Monday

25th Mar 2019

Agenda

EP starts grilling new commissioners This WEEK

  • Commissioners will have to answer to 45 questions in three hours (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Parliament will start grilling incoming EU commissioners this week, with the most problematic ones scheduled for Wednesday (1 October).

All 27 members of Jean-Claude Juncker's team of commissioners will appear in front of MEPs from Monday on. Each hearing will last three hours and MEPs will be able to ask a total of 45 questions, divided among political groups and specialised committees.

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Some of the hearings - such as the one of incoming trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Monday will be organised by a single parliamentary committee (international trade), others, where the portfolio is broader, by several committees.

German commissioner Guenther Oettinger, whose portfolio is called "digital economy and society" will be appear in front of MEPs from five committees: industry, culture, internal market, legal affairs, and civil liberties.

The commissioners expected to have the toughest grilling are scheduled on Wednesday: Britain's Jonathan Hill, a former political advisor who will be in charge of "financial stability, financial services and capital markets" - will face tough questions from members of the economics committee who doubt he's competent enough for the job.

Spain's Arias Canete, a former farm minister who has sold most of his shares in oil companies, but whose family still holds important stakes in that industry, is auditioning for the "energy and climate action" portfolio. Canete has already faced criticism from the Greens over potential conflict of interest. If the Socialist and Liberal MEPs swing their way, he might get a negative vote from the committee, which will put pressure on Juncker to ask the Spanish government to replace him, or face a negative vote against his whole team, later in October.

Also on Wednesday, Hungary's Tibor Navracsics is set to be heard by MEPs in the culture and industry committees. Navracsics will be in charge of "education, culture, youth and citizenship" at a time when his government back home, in which he served as a justice minister and later on as foreign minister, has cracked down on civil society.

Both Canete and Navracsics are centre-right politicians form the European People's Party. "If the Socialists go after one of ours, we will go after one of theirs," an EP source told this website.

Possible Socialist "targets" are Malta's Karmenu Vella, who is supposed to become environment commissioner but has large stakes in his country's tourism and construction industry or Romania's Corina Cretu, who should become regional policy commissioner.

Cretu, a former journalist turned presidential spokeswoman, made tabloid headlines last year when a hacker published romantic emails between her and former US secretary of state Colin Powell.

The Liberal family also has commissioners who could get a negative advice from the EP: Slovenia's Alenka Bratusek who is under fire back home for having nominated herself at a time when she was a caretaker prime minister and Czech Vera Jourova, who will be a justice commissioner, after having been arrested on corruption charges, which were later dropped.

Meanwhile, EU affairs ministers are meeting on Monday to prepare for the October summit and adopt the delay of the application of a free-trade agreement with Ukraine.

EU ambassadors the following day are to discuss a possible roll-back of economic sanctions imposed on Russia, given that a ceasefire in Ukraine is holding in broad terms.

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