Thursday

27th Feb 2020

Agenda

EP commissioner hearings resume This WEEK

  • Is Ursula von der Leyen's college starting to have an image problem? (Photo: European Parliament)

European Parliament (EP) hearings into EU nominees resume this week after bruisings in which two candidates were already knocked out and two put on the ropes.

Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell will defend his claim to become EU foreign affairs chief, one of the four biggest jobs in Brussels, on Monday (7 October).

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The European Commission's existing anti-trust chief, Denmark's Margrethe Vestager, will defend keeping her powerful portfolio for another five years on Tuesday.

The Netherlands' Frans Timmermans, who battled Hungary and Poland on rule of law in the previous commission, will also defend his bid for a top climate post later the same day.

His hearing ends the first round of EP cross-examinations.

Most of the 26 candidates (Britain is out due to Brexit and Germany's Ursula von Der Leyen is commission president) are expected to get through.

But brutal proceedings in recent days saw parliament's legal affairs committee use new powers to disqualify two names (from Hungary and Romania), forcing von der Leyen to seek alternatives.

France's high-profile single market nominee and Poland's pick for the agriculture post have also been called back for second hearings, due on 14 and 15 October.

Even if France and Poland get through in the second hearings, the rejection of two nominees would be a novelty, after MEPs' ejected just one token EU candidate on each occasion following elections in the past 15 years.

The recent setbacks revolved around financial improprieties, except for Poland's nominee, who was more judged too "vague" on his answers.

Belgian and Croatian candidates also fielded questions on corruption allegations and mysterious wealth, causing potential image problems for von der Leyen's college.

MEPs and von der Leyen must agree on all posts before the EP votes on the full set of names on 23 October and the new von der Leyen commission is to take up office on 31 October - the same day the UK is to exit the EU.

But EU leaders will hold a summit prior to 23 October that could furnish opportunity for last-minute political talks on the appointments.

Meanwhile, in the background, justice and home affairs ministers will discuss the EU's fight against corruption, far-right terrorism, and child sexual abuse in Luxembourg on Monday and Tuesday.

Eurozone finance ministers will also discuss banking union on Wednesday and all 28 finance ministers will talk about the fight against money-laundering the next day.

Feature

Borrell: from controversy to EU's top diplomat

Before Josep Borrell is confirmed as the next the EU high-representative and vice-president of the commission, he is likely to face questions during his grilling about corruption allegations and other controversial comments.

Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law

The Dutch rule of law top man said the new commission would be just as tough on the issue as the current one, but would not say whether he wants to hold onto the portfolio in the next executive.

Africa visit and EU parliament missions This WEEK

The European Commission will visit the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for a joint meeting with the African Union, ahead of the EU-Africa strategy being unveiled. MEPs will carry out missions in the Czech Republic, Turkey and the US.

Budget, Zuckerberg, Pelosi and Cayman Islands This WEEK

EU leaders will put their heads together on Thursday night to look for a compromise on the next long-term EU budget. EU Council president Charles Michel's latest proposal has received a lukewarm welcome from member states.

EU budget battle gears up This WEEK

Member states get ready for their first real negotiations on the next seven-year EU budget, while MEPs discuss the next Brexit phase, enlargement, and vote on a highly-controversial trade deal with Vietnam.

Feature

Coronavirus: voices from a quarantined Italian town

Panic-buying, plus resentment at the media for fuelling the panic, are the paradoxical responses of residents of the Italian towns of Vicenza and Vo', where Italy's first victim of the coronavirus died last Friday.

Greek island riots require measured response, says EU

Residents on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios have been met with riot police, following protests against plans to erect new migrant detention camps. The European Commission says measures by Athens' authorities must be "necessary and proportionate."

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