Thursday

25th May 2017

Schulz walks careful line on politics of EP commissioner hearings

EU commissioner candidates will be tested primarily on their expertise, EP chief Martin Schulz said on Wednesday (16 July) after previously indicating that the British hopeful could be rejected on political grounds.

"They will not be judged on political criteria," said Schulz, adding that the nominees, who will be heard in the committee related to their dossier, will be quizzed on their "competence".

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He made the clarification following an interview with German Radio in which he said "I don't think that Jonathan Hill with his radical anti-European views - in so far as he has such views - will get a majority in the European Parliament."

British PM David Cameron put forward Lord Hill for the EU post on Tuesday, and subsequently said he wants a large economic portfolio for him.

Largely unknown either in the UK or beyond, his nomination was met with a large question mark in Brussels.

Referring to Hill's background, Schulz conceded that Lord Hill's reviews on the EU are moderate.

"Friends have told me that he is rather pro-European for the UK context," he said, noting that he will be "handled" just like all the other candidates.

But the EP chief noted that politics will play a role, too, when commissioners are being grilled by MEPs.

"You can never exclude that politics will occur in a parliament."

"In the past we have had cases where individual commissioners were rejected because a majority in the parliament felt their positions were contrary to the basic values of the European Union. That is of course politics."

The European Parliament is formally only allowed to reject the EU commission as a whole. But it has previously managed to use the threat of this power to reject individual nominees.

Meanwhile, following the asembly's success in changing how the EU commission president is chosen - for the first time it was no longer a perogative of EU leaders - MEPs are already looking to further change the 2019 EU election.

"Following the election campaign we've just had, there is a pretty strong will in parliament to look at a single European statute. Several people have already said this to me," said Schulz.

However, this would also need the agreement of member states.

EP to vote down commission with too few women

EU parliament chief Schulz has warned national governments his institution will reject the incoming college of commissioners if there are not enough women in it.

EP gears itself up for hearings of new commissioners

The European Parliament is preparing a set of "obstacle course" hearings for incoming EU commissioners with recent past form showing that at least one of the designates will fall by the wayside.

MEPs vote to start democracy probe on Hungary

The European Parliament took the first step towards launching the Article 7 procedure against Hungary for backsliding on democracy. The process might lead to sanctions, but Orban is not backing down.

MEPs preparing to crack down on Orban

The EU assembly's largest group is split by its "enfant terrible", but enough MEPs are likely to abstain or vote Yes on the "Article 7" crackdown over Orban's illiberal rule.

Macron and Merkel to 'reconstruct' the EU

The French and German leaders will present a common proposal to deepen and strengthen the EU and the eurozone. They say they are ready to change the EU treaties.

Schulz fails to beat Merkel in German home state

Former EU parliament leader, Martin Schulz, says the defeat of his social-democrats in North Rhine-Westphalia is "difficult". The elections showed that a "Schulz effect" does not (yet) exist.

Austria heading for snap elections

Foreign minister Kurz has taken leadership of the conservative party in what could lead to an alliance with the far-right.

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