Cañete faces protests before EU confirmation hearing

Miguel Cañete's nomination has attracted controversy and ridicule. [La Moncloa/Flickr]

Members of the European Parliament and civil society organisations will protest against the choice of Miguel Cañete as EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy on the day of his confirmation hearing in Parliament.

Organisers expect between 50 and 100 people to attend the “Stop Cañete” demonstration on Place Luxembourg, close to the European Parliament building in Brussels, at 2.30pm on Wednesday, 1 October.

MEPs from Spanish left wing parties including Podemos, Izquierda Unida, Primavera Europea/EQUO, ICV, ERC and AGE, will line up to condemn Cañete, who is criticised for his links to the oil industry and a recent sexist outburst.

>> Read: ‘Sexist’ Spanish commissioner under Parliamentary spotlight

The Spanish conservative will be grilled by MEPs at about 6PM the same day. Parliament only has the power to approve or reject the new Commission as a whole. But, if the hearing goes badly, they can also put pressure on Juncker to replace an individual commissioner-candidate.  

Italian centre-right candidate Rocco Buttiglione had to withdraw in 2004, after socialist, liberal and green groups threatened to reject his candidacy over reports that he said that homosexuality is a sin.

Environmental civil society organisations and the anti-lobby NGO, Corporate Europe Observatory, will also attend the protest close to the Parliament. It is rumoured there may be additional “actions”, as well as the demonstration, to highlight the opposition to his appointment.

No other prospective commissioner is thought to be facing similar protests over the next week of hearings. 

Martin Behar, of Podemos Belgica, said, “Nobody who has washed his hands in oil should be nominated as energy commissioner. We can expect nothing good for renewables nor for citizens under Cañete’s mandate.

“We urge MEPs from all the political factions to take action and decline his proposal as energy and climate commissioner.”

Oil links

Canete’s candidacy sparked widespread incredulity because of his links to the oil industry. 

He was forced to sell his shares in two oil companies Petrolifera Ducar and Petrologis Canaris to shore up support after being chosen as climate action and energy boss.

But critics, including Podemos and the Greens in the European Parliament, have pointed out that his wife, son and brother in law remain shareholders or even sit on boards of the companies.

Cañete was also accused of “unacceptable sexism” in a letter questioning his independence and freedom from conflicts of interest, sent by the Greens to Juncker.

Earlier this year, Cañete was reported as saying that “holding a debate with a woman is complicated, because showing intellectual superiority could be seen as sexist”.

A debate between a man and a woman is “very complicated”, because if the man makes proof of “intellectual superiority or whatever”, he would give a “sexist impression” in front of a “defenceless woman”, he said.

Podemos is a left-wing party founded in 2014. It scored an impressive 8% of the Spanish vote in May’s European elections. On a dedicated Stop Cañete website, it cited Spanish press reports about the centre-right politician’s alleged tax evasion.

It said that, when he was an MEP in 1996, Cañete fought for Common Agricultural Policy subsidies. His wife, who breeds bulls for bullfighting, benefited from those subsidies.

She was later investigated for profiting through possible access to privileged information from Cañete’s time as agriculture minister.

Responding to written question before his hearing, Cañete promised to strictly obey the code of conduct for commissioners.

He said, “I have proceeded to declare all my assets and financial interests and those of my wife as well as her professional activities.

“I will never act on issues of my portfolio in which I could have personal, familial or financial interests that could compromise my independence. If I am faced with a situation of this nature I will proceed immediately to inform the president of the Commission.”

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.

During these two weeks of hearings, the 27 commissioners will be interviewed by MEPs from relevant parliamentary commissions.

Parliament can then accept or reject the whole team.

  • 1 October: Protest and day of Cañete's hearing

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