‘Sexist’ Spanish commissioner under Parliamentary spotlight

Miguel Arias Cañete

Miguel Arias Cañete, candidate for Commissioner. [EURACTIV Spain]

Elected Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will announce the portfolios of the 27 commissioners on his team today (10 September). The next step will be their approval by the European Parliament. At least two of them have good reasons to fear the hearings.

Juncker will announce the portfolios at 12:00 Brussels time. Successive leaks have provided insight into the lobbying of member countries to obtain important portfolios, with the biggest success probably going to Romania’s Corina Cre?u, who is expected to obtain the coveted Regional Funds portfolio.

No matter what the eventual assignment of portfolios is, Spain’s Miguel Arias Cañete is likely to feel the heat of the Parliament over sexist remarks.

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

Cañete, a centre-right politician from the ruling Popular Party (PP) made this statement last May during a televised debate ahead of the European elections, saying that his Socialist opponent was no match for him, because he could not attack her in the same way, as he would have with then-Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.

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.

“If I hold a debate with Mr. Rubalcaba we can say each other all the atrocities, but with a woman this could be interpreted differently,” he reportedly said.

The case recalls that of that of Italian centre-right candidate commissioner Rocco Buttiglione, who 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.

Another candidate likely to be attacked by political opponents is Slovenia’s current caretaker Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek. A video circulating in social media shows her singing “Evviva il comunismo e la libertà“, the best-known line from “Bandiera Rossa”, also known as Avanti Popolo, one of the most famous songs of the communist era.

In the video, Bratušek attends an event where various speakers slam the EU, one of them calling it “a gang of thieves”.

The hearings will take place between 29 September and 3 October.

  • 10 Sept.: Junker to announce members and portfolios of the next Commission;
  • 29 Sept.-3 Oct.: European Parliament to hold hearings with commissioners-designate;
  • 1 Nov.: Mogherini to take on the role as the EU's High Representative;
  • 1 Dec.: Tusk to take on the role as Council President.

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