The largest party in the European Parliament has warned that it will throw out Pierre Moscovici if the left challenges their Commission candidates.
With just four days to go before the start of the European Parliament hearings for the new Commissioners, tension is mounting.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker presented the new Commission to his own European People’s Party on Tuesday evening, 23 September. Alain Lamassoure, the head of the group’s French delegation, has said that after an in-depth examination of the candidates, the EPP would not be asking for any changes.
He added, however, that if the left challenges any of their Commissioners, the EPP, Parliament’s largest party with 221 MEPs, would retaliate with challenges of its own.
“If our coalition partners call for the head of one of the EPP Commissioners, two heads will roll,” the politician warned.
This message is aimed in particular at the French and their candidate, Pierre Moscovici. “Pierre Moscovici is the nominee that has raised the most questions within the EPP, not over his personality, but over his portfolio. His position is the most precarious of the socialist Commissioners,” Lamassoure said. The message is clear: if one of the most controversial Commissioners was called into question, be it Spain’s Canete or Hungary’s Navracsis, Moscovici would also be sacrificed.
The balance of terror
Pervenche Berès, the head of the delegation of French socialists, called this threat a “balance of terror,” adding that “in a democracy we must agree to evaluate the candidates on merit during the hearings”.
The elimination of Moscovici would seem unlikely, as MEPs could hardly use his past as France’s Finance Minister to call into question his competence in financial matters. But the EPP’s threat is very real, even if Berès plays it down. “The right is telling the Italian socialists the same thing, that they will lose Federica Mogherini (the High Representative) if they oppose certain candidates”.
Victims sacrificed on the altar of Parliament
It is obvious to all outside the EPP that the passage of certain Commissioners through Parliament will be arduous. “Jean-Claude Juncker himself has nominated two sacrificial victims in the Spain’s Canete at Climate Action and Energy and the Hungarian at Citizenship,” a Green MEP joked, adding that Juncker may have placed them there deliberately in order to provoke a reaction from the European Parliament. He could thus get rid of them without directly opposing the countries concerned, hiding behind the democratic legitimacy of the Parliament.
The former Spanish minister Canete may have sold his oil shares, but this is not enough to satisfy his opponents, who still doubt his climate credentials.
Fidez: an unresolved problem
The hearing of the Hungarian Commissioner, on Wednesday 1 October, will also turn the spotlight onto major concerns around Fidez, the party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose repeated human rights violations pose serious problems. “The real issue is that Fidez is a member of the European People’s Party,” Pervenche Berès says.
On 23 September, 977 NGOs from 32 different countries called on the EU to act against “the recent antidemocratic developments in Hungary. On top of its controls of the media, the justice system and economic affairs, Viktor Orban’s government is raising the pressure on civil society. Their apparent objective is to suppress all independent activity and the silence any voice that may be even slightly critical of the government,” the NGOs said.
On 24 September, the European Association for the Defence of Human Rights sent a letter to MEPs, asking them not to support the nomination of Mr Navracsis, the Hungarian candidate for the post of Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship. “This is a worrying sign for the equality and citizenship policies that the European Commission intends to pursue,” the NGOs continue, amazed at this nomination, which they view as an “endorsement of the authoritarian and nationalist policies implemented by the Hungarian government”.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the new President of the European Commission, announced the distribution of portfolios among his new team on 10 September.
Among the new Commissioners, due to take up their posts on 1 November, are 18 former (prime) ministers. The President has announced that the new Commission will be "very political".
The new Commission must now be approved by the European Parliament, who will interview the Commissioners between 29 September and 7 October. During these two weeks of hearings, the 27 Commissioners will be interviewed by MEPs from relevant parliamentary commissions. The European Parliament must then accept or reject the whole team.