Schulz walks careful line on politics of EP commissioner hearings
By Honor Mahony
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.