18th Jan 2019

MEPs clear 25 out of 26 commission nominees

The President of the EU parliament, Jerzy Buzek, has confirmed that 25 out of the 26 nominees for the next EU commission have been formally approved by MEPs.

"I have on the table 25 letters, all the commissioner designates have now been accepted by the committees of the European Parliament, with one commissioner and one hearing still missing," he said after a behind-closed-doors meeting of EU parliament heads in Strasbourg on Thursday (21 January).

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Joseph Daul, the head of the parliament's largest political faction, the centre-right EPP, told German press: "I think his [EU commission President Jose Manuel Barroso] team is going to be approved with a very, very large majority."

A spokesman for the second largest faction, the Socialists, said: "We don't expect any hiccups."

The MEPs' conclave also decided to hold a hearing for the outstanding commission candidate, Bulgaria's Kristalina Georgieva, on 3 February, and a plenary vote on the full commission team on 9 February.

Mr Barroso is to meet Ms Georgieva for the first time in Brussels later on Thursday. Sofia put forward the nominee, a high flier in the World Bank, after its initial candidate, senior centre-right politician Rumiana Jeleva, was rejected on grounds of incompetence.

Ms Jeleva has since stepped down as Bulgaria's foreign minister. "I did not believe that an attack inspired by the Liberals, realised by the Greens to the benefit of the Socialists would go that far," she said on national radio on Wednesday.

The 25 positive assessments will give a fair wind for Mr Barroso for the 9 February vote.

Concerns had earlier emerged on whether the EPP would take revenge on the anti-Jeleva coalition by trying to topple a Socialist or Liberal candidate.

The Netherlands' Neelie Kroes, Slovak Marios Sefcovic, Finland's Olli Rehn, Lithuanian Algirdas Semetas and Sweden's Cecilia Malmstrom were in the firing line following weak hearings with parliament committees over the past two weeks and, in the case of Mr Sefcovic, due to alleged anti-Roma remarks.

Spanner in the works

Thursday's meeting of MEP heads also discussed progress on a new inter-institutional pact currently under negotiation with the commission. MEPs are seeking new powers such as the right to vet senior EU diplomatic appointments and to help initiate EU laws.

A spokeswoman for Mr Barroso said on Thursday that the negotiations are going "very well ...we're very optimistic."

But parliament is using its potential veto on the new commission team as leverage in the institutional talks.

The German centre-right MEP in charge of the institutional negotiations, Klaus-Heiner Lehne, told the MEPs' conclave that: "If there is no agreement, I will ask for a delay of the vote [on commission nominees]," a parliamentary source said.

The contact added that the scheduling of the 9 February session is designed to maximise pressure on Mr Barroso. MEPs will on the day first vote on the inter-institutional deal, then take a break for internal talks within the political factions, before coming back to vote on the commission team.


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