Sunday

21st Jan 2018

MEPs push for oversight on commissioners

  • Pascal Durand, the Green MEP that wants to control commissioners through better scrutiny of interest declarations (Photo: European Parliament)

One week after revelations that former EU commissioner Neelie Kroes had failed to declare her directorship of an offshore firm in 10 years in office, the European Parliament took a small step toward strengthening oversight.

One of parliament’s smallest groups, the Greens, has proposed that the assembly should, in future, have the right to block candidates from conflicted portfolios or, in extreme cases, if they failed to come clean on their financial interests, from assuming office.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Dariusz Rosati, the Polish EPP politician, says the next Kroes case is best avoided by cracking down on tax avoidance (Photo: European Parliament)

The EU parliament already holds hearings with commissioner-designates, and can blackball candidates if they do not know their portfolio or for political reasons.

But its power to vet candidates over conflicts of interest is symbolic.

On paper, commissioner-hopefuls have to submit declarations of interest for scrutiny by the parliament’s legal affairs committee (Juri).

But Juri MEPs “can only check whether declaration forms have been filled out, signed and dated in the proper format,” Pascal Durand, a French MEP in the Green group who drafted the new oversight proposals, told this website.

Referring to the hearings of commissioner-designates, he added: “We can ask questions to evaluate a candidate's political abilities, but it’s not a suitable method for probing vested interests”.

The debate on oversight comes after revelations, dubbed Bahamas leaks, last week, that Kroes failed to declare directorship of a Bahama-registered company with interests in the US energy sector.

Kroes admitted wrongdoing, but blamed a ”clerical” error.

The current climate change commissioner, Miguel Arias Canete, has also prompted oversight questions.

Shortly before the summer recess, Juri summoned Canete to ask why he had failed to declare his wife’s offshore firm, as revealed in the Panama Papers leaks.

Independent special body

He said the firm was “dormant”, but left-wing and green MEPs said he avoided hard questions.

The controversies risk further damaging EU institutions’ credibility, at a time of heightened scrutiny after Brexit.

Durand's report on EU parliament oversight was well received by other groups at a Juri hearing on Monday (26 September).

He told EUobserver the European Commission was wrong to rely on commissioner’s good faith on declarations of interest.

But he added that even if his proposals were adopted, they would not be enough to stop commissioners hiding assets.

”For that, we would need an independent special body with human and financial resources, which would have the right to investigate public officials and to pronounce sanctions," said the French MEP.

The centre-left S&D group, the second largest in the EU parliament, threw its weight behind Durand’s report on Monday.

Loopholes in tax laws

But the centre-right EPP, the largest bloc, said the problem didn't come from the EU institutions.

Tadeusz Zwiefka, a Polish centre-right MEP, said the responsibility lay with member states as they nominated the candidates in the first place.

"It's us who are taking the fire for Neelie Kroes," he said, "instead of the Dutch government that appointed her."

Dariusz Rosati, another Polish centre-right MEP, said loopholes in international tax law were to blame.

”Ms Kroes’ name is of course headline-grabbing but we should look to the cause of this mess, namely insufficient international cooperation on tax issues,” he told EUobserver.

Rosati is the EPP spokesman in the Pana committee, a new organ created to investigate the truth behind the Panama Papers and Bahamas leaks, which starts work on Tuesday.

New EU competition chief promises to be impartial

The incoming Dutch Commissioner has argued in a hearing with MEPs that her experience as a business women will be an advantage when she takes on the Competition portfolio later this year. But several MEPs have accused her of giving answers that were "vague and evasive".

Spain's Canete entangled in EP political battle

A stormy EP hearing with Spain’s Canete on Wednesday ended with the Socialists seeking a delay on his approval, as part of a bigger confrontation between political groups.

EIB 'more sensitive' to fraud after Dieselgate

The president of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, said the bank had high standards - but did not explain why an anti-fraud report on a loan to Volkswagen was being kept secret.

News in Brief

  1. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  2. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems
  3. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook up hate speech deletion
  4. UK mulls bridge to France
  5. German far-right float anti-asylum bill
  6. EU Parliament to investigate glyphosate-decision process
  7. 'Mutagenesis' falls outside EU's GMO rules, says EU top lawyer
  8. Decision on Polish MEP's Nazi-era slur postponed

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  2. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  3. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  4. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  5. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  6. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  7. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week
  8. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap