22nd Sep 2021

Enlarged Commission approved

  • Those nominated for the Commission's next term can expect tougher hearings (Photo: European Commission)

The European Parliament has given its approval to the new formation of the European Commission which has added 10 members from the new EU entrants to its ranks.

With 531 votes in favour, 18 against and 39 abstentions, MEPs have given the go-ahead to the European Commission’s new size until it ends its term of office on 31 October this year.

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Commission President Romano Prodi told them their job would not be easy. This is because "they are very visibly the face of the European Union for their fellow countrymen, and they have a crucial role to play during a period in which the new fellow citizens will be learning to trust the Union and learning about the way in which the European Union works".

Tougher hearings ahead

The 10 new Commissioners had to undergo questioning by MEPs last month on the particular policy areas that they will follow.

However, those that will stay on for the Commission’s new term, which takes up its duties on 1 November 2004, were warned that tougher hearings by MEPs are expected next time around.

"To date, our hearings of Commissioners have been handicapped by too much partisanship and too little sustained, in-depth questioning", Liberal leader Graham Watson said.

"All of the Commissioners nominated in November can expect tough questioning from MEPs of the political centre", he said.

Maltese in the spotlight

One new commissioner came in for some particularly tough scrutiny.

Dutch Socialist Margrietus van den Berg, Vice-chair of the Committee on Development and Co-operation, had harsh words for the Maltese Commissioner, Joe Borg.

"The new countries have got to meet the criteria. But with Joe Borg, as Commissioner designate, it was clear from the hearings that he was not prepared to make a success of the development and co-operation brief", he said.

Last month, a parliament committee hearing concluded that it remained "to be convinced of his [Mr Borg's] expertise and political vision in certain areas".

Three new from 'old' member states

Besides the new 10 Commissioners, the Prodi Commission also has three new faces from the "old" member states, replacing Commissioners who went back to national politics.

Greece's Anna Diamantopoulou has been replaced by Stavros Dimas, France's Michel Barnier by Jacques Barrot and Spain's Pedro Solbes by Joaquín Almunia.

The European Parliament urged member states to refrain from replacing members of the current Commission who retire before the end of this current term of office.

It also called for "a review of the procedure to cover circumstances in which individual members of the Commission retire before their term of office ends".

The Commissioners were also urged to refrain from engaging in domestic party politics.

Mr Prodi himself has been the object of a lot of this criticism, as last year he launched an election manifesto for the Italian left for the European elections.

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