EurActiv France has seen a letter containing 22 supplementary questions for Pierre Moscovici delivered to Mr Juncker by the President of the European Parliament. The aggressive tone of the questions reflects the scepticism of MEPs.
On Friday 4 October, Commissioner-designate Pierre Moscovici received a series of written questions from the parliamentary commissions that had interviewed him on 2 October. He has until this afternoon (7 October) to respond.
Criticism from both the right and left wings of the European Parliament is boldly expressed in the document.
Questions over power-triangle
The Economic Affairs Commission has asked for clarification on the hierarchical organisation between Pierre Moscovici, and the two Vice-Presidents under whom he would be working: the Finnish candidate Jyrki Katainen, and the Latvian Valdis Dombrovski, in charge of Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, and The Euro and Social Dialogue, respectively.
“The working relationship between you and the Vice-Presidents is still not fully clear. Could you bring more clarification, including who is representing the Commission in the different fora? How will you bridge ideological differences between you and the Vice-Presidents?” the ECON Commission asked.
According to the French MEP Alain Lamassoure, the division of responsibilities is a central point of the uncertainty surrounding France’s Commissioner-designate. “The final judgement on his candidature will depend on the precise distribution of tasks between him and the two Vice-Presidents he will answer to,” he told EurActiv.
France in the crosshairs
The situation of the French budget has been the greatest cause for concern over the portfolio assigned to France’s Commissioner.
Of the 19 questions posed by the ECON Committee in the letter, 10 relate to the question of budget deficit reduction. Without ever mentioning the country by name, the questions are often clearly aimed at France.
The ECON Committee asked, “What action should apply to member states whose budget deficit is constantly above 3% of GDP and which have already been granted an extension of the deadline to bringing down the deficit to Maastricht levels?” Further questions were aimed at France:
“Would you agree that the principle that “prevention is better than cure” should apply to countries with an already high debt?” and “Do you think that the EU has the financial capacity and the political will to build up the financial firepower to save large countries from a default?”
MEPs wanted to know if the French Commission candidate thought that the current unemployment level of 12.8% was acceptable, and “if not, what is an acceptable level for you to say the EU economic policies are working?”
Citing a remark made by Mr Moscovici in his written responses to the first round of questions in the run-up his hearing on 2 October, an MEP also asked if he envisaged another round of cuts to social security spending, as part of the Commission’s plan to reduce “unproductive expenditure” in the European budget.”
Technical questions from the Commission for Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO)
The remaining 3 questions in the letter were posed by the IMCO Commission.
One of these concerns individual rights, particularly in regard to the DG TAXUD and OLAF project to create a large database to fight tax fraud, and the legality of storing sensitive personal data.
During Pierre Moscovici’s hearing, members of the IMCO Commission also asked for details on how he planned to stop dangerous or counterfeit products entering the European market.
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 Luxemburgish 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: uncertainty currently hangs over 6 Commission candidates, either for their competence, for conflicts of interest or for their personal suitability for the portfolio for which they have been nominated.