Commissioner-nominees Trocsanyi and Plumb face grilling over personal finances

File photo. Hungarian Justice Minister Laszlo Trocsanyi, speaks during the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs about the current situation of fundamental rights in Hungary at the EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 27 February 2017. [Stephanie Lecocq/EPA/EFE]

European lawmakers on Wednesday (25 September) asked the Romanian and Hungarian EU commissioner nominees to face a grilling over potential conflicts of interest and discrepancies in property statements.

The requests came as questions swirled around the personal finances of the EU’s incoming leadership.

The European Parliament next week begins hearings to vet 26 national picks to join the commission, the EU’s executive arm that will be led by Germany’s Ursula Von der Leyen.

In preparation for the hearings, the legal affairs committee in a closed-door session combed through personal declarations by the nominees, a necessary step before the question-and-answer sessions next week.

MEPs asked Romanian socialist Rovana Plumb and Hungarian conservative László Trócsányi to come in person to parliament on Thursday for follow-up questions, several parliamentary sources said.

The decision came at the end of a heated meeting in which MEPs battled over the declarations of assets, real estate holdings and job history with political parties vying to save their nominees from embarrassment.

The commission is one of the world’s most formidable regulators, carrying out Europe’s oversight of key issues such as trade, competition and tech. Von der Leyen assigned the transport portfolio to Plumb and the enlargement portfolio to Trócsányi.

According to a European source, MEPs are asking Trócsányi for details on the law firm he founded before becoming Minister of Justice in Viktor Orbán’s government.

‘Laughing stock’

Plumb, a former environment minister, will have to further explain a loan to finance an election campaign, according to the same source. Romania’s MEP Siegfried Mureșan (Vice chair of the EPP group) mentioned “contradictory information” in Plumb’s property statements made in the EU institutions and in Romania.

“In this moment Plumb is the laughing stock of Romania at EU level”, he wrote on Facebook.

A letter should also be sent to Janusz Wojciechowski of Poland to clarify his declaration of interests.

All the other commissioners received the green light to proceed to the next stage of the process: their individual hearings set for between 30 September and 8 October.

Among the validated candidates are Belgium’s Didier Reynders and Sylvie Goulard of France, who are the subject of judicial inquiries in their home countries.

Former Belgian foreign minister Reynders is under a preliminary investigation on suspicions of corruption, while former French defence minister Goulard is a suspect in a case involving alleged fictitious jobs when she served as an MEP.

The procedure for appraising commissioners currently only allows questioning on their declaration of interests and not on matters beyond the information given.

“We don’t have access to this type of information, so we use the instruments we have. But it is something that is taken very seriously,” Romanian MEP Dacian Cioloș, head of the centrist Renew Group, told AFP.

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