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06/12/2016

Bie?kowska: ‘Let’s get Europe back to work!’

EU Priorities 2020

Bie?kowska: ‘Let’s get Europe back to work!’

El?bieta Bie?kowska [Flickr European Parliament]

El?bieta Bie?kowska, the Polish Commissioner-candidate for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, made a confident appearance at her Parliamentary confirmation hearing on Thursday (2 October). Her catchphrase: “Let’s get Europe back to work!”

Both during her initial statement, and when answering MEPs’ questions, the 50-year old Pole always had enough to say to run out of time.

Despite the wide number of areas to covered – from vehicle registration to big pharma – she had answers to all the questions. 

Social Europe

One of her first remarks was that “Europe needs both liberal and social economic policies.” During the Q&A session, she further stressed her belief that Europe should not be competitive not only in terms of quality of goods and service but also – as importantly – in terms of quality of life.

Like other candidates, Bie?kowska was also vague on certain topics. When asked by Ashley Fox MEP (UK, ECR) about one single regulation she said that she would cancel, in order to make life for SMEs easier, Bie?kowska avoided the question.

Bie?kowska promised, however, that when she decides some rules are unhelpful or burdensome for SMEs, she may end up dismantling not one piece of legislation, but ten or fifteen.

SMEs

Bie?kowska was keen to mention her past achievements in order to prove her worthiness for the job (see background). Already in the written answers to MEPs’ questions, she emphasised her recent position as Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Infrastructure and Development and of Regional Development, saying she worked closely with many industry sectors important for the common market, and for the SME parts of her portfolio.

The Commissioner-designate stressed her concern for SMEs in Europe, emphasising the need to decrease the administrative burden they face, and announced plans to simplify laws regulating their activities.

She also pointed out that SMEs focus too much on banks as the only source of financing or investment. “But there are many more sources of financing for small and medium companies – they just need to learn about them,” Bie?kowska stressed.

Energy

The Commissioner-designate also expressed support for developing the single market for energy. However, when asked about the use of coal in energy generation, Bie?kowska gave the standard European Commission response – that the energy mix is the responsibility of the member states, and not the EU.

Bie?kowska also stressed the importance of increasing energy efficiency. Speaking on environmental issues, she emphasised the importance of the green economy and clean technologies – and promised to expand upon these areas in the coming years.

Her hearing ended with a rather enthusiastic applause.

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) quickly issued a statement in support of Bie?kowska, saying that it ”looks forward to working with her”.

Krišj?nis Kari?š, a Latvian EPP group spokesman who sits on the Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE), emphasised that Poland is the only country that did not go through the recession in the recent years.

“Who would be better than a Polish candidate to run the European internal market?,” he asked.

Background

El?bieta Bie?kowska was born in the industrial Silesia and there she had made her first steps in politics. Wearing different hats, she has always been responsible for regional development – which in turn attuned her to the European affairs, as the EU and its funds have been a great boon for the Polish regions.

In 2007 the capital called for her – she has become a minister for regional development in the first Tusk’s Government. Due to her diligence and efficiency in using the European and national resources for the maximum benefits of the Polish voivodeships, powiats, and gminas she became one of the most popular ministers in the government – and the one least criticised by the opposition as well.

Her apt management of her ministry was named as one of the main reasons Poland succeeded in negotiating keeping the high level of cohesion funds for the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework. She also has succeed to become an elected politician – she became a senator in 2011.

Yet, even before the MFF negotiations have fully finished, a governmental reshuffle took place in November 2013. And Bie?kowska’s efforts had been acknowledged and so she has become a Deputy Prime Minister and the head of a so-called “super-ministry” of Infrastructure and Development.

But despite these successes, Bie?kowska has been keeping herself away from the national politics. Despite being a minister in two Tusk’s governments, she does not have (and never has) a party membership – even though she is a senator from the recommendation of the ruling Civic Platform.

Timeline

  • 29 September to 7 October: Hearings of Commissioners-designate and committee evaluation meetings; no hearings on Friday 3 October 2014 and on Monday 6 October 2014 in the morning
  • 7 October: Extraordinary meeting of the Conference of Committee Chairs to evaluate the outcome of the hearings
  • 8 to 9 October: The Groups will meet on Wednesday 8 October in the afternoon and on Thursday 9 October in the morning in order to evaluate the hearings
  • 9 October: The Conference of Presidents meets to declare the hearings closed and finalise the evaluation
  • 22 October: Vote in Plenary