EXCLUSIVE / The European Parliament’s Conference of the Presidents decided on Wednesday (23 November) that Günther Oettinger will not face a plenary vote before taking on his new portfolio. EurActiv France reports.
The Conference of the Presidents, a powerful assembly of the Parliament’s President Martin Schulz and the leaders of the different political groups, decided yesterday not to give MEPs a say over Commissioner Oettinger’s promotion. According to our sources, this proposal came from Schulz himself.
The Digital Commissioner is due to take over Kristalina Georgieva’s Budget and Human Resources portfolio when the Bulgarian Commissioner leaves to join the World Bank in January.
Oettinger, whose credibility has been severely damaged by his repeated gaffes and recent revelations of dealings with lobbyists, will instead be interviewed by a selection of parliamentary committees.
The presidents of the budgets, legal affairs and budgetary control committees have agreed on the unofficial nature of these “hearings”, and will have no power to ratify or block the nomination.
Even the name of the meetings has not yet been determined: it is not clear whether Oettinger will be invited for an “exchange of views” or summoned for a hearing, in line with the Parliament’s own regulations.
Whatever decision is finally made, the three committees concerned will deliver a simple letter to the Conference of the Presidents, explaining their position on the German Commissioner’s promotion.
But there will be no plenary vote.
The European Commission today (31 October) repeatedly refused to apologise for or investigate racist and homophobic remarks made by Germany’s EU commissioner in a secretly-filmed after-dinner speech.
This unconventional procedure is sure to make waves among MEPs, many of whom are already frustrated by the lack of regard the Commission shows for their work.
“This is another case of autocratic management by the European Parliament president. It’s like a deal between friends,” said one irritated MEP.
Martin Schulz, who announced on Thursday (24 November) that he would not be running for a third term as Parliament president, has increasingly concentrated the institution’s power in the Conference of the Presidents. This means that sensitive legislation is often discussed behind closed doors, with many MEPs feeling disenfranchised.
According to the European Parliament’s own regulations, all new Commission appointments must be subject to a hearing and then voted on by MEPs; a process that was applied to new UK Commissioner Julian King last summer.