NGOs warn against Oettinger's nomination
By Eszter Zalan
European NGOs have protested in a letter to members of the European Parliament against extending EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger's portfolio ahead of his parliamentary hearing next Monday (9 January).
The German commissioner is not fit to hold the responsibility for human resources in the European Commission, said the letter, signed by, among others, anti-corruption groups Transparency International EU and Corporate European Observatory, gay rights groups, anti-poverty charities like Oxfam and other groups.
"As organisations working towards equality, non-discrimination and campaigning for transparency and ethics, we do not think that Commissioner Oettinger is suitable to oversee Human Resources at the European Commission."
MEPs are expected to question Oettinger next Monday, after EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker proposed that he becomes vice president in charge of budget and human resources replacing Kristalina Georgieva, who has taken a job at the World Bank.
The NGOs argue that Oettinger "has made racist, sexist and homophobic remarks", citing comments he made in Hamburg on 26 October.
The groups also recall that as commissioner for human resources, Oettinger would be responsible for enforcing transparency and ethics rules, but that the German commissioner has "repeatedly attracted criticism over his way of interacting with lobbyists".
The groups claim that almost 90 percent of Oettinger's meetings have been with corporate interest groups, the highest number among the commissioners.
Oettinger has also had undisclosed meetings with lobbyists - last May he accepted a flight in a private jet of a German businessman with close ties to the Russian leadership.
"In our view, Oettinger is unfit to inspire compliance with existing ethics and transparency rules among Commission staff and his peers," the NGOs say in their letter.
Oettinger had repeatedly denied wrongdoing and apologised for his racist comments. But the NGOs argue that is not enough.
"At this crucial moment for the EU, it is more vital than ever to have a strong and credible commitment from the European Commission to counter discrimination and act for equality for all. The Commissioner in charge of human resources must lead by example."
Next Monday, in a joint meeting of the budgetary control and legal affairs committee, MEPs will have a chance to ask Oettinger on those issues in an "exchange of views".