Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

EP gears itself up for hearings of new commissioners

  • The EP is nurturing its relatively new power of being able to de facto reject single commissioner-candidates (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The European Parliament is preparing a set of "obstacle course" hearings for incoming EU commissioners with recent past form showing that at least one of the designates will fall by the wayside.

Beginning later this month (29 September), each of the 27 would-be commissioners will be subject to a three-hour long hearing which will examine their views on the EU as well as their qualifications for the post.

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

"It is one of those moments where the European Parliament can show its ability to oversee what the commission does," said parliament spokesperson Jaume Duch on Wednesday (17 September).

He stressed that it is "not just window dressing" and that the hearings are a real "obstacle course" inspired by the US where Congress hears key figures coming into the administration.

Commissioners will start their homework on Thursday (18 September) when they receive their questionnaires, containing at least five questions.

They have to reply in writing by the end of next week, an exercise that they will mostly be coached through by experts in their department in the commission.

But the political ground work is already being laid with most of the commissioners in Strasbourg this week hobnobbing with key MEPs and meeting their political groups.

Once the hearing by the relevant committee is over, the committee itself makes an assessment of how it has gone - something that is then sent to all the leaders of the political groups in the parliament.

A new twist this year will be to tease out how the seven 'super' commissioners, with extra oversight powers, will work with the rest of their colleagues.

'First vice-president' Frans Timmermans, who is to be EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker's eyes, ears and every-day voice in the new commission, will be of particular interest. His will be the among the last hearings taking place in early October.

The parliament vote on the next EU commission is due to take place on 22 October - a simple majority is needed to pass the college.

Technically MEPs can only reject or approve the entire commission but in 2004 the EP, through threat alone, managed to get the Italian and Latvian candidates changed. In 2009, it was Bulgaria's candidate who was rejected.

There has already been much speculation about who could face the chop or at least a particularly tough grilling by MEPs.

Those in the potential hot seat include Spain's nominee, Miguel Arias Canete, up for the energy and environment portfolio. Canete has already said he will sell off his shares in oil companies to prevent any possible conflict of interest issues. Sexist remarks he made earlier this year may also come back to haunt him.

There is also likely to be strong political interest around Lord Hill, the UK's commissioner, who is to be in charge of financial services. The choice of dossier has already caused some grumbling in the parliament, while Lord Hill himself is a virtually unknown outside the UK.

The EP's Duch noted that the commissioners will be quizzed on European integration ideas, their political past and must "above all" show they are up for the job.

MEPs, many several of whom were commissioners in previous lives, "will know very well what did or did not happen in previous years" and will be well able to recognise when someone is "not speaking clearly to the issue," he said.

Big and small MEPs jostle in EU parliament

In the European Parliament politicians who were elected with hundreds of thousands of preferential votes, will sit next to colleagues who received fewer than a thousand votes.

EU on path towards whistleblower protection

EU lawmakers and member states have struck a political deal on the first-ever EU-wide directive on whistleblower protection - following years of big tax-evasion revelations and the laundering of dirty money in European banks.

Germany's CDU lukewarm on Macron's EU vision

Germany's anointed new leader has echoed France in calling for EU reform to combat populism - but with a stronger role for national governments and with little prospect of sharing German wealth.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

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. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us