Berlusconi names Tajani as new Italian commissioner
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday named Antonio Tajani as the Italian member of the European Commission following the resignation of Franco Frattini, who has taken up the post of foreign minister in the new Italian government, dpa reported.
"We have indicated Tajani as EU commissioner," said Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa.
The designation was later confirmed by officials in Brussels.
A law graduate, long-time conservative member of the European Parliament and co-founder of Berlusconi's former Forza Italia party, 54-year-old Tajani will be expected to assume the transport portfolio in Jose Manuel Barroso's executive.
Earlier Thursday, Frattini issued a statement saying he had informed the commission president of his decision to resign.
"This decision has been a difficult one. I sincerely regret having to interrupt a highly rewarding experience at the European Commission, which I have had the honour and privilege of representing for more than three years," said Frattini, who had acted as commissioner for justice, freedom and security and as one of Barroso's five deputies.
During his time in office, Frattini had overseen European Union efforts to step up the fight against terrorism and illegal immigration and to uphold children's rights.
He also courted controversy, having been repeatedly accused by civil rights advocates of sacrificing the privacy of individuals in the name of enhanced security.
Frattini took unpaid leave while participating in the Italian election campaign. During this period he was replaced by the current transport commissioner, Jacques Barrot of France.
Barrot will retain his new post as the EU's top justice official, meaning Tajani will take over Barrot's previous job.
This could place him in a difficult situation given that the Berlusconi government is currently trying to save flagship airline Alitalia with a 300-million-euros (464 million dollars) loan that the commission suspects could be characterized as illegal state aid.
On Monday, officials in Brussels said they had given Italy 14 days to respond to their concerns.
Tajani currently acts as one of the vice-presidents of the European Parliament's EPP group and is a member of various parliamentary committees, including the foreign affairs committee and the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs.
His appointment will have to be endorsed by the European Council and vetted by the European Parliament.
The switch of portfolio, which was made by Barroso before Tajani was officially named a candidate, has raised speculation in Brussels that this was done to avoid a repetition of the Rocco Buttiglione case.
Buttiglione, a Catholic politician, had been Berlusconi's first choice of commissioner in 2004, but the European parliament vetoed his appointment after he said that he believed homosexuality to be a sin.
Berlusconi eventually designated Frattini in his place after parliament threatened to reject Barroso's entire proposed commission.
Commission officials said Barroso's decision to reshuffle his cabinet was taken purely to ensure continuity in the "complex and sensitive work" of the justice, liberty and security portfolio.
A decision on whether Tajani would also be made a commission vice- president will only be taken once he has formally assumed office, officials added.