Günther Oettinger is simply not suitable for European Commissioner, but he gets away just because he has the support of the EPP and of Germany, MEP Ana Gomes (S&D, Portugal) told euractiv.com in an exclusive interview.
Ana Gomes is Vice-Chair of the Committee of Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion, and a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.
She spoke to EURACTIV’s Senior Editor Georgi Gotev.
Apparently Germany’s European Commissioner Günther Oettinger is going to get the budget portfolio following the resignation of Kristalina Georgieva. There was a press release about that. This means he needs to be auditioned once again by the European Parliament. And in the meantime he made some very controversial remarks, and there was a further scandal because he accepted travel in the private jet of a Kremlin lobbyist. It looks like MEPs could give Oettinger a hard time?
I hope so. Because I can’t understand, I can’t accept that Mr Oettinger gets away following his racist, misogynist, bigoted statements he has made, and also now with the revelations about accepting this ride from a Kremlin lobbyist. That is totally in contradiction with the minimum we can expect from a commissioner. And this is not the first time that Mr Oettinger makes this kind of statements. He has made a totally baseless statement about some member states. Recently he joked about Wallonia, he made outrageous statements about my own country [Portugal] without any base…
What did he say?
It was on the economy, he was one of the hardliners two or three months ago, but actually the figures and the points made today (16 November) by Commissioner Moscovici only prove he was totally wrong. This man does not have the control that Commissioners are supposed to have. And I doubt his competence, technically. Every time I saw him speak, it was a very poor delivery. I think he is simply not suitable. But the most important things are indeed these very racist political comments about the Chinese, about gay marriage, about women. And the only explanation that I get for the fact that he is not called to account, is the fact that he is German. And that is, in my opinion, the most outrageous, the most unacceptable explanation. Is it that because he is German, he is getting away with it? It simply cannot happen. That’s exactly the reason why I have asked the chair of the Civic liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee Claude Moraes, in writing and orally in the committee, that this matter ought to be questioned in parliament, and he promised he would take the matter to the Coordinators Meeting.
This means that the issue will be discussed even if there will be no hearing?
I hope so. I’ve asked for that and I hope this will take place before Christmas. Because in any case after Christmas we will have this hearing with him if he is due to take this portfolio of budget. But I don’t think he is minimally qualified for it. I think he is serving in the European Commission only because Ms Merkel wanted to get rid of him, that’s what I hear from German colleagues. That man definitely doesn’t do a good service for the European Union. He should go, or at least acknowledge he did wrong, apologise and promise he will not repeat such mistakes.
So basically you would accept that he stays as Commissioner? And even get a promotion, because there is a vacant seat for Vice President?
I don’t accept that, but because of the protections he enjoys at several levels, from his political family and from the country he comes from, my position will not be shared by many other people. But at least he has to face his responsibilities, indeed apologise and behave.
You speak on your own behalf, or as a European socialist?
I am a socialist. That’s my opinion I express in the group and in the committee where many other groups are represented. I am a convinced Europeanist who wouldn’t like to see the European Commission discredited by inconsiderate acts of a commissioner who I believe doesn’t have much quality technically, Mr Oettinger.
Speaking about the Commission, we also have Vice President Georgieva resigning on very short notice…
It’s another matter I cannot understand. I remember there were precedents, Peter Mandelson left the Commission without any notice [in 2008]. At that time we were pretty angry. But in the case of Commissioner Georgieva this is much worse, because she was bidding for a job at the UN for which she was obviously not qualified, and she was campaigning for quite a long time. There is a Portuguese former MEP [Mario David] who said on the record she had been preparing all this for more than two years. I can call this a Goldman-Sachs candidature to the top job at the UN. But at least an open and transparent process [for the election of the UN secretary General] was set up for the first time in New York, and through this process it was clear that she was not qualified to take this position. And a very qualified person I know quite well actually got the job, António Guterres.
I thought it was appalling that the Commission will allow her to behave in this way, because it was known that the people in the Commission knew, I remember the tweet that was put by Mr Martin Selmayr, supporting her. We know this was not innocent. We know Frau Merkel was actively lobbying for her, the Russians put up that information. And this was when nobody knew she was really running for the job. She tried, she failed, which was bad enough for the EU. She returned, and in less than a month she was off to another position – if this is the way the European Commission is run at the top level, if this is the way that top positions in the world, such as the World Bank are filled, then no wonder that citizens have massively lost trust in institutions and are listening to the refined tunes of populists and demagogues, such as Donald Trump.