An essential part of the EU democratic process, the European Commissioners-Designate hearings, took place over the last two weeks. The elected European Parliament has the responsibility to approve the European Commission and so the hearings inform a vote due on October 22nd. All this occurs against a background of low economic growth in Europe, with the IMF warning last week that it risks stagnation or even a triple dip recession. Juncker has proposed the team he believes can return Europe to growth.
In the hearings, MEPs grill the Commissioners-Designate on their competence, politics, and background. This has important implications for Health and Growth, as the hearings tested the Commissioners-Designate for Health, Research, Trade, and Industry. It also put to the test Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s plans to focus the next Commission on jobs and growth.
I would like to recognize notable designees for bringing a fresh perspective that will support driving Europe to health and growth:
- Commissioner-Designate for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, argued for a full and comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and received approval from the Parliament.
- Commissioner-Designate for Research and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, showed a keen eye demonstrating a very strong knowledge of his policy area.
- Commissioner-Designate for Health, Vytenis Andriukaitis, presented his wealth of knowledge and experience as a former practicing doctor and Health Minister.
- Commissioner designate for Enterprise and Industry, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, put forward a can-do attitude and a focus on Europe’s key growth sectors.
Jean-Claude Juncker is eager to modernise the Commission to ensure that it can steer Europe back towards economic growth. Juncker’s first key innovation to modernise the Commission involves the creation of project teams led by Vice Presidents. His ‘right-hand’, Vice President-Designate Frans Timmermans, excelled in his Hearing. Other Vice Presidents Designate also shone, such as Jyrki Katainen. Katainen leads the jobs, growth, investment, and competitiveness project team.
The European Parliament plays a crucial role in these hearings. MEPs can be fierce inquisitors, and they put many of the Commissioners designate through gruelling questioning. The Parliament made it clear this week that they would not approve the Commission if Vice President Designate Alenka Bratušek remained a Commissioner. Bulc has now replaced Bratusek as the nominee from Slovenia. MEPs also debated the allocation of responsibilities within the Commission.
It appears that the Parliament has endorsed Juncker’s plans, as well as giving their view on Juncker’s priorities. I, like many others, will wait to see how the new Commission is finalised and if it prioritises health and growth over the next 5 years.
You can watch the footage from all the hearings here.