     According to another Rome source, it would be unlikely for von der Leyen to
appoint a party politician. "Our best bet is to opt for a technocrat, someone
who is already known on the EU or international stage," the source added.
     One such figure could be Enzo Moavero Milanesi, current Foreign affairs
minister and deputy secretary-general of the European Commission from 2002
through 2005, though Italy could still forward more than one name.
     --OPTIONS
     The next EC President has made it clear she wants a stronger gender balance
in the Commissioner College, meaning Italy could nominate two candidates, one
male, one female.
     "Alongside Moavero, a woman could be nominated to increase Italy's odds. If
the profile is good, von der Leyen could even decide to give (Rome) a high level
portfolio, although I see that quite unlikely," the second source said.
     Potential women candidates could include Federica Mogherini, the EU's
outgoing foreign affairs representative, and Elisabetta Belloni, currently
foreign affairs secretary-general.
     Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had hoped for a prime appointment,
having supported von der Leyen's election in exchange for a top EC job for Rome,
with the coalition eying competition, trade or, in a worst-case, agriculture --
all jobs France is eyeing in a beefed-up super-portfolio, with current Brexit
chief negotiator Michel Barnier tipped by some for the post.
     A former EU diplomat noted Italy's job objectives were unchanged, but more
speed was needed in making nominations, noting "All EU countries have forwarded
their candidates except for Italy, Portugal and France. If we don't name someone
by Aug 26 I doubt von der Leyen will wait for Italy."
     "The current political mayhem is giving unlimited negotiating power to
other member states to grab what they want," the diplomat warned.
     Some in the EU would be surprised if Italy was rewarded a plum job given
the current disputes with the Commission on fiscal policy and immigration,
additional Brussels sources told MNI. 
     --CLARITY
     The fog over Rome's political landscape should start to clear a little in
coming days and governing, including the appointment of a Commissioner, must
continue.
     "Let's not forget that once the commissioner for Italy is named by whatever
government, he or she must stay in place for the whole 5-year mandate. Rome
can't switch commissioner at a later stage depending on which political party
rises to power, that's why a technocrat is the best solution," the first
official noted.
--Additional reporting by David Thomas
--MNI London Bureau; tel: +44 203-586-2225; email: les.commons@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: M$E$$$,M$F$$$,M$I$$$,M$X$$$,MC$$$$,MI$$$$,MT$$$$,MX$$$$,MGX$$$]
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 | les.commons@marketnews.com