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22nd May 2022

Centre-right MEPs threaten to delay commission vote

  • The EU parliament: keen to get more power on appointments (Photo: EUobserver)

Centre-right MEPs are threatening to delay the European Parliament's vote on the new European Commission if a six-point list of demands is not met.

Planned for 26 January, the vote will see the plenary as whole decide whether to accept the new college of commissioners, allowing the Brussels executive to finally come into office following over two months of delay.

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However, MEPs from the European People's Party, the largest grouping in the parliament, say they want the commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, to commit to certain promises for when the two institutions work out their 'inter-institutional agreement' - a five-year plan governing relations between the two bodies.

German centre-right MEP Manfred Weber, the legal affairs co-ordinator for the group, told journalists on Wednesday (13 January): "There can't be a vote on the commission on the 26th until we have an agreement on the rules. We will put a lot of pressure on this."

Among the most controversial concessions they are looking for is hearings on some of the special envoys and ambassadors appointed by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to the EU diplomatic service.

The demand is only supposed to concern appointees to "important" places. Asked how they would determine which countries or regions are important, the foreign affairs co-ordinator of the group, the Greek Ioannis Kasoulides, said they would use "common-sense" criteria. Ambassadors to Russia or the Middle East, for example, would be eligible for hearings.

This is something strongly opposed by member states, who fear the nominees will become subject to the internal political machinations of the parliament as the different political grouping practice partisan oneupmanship.

It is also one of the points where Ms Ashton herself was most firm during her appearance before MEPs on Monday, saying she has to "disappoint" parliament but that she did not want such hearings.

MEPs are also calling to be actively involved in negotiations on international agreements, rather than just being asked for their approval, citing the Swift issue of US access to the personal data of European citizens using the financial system.

A third, equally controversial suggestion, would see the commission obliged to come forward with a proposal within a year following a legislative initiative report by the parliament.

The remaining points call for "equal treatment" of parliament and council - where member states are represented; better law-making; and improved annual and legislative working programmes.

However, despite claims by the EPP to the contrary, other major groups are not on board.

Andrew Duff, liberal MEP, told this website: "I don't think it is the right time to be pushing for a concrete agreement on the framework agreement. We need to get more experience of the treaty in practice." He noted that it would be to the parliament's detriment to "blunder" into an agreement now and then have to stick with it for five years.

Referring to the proposals on the special envoys and on legislation, Mr Duff said: "All of those things are extremely sensitive and we have to stick to what is in the treaty."

But Mr Duff did agree that it is "too early to be clear that we are going to have a vote [on 26 January]," with some MEPs having issued strong criticism of the Bulgarian and Lithuanian commissioner designates.

The criticism may prompt a reshuffle or new nominees, which would require new hearings, possibly delaying the vote.

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