European Commission: the best team?
The future European team must play its part on the global stage competently and professionally. A challenge for the “selector”, Jean-Claude Juncker.
“The European Parliament will not accept a gentlemen’s club” said the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, on 16 July. He warned the Heads of State and Government meeting in the European Council that the European Parliament would not invest a Commission that did not contain an adequate number of women.
The previous European Commission, formed in 2009, included 9 women. To build on this momentum, the “50/50 Campaign for Democracy”, launched in April 2014 by the European Women’s Lobby, called for absolute parity in the next Commission. There is a long way to go. The 28 Member States had until the end of July to submit their respective candidates for a European Commissioner post. Mr Juncker received just four nominations for women…
The negotiations were set to continue throughout August to allow Mr Juncker to form his team of Commissioners while ensuring a balance between the genders and between east and west. Above all, he has to ensure that their competences are in line with the portfolio requested by each Member State. The presentation of the candidate Commissioners is expected to take place in early September.
In the meantime, the 28 heads of State and Government met again at a European Council on 30 August to make two further major nominations to the head of the European Executive.
- Herman Van Rompuy’s successor as President of the European Council will be Donald Tusk (centre right), Prime Minister of Poland since 2007 and who has been taking part in European Council meetings for the last seven years.
- The post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs, occupied since 2009 by Baroness Catherine Ashton, has been conferred on the Italian Federica Mogherini (social democrat), currently Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Matteo Renzi government.
As part of the selection process, the team of Commissioners will meet the European Parliament
The game is not yet over for the 27 candidates selected by the President of the Commission to form his College of Commissioners. They must now face a full hearing before the European Parliament, where the Members of the various parliamentary committees are waiting to test their competences.
Each candidate must be assessed by the parliamentary committee responsible for his or her portfolio. For example, Mrs Mogherini, the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs, who in this capacity is also a member of the European Commission, will be heard by the members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Each Commissioner-designate must first reply in writing to five questions from the MEPs. He or she will then be invited to a three-hour hearing, broadcast on-line, facing the parliamentary committee responsible for the portfolio allocated to him or her. The candidate will speak first for 15 minutes, then answer questions. Finally, the appropriate parliamentary committee will complete its assessment of the candidate within 24 hours of the hearing, reserving the right to require further information in writing. A separate assessment report for each Commissioner-designate is then sent to the Conference of Committee Chairs and the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament which (unless they decide to request further information and following an exchange of views) declare the hearings closed. If a candidate is rejected by the MEPs, the President of the European Commission must nominate another.
Finally, during the 20 - 23 October session in Strasbourg, the Commission as a College will be subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament. On the basis of this approval, it will be appointed by the European Council, by qualified majority decision, before formally taking up office at the beginning of November.
The hearings will therefore take place during September and can be followed live on the Internet at the European Parliament website. We understand from internal sources that some of the candidates will be working hard on the policy and political areas they are not yet completely familiar with, while others will be taking intensive language courses. Members of the European Parliament will be unsparing in their questioning of the candidates. These hearings are an exercise in transparency and democracy that will be well worth following.
Translated from the original text in French