The lengthening procession of European Commissioners abandoning their posts prompts memories of the famous Oscar Wilde stricture: "To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortunea To lose both seems like carelessness."

Now that Michel Barnier is set to follow Pedro Solbes and Anna Diamantopoulou back into national politics, the Commission has lost nearly 15% of its complement in the space of a few weeks. Worse, these are Commissioners holding major responsibilities: employment and social policy; the Euro and the Stability Pact; regional affairs, the Structural Funds, and reform of the institutions.

It is a blow to the Commission's efficiency just when it is facing major challenges: enlargement, the Constitutional Treaty, the fate of the Growth and Stability Pact, the preparations for the financial perspective for 2007-2013, the Opinion on whether Turkey should start accession negotiations, etc.

The commitment of the Commissioners who swore to place European interests above national interests when they were appointed - is obviously called into question by their departure.

But the situation also puts under scrutiny a wider commitment essentially, the seriousness with which the Member States take the European Union and its central institution.

As long as the status of the Commission remains fragile or subordinate or uncertain (and there are some Member States which would...

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