Saturday

24th Jul 2021

Political groups outline criteria for commissioner hearings

  • Microphones in the European Parliament are ready for the new commissioners hearings (Photo: EUobserver)

Leaders of the four largest political groups in the European Parliament on Tuesday (15 December) called for transparency and complete information about the commissioner candidates ahead of the January hearings, with the Bulgarian nominee emerging as the most controversial.

"The hearings are a very powerful tool in the hands of the Parliament to check the skills and competences of commissioner candidates," Socialist group leader Martin Schulz said at a press conference.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The three-hour hearings for each of the 26 commissioner candidates are to begin on 11 January and take place in Brussels and Strasbourg in the parliamentary committees dealing with topics related to the nominee's portfolio.

MEPs sitting in the specialised committees can push for a reshuffle of candidates or even for some competences to be given from one to another portfolio, if they are not "properly structured," said Mr Schulz.

The leader of the second largest group in the Parliament emphasised "competence" over political colour or nationality.

He referred to the precedent set in 2004, when parliamentarians raised flags against several nominees. Italy's Rocco Buttiglione was rejected by the justice and civil liberties MEPs after defending his personal gay-unfriendly views.

Hungary's Laszlo Kovacs failed in the hearings for the energy file and was put in charge of taxation, while Latvian surprise-candidate Ingrida Udre was withdrawn by the government in Riga and replaced with Andris Piebalgs.

As to the largest group, the centre-right European People's party, earlier rhetoric about the commissioner hearings which makes "affiliation with corrupt or repressive regimes" a reason for rejection appears to have been toned down. Its leader Joseph Daul said "there will be no witch hunt, no man or woman hunt."

He defended the centre-right nominee from Bulgaria, Rumiana Jeleva, whose husband is alleged to have connections with organised crime networks which plague the EU's newest member. She was also only 26 when member of a privatisation board. This has caused the Bulgarian media to question the people behind her.

"She [Ms Jeleva] will be telling us about her husband's activities in the hearings, in the spirit of full transparency. I'm not worried at all," Mr Daul said.

Asked about Ms Jeleva, Mr Schulz said he didn't want to "prejudge" anything that could happen in the hearing. "We know who they are, their past, their expertise. But we don't know what the future brings, how they will be reacting in a hearing," the German politician explained.

The smaller Green group was more vocal in calling for "transparency" and "complete information" on all the nominees whom there are rumours about.

They were also unhappy with the carve-up of portfolios in the environment sector, which is split between energy, climate change and environment.

As for the Liberals, their leader Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, tabled a 30-page long document which includes guidelines for each candidate to successfully come through the January questioning.

"We will send this doc today to the nominees. They have to know in advance what the priorities are for the Alliance of European Liberals and Democrats (ALDE)," he explained.

The guidelines focus on economic recovery, the introduction of EU taxes and the creation of EU bonds. On the external front, Mr Verhofstadt said his group was interested in how the new high representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, was planning to structure the diplomatic service.

"We want to hear from Ms Ashton how the European External Action Service can be put in place without creating parallel structures with EU commission delegations that exist today," he said.

Speaking to MEPs on Tuesday afternoon, commission president Jose Manuel Barroso asked the parliament to respect the "competence of the commission" and said that the fact that he is starting his second term as president meant he was "well-informed" about how the EU executive should be internally organised.

New Hungarian commissioner: 'Everyone says I'm an unusual choice'

Hungary's commissioner-designate Laszlo Andor, a member of the board of directors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development but also a strong critic of those he calls the "Market Maoists" of eastern Europe, is more the donnish intellectual than seasoned political operative.

Centre-right asks for commissioners with Communist-free past

EU commissioner hopefuls will not win the approval of centre-right MEPs if they are considered to have collaborated with repressive Communist regimes or with governments 'tainted by corruption,' the largest group in the European Parliament has indicated.

Political past may haunt commission nominees

A handful of nominees for the new EU executive could find themselves under fire over past associations with Communism, after the centre-right in the European Parliament indicated it will take a tough line on the issue in upcoming hearings.

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

News in Brief

  1. Macron changes phone after Pegasus spyware revelations
  2. Italy to impose 'vaccinated-only' entry on indoor entertainment
  3. EU 'will not renegotiate' Irish protocol
  4. Brussels migrants end hunger strike
  5. Elderly EU nationals in UK-status limbo after missed deadline
  6. WHO: 11bn doses needed to reach global vaccination target
  7. EU to share 200m Covid vaccine doses by end of 2021
  8. Spain ends outdoor mask-wearing despite surge

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Far left and right MEPs less critical of China and Russia
  2. Why is offshore wind the 'Cinderella' of EU climate policy?
  3. Open letter from 30 embassies ahead of Budapest Pride
  4. Orbán counters EU by calling referendum on anti-LGBTI law
  5. Why aren't EU's CSDP missions working?
  6. Romania most keen to join eurozone
  7. Slovenia risks court over EU anti-graft office
  8. Sweden's gang and gun violence sets politicians bickering

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us