Monday

30th Jan 2023

Juncker to meet Slovenian candidate, amid fresh controversy

  • Juncker will meet the new Slovenian commissioner candidate on Tuesday (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The incoming chief of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will meet Slovenian candidate Violeta Bulc on Tuesday (14 October) evening and will then decide which portfolio to give her, Juncker's spokesman said Monday in a press conference.

Bulc was nominated last week after Slovenia's initial candidate, ex-prime minister Alenka Bratusek, was rejected by the European Parliament following a poor performance in her hearing and because she appointed herself for the job.

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But the appointment procedure of the new candidate is also causing a stir in Ljubljana.

The new prime minister, Miro Cerar, pushed her name through even though seven members of his cabinet were against and only six in favour. But with three ministers abroad and unable to vote, rules of procedure allow unexpressed votes to be counted as positive.

Despite this, an opposition party, the Christian Socialists, together with an association of Slovenian taxpayers filed a complaint with the country's anti-corruption commission about the nomination procedure.

It is the very same commission that partly led to the downfall of Bratusek, after she ignored their probe and failed to pick up their letter from the post office.

Bulc's nomination is seen as problematic because she is even more a newcomer to politics than Bratusek, with MEPs in the two main political groups having asked for an experienced politician - preferably in the person of Socialist MEP Tanja Fajon.

This irked Cerar, also a newcomer to politics and a Liberal, who insisted on his right to appoint who he wants.

Bulc comes from the managerial world and has embraced new age theories, including fire walking and shaman practices. According to Slovenian media, she is seriously preparing for the job, which is likely to be a different post than the "energy union" vice-president post reserved for Bratusek.

This means at least one other commissioner will have to face another hearing in the European Parliament, making it less likely that the entire Juncker commission will be voted on as planned, on 22 October, in order to take up office on 1 November.

Bratusek blames advisers

Meanwhile, in an interview with Die Welt, the ousted Bratusek blamed the Juncker team for having advised her to please both the environmentalist and the energy-industry fans in the European Parliament.

"I took that advice. It was stupid of me," she said.

Bratusek said being part of a smaller political family - the Liberals are only the fourth-largest group in the European Parliament - also played a role in her demise.

"I don't have a problem with admitting mistakes. But I was not the only one to make mistakes. It was not fair that I did not get a second hearing. Others were also not so good and got a second chance," she said.

Out of the seven commissioner candidates not to have received a green light straight away, Bratusek was the only one not to be asked supplementary questions, put through a second hearing like the British commissioner, or voted on after a second legal opinion as was the case for the Spanish commissioner.

They were all part of domino-logic between the two largest groups, which secured their candidacy in the end.

But members of the industry and environment committees also said that Bratusek was simply too weak a candidate, while even Liberals voted against her when she was deemed unfit for the commissioner post.

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