Monday

20th Nov 2017

MEPs to Juncker: Reconsider Oettinger's promotion

  • Oettinger - new ethics chief insulted Chinese people, women, and LGBTI people, as well as taking a controversial plane trip with a lobbyist (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Nine MEPs have urged European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to reconsider his promotion of Guenther Oettinger to a sensitive EU portfolio.

The appeal came in a letter on Thursday (5 January), a few days before a European Parliament hearing on Oettinger's new post.

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.

  • Oettinger (r) in the company of Hungarian PM Viktor Orban (c) and Klaus Mangold (l) (Photo: MTI)

The German EU commissioner is to take over the budget and human resources file, which was vacated by Kristalina Georgieva, who left to work for the World Bank.

The post would make him responsible for EU officials’ proper conduct and for transparency and could see him crowned a commission vice-president.

But the MEPs said his "recent actions" were “not appropriate behaviour for a commissioner and breach the Code of Conduct for commissioners".

They were referring to his racist, misogynist, and homophobic remarks at a dinner with German businessmen last October and to his flight, last May, on the private jet of a German pro-Russia lobbyist.

Oettinger later apologised for his comments and denied wrongdoing on the jet incident.

But the MEPs said “the actions of commissioner Oettinger clearly compromise his ability to achieve this and the appointment would send the wrong message to European citizens who expect holders of high authority to lead by example, and to respect principles of democracy, transparency, diversity, and inclusion.”

They added that his racist remarks could harden feeling against minorities, as "prorogued by certain political leaders and parties” in Europe.

Dennis de Jong, Benedek Javor, Ana Gomes, Soraya Post, Cecile Kyenge, Jean Lambert, Cornelia Ernst, Ulrike Lunacek and Daniele Viotti signed the anti-Oettinger complaint.

Several of the MEPs, who hail from left-wing and green groups, serve on committees that would oversee his new dossier.

One of the signatories, Javor, a Hungarian MEP, told EUobserver he doubted that Juncker would change his mind.

But he said the commission president should not treat Thursday’s complaint lightly.

"This letter is a last signal to the EU commission that its attitude and inaction with regards to Oettinger's controversial behaviour is unacceptable," he said.

A group of NGOs, also on Thursday, piled on the pressure in a separate appeal to Juncker to drop Oettinger’s promotion.

The controversy comes amid a broader popularity crisis for EU officials.

Juncker himself is in the spotlight for shady tax deals in Luxembourg. His EU predecessor, Jose Manuel Barroso, was recently shamed for becoming a lobbyist for a US bank. The EU’s former competition chief, Neelie Kroes, also received a "reprimand" for lobbying.

Non-hearing hearing

Oettinger will be quizzed on Monday (9 January) in a 90-minute hearing by MEPs from the EU parliament’s budget, budgetary control, and legal affairs committees.

MEPs will then file an opinion to the parliament president and group leaders, who will discuss the issue on 12 January.

The Oettinger hearing is a softer version of normal procedure.

New commissioners usually face a three-hour grilling with a secret vote at the end, but Oettinger will face an "exchange of views” with no vote.

Javor, the Hungarian MEP, who originally exposed Oettinger's lobbyist jet trip, said it looked as if the parliament chiefs wanted to give the German politician an easy pass.

He said new rules coming in in January would have prevented the soft format.

"My feeling is that they [parliament president and group leaders] pushed for a quick and early exchange of views to avoid a comprehensive hearing," the MEP told EUobserver.

Oettinger’s regret

Oettinger, a 63-year old Christian Democrat from Baden-Württemberg, a German region, said in October that Chinese people had “slant eyes” and insulted women and LGBTI people.

He has already responded to some pre-hearing MEPs' written questions.

He said in one response : "I very much regret that the words used during my speech may have hurt people. This was not my intention."

He never sent a letter of apology to the Chinese mission to the EU, but he said he was sorry if his words "gave rise to the impression of disrespect for the people of China".

He added that his “firm belief is that diversity is a strength and a core value at the heart of the European project.”

He also promised women that they would represent 40 percent of commission managers by 2019.

Non-hearing hearing

On the private jet incident, he defended his decision not to declare his trip with the German pro-Russia lobbyist, Klaus Mangold, as a lobbyist “meeting”.

He said that under a 2014 commission decision, a lobbyist meeting was defined as a "bilateral encounter organised at the initiative of an organisation or self-employed individual or a member of the commission and/or a member of his/her cabinet to discuss an issue related to policy-making and implementation in the Union.”

He said that the Hungarian government organised the plane trip with Mangold, which was not a “meeting” because neither he nor Mangold had requested it.

MEP barred from questioning Oettinger on plane trip

The Hungarian Green MEP who uncovered EU Commissioner Oettinger's flight to Budapest on a private plane of a lobbyist was not allowed to ask the German politician on the issue in the EP.

Investigation

MEPs criticise Oettinger's 'judgement'

The German commissioner says it was normal to travel by a private jet owned by a German businessman. MEPs, with the exception of Oettinger's own EPP group, are gearing up to grill him.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts new border check rules
  2. Soros: Hungary's campaign based on 'distortions and lies'
  3. German talks collapse 'bad news', Dutch minister says
  4. UK to make EU new financial offer on Brexit
  5. Turkish capital bans LGBTI events
  6. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  7. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  8. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  2. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  3. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  5. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  6. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  7. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  9. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  10. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. Tusk's 'Kremlin' tweet prompts Polish uproar
  2. German coalition talks collapse
  3. Decision day for EU agencies relocation race
  4. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  5. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  6. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  7. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  8. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Step Up Water Management Cooperation
  2. CECEMachinery Industry Calls for Joint EU Approach to Develop Digital Construction Sector
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersMale Business Leaders Gather in Copenhagen to Advance Gender Equality
  4. EnelNo ETS Deal Means It Can Still Be Strengthened
  5. EU2017EEEstonia Anticipates More Digital Cooperation With Sweden
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina Launches Campaign to Protect IPR of Foreign Companies
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Condemns Attacks on Ruta Vanagaite and the Shredding of Her Books in Lithuania
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesDiscover the Future of the Bio-Based Economy. Register Now for the BBI Stakeholder Forum!
  9. European Free AllianceWelcome Catalonia!
  10. UNICEFGrowing Number of Unaccompanied Refugee Children in Greece in Need of Shelter
  11. Counter BalanceNature Destruction Cannot Be Compensated For, Say NGOs
  12. CES - Silicones EuropeSilicones - Enabling the Next Big Leap in Prosthetics and Health