New EU energy boss

Europe's new energy commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, was given a resounding thumbs up after his hearing in front of members of the European Parliament (MEPs). During his grilling by the Industry Research and Energy (ITRE) committee, Piebalgs listed promoting renewables and creating closer links between energy, environmental and research policies among his six priorities for energy policy.

Piebalgs, 47, was until this year a foreign affairs minister in Latvia and was formerly ambassador to the EU playing a key role in negotiating Latvia's entry to the European Union. He was nominated for the Energy portfolio by commission president José Manuel Barroso after MEPs objected to Barroso's earlier candidate László Kovács. With less than two weeks to get to grips with his portfolio, however, Piebalgs was congratulated by MEPs for his "competent and dynamic performance as well as his thorough preparation," according to ITRE committee chairman Giles Chichester.

Green MEPs, who were the most vociferous group opposed to Kovács' appointment, hailed his replacement as a success for the European Parliament and their party. "We have now got a candidate who at least knows where the political priorities on energy lie," said Claude Turmes, Rebecca Harms and David Hammerstein.

They welcomed Piebalgs' pledge to push for energy savings, renewables and the correct functioning of the internal energy market. But they warned that his commitments must be backed up in future EU budgetary allocations.

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