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

Miguel Cañete in a rare moment of levity during his confirmation hearing. Despite widespread opposition to his appointment, horse-trading MEPs gave him the job. [European Parliament/Flickr]

Alenka Bratušek, the Slovenian candidate for a senior Energy Union Vice-President role in the new Juncker Commission, was (8 October) overwhelmingly rejected tonight by the European Parliament, on a night MEPs also controversially backed Miguel Cañete as Climate and Energy Commissioner.

Bratušek, former prime minister of Slovenia, was judged unfit for the job by the MEPs sitting in the Industry, Research and Energy Committee and the Environment Committee. Only 13 votes were cast in Bratušek’s favour with 112 against.

Slovenia must now nominate a new Commissioner-designate and Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker may have to reshuffle the portfolios of his new team.

As EURACTIV reported earlier today, the Socialists and Democrats group decided to back Cañete in exchange for the support of his European People’s Party (EPP) for French Socialist Pierre Moscovici. The former French finance minister, who was nominated for the Economic and Monetary Affairs portfolio, was later comfortably backed by MEPs.

MEPs ignored an online petition which attracted nearly 600,000 signatures and a vocal social media and telephone campaign calling for Cañete to be rejected.

83 of the committee were in favour of Cañete as a Commissioner, despite his links to oil industry. 42 were against and three abstained.

A vote on whether the Spaniard, described by some as an “oil baron” was a suitable choice for the Climate and Energy portfolio was 77 in favour, 48 against and three abstentions.

As the second largest group in the European Parliament after the EPP, the S&D group’s support was vital in determining whether Cañete – accused of a long history of alleged conflicts of interest – becomes Commissioner. Other groups, such as the Greens, were against the Spanish Conservative.

There was also speculation Juncker also offered the S&D assurances that sustainability would be added to Frans Timmermans’ portfolio. They and the Greens have asked for it to be added to a vice-president’s portfolio. That was later confirmed by the Socialists (see Positions below).


The petition, which garnered more than half a million signatures in just a week, was run by Avaaz.

Their campaign director Luis Morago said, “Today, MEPs betrayed our hopes and placed a ‘petrol-head’ in charge of Europe’s climate policy.

“The leaders of the Socialists and Democrats have broken their promises — they have neither ”listened to Europe’s voters’ or ‘given people back trust in the EU’ as was promised during the European election campaigns.”

Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe, added, “We are disappointed that the Parliament has supported the candidacy of Mr Cañete, who we believe continues to have conflicts of interest.

“People will be watching his actions closely and he will have to prove he is acting independently, and working for the benefit of the climate, not polluters.”

Bizarre Bratušek denial

Earlier today Junker’s spokesperson Natasha Bertaud denied speculation that Bratušek had withdrawn her candidacy after her disappointing confirmation hearing.

While she is in theory a Liberal, ALDE MEPs also voted her down. Bratušek only recently created a liberal party that has just four MPs, and is not yet affiliated with the ALDE group in the EU Parliament.

The Parliament can only accept or reject the whole team, which makes it necessary for Juncker to replace Bratušek, who was accused of nominating herself as Commissioner after losing in Slovenia’s national elections this year.

As well as Moscovici, the Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee voted in favour of the UK’s Jonathan Hill, Finland’s Jyrki Katainen, and Latvia’s Valdis Dombrovskis.

In the European Parliament, the president of the Socialists & Democrats group, Gianni Pittella said: "After tough negotiations, Mr. Juncker agreed to our firm request to add the responsibility of sustainable development to the first vice-president of the Commission, Frans Timmermans.This means the responsibility for coordinating all portfolios that can make a contribution to sustainable development, including climate action and energy.

“Along with the revision of Navracsics’ portfolio, the major role of Moscovici, and a new shared competence for medicines and medical devices between the directorates for health and consumer affairs (DG SANCO), and enterprise and industry (DG Enterprise), we can say we have contributed to shape a new and different Commission which is much closer to our prerogatives and values. And the battle is not over yet.”

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.

  • 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

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