Tuesday

21st Aug 2018

Investigation

MEPs criticise Oettinger's 'judgement'

  • "How much longer will president Juncker put up with commissioner Oettinger?", an NGO asked (Photo: European Commission)

EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger maintained on Wednesday (16 November) there was nothing wrong with him taking a private jet of a German businessman with strong Russian ties.

Oettinger argued in a series of tweets that due to scheduling conflicts he had no choice but to take the private plane of Klaus Mangold, which was offered by the Hungarian government, and, apparently, also paid for by it.

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

"We did not explicitly ask HU [Hungary] about their payment – neither for plane nor for hotel they also offered," the German EU commissioner said.

"Governments often offer transport & accommodation for missions of Commissioners when they invite for meeting, conference," he tweeted, adding: "I was invited to a dinner with a Prime Minister to discuss EU digital policies. It is my job to explain & discuss."

Oettinger travelled to Budapest for a conference on the future of cars in May on the invitation of prime minister Viktor Orban.

His flight on board of Mangold's plane was confirmed in early November by the commission in an answer to an MEPs' question.

'He doesn't understand'

European Parliament president Martin Schulz, a centre-left German, declined to comment to EUobserver about the case.

Walking through the hallways of the EU parliament with his entourage, his aides said he could not comment because he was “going to a meeting”.

Manfred Weber, who was re-elected as leader of the centre-right EPP group on Wednesday (16 November), told journalists that he had “complete confidence” in Oettinger.

Weber called him a “very experienced commissioner” and said there was “no doubt at all whether Guenther Oettinger is doing a good job as commissioner”.

The second largest group in the EP, the Socialist and Democrats tweeted that Oettinger's actions "risk widening the division between citizens & EU institutions. It's looking more like he's the wrong man in the wrong place."

"Once again we call on @GOettingerEU [Commissioner Oettinger] to clarify his misfortunate actions and unethical behaviour," the statement of the S&D said.

"The S&D Group will use the upcoming EP hearing to question him harshly", the leader of the group, Gianni Pittella said in the tweet.

The date has not yet been set for the hearing.

Danish social-democrat MEP Christel Schaldemose told EUobserver she had not read the article yet. But she noted that transparency is extremely important, “especially if you want to be a candidate for an important position”.

“We have those rules for a reason,” she said, adding that the European institutions have enough funds to pay for their officials' travels.

Sources close to the third-largest group in the parliament, the ECR, said they would “wait and see” how Oettinger explained the case, and that they had not had any internal discussions on whether the group would support his bid for vice-president of the commission.

'Not a slip of the tongue'

The Greens are also gearing up for a grilling at Oettinger's hearing at the EP.

Rebecca Harms, president of the Green group in the European Parliament, one of the MEPs who originally questioned Oettinger's May trip, said that "Commissioner Oettinger has violated the ethical rules of the European Commission and does not even seem to understand why this is problematic."

"It is deeply concerning that an EU Commissioner sees no problem in travelling in the private jet of a lobbyist with close ties to the Kremlin, who is actively opposing EU sanctions against Russia," Harms said.

Liberal Dutch MEP Sophie in't Veld told Euobserver an EP hearing would be necessary for Oettinger, as the EU commission has tried to brush aside earlier controversies regarding the commissioner's racist comments.

"If you look at the complete picture, you really wonder about his judgement. I think there are many good reasons why he should come to parliament and answer one or two questions and certainly if he is set to take over the budget portfolio. We need somebody with sound judgement," she said.

"This whole thing with accepting the trip on the plane, I mean hasn't there been a single moment where he thought, is this a good idea? And also in making those [racist] statements, that wasn't a slip of the tongue. There seems to be a pattern there," the Dutch MEP said.

"At that this particular moment in time, we need to show, everybody is critising Trump and what is happening on the other side of the pond ... so we need to show to the citizens what we stand for and that means both in terms of values, when you talk about his remarks, and in terms of transparency and accountability and being wise with tax payers money," Sophie in't Veld said.

'A buddy to business'

To Julia Reda, MEP for the German Pirate party, the use of the private plane was no accident.

"Mr. Oettinger's has by now accumulated a track record of doubtful and unwise policy decisions,” she told EUobserver in a written statement.

“On top of it, he is continuing to endanger the integrity of the office he holds and the institution he works for," she added.

“We see a repeating pattern of him displaying lack of understanding about the ethical questions being raised, usually followed by a written apology provided to him by his staff as the situation unfolds," she said.

Vicky Cann from the Corporate Europe Observatory watchdog also thinks Oettinger's rack record is problematic.

“Trips on private jets with unregistered lobbyist; secret meetings with the German car industry; sexist, homophobic and racist remarks … how much longer will president Juncker put up with commissioner Oettinger?," she said in a statement.

"Oettinger has long been a buddy to business and has a track record of protecting the car industry from environmental regulations. Even in 2016, as Commissioner for the Digital Economy, Oettinger has met with the car industry six times, including twice the scandal-struck VW," Cann added.

Oettinger left no trace of VW Dieselgate meeting

EU commissioner for the digital economy and society, Guenther Oettinger, met with German carmakers in January to discuss "diesel emissions", even though the topic is not in his portfolio.

Oettinger apologises over China insults

The future commission vice-president admitted in a statement that his words "have created bad feelings and may even have hurt people".

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.

News in Brief

  1. Italy allows boat with migrants to dock
  2. France's Total pulls out of Iran due to US sanctions
  3. Trump accuses EU and China of currency manipulation
  4. Swedish conservatives regret unsuccessful integration policies
  5. Record high measles cases hit Europe
  6. Swedish politician declares war on media
  7. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya
  8. MEP accuses Maltese government of 'hate campaign'

Investigation

How Romania became an EU workers' rights 'guinea pig'

"We are paid as if we were a country of unqualified workers". Union leaders and labour rights experts reveal, in figures, the catastrophic consequences of the laws that have turned Romania into the country of the working poor.

Investigation

The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals

Klaus Mangold, a German businessman with good connections in Russia, and who provided a jet for Commission vice-president Guenther Oettinger, played a crucial role in Hungary's controversial Paks nuclear deal with Russia, Direkt36's investigation has found.

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. UK sanctions appeal risks highlighting EU divisions
  2. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  3. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  4. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  5. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  6. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  7. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  8. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

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