18th Dec 2018


Commissioners to-be and bearded ladies This WEEK

  • From Eurovision to the European Parliament. Conchita Wurst will perform to MEPs in Brussels next Wednesday. (Photo: Thomas Hanses (EBU))

The European Parliament is once again at the centre of the action next week, as it completes the final rounds of hearings for the next European Commission and welcomes Eurovision song contest winner Conchita Wurst.

The six candidates to be vice-presidents of the EU executive will have to successfully navigate their path through the three-hour Parliament committee hearings.

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On Monday (6 October), Federica Mogherini, the Italian candidate to become the EU's next foreign affairs chief, will be the most high profile nominee to appear before deputies on the parliament's foreign affairs committee.

Elsewhere, Latvia's Valdis Dombrovskis, the commissioner-designate for the euro, will face the parliament's economic affairs committee, while the nominees for the energy union and digital single market briefs will also appear.

The following day, Dutch candidate Frans Timmermans, expected to be Jean-Claude Juncker's deputy, will face his hearing, as will former Finnish prime minister Jyrki Katainen.

Holding the power to veto the commission, even if it rejects just one of the candidates, means that the hearings process is an opportunity for the parliament to flex its muscles.

Four of the candidates have already been asked to answer further questions in writing about their suitability to be part of the next EU executive by Monday morning.

The Czech justice nominee Vera Jourova, Britain's Jonathan Hill, who would oversee financial services and "capital markets union", and Tibor Navracsics, the Hungarian commissioner-designate for education, have each received a new set of questions from their respective committees.

Hill, whose charisma was offset, in the eyes of many of MEPs, by a failure to offer substantive replies to questions about financial sector regulation and ongoing files, has also been summoned for an "exchange of views" with MEPs on Tuesday afternoon.

France's Pierre Moscovici, who faced a tough examination from centre-right deputies critical of his two year stint as French finance minister, will also have to reply to a written questionnaire, while a decision on Spain's Miguel Arias Canete has been postponed until MEPs receive a legal opinion on his declaration of financial interests.

Canete has been nominated for the energy and climate change portfolio, but came under fire after changing his financial declaration the day before his hearing following the sale of shares in two companies.

His brother-in-law remains on the board of the two firms.

MEPs have postponed voting on the contentious candidates until the hearing process is completed on Tuesday, with the Parliament's main political groups threatening to shoot down candidates from rival factions.

Canete, Hill and Navracsics are widely believed to be the three conservative candidates most in danger of being rejected by left-leaning MEPs. In return, the centre-right EPP and conservative ECR groups have vowed to retaliate by opposing Moscovici.

Officials seeking respite from the marathon of hearings will not have to wait long for some lighter entertainment.

On Wednesday (8 October), the parliament will welcome Eurovision song contest victor Conchita Wurst, giving MEPs and staff a rare (and popular) photo opportunity.

One of the kitsch-contest's most popular recent winners, Wurst, a bearded transvestite, will then give a concert in front of the parliament.

On a more prosaic note, EU transport and justice ministers will gather for their monthly meetings in Luxembourg on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

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