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|European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry|
22 November 2004 – 9 February 2010
|President||José Manuel Barroso|
|Preceded by||Ján Figeľ
Olli Rehn (Enterprise and Information Society)
|Succeeded by||Antonio Tajani (Industry and Entrepreneurship)|
|European Commissioner for Enlargement|
13 September 1999 – 11 November 2004
Serving with Janez Potočnik
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Olli Rehn|
28 April 1944 |
Bad Kreuznach, Germany
|Political party||Social Democratic Party (1982–present)|
|Free Democratic Party (Before 1982)|
|Alma mater||University of Cologne
University of Bonn
Günter Verheugen (born 28 April 1944) is a German politician who served as European Commissioner for Enlargement from 1999 to 2004 and then as European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry from 2004 to 2010. He was also one of five vice-presidents of the 27-member Barroso Commission (Barroso I). After his retirement he is now honorary Professor at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder). Since 2015, has been leading the European integration work stream in the Agency for the Modernisation of Ukraine.
Born at Bad Kreuznach in Rhineland-Palatinate, Verheugen studied history, sociology and political science at the University of Cologne and at the University of Bonn. He was secretary general of the FDP (liberals) from 1978 to 1982. He left the FDP with many left-liberal party members in 1982, because the FDP left the government of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. In the same year he joined the SPD (social democrats).
In 1983 he became a member of the federal parliament. He was a member of the committee on foreign relations from 1983 to 1998. From 1994 to 1997 he was deputy chairman of the parliamentary group of the SPD. He served as minister of state in the department of foreign affairs from 1998 to 1999. In 1999 he left parliament and became EU commissioner for Enlargement of the European Union.
Verheugen first served in the European Commission as European Commissioner for Enlargement in the Prodi Commission, presiding over the accession of ten new member states in 2004. He continued in the following Barroso Commission as Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, also being promoted to one of the five vice presidents.
On 5 November 2004, during a press conference, Verheugen mentioned that the future prime-minister of Romania would be Mircea Geoană (of the PSD) and that Romania would end negotiations with the EU with just four days before the Romanian legislative and presidential elections. Following this, Romanian journalists accused him of meddling in Romanian politics.
As a Commissioner, he had stated a desire to cut red tape, especially in order to make it more favourable to SMEs. He also highlights research and innovation as "twin keys to future competitiveness". He outlines his priorities as; better regulation, a modern industrial policy, SMEs and innovation. In order to promote competitiveness, he laid down three policies derived from the treaties; "Competitiveness and improvement of the business environment (Art. 157). Completing and managing the Internal Market for products (Art. 28 and 95) and Innovation and research framework programmes (Title XVIII)."
The commissioner was heavily involved in work on the REACH directive and ensuring its compatibility with the Lisbon Strategy. He sees a common patent in the Union implemented by 2012 which he sees as important as patent application for the 24 million SMEs in Europe are on average 11 times higher than in the United States.
In response to the refusal of countries to sign the Kyoto protocol, such as the United States and Australia, Verheugen asked President Barroso to look into whether the EU could implement taxes on products imported from those countries not taking low-carbon policies on board (Border Tax Adjustments).
Opinion on mandarins
In October 2006 he accused European Union officials of being impossible to control, stating inter alia the purported impossibility of firing Directors-General (the highest grade in the EU civil servants structure). However, Article 50 of the EU's Staff Regulations empowers the Commission to do precisely that. Former civil servant Derk Jan Eppink described Verheugen's position in the following terms:
Verheugen is worried about mandarins having too much power because he's really not in charge. If you've been in a job for eight years and you're still not in charge, you have a problem. Verheugen is a foreign policy man; he was one with the FDP (Germany's free-market liberals) and then the SPD (Social Democrats). That's his thing. In Brussels, he's weighed down in the details, he gets lost in legislation and he's not really interested in the Enterprise and Industry portfolio. That's why he was so enthusiastic about enlargement because that's foreign policy. But he's been weakened by the mandarins, and by complaining about the bureaucracy he has only made things worse. Employing his girlfriend as his head of cabinet didn't help. He has become ridiculous, but no one wants him to go. When you have a commissioner who is so undermined, you stand a good chance of overruling him and getting your way.
The Marshall Plan for Ukraine
In 2015 he headed the European integration work stream in the Agency for the Modernization of Ukraine, a non-governmental organization developing a comprehensive program of modernization of Ukraine and looking for investment resources for its implementation. Mr.Verheugen leads the Agency’s sectoral division for the institutional reforms recommendations aimed at the integration of Ukraine into the EU and civil society building. Together with a team of professionals Gunter Verheugen is engaged in the program development for the Ukrainian economy, as well as evaluation of relevant amounts of funding.
At around the same time, photographs appeared showing him holidaying with Petra Erler, the head of his private office. A Commission spokesman backed him by saying "the private holidays of Vice President Verheugen in Lithuania this summer did not violate the rules applicable to members of the Commission". Despite this there was a minor political row over Erler's appointment with allegations of her being appointed due to their friendship. These allegations were later aggravated over photos of them together on holiday holding hands, and then on a naturist beach together in Lithuania.
Life after politics
On cutting EU bureaucracy
- "Many people still have this concept of Europe that the more rules you produce the more Europe you have."
- (October 2006)
- "The idea is that the role of the commission is to keep the machinery running and the machinery is producing laws. And that's exactly what I want to change."
- (October 2006)
- "We must ask the question of whether so many decisions need to be taken in Brussels."
- (June 2016)
- Estonia : 1st Class of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana
- Latvia : 1st Class of the Order of the Three Stars
- Slovakia : Grand Cross (or 1st Class) of the Order of the White Double Cross (2004)
- Czech Republic : 1st Class of the Order of the White Lion (2016)
- Mission Statement ec.europa.eu
- Interview with Günter Verheugen, vice-president and commissioner for enterprise and industry euractiv.com
- EU patent in five years, says industry commissioner euobserver.com
- Time to tax the carbon dodgers news.bbc.co.uk
- Former EU Mandarin Spills the Beans on Commission Intrigue Deutsche Welle
- the Agency for the Modernization of Ukraine
- Program of modernization of Ukraine and looking for investment resources for its implementation
- the program development for the Ukrainian economy
- Verheugen's Fall from Grace: Political Scandal Hits the EU – SPIEGEL ONLINE
- EU Policymaker Guenter Verheugen Joins Fleishman-Hillard’s International Advisory Board FleishmanHillard, press release of July 12, 2010.
- Ishaan Tharoor, "Brexit marks the revenge of a nation", The Washington Post, 28 June 2016
- Slovak republic website, State honours : 1st Class in 2004 (click on "Holders of the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross" to see the holders' table)
- President awards thirty high state distinctions
- Official website
- Archived website as Commissioner for Enlargement
- Biography from the Southeast European Times
|German European Commissioner
Served alongside: Michaele Schreyer
|New office||European Commissioner for Enlargement
Served alongside: Janez Potočnik
as European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society
|European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry
as European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship