Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Croatia's EU commissioner to face MEPs' questions

  • Mimica's (c) little portfolio covers everything from online gambling to Chinese toys (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

From 1 July, the European Commission is to have 28 members. But Croatia's nominee has to get through MEPs' question first.

Deputies from the consumer protection and environment committees will hear from the career politician - Neven Mimica, who is slated to become commissioner for consumer policy - on Tuesday (4 June) morning.

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He is in a good position to persuade them that he has enough knowledge of the dossier and of European Parliament procedure to go forward.

He also has credibility in terms of his independence from Croatian politics.

Mimica is already well known in the EU capital.

Back in 2000, he led the Croatian delegation in negotiations on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union. It was Croatia's first step on a 13-year-long journey to join the Union.

In his work as a national MP, Mimica also chaired the European integration committee, which was in regular contact with the EU assembly, for seven years.

For the past year and a half, he has taken charge of Croatia-EU relations in his post as deputy prime minister.

At a personal level, the 60-year-old has a master's in economics and trade.

He has first-hand experience in the field as Croatia's chief negotiator on World Trade Organisation membership.

Covering everything from online gambling to Chinese toys, his portfolio is more complex than it appears at first glance.

But he has spent the past few weeks swotting up.

He is also being helped along by an EU official, the commission's Nils Behrndt, who is expected to become his cabinet chief.

Behrnt was previously deputy chief of cabinet for Maltese commissioner Tonio Borg.

But Borg's portfolio - health and consumer policy - is being split in two to make room for Mimica.

Meanwhile, coming from a country where news about high level corruption comes out on an almost daily basis, his name has never come up in any scandal.

Borg last year nearly got the red card from MEPs over his outspoken Roman Catholic values.

But Mimica has steered free from making any controversial comments in his long career.

His official declaration of interests also paints a modest picture - he owns a nine-year-old Citroen Xara and shares in two companies worth just €5,000-or-so in total.

In another rarity in Croatian politics, he has few enemies either in the centre-left Croatian government or or the centre-right opposition who might call on their friends in the EU assembly to make life hard.

If no news is sometimes good news, his entire nomination process has made few headlines outside Croatia.

The EU parliament last week did not even post a press notice about Tuesday's hearing on its online agenda.

Inside Croatia, his appointment has attracted criticism but not on personal grounds.

Croatia media has reflected popular anger about how much commissioners get paid - Mimica's monthly EU salary will be more or less what he got paid annually as deputy PM.

Media also attacked the fact the EU is increasing, instead of reducing, the number of the top-paid posts.

The Lisbon Treaty envisaged a small cull of commissioners.

But this was later changed to ensure Ireland's support in a treaty referendum.

If Mimica gets through the hearing as expected, he is likely to stay around for a long time.

His current mandate will run for about a year until EU elections next May.

But he is also tipped to be Croatia's commissioner-designate for the next legislature, lasting into 2019.

The writer is senior Brussels correspondent of Croatian daily Jutarnji List

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