Tuesday

18th Jun 2019

Polish EU commissioner: 'I'm lobbyist-proof'

  • Bienkowska took a sharp approach in the hearing (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Poland’s next commissioner has defended EU plans to be more business-friendly on healthcare.

Elzbieta Bienkowska, who is to take over the single market portfolio, will, in a restructuring, also take charge of healthcare technology and pharmaceuticals as well as co-running the European Medicines Agency, which authorises new drugs.

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 reform has come under fire from NGOs and the European Parliament, who say it will open the door to industry lobbying.

But Bienkowska defended the move in her hearing with MEPs on Thursday (2 October), saying: “Putting it [pharmaceuticals] together with other branches of industry is justified - it’s an industry where Europe is a global leader and which is Europe’s third largest exporter”.

She also said the previous commission was right not to regulate on breast implants, despite a recent scandal involving French producers.

Bienkowska promised to put patients’ interests before big business, however: “Make no mistake: Health and safety come first”.

She also indicated she will be tough on lobbyists, adding: “All my professional experience shows that I am lobbyist-proof. I'm absolutely lobbyist-proof”.

The 50-year old, from Katowice in Poland’s industrial heartland, was in charge of Polish infrastructure and EU regional fund spending, worth tens of billions of euros, in her previous role.

She described herself as a self-made woman, noting that she started as a single mother on welfare before climbing the rungs of the Polish administration.

“I started from a very low position … and everything which I achieved, I achieved by my own hard work”.

She said her priorities will be full implementation of EU laws on labour mobility - the “services directive” and mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

She also said she wants to protect Europe’s industrial base, to make public procurement more competitive, and to help small business by cutting red tape.

But when put on the spot by a British deputy, she could not name any one EU law she aims to scrap.

“I will start working on this in the first few weeks if I'm approved … then I can choose more than two, maybe 10, maybe more than a dozen”, she said.

With Poland known for its liberal economic policy and its big coal sector, Bienkowska also faced tricky questions from left-wing and green deputies.

She said: “I’m convinced that Europe can remain competitive without compromising on the quality of its goods or its quality of life, its quality of social welfare”.

She noted the EU has no mandate to make member states change their energy mix.

She said the mix must conform with EU climate change targets, but she betrayed her colours by adding that the targets are “sometimes exaggerated”.

Bienkowska took a sharp approach in the hearing, squeezing extra speaking time from the chairman, and confronting MEPs who gave her a hard time.

She corrected one deputy who criticised her for being unelected by noting that she was elected to the Polish senate.

She told another MEP who called her a bureaucrat that stereotypes of officials from “films and old stories” are out of date.

The new Polish government: What to expect?

A strong ‘no’ to Russian aggression in Ukraine and to EU climate goals and a strong ‘yes’ to the energy union and free trade – the new Polish government is set to maintain its stance on key EU questions.

New 'ID' far-right EU parliament group falls short

The new far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) political group fails to muster enough support among other eurosceptics to become a heavyweight in the European Parliament. But with 73 MEPs, from nine EU states, it managed to secure the fifth spot.

Malta's ex-commissioner loses court case against EU

John Dalli was ousted as European Commissioner for health in 2012 over a tobacco-lobbying scandal. On Thursday, the general court of the European Union dismissed his case against the European Commission.

News in Brief

  1. Romanian ex-PM frontrunner to head new liberal group
  2. France, Germany and Spain in fighter jet deal
  3. Tusk grilled in Poland over role as PM
  4. Italy is 'most credible' US partner in EU, says Salvini
  5. EU blames Sudan junta for killings and rapes
  6. Report: EU may suspend Turkey customs union talks
  7. Swiss stock exchange could lose EU access in July
  8. Austria's Strache will not take up EU parliament seat

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 MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. EU urges Swiss to move on talks or face sanction
  2. Frontex transparency dispute goes to EU court
  3. Commission goes easy on scant national climate plans
  4. Macron and Mogherini decline to back US accusation on Iran
  5. EU summit must give effective answer on migration
  6. Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament
  7. Erdogan mocks Macron amid EU sanctions threat
  8. The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us