Auteur: Honor Mahony
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - As the European Commission approaches its last couple of months in office, the Brussels executive is evolving into a distracted executive with national politicians looking for jobs back home.
The 20-person executive can take its lead from its President Romano Prodi who has made no secret of his desire to return to the Italian national stage.
His strongest nod back home came at the beginning of this week when he wrote an lengthy letter in Corriere della Sera saying he would withdraw Italian troops from Iraq if he were elected into power.
Technically Commissioners are meant to serve the European cause and be independent of national politics but this seems to have been abandoned in recent months.
Mr Prodi started the ball rolling last year when he wrote an election manifesto for the Italian left for the European elections.
However, Mr Prodi is not alone. The Greek Commissioner was the first one to actually up and leave.
Claiming "an absence of leave", Anna Diamantopoulou went back to head the socialist list for the Greek elections at the beginning of March. Her move backfired somewhat when her party lost - she is now to be replaced by fellow Greek Stavros Dimas.
Similarly, Pedro Solbes, the Spanish Commissioner and arguably in charge of a much more important portfolio - economics and monetary affairs - will leave the Commission mid-April to take up his new post as Spanish finance minister.
Others will wait until a little later in the day before going. Luxembourg Commissioner Viviane Reding is set to stand for the European elections in June.
Another who may take an early bow include regional Commissioner Michel Barnier whom it is rumoured may be called back to Paris after regional elections in France.
This to-ing and fro-ing comes as the European Commission faces some important decisions until end of October when its mandate runs out.
The most important issues will be taking the talks on future funding of the EU forward - the Brussels executive is already at loggerheads with member states over proposals for a 1000bn euro EU budget.
The other big issue will be the decision, to be taken in October, on whether Turkey has met the political criteria to begin EU membership negotiations.
On top of all this, the Commission itself will have to deal with another internal upheaval when ten commissioners from the new member states join the ranks on 1 May.