The European Parliament has set the hearings of Slovenia’s commissioner-designate Violeta Bulc, and, Slovakia’s Maroš Šef?ovi?, for Monday (20 October), opening the way, if everything goes well, for a vote on the entire team of President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker, on 22 October.
The Parliament’s committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) will audition Bulc starting at 19.00 hours local time, in Strasbourg. The committees for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) will hold their hearing with Šef?ovi? simultaneously.
Šef?ovi?, for whom the new post is actually a promotion, was originally pencilled in as Juncker’s Transport Commissioner, a role that now goes to Violeta Bulc, Bratušek’s replacement as Slovenia’s candidate Commissioner.
On 8 October, 112 MEPs sitting in the Industry, Research and Energy Committee and the Environment Committee judged Bratušek unfit for the job. Only 13 votes were cast in her favour, after her confirmation hearing. Among other things, the former Slovenian prime minister was criticised for having nominated herself.
Bulc, a 50-year-old telecoms entrepreneur who joined the new government in Ljubljana only last month, replaced Bratušek after the humiliating vote.
If the hearings go well, it would be possible that in spite of the setback with Bratušek, the entire Juncker team will be voted on in plenary on 22 October, as initially planned.
This of course leaves little time to Bulc and Šef?ovi? to prepare. For his part, Šef?ovi?, who is the current Commission Vice-President for Interinstitutional relations and Administration, and a former diplomat, probably could face the challenge without much difficulty. Regarding Bulc, a spokesperson told the press that Juncker had found during the interview he had with her on Wednesday that she had the capacity to learn fast.
The situation of Hungarian Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, whom the Parliament accepted as Commissioner, but not for his assigned portfolio of Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship, remains unclear.
Asked by EurActiv about the issue, Margaritis Schinas, Juncker’s spokesperson, gave the mysterious answer that Juncker would deal with it in his speech to MEPs ahead of the vote.
The European Parliament can only accept or reject the entire commission. The new EU executive body, comprised of one representative from each of the 28 member states, is due to take office for five years on 1 November, replacing the present one, led by José Manuel Barroso.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission President-elect, announced the distribution of portfolios among his new team on 10 September.
The next step in the procedure was the hearings of the commissioners in the European Parliament. During the two weeks of hearings between 29 September and 7 October, the 27 commissioners were interviewed by MEPs from relevant parliamentary commissions.
All except Slovenia’s Alenka Bratušek were accepted for the post of Commissioners, and Hungary’s Tibor Navracsics has been accepted as Commissioner, but not for the assigned portfolio, which includes citizenship.
- 20 October: Hearings of Šef?ovi? and Bulc;
- 22 October: Plenary vote of the Juncker Commission;
- 1 November: Planned date for new Commission to take over