Kuneva to boost consumer confidence in business

  

The Bulgarian consumer protection commissioner-designate Meglena Kuneva wants to improve communication with consumers to boost their confidence in business and contribute towards reaching the Lisbon goals.

On 27 November 2006, the Parliament’s committee on internal market and consumer protection conducted Meglena Kuneva's hearing. 

It began with an opening statement by the commissioner-designate and was followed by a question-and-answer session, during which MEPs tested Kuneva's qualifications on consumer protection portfolio. 

"With the Lisbon agenda, the Barroso Commission has placed economy in the centre of its work. The Lisbon agenda can only happen if business has the trust of consumers," said Kuneva in her opening statement. "I want to have sustained dialogue with European consumers and the organisations which represent their interests. I also want to raise consumer issues more in the media," she added. She also called for empowering the existing consumer organisations with finance from national governments.

MEPs wanted to know how Kuneva planned to be "consumers' advocate" in the College, as she would join the Barroso Commission half way through its term. They also asked whether she saw the Lisbon strategy and competitiveness as being complementary to consumer protection, whether she planned to tackle issues such as obesity and smoking and to what degree national laws in the field of consumer protection should be harmonised. Other questions included how to boost consumer culture in eastern countries, whether the single market should be opened to gambling, and how to allow consumers to benefit from the financial services single market.

Kuneva explained that she wishes to make consumer protection more visible, together with other commissioners, as it is a "horizontal issue" and therefore complementary to other policies. She also pledged to promote quality consumer information so that responsibilty could be given to consumers. As to boosting consumer culture in eastern Europe, she wants consumers to restart dialogue with governments and to develop "self-confidence".

With regards the harmonisation of consumer-protection legislation, Kuneva said that the EU should apply, where possible, "a philosophy of maximum harmonisation".

Positions: 

The European Parliament Socialists are to recommend that their group support Meglena Kuneva as Bulgaria's nominee for consumer commissioner. "We hope that more ambitious measures than those set out in the Commission programme for 2007 will result from Mrs Kuneva's apparent support for harmonisation aimed at giving consumers in every member state a higher level of protection. Mrs Kuneva can count on our group’s support if she is ready to join us in this fight," said Evelyne Gebhardtthe group's spokeswoman on the internal market and consumer protection.

EEP-ED Group also supports Kuneva's nomination. "Mrs. Kuneva impressed the Committee with her positive and determined approach to work for European consumers", said EPP-ED internal market spokesman Malcolm Harbour. "She had a clear vision for her new role and answered many technical questions with a strong grasp for the details involved. We particularly welcome the commitment to address these difficult issues surrounding the Consumer Credit Directive, where Parliament has already expressed its clear views," he added. 

EEP-ED Group's MEP Andreas Schwab found Kuneva very competent but would like her to make her political goals clearer and explain in more detail the particular implementation of future actions. He also wants Kuneva to define borders for the application areas of Article 95, which he finds to be "excessively used" by the Commission.

Timeline: 
  • Following the hearing, the Parliament's Internal Market Committee voted unanimously, on 28 November 2006, to support Meglena Kuneva's candidature as future Bulgarian Commissioner for Consumer Protection.
  • The Parliament will debate, on 29 November 2006, the two final reports on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania on 1 January 2007. 
  • The Parliament will approve the Commissioner-designate by simple majority (vote expected in the December 2006 plenary session). 
  • After Parliament’s approval, the Council will formally appoint Kuneva. 
  • After Council’s appointment, she will take an oath before the Court of Justice.
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