The 27 commissioners-designate start their hearings in the European Parliament today. Although the Parliament has no power to veto individual commissioners, it can threaten to withhold approval of the Commission as a whole. In the past, this has meant it usually gets it way and any candidates it objects to are swiftly replaced.
The Spanish Energy & Climate Commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, is under particular scrutiny for his family’s business links with oil companies. However, other candidates will also have to work hard to convince MEPs, including Hungary’s ex-foreign minister, Tibor Navracsics, who will be responsible for education, culture, youth and citizenship at a time when the Hungarian government is being criticised for cracking down on foreign-funded NGOs.
Lord Jonathan Hill, the British candidate, is also expected to receive a grilling over his independence from his home government, given how important financial services are to the UK economy. Meanwhile, the proposed Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, former French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, will be under scrutiny because of accusations he won’t be strict enough when it comes to debt and deficit rules.
Earlier this month, we had a comment sent in by Lino arguing that the new Juncker Commission will be too close to the financial sector and too focused on austerity:
If you had it bad with Barroso, Juncker will be the same or even worse. [The new Commission will be too close to] the banking system, as it’s showing already by nominating Carlos Moedas, a Goldman Sachs employee. The EU will be a slave to the [financial sector] and the TTIP agreement.
We recently spoke to Ska Keller, a German MEP and former Green candidate for President of the European Commission. Does she agree with Lino’s criticism?
We also put the same comment to Michael Theurer, a German liberal MEP. However, he explained that he had very different concerns:
We are more worried that the new Juncker Commission might be too far to the centre-left, especially too willing to give up fiscal discipline and structural reforms. So, from my point of view, as a German liberal, I will focus very much in the hearings on these aspects. For instance, especially with Mr Moscovici, who did not perform very well as a finance minister in France and shall now be in charge of the surveillance of fiscal discipline in the Member States. So, that is our major concern because we have to overcome the sovereign debt crisis in the Member States.
Next, we put Lino’s criticism to Siegfried Mureşan, a centre-right Romanian MEP who sits with the European People’s Party (EPP) – the same group as Jean-Claude Juncker – in the European Parliament. How would he respond?
What Lino might not know is that Jean-Claude Juncker, who we always tend to bash as being too close to the banks and as coming from a tax haven, was in favour of implementing a Financial Transactions Tax – including in his own country – if all of the EU Member States did it.
In the end, only eleven countries agreed, so he said he couldn’t do it because it would lead to a competitive disadvantage in Luxembourg vis-à-vis London, Dublin and so on. But if you have a President of the Commission who is ready to continue and widen the necessary regulation of the banking system even if it has an impact on his own country, then I’m not worried.
As for the Portuguese Commissioner, Carlos Moedas, what will he be in charge of? He will be in charge of Research, Innovation and Science. How relevant is his past with Goldman Sachs? I would be more worried if he were in charge of financial regulation, which he won’t be.
Next, we had a comment sent in by JH, asking why regulation of medicines was being moved from the Directorate-General for Health to the Directorate-General for Industry in the new Commission. How would Ska Keller respond to this?
Finally, we received a comment from Cosmin who was very supportive of the new Commission. He said:
I am really glad for the Commissioners for Justice [Věra Jourová from the Czech Republic] and Regional Policy [Romania’s Corina Crețu] as well as for the Super-Commissioner for Budget [Bulgaria’s Kristalina Georgieva]. The team on the whole looks great and I trust they will have no problems whatsoever getting through Parliament.
We put this comment to Siegfried Mureşan. Was he as confident that there would be no problems getting the candidates through the hearing process?
As far as I’m concerned, I will be asking tough questions to all Commissioners, even to those coming from my political family. So, I won’t make a distinction when asking questions between an EPP or a Socialist Commissioner, because it’s not important whether they have a blue flag or a red flag in their hand. What’s important is that they are up to their jobs.
I think there will be tough questions from all MEPs, but I think Jean-Claude Juncker was very wise in putting this team together so I don’t really see huge vulnerabilities in terms of Commissioners who have said or done unacceptable things in the past. So, if you’re asking me now to pick out two or three names of Commissioners who will fail, I wouldn’t be able to give you any names.
Will the new Juncker Commission be too soft on austerity? Or will it be too close to the banking system? Do you think the candidates for EU Commissioners will all make it through the European Parliament hearings? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!