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25th Mar 2019

Moscovici gets rough ride as commission hearings turn partisan

  • Pierre Moscovici defended his record as French finance minister during fiery exchanges with MEPs on Thursday

French commission nominee Pierre Moscovici was the latest candidate to face a tough ride from MEPs, as the hearings for the EU executive became increasingly partisan.

Moscovici, a former MEP who served as finance minister in Francois Hollande's government between 2012 and April this year, was nominated by Jean-Claude Juncker to become the commissioner tasked with policing the EU's economic governance programme.

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Appearing before the Parliament's economic affairs committee on Thursday (2 October), Moscovici was repeatedly attacked by centre-right and liberal deputies critical of his two year ministerial stint.

"No one of good faith can imagine you should be given a post that you failed in as finance minister of France,” said Alain Lamassoure, who leads France's centre-right delegation in the EPP, the Parliament's largest political group.

Following the hearing, the EPP's economic affairs spokesman, Burkhard Balz, described Moscovici's candidacy as "hardly credible".

"His answers on his time as French Finance Minister were extremely weak. He did not show any vision for the future of the Monetary Union," Balz added.

In contrast, Moscovici received fulsome praise from the centre-left Socialist and Democrat group. Group spokeswoman Elisa Ferreira said Moscovici would make an "excellent commissioner" adding that his was "the best performance we've seen so far" during the hearing process.

On Wednesday (1 October) the French government rejected calls from Brussels for it to adopt further austerity measures, adopting a budget programme that will not bring its budget deficit within the EU's 3 percent limit under 2017, four years later than initially promised by Moscovici.

The French government has blamed a flat-lining economy, which is projected to grow by a mere 0.4 percent this year, and by 1 percent in 2015.

But during a fiery debate which at times descended into heckling between EPP and Socialist deputies, Moscovici insisted that France had not broken the EU's rules under his watch and that he had reduced the country's deficit.

"France has to respect the rules like everybody else," retorted Moscovici, who added that France would not receive "special treatment" from him.

In a bid to pacify conservatives who have criticised France's pace of economic reforms, he commented that "growth and structural reforms do not contradict each other".

Parliament sources have indicated that the EPP were hoping to force Moscovici to be summoned for a second hearing with MEPs before deciding on his fate next week.

The Parliament's left-wing and Green groups on Wednesday insisted that UK conservative Jonathan Hill face the economic affairs committee for a second time next week, after complaining that he had shown little knowledge of the main legislative files in his financial services portfolio.

Meanwhile, a decision on Miguel Arias Canete, the Spanish centre-right candidate for the energy commissioner post, has also been postponed on the initiative of the leftist groups.

The delaying or 'hostage taking' tactics are widely seen as a strategy by the the EPP and Socialist groups to ensure that candidates from their political family are not blocked by the opposing factions.

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