Saturday

23rd Nov 2019

EUobserved

And then there was Frans

  • Timmermans - Juncker's right (and left) hand (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

On Tuesday afternoon, at approximately 2.30pm Brussels time, the clouds parted. The sun broke out and through its rays it was possible to see ... Frans Timmermans.

The Dutchman, apparently floating a few feet above ground, glided into the European Parliament for his hearing.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

It was almost a month to the day that Jean-Claude Juncker informed those listening that Frans would be his right hand and, somewhat alarmingly, his deputy if he could not be "mentally" present.

So what would he, Frans Timmermans, *first* vice-president, and in possession of a job description that appears to be the result of a random word association game (plus perhaps a little sustainable development), actually say.

Well, what didn't he say.

There was music for everybody's ears.

Pro-EU, but going to stop it from being meddlesome. A cull-er of legislation, but not social standards. Tough on crime, but also on upholding human rights. Pro-transparency. Champion of national parliaments, but respectful of MEPs. Prepared (in principle) to be as hard-hitting as Victoria Nuland on Hungary. Centre-left. But centre-left from a penny-loving northern EU state. A rescuer of (EU-) disaffected citizens.

He had MEPs by the first question - answering in Italian (it was, for a while, a moot point whether anyone was listening to the answers so much as wondering what language was coming next).

And nailed their affections by knowing the difference between delegated and implementing acts.

For the centre-left he was, clearly, a "tour de force". The centre-right did some pro-forma finger wagging to the tune of actions being louder than words. The greens expressed some mild reservations about potentially over-zealous law-pruning.

When the dust settled, the back-slapping stopped, it became clear that his role as top vice-president of the EU commission was quite as unclear as when he entered the room.

But too late, he'd already gone.

"No worries there," the enforcer-in-chief stated at one point. He would make it so that all of the commission's goals were achieved with the new two-tier system.

He would not be a "sheriff", he would work with his colleagues to find a common agreement on everything.

So ended 27 (and a half) hearings across 7 days. The de facto two-tier commission had been denied by everybody. No one has a veto. (Although some clearly - Moscovici / Oettinger - wish they had).

It's all about consensus-building; working across departments; and no hierarchies. In fact, it's all resoundingly vague. (Who will represent the eurozone at IMF and G-20 meetings? Ach that'll be decided on the day).

But with all these co-ordinators around - and Juncker set to be the most hands-off commission president ever - who will actually be taking the decisions?

The one with the clearest overview of what is going on in the commission. The one across whose desk every law will pass ...

"No worries there," he says.

EUobserved

Death by 'hearings'

The hearings, the hearings. It's all about the hearings. Please make it stop. Or should that be start?

Who is Frans Timmermans?

The Dutch Frans Timmermans is set to become the most powerful EU official in Brussels - so who exactly is he?

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

Agenda

EU Parliament to vote on the Commission This WEEK

MEPs will decide on Wednesday whether to support the new EU commission as a whole during the plenary session. If approved, Ursula von der Leyen's team will finally take office on 1 December.

News in Brief

  1. UK misses UN deadline to return Chagos Islands
  2. PM: Greece will 'shut door' to migrants without rights
  3. CDU leader offers to quit if party doesn't back her
  4. Serbian president confirms Russia spy video
  5. UK to repatriate 'Islamic State' orphans
  6. Man arrested over Maltese journalist murder free on bail
  7. Children with disabilities in Bulgaria isolated, report says
  8. WHO: 80 percent of adolescents don't exercise enough

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us