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24/07/2016

Bulc walks on fire… and survives

Transport

Bulc walks on fire… and survives

Violeta Bulc during her hearing [European Parliament]

Slovenian Commissioner-designate for transport Violeta Bulc, who reportedly has trained as shaman and is able to walk on fire, made an excellent impression at her European Parliament confirmation hearing yesterday evening (20 October).

The hearing of Bulc was seen as vital for the entire Commission, led by Jean-Claude Juncker and to be voted in plenary on Wednesday (22 October). Now it is safe to predict that the Juncker Commission would be able to take up its duties from 1 November.

Violeta Bulc was chosen by Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar to replace Alenka Bratušek after 112 MEPs considered her unfit for the job.

>> Read: Cañete safe after EPP-Socialist deal, but Bratušek is out

Bulc, a 50-year-old telecoms entrepreneur who joined the new government in Ljubljana only last month, has attracted attention in Brussels with her colourful list of interests, ranging from her youthful prowess in basketball, and a black belt in tae kwon do, to her training as a shaman, and promotion of fire-walking in her consultancy business.

At the end of the hearing, Bulc was congratulated both by the centre-left S&D and the centre-right EPP. She then humorously told MEPs, “You learned I walk on fire. There were some moments that I thought I would get burnt, but that did not happen”.

http://www.euractiv.com/video/bulc-meps-you-learned-i-walk-fire-i-thought-i-would-get-burnt-i-didnt-309354

Unlike Bratušek who spoke Slovenian during most of her hearing, Bulc expressed herself in fluent English. She didn’t appear to be stressed, and some on Twitter compared her hearing to a fireside chat.

Although she had only four days to prepare for the confirmation hearing and had no background in the transport field which was assigned to her, Bulc confirmed what Juncker said about her when he first met her on 15 October, namely that she is a fast learner.

During the hearing, she responded to questions ranging from the social dumping in the area of transport to the measures to prevent Ebola from European territory, or the consequences of the Russian food ban on EU businesses. Several MEPs asked her a series of three or four questions, and most of the time she was able to provide elements of answers to all of them, in spite of the time constraints.

She also showed off a personality which is certainly atypical and emotional. On different occasions, she said that she loves nature, loves to fly, loves the Greek islands. She also said several times that solutions to complicated problems could be found “once we put around the table people with good will”.

In a marked difference to other Commissioners-designate who said “if I am confirmed”, Bulc said “if the Commission is approved on Wednesday”.

The confirmation of Bulc can also be seen as a personal victory of Guy Verhofstadt, the liberal ALDE leader, who took the risk of supporting her in spite of suggestions that Slovenia should nominate candidates with a more suitable background.

>> Read: Verhofstadt throws his weight behind Bulc

The hearing of Maroš Šef?ovi?, Vice-President designate for the Energy Union, was held simultaneously. Unsurprisingly, Šef?ovi?, who holds the post of Vice President in the present Commission and who is a former diplomat, sailed safely through his second grilling.  He was already confirmed as Commissioner for transport and space, but Bratušek’s failure required Juncker to make a minor reshuffle of the portfolios.

Positions

The centre-right European peoples’ Party (EPP) group published a statement, praising the performance of Bulc, but telling her she still needs to learn about her portfolio.

“The EPP Group considers Commissioner-Designate Violeta Bulc as able to do the job of EU Commissioner, but she will need to extend her 4-day knowledge of EU transport policy as soon as possible”, the statement reads.

"Bulc gave a sound presentation tonight at her hearing in the European Parliament," stated Wim van de Camp, who coordinates EPP Group MEPS in the Transport Committee in the European Parliament.

“She seems to be an intelligent woman who already expressed some strong opinions: no social dumping and more investment. I expect her to learn the details of the transport dossiers quickly if confirmed," stated Van de Camp.

Background

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.

Timeline

  • 22 October: MEPs to vote the Juncker commission in plenary;
  • 1 November: Juncker commission takes up its duties.

Further Reading