Monday

22nd Apr 2019

Interim commissioners pass EU parliament test

  • More hearings are scheduled for all 28 new commissioners in September (Photo: EUobserver)

Former Finnish PM Jyrki Katainen and three other interim commissioners-to-be were grilled by MEPs on Monday (14 July) before taking up their posts for the next four months.

Katainen, who will replace economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn, is the only one of the four who is likely to stay on as commissioner once the new EU commission is voted in, in October.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The 41-year old Finn, who acted as a hawkish finance minister and then prime minister during the euro crisis, demanding harsh austerity measures and special guarantees from bailed-out countries, faced the toughest grilling from Green, leftist and eurosceptic MEPs.

His focus was on "structural reforms" rather than more budget cuts and austerity measures.

"Budget cuts and tax increases don't create anything new, other than confidence. But structural reforms do create a more favourable environment for businesses, which can create more jobs", he said.

He also warned against coming up with more new rules in the eurozone, rather than implementing existing ones: "There are three challenges about the new rules of the eurozone: the first is implementation, the second is implementation, the third is implementation."

He said the anger of people in Greece or Portugal against the "troika" of EU inspectors who came in every three months to evaluate the reforms is misguided.

"The troika people are doing what the masters have decided, the lenders - the eurozone countries, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund", he noted.

As for "flexibility" in applying the deficit and debt rules, Katainen praised the "very wise" decision by EU leaders that there should be no change in the guidelines.

With the economics commissioner post eyed by the centre-left government in France and with the incoming head of the EU commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, more socially-oriented than Katainen, the Finn is unlikely to keep his current portfolio if he stays in Brussels.

Of the other three interim commissioners - who are replacing their national representatives after they took up their seats as MEPs earlier this month - the first one to be grilled was Martine Reicherts from Luxembourg, an EU official in charge of the bloc's publications and a yoga teacher.

Reicherts will replace Viviane Reding, the former justice and civil liberties commissioner until Juncker - also from Luxembourg - becomes head of the EU commission.

She gave balanced answers to questions ranging from data protection to Roma evictions in France, while defending freedom of movement and gay rights.

Italy's former EU ambassador, Nelli Feroci, who will replace industry commissioner Antonio Tajani, also fielded questions adroitly.

He suggested new ways of reducing bureaucracy. He defended the draft EU-US free trade agreement and he pledged to use his few months in office to help SMEs and to stimulate a new focus on growth.

"Because of the economic crisis, European citizens see the European Union as being distanced, not really acting on their cares ... I strongly believe a European agenda focused on the industrial economy and real competitiveness can and will contribute to growth and jobs", he said.

Feroci is unlikely to stay on in the new commission because Italian FM Federica Mogherini is tipped to become either the new EU foreign affairs chief or a vice-president of the EU commission in charge of humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, Poland's Jacek Dominik, replacing budgets commissioner Janusz Lewandowski, said his main goal will be to get member states to cough up extra money for the EU to meet its outstanding bills for 2011, 2012, and 2013.

The former deputy finance minister, who impressed MEPs with his knowledge of the intricacies of EU financial instruments, said meeting the commitments is a test of "EU credibility".

He added that the EU budget needs "more flexibility" and more direct contributions in the form of "own resources" to meet future needs.

The candidates' four-month stint as a commissioner comes with a monthly salary of €20,000 and pension rights of some €200 a month once they retire.

The EU parliament is to vote on their eligibility on Wednesday (16 July) morning.

Lobby register transparency talks collapse

Efforts to set up a better transparency register for lobbyists have collapsed after two years of talks. The impasse revolves around the European Commission's insistence that the register also become mandatory for the European Parliament and Council.

Exclusive

EU bodies dodge questions on secret VW loan report

The European Anti-Fraud Office (Olaf) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have refused to answer detailed questions about the demand from the European Ombudsman to publish an Olaf report on a €400m EIB loan Volkswagen Group (VW) received through deception.

Exclusive

EIB 'maladministration' verdict over VW fraud report

EUobserver should have been granted access to a fraud investigation into a €400m EU loan to Volkswagen Group (VW), and recommendations on how to avoid future misuse, the European Ombudsman has concluded.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us