Friday

17th Aug 2018

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.

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

  • 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. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants
  2. Merkel confronts far-right critics: '2015 will not be repeated'
  3. UN: Predictable disembarkation process urgently needed
  4. Slovenia set to select former comedian as prime minister
  5. Polish president to veto election rule helping big parties
  6. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  7. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  8. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  2. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  3. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs
  4. Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism
  5. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  6. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  7. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate
  8. EU court to hear citizens' climate case against EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us