Barnier becomes advisor to von der Leyen, head of EU Commission

In the Brexit negotiations, the former chief negotiator of the European Union, Michel Barnier, has been appointed as special adviser to Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. “He will advise our president on the exit agreement (with Great Britain) and on the ratification process of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement,” said Margitas Sinchas, vice-president of the commission on Tuesday in Brussels.

According to French, this is a period of “a few weeks”. Barnier initially led long-term negotiations with London over the exit agreement. After the United Kingdom formally left the European Union in late January 2020, they negotiated a trade agreement, which concluded on 24 December.

The 70-year-old’s future in the commission was speculated for some time due to his age. The Brussels Authority’s internal rules provide for an upper age limit of 70 years for its officers. This does not apply to special advisors.

According to the Commission, however, the field of application of special advisors is clearly limited. The agency’s website states, “They work on a short-term basis for very limited days per year (around 25 on average).” Commissioned officers of this capacity are therefore not paid.

In late December, Barnier announced that he would be active in domestic politics in his country in the future. However, he announced the engagement on behalf of the current French President Emmanuel Macron. Barnier told radio station France Info that he wanted to “rebuild” his own party, conservative Republicans.

In the EU Commission, Vice President Maros Sefkovich will be primarily responsible for relations with Great Britain in the future: Sinicas said that Slovak was appointed as co-chair of the newly created EU-UK Partnership Council.

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