Sunday

13th Oct 2019

Greens write letter of complaint over new Spanish commissioner

  • The Spanish nominee is in the Greens' line of fire (Photo: La Moncloa Gobierno de España)

The Green faction in the European Parliament has written to incoming European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to raise concerns about the Spanish nominee for his team.

The letter notes there are "mounting concerns and criticism" about Miguel Arias Canete, who is slated to take on the energy and climate action portfolio.

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It says that while Canete's "direct links" to the oil industry were severed when he sold his shares in two companies (Petrolifera Ducar and Petrologis Canaris) earlier this month, it is "still insufficient evidence for him to be able to claim to 'avoid the slightest notion of potential conflict of interest'."

"His wife, son and brother in law all remain as either shareholders or board members of these companies," it continues.

The letter also draws attention to the fact that Spanish media and NGOs have raised "serious suspicions that these personal and family interests have been partly hidden, through tax-evasion mechanisms".

The Green group, which is the second smallest of the seven factions in the parliament, with 50 MEPs, asks Juncker whether he was aware of the Spaniard's potential conflict of interest and how he will ensure Canete's independence is "actually beyond doubt".

The letter comes just ahead of the European Parliament's hearings of all commissioners, beginning next week.

MEPs do not have the power to veto individual commissioner candidates but won the de facto right back in 2004 when they forced a change of the Italian and Latvian nominees.

Canete's name has popped up several times as someone who may face problems due to his shares in the oil energy. He tried to pre-empt any trouble by selling them on 18 September.

But the Greens and other pro-environment MEPs were set to give anyone in the post a tough grilling, as the portfolio merges energy and climate action, which critics say already represents a downgrading of environment in the Juncker commission.

Canete is due to be heard on Wednesday (1 October) by the industry and environment committees - two power committees which often have strongly differing views on proposed EU legislation.

The hearings as a whole kick off on Monday with the incoming trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, one of the first in the hot seat.

MEPs are expected to pay particular attention to the seven vice-presidents, who will have extra oversight powers, to work out exactly how they will wield them.

Frans Timmermans, the Dutch commissioner, who is to be the 'first' vice-president will have a special hearing with all political group leaders as his job - to curb red-tape and maintain inter-institutional relations - will cut across all departments.

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A stormy EP hearing with Spain’s Canete on Wednesday ended with the Socialists seeking a delay on his approval, as part of a bigger confrontation between political groups.

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As Poland's combative Law and Justice party faces elections this Sunday, the commission once again sends a case on its domestic judiciary reforms to the European Court of Justice for breaking EU rules.

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The current Czech commissioner for justice, Vera Jourova, was approved for the next commission, as she promised to defend democracy from online threats, and to present ideas about reforming future European elections by 2020.

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