Miguel Arias Cañete (born 24 February 1950) is a Spanish aristocrat and a politician. He is the Spanish European Commissioner since November 2014.
A member of the Partido Popular, Arias served as Minister for Agriculture, Food and Environment in the Spanish Government from 2011 until 2014, before being selected to head his Party List in the European Parliamentary elections.
Arias Cañete was nominated as EU Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action in the Juncker Commission and took office on 1 November 2014.
Arias Cañete was born to Judge don Alfonso Arias de la Cuesta, and educated in Madrid, first at the Jesuit School at Chamartín before reading Law at the Universidad Complutense.
After graduating in 1974, he joined the Spanish Civil Service working as a State Attorney. His first position was in the Spanish Tax Agency at Jerez de la Frontera, before transferring to the Cadiz office. In 1978 he resigned as a civil servant to become a Professor of Law at the University of Cádiz, where he remained until 1982.
Arias entered politics with the Alianza Popular. He first served as a member of the Parliament of Andalusia from 1982 until 1986. He was elected to the European Parliament in 1986 and served until 1999, chairing the Agricultural and Regional Politics Committees. From 1993 until 2000 he served the Spanish Senate, then was appointed as Minister of Agriculture and Fishing by José María Aznar.
From 1995 to 2000 he was City Councillor for Jerez de la Frontera, then elected Senator representing Cádiz in the Spanish Senate (2000-2004), and from 2004 to 2008 Deputy for Cadiz in the Spanish Congress. During the same period, from 2004-2008 he ascended inside the Partido Popular to "Economic Secretary" and president of its Electoral Committee. In 2008, he was elected Representative for Madrid in the Spanish Congress and Member of the European Parliament for Electoral District Madrid, which he represented until 2014.
In 2011 Mariano Rajoy appointed Arias as Minister of Agriculture, Food and Environment in the Spanish Government. During his time in office, Arias managed to get parliamentary approval of a 2013 law allowing some construction to take place closer to the coast than previously allowed, raising alarm among ecologists and opposition parties, who argued the change could further blight the Mediterranean shoreline.
In 2014, Arias was picked by Rajoy to lead the Partido Popular’s list in the 2014 European elections. Following the elections, Spain nominated him for the Juncker Commission in August 2014. By early September, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker assigned Arias to the office of European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, where he became the first single supervisor of those two policy areas. In this capacity, he works under the guidance of Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission Vice President for Energy Union.
On climate policy, Arias has been responsible for the plan to introduce an overhaul of the EU emissions-trading system, the world’s biggest cap-and-trade program. He also represented the European Commission at the 2014 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima.
In summer 2015, Arias launched a plan to turn the Mediterranean region into "a major gas marketplace" as part of European Union efforts to reduce dependency on dominant oil and gas supplier Russia. Shortly after, he brokered an agreement between France, Spain and Portugal on the MidCat gas pipeline intended to increase exports of Algerian gas into the European energy mix.
Arias has faced accusations of conflicts of interests regarding his business interests and his political posts. While serving as a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, he allegedly held interests in several agricultural businesses, leading the Spanish newspaper El País to describe him in 2014 as always being on the edge of a conflict of interest. In 2014, the environmental group Friends of the Earth and anticorruption group Corporate Europe Observatory criticised his nomination to the Climate Action and Energy portfolio due to his family's involvement in the oil industry.
Furthermore, Arias was called to give evidence before the Provincial Court of Barcelona over a friend's alleged laundering of 2 billion pesetas.
Arias was accused of sexism after Arias and his Socialist rival Elena Valenciano were featured in Spanish television's first live debate between the country’s leading candidates for a European Parliament election in May 2014, Valenciano was widely perceived to have beaten him in the debate. Asked to explain his poor performance in the debate, he pointed to the fact that he was facing a woman: "If you abuse your intellectual superiority, you come across like a macho who is pushing a defenceless woman into a corner".
In September 2014, Arias sold two large shareholdings in oil companies Petrolífera Ducar and Petrologis Canarias to appease parliamentarians threatening to reject his confirmation as European Commissioner because of conflicts of interest. Also, his son resigned from their boards. As of October 2014 more than half a million people signed an Avaaz petition calling for Aria’s rejection.
The Panama papers in 2016 revealed that his wife’s world-renowned Jandilla bull operations, managed by their two sons, Pablo and Juan Pedro, and co-owned by her siblings, received well over $1 million in farm subsidies and her other farm, forestry and winery businesses also received EU subsidies.
Panamanian Rinconada Investments Group SA was an offshore investment company registered in 2005, listed as inactive in January 2010, which Deutsche Bank Geneva, Swiss-based financial services company Gestrust SA and Mossack Fonseca helped to create. Arias' wife and the Domecq family are politically exposed persons and were empowered to approve transactions.
Arias, from a Spanish gentry family, is married to Micaela Domecq y Solís-Beaumont by whom he has four children. His wife's aristocratic family has long been established in the Jerez de la Frontera region of Andalucía, where they own large farming and livestock estates including the breeding of fighting bulls and have given their name to a world-famous brand of fortified wines. Grand Cross, Order of Charles III
Gran Cruz, Orden del Mérito Civil
Chevalier, Ordre du Mérite agricole
Knight, Sovereign Military Order of Malta