19th Jan 2020


Key moments for new commission This WEEK

  • Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen wants to see the parliament vote on her new executive in the final week of November (Photo: European Commission)

The new EU Commission is almost ready to go, but there are still two pending issues that will need to be sorted out next week for resident-elect Ursula von der Leyen to finally take office on 1 December.

Hungary's replacement commissioner-designate Oliver Varhelyi, after the first candidate failed at the conflict of interest screening, was asked additional written questions after his hearing last Thursday (14 November).

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MEPs from the Socialists and Democrats, the liberal Renew Europe, the Greens and the far left GUE/NGL want to see stronger assurances that Varhelyi will act independent from prime minister Viktor Orban.

Varhelyi is up for the enlargement portfolio and some MEPs doubt if Orban's pick can properly police the rule of law and fight against corruption in aspiring countries when Hungary itself is under an EU probe for breaching the rule of law.

Varhelyi's answers should come by noon on Monday (18 November), and political chiefs from the EU Parliament's foreign affairs committee will gather at 1500 to decide if the answers are sufficient or if a second hearing is needed.

If all goes well for von der Leyen, Varhelyi will pass and then her commission can be voted on by the parliament in the last week of November - even without a UK commissioner.

The current commission launched a so-called infringement procedure against Britain for failing to send a candidate to the new EU executive, but that does not necessarily mean the EU cannot proceed with the new commission taking office.

The UK authorities have until Friday (22 November) to answer the commission on the issue.

But the calculation in the commission HQ, the Berlaymont, is that the 27 the member states will give the green light and the UK will also not object to the new EU executive taking office without a British commissioner, and the parliament will also agree.


On Tuesday (19 November), EU affairs ministers will talk about the next long-term EU budget.

Discussions have been progressing slowly and positions have hardened between those who want to further cut the proposed budget, and those who want to maintain the level of EU funds, particularly in cohesion policy.

Talks will come after equally-difficult discussions between the council of member states and the parliament on Friday (15 November) over the 2020 budget.

Ministers will also discuss rule of law issues, this time with Michael O'Flaherty, director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.

On Monday (18 November) MEPs in the parliament's economic committee will hear from Mario Centeno, eurogroup president.

On the same day, the committee on women's rights and gender equality will hold a hearing on violence against women in the EU, and best practices to combat it.

On Thursday (21 November) MEPs in the civil liberties committee will discuss the situation of migrants in detention centres in Libya and of migrants returned by the Libyan coastguard with officials from the UN, International Office for Migration (IOM), and others organisations.

Tusk in new role

Meanwhile, Europe's largest political family, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) will gather in Zagreb, kicking off their annual congress on Wednesday (20 November).

Delegates will elect current EU Council president Donald Tusk as the new president of the party, who will take over from Joseph Daul.

Romanians will go to the polls on Sunday (24 November) for the second round of presidential elections, where incumbent president Klaus Iohannis is ahead in polling against former prime minister Viorica Dancila.

Hungary's Orban defends close ties with Russia

Hungary's prime minister said his country's geographical position forces it to have good ties with Moscow - adding that Hungary will remain an EU and Nato member.

EU leaders to warn von der Leyen over 'giving in' to MEPs

The new commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen will meet for the first time with EU leaders who nominated her for the job. She will be asked to lay out her plans for getting her commission through parliament.

EU Parliament to vote on the Commission This WEEK

MEPs will decide on Wednesday whether to support the new EU commission as a whole during the plenary session. If approved, Ursula von der Leyen's team will finally take office on 1 December.

Davos and Libya in focus This WEEK

The all-powerful will meet in Davos after Berlin tries to resolve the Libyan conflict over the weekend, while MEPs will set the stage for final ratification of the Brexit deal.

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