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06/12/2016

Parliament clears two-headed ‘Mr Euro’ for Juncker team

EU Priorities 2020

Parliament clears two-headed ‘Mr Euro’ for Juncker team

Valdis Dombrovskis [EPP/Flickr]

The European Parliament endorsed former Latvian prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis on Wednesday (8 October) in the new role of Vice-President of the European Commission, in charge of the euro. He will be seconded by Pierre Moscovici in the economics portfolio, in a novel two-headed configuration for the single currency in the EU executive.

Lawmakers said Dombrovskis, seen as an austerity hawk who will keep an eye on French Socialist economics commissioner Pierre Moscovici, was endorsed in his role by 54-37. He was confirmed as a member of the Commission by 73-25.

The former French finance minister was endorsed earlier by the Parliament’s Economic Affairs Committee to serve in the key post of economic affairs commissioner.

Members of the committee tweeted that Moscovici had won a vote on his competence for that specific role by 32-15. He was backed 44-12 on a separate vote related to his general suitability as a commissioner in the new EU executive led by incoming president, Jean-Claude Juncker.

Finland’s Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President for Jobs and Growth, was also confirmed in his role on Wednesday, completing the European Commission’s new economic team.

Dombrovskis and Katainen, who are both former prime ministers, are seen as close to conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and will jointly oversee the work of Moscovici.

The Frenchman struggled to convince some lawmakers that he can be trusted to impose budget discipline on his own former colleagues in Paris.

>> Read: Moscovici pledges budget flexibility, but no privileges for France

In written replies to a series of extra questions by lawmakers, Moscovici struggled to clarify doubts about the distribution of responsibilities between himself and Valdis Dombrovskis.

Moscovici explained that he would represent the Commission in the Eurogroup meetings of eurozone finance ministers in his area of responsibility.

However, he added that Dombrovskis and Commission VPs “could of course decide to participate in Eurogroup meetings when necessary”, adding to confusion about the distribution of roles.

The candidate once again sidestepped the question of who will represent the Commission at international meetings.

>> Read: Moscovici delivers answers to European Parliament

Main decisions about the euro currency are made by the Eurogroup, an informal forum which brings together the finance ministers of countries whose currency is the euro. The current head of the Eurogroup is Jeroen Dijsselbloem, finance minister of the Netherlands.

Occasional summits are also held between the heads of states of the countries sharing the single currency to decide on matters seen as strategic.

Background

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 Luxembourg 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.

Several hearings did not go as smoothly as Mr Juncker would have liked, and several candidates have been called into question due to their competence, conflicts of interest or their suitability for the portfolio assigned to them.

>> Full coverage on EurActiv.com/NewCommission

Timeline

  • 8-9 October: Parliament political groups meet in the afternoon and on Thursday 9 October in the morning in order to evaluate the hearings
  • 9 October: Parliament's Conference of Presidents meets at 13.00 Brussels time to declare the hearings closed and finalise the evaluation
  • 22 October: Vote in Plenary
  • 1 November: Commission expected to take office