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Günter Verheugen

Assumed office 
22 November 2004
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Erkki Liikanen and Ján Figeľ

In office
13 September 1999 – 11 November 2004
President Romano Prodi
Preceded by Hans van den Broek
Succeeded by Olli Rehn

Born April 28, 1944 (1944-04-28) (age 65)
Wappen Stadt Bad Kreuznach.svg Bad Kreuznach, Germany
Political party Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (PES)
Profession politician

Günter Verheugen (born 28 April 1944 in Bad Kreuznach, Rhineland-Palatinate) is a German politician, currently serving as European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry. He is also one of five vice-presidents of the 27-member Barroso Commission.

Günter Verheugen was previously Commissioner for Enlargement in the Prodi Commission, presiding over the accession of ten new member states in 2004.

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 member of the federal parliament. He was 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.

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.

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.[1]

At around the same time, salacious photographs appeared showing him holidaying with the head of his private office, a woman 14 years his junior[2] he had appointed; however the EU Commission spokesman at the time 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".



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)


External links

Political offices
Preceded by
New title
European Commissioner for Enlargement
(jointly with Janez Potočnik briefly in 2004)
Succeeded by
Olli Rehn
Preceded by
Ján Figeľ, Erkki Liikanen
(Enterprise, as part of wider portfolio)
European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Loyola de Palacio, Neil Kinnock
Vice-President of the European Commission
(jointly held position)
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Martin Bangemann, Monika Wulf-Mathies
German European Commissioner
(also Michaele Schreyer until 2004)
Succeeded by


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