Poto?nik may get fourth term

[Friends of Europe/Flickr]

Current Slovenian Commissioner Janez Poto?nik could be the choice of Prime Minister Miro Cerar, replacing Alenka Bratušek, the only Juncker Commissioner-designate that MEPs rejected.

The Slovenian press reports that Cerar’s choice could well be Poto?nik, for whom this would be a fourth term as Commissioner. A former negotiator of his country’s EU accession, Poto?nik was briefly Enlargement Commissioner, from the date of his country’s EU accession, 1 May 2004 to November 2004, when the first Barroso team was constituted.

From 2004 to 2009, Poto?nik was Commissioner for Science and Research, and from 2009 until now, he’s served as Commissioner for Environment. It is assumed that if Poto?nik turns out to be the Slovenian candidate, the country will retain the post of Vice-President of the Commission, which was attributed to Bratušek by President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker.

A former Prime Minister himself, Juncker gave Vice-President posts to all four former heads of government in his team, that is, to Finland’s Jyrki Katainen, Latvia’s Valdis Dombrovskis and Estonia’s Andrus Ansip. Other options for a Slovenian Commissioner could be two current MEPs. One is Tanja Fajon, from the Socialists and Democrats group, a former journalist, and Romana Jordan, from the EPP, who has been in the European Parliament since her country’s EU accession.

Poto?nik is a liberal. Therefore Cerar, who is a maverick in politics, and has just created his own political force called “The party of Miro Cerar (SMC)”, has all the political options for making his choice. SMC describes itself as liberal, and close to the centre-left.

Reportedly, Cerar has promised Juncker he will make his decision fast. Whoever the candidate turns out to be, they are going to have to undergo a hearing in Parliament, and so would the commissioner already approved, if Juncker decides to offer them another portfolio.

Hungarian candidate Tibor Navracsics was approved as Commissioner, but MEPs rejected the portfolio he was originally given (education, culture, youth and citizenship), with 12 votes in favour, 14 against, and one abstention.

Bratušek was the only candidate rejected, with 112 votes against, 13 in favour and 2 abstentions. The number of votes cast varies greatly, because some Commissioners have been auditioned by several parliamentary committees.

In theory, it is still possible to hold a vote on the proposed Juncker Commission in plenary, on 22 October, if the hearings of the remaining Commissioners take place the week of 13-17 October, and the candidates are approved.

A Conference of the Presidents of the European Parliament is expected today to decide on the matter.

Freeing hostages

Late Wednesday (8 October), parliamentary committees voted on the problematic Commissioners, which according to jargon, were “held hostage” following their auditions. MEPs held two votes – one for confirming the candidate as Commissioner, and the second for confirming the attribution of their portfolio.

The vote was largely a result of a deal between the centre-left group of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the centre-right European People Party (EPP). S&D paid dearly for the support of French Socialist Pierre Moscovici, by supporting Spanish conservative Miguel Arias Cañete.

The UK’s Jonathan Hill, Commissioner-designate for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Market Union, was approved as commissioner with 45 in favour, 13 against and no abstentions. For the portfolio, he obtained 58 in favour, 42 against and 16 abstentions.

Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner-designate for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, was approved with 44 votes in favour, 12 against and 3 abstentions. For his portfolio, Moscovici obtained less support: 32 in favour, 15 against, 12 abstentions.

Probably the most controversial Commissioner-designate Miguel Arias Cañete earned 83 votes in favour, 42 against and 3 abstentions. For his portfolio, he received 77 in favour, 48 against and 3 abstentions.

Finland’s Commissioner-designate and Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen (EPP) was approved as Commissioner with 123 in favour, 40 against and 5 abstentions. For his portfolio, he obtained 98 in favour, 52 against and 18 abstentions.

Latvia’s Commissioner-designate and Vice President for the Euro and Social Dialogue Valdis Dombrovskis (EPP) was approved with 73 votes in favour, 25 against and 4 abstentions. For his portfolio, he obtained 54 in favour, 37 against and 11 abstentions.

The remaining problematic commissioners, such as the Czech Republic’s V?ra Jourová (S&D) and Romania’s Corina Cre?u (S&D) were approved without a vote. No vote was necessary for the several Commissioners, who made convincing appearances in front of the MEPs. 

  • 9 October: The Conference of Presidents meets to declare the hearings closed and finalise the evaluation;
  • Week of 13-17 October: more auditions to be held;
  • 22 October: Vote in Plenary;
  • 1 November: Commission enters in office.

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