Lawmakers were unsatisfied by the "vague" answers given by Croatia's commissioner candidate, after a three-hour grilling in the European Parliament.
Neven Mimica, Croatia's nominee for consumer protection commissioner, yesterday (4 June) faced questions from members of two European Parliament committees.
After the questions Mimica, currently deputy prime minister for Foreign Affairs and European Integration, expressed “optimism” that his appointment would go ahead.
“I see that the overall atmosphere in the committees is for the consumer policy to be taken forward. I look with optimism to the European Parliament for my nomination,” he told reporters at the European Parliament in Brussels.
But Mimica kept his answers to MEPs questions’ brief and often noncommittal, saying he would sit down with the parliamentarians at a later date to hash out policy details.
He pledged to focus on enforcing current legislation, seeking earlier and deeper involvement of stakeholders in the legislative process, and consolidating the legal framework of European consumer policy.
The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest political group in Parliament, labelled his answers “too vague”, demanding a follow up.
“Neven Mimica has proven to be a serious person but he must catch up with the [Parliament’s] claim for the enforcement of concrete EU laws. Before being confirmed as a European Commissioner he must respond more concretely to MEPs’ questions,” said German MEP Andreas Schwab, EPP member of the Parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee.
With just 16 months to serve before a new Commission in named, Mimica may have wished to downplay his potential influence.
Analysts say that he may find it difficult to achieve significant progress because of potential clashes with commissioners in other directorates, such as in energy or the internal market.
Mimica referred to the overlap with other policy areas. “Consumers is not a singled-out policy. It is horizontal. It interferes with many other policies.”
But the Croatian may have the mettle to defend his corner in the college of commissioners. While not a specialist in consumer protection, he is viewed as an expert in difficult negotiations.
As former Croatian minister for EU integration, Mimica pushed strongly for the Balkan nation’s accession to the EU, a lengthy and hard-fought process. This left him as Croatia’s first choice for commissioner, no matter what the policy area.
"There are no weak policies, only weak commissioners," he told MEPs.
The EPP said in a statement that it would judge Mimica on his commitment to transpose current EU consumer law into national legislation, the swift launching of infringement procedures against EU countries for non-compliance with EU law, and ensuring that funds are in place for a functioning online dispute resolution (ODR) platform.
Mimica said that he would focus on improving the communication of EU consumer policy. It is unclear whether this will include a mooted online platform for the resolution of consumer complaints.
Alternative dispute resolution and ODR "are part of building confidence in consumers if something goes wrong in the internal market for them,” he said, adding that he could not comment on a dossier which the Commission had not yet adopted and which he had not taken part in drafting.
Collective redress, a form of group legal action, is also seen as an area where Mimica may wish to focus, as it raises the possibility of an agreement with the Parliament before the end of his short mandate.
Mimica, an economist, is a social-democrat. After his election in Croatia, he had previously served as deputy speaker in the Croatian parliament.