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Michel Barnier, EU Internal Market and Services Commissioner

Friday 14 January 2011 - by Andrew Hickley

A former authority in French agriculture, Michel Barnier has been involved in driving through a plethora of financial regulations to promote the European single market over the past year. He comes 9th in the GFS Power 50.

Having referred to 2010 as a "strategic year of convergence between the EU and United States", Barnier has been arguably Europe's most vocal player on the regulatory scene since taking office in February 2010.

His support has been crucial in drafting European-wide regulation in landmark reforms such as Basel III and the creation of new European Supervisory Authorities and the Systemic Risk Board, while he has also led the way in overhauling MiFID regulation.

Tasked with implementing a European-wide framework promoting the free movement of people, goods, services and capital, Barnier has displayed a political flexibility in also heading up transformations including the role of auditors in the wake of the crisis and the role of insurance in flooding situations.

And his calls in April for Europe to adopt a US-style system of 'bail-ins', where bondholders ultimately pay for the resolution of a troubled banks, helped sow the seeds for 2011's first major piece of European legislation: a consultation on bank resolution released on 6 January.

However Barnier has also had his fair share of critics in 2010, in particular having enjoyed a love/hate relationship with the City of London at the end of the year.

Having referred to comments that increased taxes may force the relocation of bankers out of Europe as "blackmail", he also caused anger when rejecting the chance to speak to the UK's Treasury Select Committee over any bias in the regulation coming out of Brussels - a stance he eventually u-turned on by taking a pre-Christmas trip to Westminster after a strongly worded letter from Treasury Select Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie.

Intervention from US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and British regulators helped prevent the passing of a disastrous Alternative Investment Managers Directive which he had endorsed. While Czech central bank vice-governor Mojmir Hampl recently labelled some of Barnier's policies regarding mandatory deposit guarantees as "amusing, if the issue was not so serious".

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