Sunday

5th Feb 2023

Barnier sets out stall as a 'reformer'

In one of the most keenly anticipated European Parliamentary hearings, Michel Barnier put in an assured performance on Wednesday evening (13 January) that had several MEPs calling him commissioner rather than commissioner-designate by the end of the session.

The French centre-right nominee for the internal market post, and currently a European deputy himself, appeared to have judged the mood of his interviewers well, with repeated references to a 'social agenda' to protect citizens drawing solid applause.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Mr Barnier said he would not shy away from dealing with derivatives and short-selling (Photo: European Parliament)

On financial services he quoted the classical liberal economist Adam Smith, noting that even he had said: "The markets cannot work without rules, and they cannot work without ethics."

At the same time, Mr Barnier was quick to emphasise his intention to drive ahead with the completion of Europe's currently fragmented internal market. "To me it all goes together, development of the internal market and social progress," he insisted.

Amongst other measures to achieve this, the former foreign minister said he will push for full member-state implementation of the services directive and final completion of a European patent system, still being held up by linguistic concerns despite considerable progress made last month.

"This is something that is really dreadful considering how long it has gone on," Mr Barnier said. "I will propose a regulation very soon on the linguistic issue and will work to win over resistant member states."

Financial services

Mr Barnier's nomination in November was followed by a media storm that saw some UK voices express concern that the Frenchman would usher in a new era of excessive financial regulation that could strangle the City of London.

"Let's not pretend we are not going to reform. We are going to reform," he told MEPs, adding that he aimed to put "transparency, responsibility and ethics at the heart of financial system" and would not shy away from the difficult questions posed derivatives and short-selling.

Mr Barnier expressed his particular concern over agricultural derivatives, saying they were an important contributor to world food shortages, and also indicating he was open to a tax on financial transactions.

"I would personally be in favour of using a tax on [financial] flows to address environmental issues around the world," he said.

The experienced politician also sought to allay fears over his independence following controversial remarks by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the UK would be the "big loser" following his appointment.

"I won't take orders from Paris, London or anywhere else," he said, denying that he had been forced to take on a British director-general to ease UK concerns.

Questioned on the potential downsides of the commission's recent draft hedge fund's directive, Mr Barnier said he was willing to revisit and improve on all legislation, time permitting. "I am committed to a qualitative review of all our legislative texts," he said.

Roaming commissioner

In a nod to his former days as a European commissioner for regional policy, Mr Barnier indicated he would travel the length and breadth of the European Union, and further afield, in a bid to ensure rules were working and alliances were being formed.

The nominee said he would spend considerable time on international dialogue, singling out China as well as the US, to ensure new European rules on financial supervision were complemented in other countries.

On completing the EU's internal market, he cited his intention to do a lot of "work on the ground to win over people," and expressed his desire to see for himself the effects of EU rules. "Once a week, I will go to one of the member states, and not just to the capitals," he said.

Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'

The European Central Bank raised interest rates by another 0.5 percent to a 14-year high, and expects to hike rates by another half percent in March. But what does that mean for the green transition?

Polish backpedal on windfarms put EU funds at risk

Draft legislation in Poland aimed at relaxing some of Europe's strictest laws surrounding onshore wind-turbines has been derailed by a surprise last minute amendment, which could put Poland back on a collision course with the EU.

Opinion

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us