On 1 July the European Union will become a little more populous, a little bit bigger and hopefully a little bit better. On that day Croatia will defy current pessimism about the EU to become the latest member state. Its more than 4 million inhabitants will not only benefit from access to the world's largest internal market, they will also have MEPs representing them in the European Parliament (they were elected in April and they will have a European commissioner.
EU commissioners are responsible for introducing new legislation and ensuring its implementation in the member states. They are meant to represent the general interest and are not allowed to take direction from national governments. Still, countries enjoy the thought that one of them is present in Brussels to influence decisions at the European level.
Croatia has nominated Neven Mimica as its candidate for the position of 28th commissioner. Mr Mimica is currently the country's deputy prime minister for foreign affairs and European integration. An experienced politician and diplomat, he was Croatia's chief negotiator for the stabilisation and association agreement with the EU
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso proposes to give him the new portfolio of consumer protection, which until now was part of the health and consumer protection portfolio.
However, there are still a number of obstacles that have to be navigated before Mr Mimica can take up the position. Commissioners carry a lot of responsibility and scrutiny by the European Parliament is an important part of the appointment process. The prospective commissioner is questioned by the parliamentary committees responsible for his or her future portfolio to check their suitability, expertise and commitment to the EU. All MEPs will then be asked to vote on the Parliament's position during a plenary session. This is far from a paper exercise. In theory the EP only has the power to reject the Commission as a whole, but it has forced member states to come up with new candidates on a number of occasions when it found a commissioner-designate wanting.
Mr Mimica was questioned by the committees responsible for consumer protection and public health during a hearing on 4 June. As he would only serve as commissioner for the 16 months until a new Commission is formed following next year's European elections, Mr Mimica said he would focus on implementing existing proposals rather than launching new initiatives. He promised to work closely with the European Parliament: "Consumer policy is the people's policy and you represent the people." In addition he highlighted the importance of cooperation with the other commissioners as 11 of them have portfolios that relate to consumer issues.
Whether Mr Mimica has convinced MEPs of his capabilities will become clear on 12 June when the plenary vote takes place. If all goes well, he could be confirmed as the new consumer protection commissioner before 1 July, in time for his country's accession to the EU.
Infographic copyright European Parliament