Friday

13th Dec 2019

EP commissioner hearings resume This WEEK

  • Is Ursula von der Leyen's college starting to have an image problem? (Photo: European Parliament)

European Parliament (EP) hearings into EU nominees resume this week after bruisings in which two candidates were already knocked out and two put on the ropes.

Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell will defend his claim to become EU foreign affairs chief, one of the four biggest jobs in Brussels, on Monday (7 October).

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The European Commission's existing anti-trust chief, Denmark's Margrethe Vestager, will defend keeping her powerful portfolio for another five years on Tuesday.

The Netherlands' Frans Timmermans, who battled Hungary and Poland on rule of law in the previous commission, will also defend his bid for a top climate post later the same day.

His hearing ends the first round of EP cross-examinations.

Most of the 26 candidates (Britain is out due to Brexit and Germany's Ursula von Der Leyen is commission president) are expected to get through.

But brutal proceedings in recent days saw parliament's legal affairs committee use new powers to disqualify two names (from Hungary and Romania), forcing von der Leyen to seek alternatives.

France's high-profile single market nominee and Poland's pick for the agriculture post have also been called back for second hearings, due on 14 and 15 October.

Even if France and Poland get through in the second hearings, the rejection of two nominees would be a novelty, after MEPs' ejected just one token EU candidate on each occasion following elections in the past 15 years.

The recent setbacks revolved around financial improprieties, except for Poland's nominee, who was more judged too "vague" on his answers.

Belgian and Croatian candidates also fielded questions on corruption allegations and mysterious wealth, causing potential image problems for von der Leyen's college.

MEPs and von der Leyen must agree on all posts before the EP votes on the full set of names on 23 October and the new von der Leyen commission is to take up office on 31 October - the same day the UK is to exit the EU.

But EU leaders will hold a summit prior to 23 October that could furnish opportunity for last-minute political talks on the appointments.

Meanwhile, in the background, justice and home affairs ministers will discuss the EU's fight against corruption, far-right terrorism, and child sexual abuse in Luxembourg on Monday and Tuesday.

Eurozone finance ministers will also discuss banking union on Wednesday and all 28 finance ministers will talk about the fight against money-laundering the next day.

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