Valdis Dombrovskis tried to emphasise social issues during his European Parliament hearing. But he failed to clarify how he’d work with Pierre Moscovici.
Tasked with the Euro and Social Dialogue portfolio in the new Commission, the Latvian nominee had an easy time of it on Monday (6 October), but nonetheless remained guarded.
Heard by the Economic Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (ECON), the austerity-minded Dombrovskis had to convince MEPs of his social credentials.
During his term as prime minister (2009 to 2013), he imposed rigorous structural reforms, and major wage cuts, to fight the crisis. The measures brought poverty and hardship to Latvia, with many young people fleeing the country. A strong defender of the euro and stability, the Commissioner-designate tried to smoothen his reputation to legislators.
Recommendations are no penalties
A few days ago, Pierre Moscovici was questioned about France’s budget woes. But Dombrovskis was spared questions on this subject. However, he repeatedly invoked the issue of flexibility embedded in the stability pact, when asked about the future of the EU’s macroeconomic situation.
Dombrovskis strongly insisted that economic recommendations written by the Commission should be taken as help, not punishment. “There is no penalty as such. The countries have to make these recommendations their own,” he said.
Overhaul of the posted workers directive
Unlike Marianne Thyssen, the Commissioner for Employment, who was questioned by the same committee last week, Dombrovskis sounded determined to renegotiate the posted workers directive. While Thyssen suggested waiting for two more years, the Latvian nominee argued that the directive should be overhauled anyway.
Asked about changes to the social dialogue, the nominee promised to strengthen it. “The social partners have not been able to present proposals at the European Union until now. But they must be able to do so. We must strengthen the social dialogue between the partners themselves, so that a real EU social dialogue exists.”
“I agree with Marianne Thyssen. Social indicators must be applied more appropriately. Should there be excessive imbalances, it would give more weight to social issues,”Dombrovskis added
Support for the Youth Guarantee
“I fought during the crisis of the euro area,” the Commissioner-designate repeatedly said, recalling that the priority of the Commission was now employment and growth.
Dombrovkis stressed youth employment, in particular.
“About (the) Youth Guarantee – we must accelerate the implementation of these instruments, and expand the implementation of this program. We must find a European solution,” he said.
Who does what at the Commission
Only French MEPs gave Dombrovkis a hard time. Liberals MEP Sylvie Goulard asked what would be the exact division of responsibilities between himself and Pierre Moscovici, including which of them would represent the eurozone in international matters.
The Commissioner-designate replied that they were in the process of dividing the roles “pragmatically”. The response was not appreciated by lawmakers. “I will be a coordinator not a supervisor. I’m not going to micromanage the work of Pierre Moscovici,” Dombrovkis stated, evasively.
Similarly, the Latvian politician drew criticism, after failing to respond to a question by Socialist MEP Pervenche Berès, who asked about the eurozone.
“Your solution to the euro crisis – is it dislocation?” Berès asked. Dombrovkis replied that he could meet Berès separately, sparking the ire of the MEPs present.
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.