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10 October 2014

A heckled start for the European Commission


Even before it actually started, the new European Commission proposed by Jean-Claude Juncker already has to pick up the pieces. The start of the hearings of the Designated-Commissioners shows that we are far from unanimity on the 27 portfolios dedicated to each commissioner.. Last Wednesday, Miguel Arias Canete had to fight hardly to try to convince he might be a good Commissioner for both energy, and climate issues. The “verdict” is expected tomorrow … and the battle is far from being won!

The least we can say is that for some European designated-Commissioners, hearings at the European Parliament are being anything but a formality. Since Alenka Bratusek, Junker’s candidate to the function of “Vice-President for Energy Union” has to be auditioned today, several of the 27 candidates have been put in severe difficulties by a battery of questions from the MEPs, which also revealed an extremely tense “power game” played by political parties. The results, at this moment, are still uncertain and nobody knows what will happen on the 9th of October, when the Parliament has to give its final approval to the formation of the new European Commission…

Hill, Moscovici, Canete : Future scapegoats?

While it is urgent for the European Commission to be completely operational from the 1st November, the path doesn’t seem to be a long calm river. After the rise of euroscepticism during the last spring European elections, Jean-Claude Juncker, although he is the pure expression of the political EPP party who won the last election, faced the uproar of the UK government. Worse, immediately after he unveiled his new project for the organization of the European Commission, important critics raised. First and foremost, against the new unique portfolio for energy and Climate issues, entrusted to Spanish Miguel Arias Canete, challenged both on the personal level and on his action as former Minister of Agriculture and Environment. As a matter of fact, his hearing, last Wednesday, has been very hard for him, facing a strong opposition from the political coalition of S&D/GUE/Greens and ALDE group. Even before the hearing, the S&D group asked for a deferral of the vote on his candidature, conditioned to the evaluation on the conformity of Canete’s declaration of financial interest (modified 3 times during the previous 72 hours!). Finally, the debate focused mainly on two questions: the existence of a conflict of interest in the light of the shares that himself, his wife and his son still recently held in oil companies; and his real commitment to climate action, regarding his action as an environment Minister granting rights for oil drilling, authorizing the hydraulic fracturing, and lowering supports, even retroactively, to renewable energies.
However, Miguel Arias Canete was not the only one to pay the cost of a difficult audition. Briton Jonathan Hill also failed to convince the MEPs and will have to pass a second oral exam today. Admittedly, he already had a strong handicap to claim for the portfolio of Commissioner for Financial Services, coming from a country that refuses to join the discussions on European economic governance, doesn’t use the Euro as a national currency, and raises the specter of a referendum to stay in, or leave the EU. Pierre Moscovici either didn’t convince the MEPs of the ECON Committee (except perhaps those from the S&D group), and has to submit a new written copy. However, he may be confirmed tomorrow, such as Miguel Arias Canete, as it is not so much a matter of conviction than a matter of backstage negotiation between the two main traditional political forces of European Parliament, the center-right and the European socialists…

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