Commissioners designate prepare for Parliament grilling

Following the Parliament’s rejection of Rocco Buttiglione at the 2004-hearings, the new candidates of Bulgaria and Romania will be eager to perform well in the upcoming hearings.

Before the hearings, each candidate replies to a written questionnaire. The issues touched upon in the specific questionnaire are likely to come up during the hearings. Meglena Kuneva will be grilled by MEPs on issues, such as consumer education, competitiveness and consumer protection and her idea of the average consumer.

Leonard Orban is likely to face questions on multilingualism and the Lisbon strategy, minority languages, but also the role of multilingualism for the Commission’s Plan D on communication. Ahead of the hearings, socialist group leader Martin Schulz asked President Barroso to extend Orban’s portfolio to cover minorities.

The hearing procedures foresee an introduction by the chairperson and the Commissioner-designate, followed by a first round of questions by each group, with the right to one follow up question. Then there will be a second round with questions, followed by a free question and answer session. 

Orban’s hearing session will include a special round of questions from the Constitutional Affairs committee. Finally, the candidate will be able to make a last statement and the hearing will then be closed by the chairperson.

The hearings are evaluated by the committees behind closed doors, and the outcome is transmitted to the Conference of Presidents, which will officially close the hearings. The Parliament will vote on the two candidates by simple majority on 12 December 2006. The Council will formally appoint the new Commissioners before the end of December 2006.

The Parliament will conduct a hearing with each Commissioner designate on 27 November 2006 in order to test their competence and views. Each Commissioner-designate will be subject to questions by the parliamentary committee whose area of competence corresponds to the Commissioner’s portfolio, in this case the committees on Internal Market and Consumer Protection and Culture and Education.

Leonard Orban, the Romanian Commissioner designate is currently Secretary of State in the Ministry of European integration. The Bulgarian Commissioner-designate Meglena Kuneva is Minister for European Affairs. Both have acted as chief negotiator to their countries and are well known to the EU institutions.

During the 2004 hearings, some parliamentarians expressed serious concerns about the commissioner-designate for justice and home affairs Rocco Buttiglione. They particularly questioned his ability to combat discrimination considering his view on homosexuality and women. Finally, Commission President José Manuel Barroso was forced to withdraw Buttiglione as a candidate.

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