Bulgarian Commissioner-designate and Vice President responsible for budget and human resources Kristalina Georgieva made a strong and convincing case to MEPs of her priorities in the Juncker Commission, her steady performance contrasting with the tormented hearings of several of her colleagues.
Georgieva, who presently holds the Humanitarian Aid portfolio in the Barroso commission, has an excellent reputation, and was even considered to be a strong candidate for the post of EU Foreign Affairs chief, which ultimately went to Italy’s Federica Mogherini.
In the Juncker Commission, Georgieva will have enormous powers. Basically, all Commissioners will report to her. The Mission letter of President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker to her says “you will guide the work of all Commissioners”.
Georgieva was questioned by three European Parliament Committees: Budgets, Budget Control and Legal Affairs. Her new attributions will be similar to those of a CEO of the Juncker Commission, as she will be responsible both for the EU monies and the personnel.
Under Georgieva’s responsibilities are the Directorate-General for the Budget, the Directorate-General for Translation, the Directorate-General for Human Resources and Security and the Directorate-General for Interpretation (SCIC). She is also responsible for the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the office for the administration and payment of individual entitlements (PMO), the office for infrastructure and logistics in Brussels (OIB), the office for infrastructure and logistics in Luxembourg (OIL), the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) and the European School of Administration (EUAS).
The fact remains that with her hearing, Georgieva has enhanced even further her authority in the prospective Juncker commission. Unlike other hearings, where MEPs were attacking Commissioner-designates for presumed conflict of interests or ghosts in their closet, Georgieva was only questioned on issues relating to her portfolio. The answers she provided made it clear she was fit for the job, and at some points prompted applause from MEPs.
On one point, however, Georgieva failed to her obligation, that is, to stick to the two minutes per answer.
“Two minutes is not enough to make you happy with my answers, but you will have me for 5 years,” she said at one point, prompting laughs from the audience. She really appeared to enjoy the hearing, while for other Commissioner-designates, the same experience looked like an ordeal.
When MEPs from UKIP tried to destabilise her, Georgieva won applause from the audience. One MEP asked her how she would cut the “enormous bureaucratic machine” of the EU, which in his words was bigger that the British army. “I’m worried for the British army”, Georgieva replied.
Another asked her how she planned to cut the EU budget. “My job is to implement the EU budget, not to cut it,” she responded.
Georgieva was quizzed about her plans to overcome the snowballing backlogs of the EU budget.
She said that she would ask all relevant Commission services to work together to further improve their estimates of needs for payments based on a rigorous assessment of past implementation trends and absorption capacity. She argued that better planning was one of the ways to avoid backlogs in the future.
One of her major priorities, Georgieva said, was the 2016 mid-term review of the long-term EU budget for 2014-2020, and the preparation of a proposal for the post-2020 period.
Asked about the €300 billion package for growth and jobs announced by Juncker to the European Parliament on 15 July, Georgieva said that this was an issue MEPs should better address with Jyrki Katainen, who has been assigned the portfolio Vice-President for Growth and Jobs. But she made it clear that this money would come from the private sector.
“There is plenty of money in banks doing nothing”, she said.
But she also disclosed that getting the budget portfolio had been a surprise for her. She said that when Juncker announced her future attribution, her hair went straight up. “Luckily I have short hair,” she said.