In the news

July 16, 1999

Expect a lot of noise from the new European commissioner in charge of education policy, Viviane Reding from Luxembourg, but nothing radical by way of policy change.

A former columnist on the leading daily newspaper the Luxembourg Wort and a member of the European Parliament for the past ten years, Ms Reding is the only member of the new Commission without ministerial experience.

In Luxembourg she is considered a ruthless self-publicist and a political lightweight, albeit with a reputation for expressing bold and often well-researched opinions on a range of social issues.

Opinion in the Grand Duchy is that Ms Reding was by far the weakest of four candidates for the job of Luxembourg European commissioner, but beat off the challengers because she is a woman and because she is a member of the Christian Social Party.

Her appointment has been greeted with dismay by some opposition groups, which say the government has forfeited its chance to restore Luxembourg's reputation in the European institutions, after the resignation of the last Commission headed by Luxembourger Jacques Santer.

But there can be no doubt that Ms Reding is intelligent. She has a doctorate in communications sciences from the Sorbonne, speaks fluent French, English, German, Italian and Greek - she has a Greek husband - and is experienced in politics from local government up to European level.

Some critics question her qualifications for handling the education and culture portfolio in the new Commission. But her supporters say she will bring relative youth - she is 48 - dynamism and a wealth of European experience to the education portfolio.

"But just remember," says one close associate. "She's a Luxembourger and we are not fanatical or radical about anything."

Alan Osborn

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