Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Three at-risk commissioners try to win over MEPs

  • The other two would-be commissioners that are in trouble are France's Pierre Moscovici and Miguel Canete from Spain (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Three of the five commissioners that are facing difficulties in their European Parliament hearings spent their weekend doing homework, handing in elaborate responses running to thousands of words.

The Hungarian (Tibor Navracsics), Czech (Vera Jourova) and British (Jonathan Hill) commissioners, in charge of education, justice and financial services, respectively, were all sent back to the drawing board after inconclusive hearings last week.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Of the three, only Hill is actually to face another cross-examination, while the others are hoping their written replies alone will convince wavering MEPs.

A European public prosecutor in 2016

Jourova, whose portfolio spans a large policy area including consumers and gender equality, faced the most questions (45) across a wide-range of issues running from Roma rights, to data protection, to women on company boards and corporate laws.

Among her answers she pledges to try and get the European public prosecutor’s office in place by 2016; do her "utmost" to unblock an equality law that would ban discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation; "revitalise" negotiations on a failed maternity leave law; and uphold the principle of free movement of people which "should not be taken hostage for political purposes".

In answer to MEPs' concerns that her portfolio is too broad, she noted that: "While the portfolio covers a wide-range of areas, it has a coherent set of values."

"I intend to put people at the centre of my work, based around the three principles of more choice, more protection and more trust."

While Jourova had the most questions to answer, Hill's replies to his 23 questions were the lengthiest with the document running to 22 pages.

UK commissioner to serve in the "general interest'

In it, the British Conservative, who came under fire for giving vague answers last week, sought to allay MEPs' concerns about his alleged closeness to the financial sector and about his nationality, as the UK is set to take political centre-stage in the coming years over its EU membership.

"If confirmed, I will be a European Commissioner, serving the general interest, not any one member state's interest," he said.

In response to a question about which financial services clients he had worked for when he was a lobbyist he noted that he has "no directorships, no shares, indeed have no interests at all, in any financial services companies".

He also notes that the period since he left a consultancy was "three times as long" as the 18 months required by EU commission rules for a person taking up new employment in the same sector.

On eurobonds - a form of debt mutualisation across the eurozone favoured by several MEPs, but highly controversial - Hill noted that it is "very unlikely that a consensus on issuance of eurobonds can be achieved at this time".

While questions to Hill and Jourova stayed mainly on upcoming policies, Navracsics was asked to explain several past policy moves by the Hungarian government which have caused clashes with Brussels.

Taking distance from Orban

Over the course of his six replies, the former foreign minister made several attempts to distance himself from Budapest, noting a couple of times that he "no longer belongs" to the government.

His lengthiest answer is on Hungary's media law, which critics say is an attempt to clamp down on free press.

"Numerous aspects of this original text did not reflect my personal views," said Navracsics. He added that the final version came about after discussion with the EU institutions, however.

He promised to "fully respect" media freedom and pluralism when he is commissioner.

"I regret that sometimes in the past, not enough importance has been given to this important aspect by the Hungarian government, to which I no longer belong."

Asked about Hungary's "highly controversial policies in the field of education," Navracsics noted that the government's attempts to centralise education policies were due to earlier decentralisation leading to poorer education standards rather than any "ideological ambition".

When asked to "officially and publicly condemn" Hungary's media and judiciary reforms "that you inspired" he said the process of discussing the laws with Brussels had been instructive and the laws were changed in light of demands by the EU and by the Council of Europe, a human rights watch dog.

"I learnt that it would have been wise to engage in these discussions and consultations earlier, and in a more sensitive manner as regards the importance of fundamental rights and the rule of law across the European Union."

US diplomat lashes out at Hungary's Orban

Victoria Nuland, the US' top diplomat on Europe, has indirectly criticised Hungarian leader Viktor Orban for the “cancer” of “democratic backsliding”.

Decision day for EU's at-risk commissioners

On the last day of commissioner hearings, MEPs will decide what to do with remaining at-risk candidates after rejecting Hungary's Navracsics on culture.

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us