NGOs demand Commission deny Oettinger human resources portfolio

Günther Oettinger at the Digital4EU Stakeholder Forum. [European Commission]

A group of NGOs has called on the European Parliament to oppose the proposal by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to put Günther Oettinger in charge of supervising human resources for the EU executive.

Ten organisations, including Transparency International EU, state that they believe that Oettinger is unsuitable for the Commission portfolio.

“Commissioner  Oettinger has made  racist, sexist  and  homophobic  remarks  on  several  occasions in the past, most recently at a speech he gave in an official capacity in Hamburg on 26 October,” the NGOs state.

Oettinger, who has been embroiled in numerous scandals, was nominated by Juncker to take over the portfolios of Budget and Human Resources from his Bulgarian colleague Kristalina Georgieva, who left for a position at the World Bank, which began on 1 January.

Oettinger will leave his job as the EU’s Digital Economy and Society chief and take Georgieva’s two portfolios, although it is not clear if he will also inherit from her title of Commission Vice-President. He’ll be questioned in three European Parliament committees before taking on the new role, but his promotion won’t be subject to a binding approval by vote in a plenary session of the entire Parliament.

The German Commissioner, who will be auditioned by MEPs on Monday (9 January), has been dogged by scandals in recent months. In October, he was caught on camera at an event in Hamburg, mocking Chinese people, women in high positions and gay marriage. Oettinger apologised one week later.

Oettinger finally apologises for ‘slitty eyes’ speech

Germany’s Commissioner Günther Oettinger today (3 November) finally apologised, a week after calling the Chinese “slitty eyes”, and mocking women and gay marriage, in a secretly-filmed after dinner speech.

In November, it became known that Oettinger had used a Kremlin lobbyist’s private jet to arrive on time for a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The Commission said Oettinger had not breached any rules by taking the plane.

Oettinger in fresh row over Kremlin lobbyist's jet

Germany’s European Commissioner Günther Oettinger yesterday (16 November) defended his decision to fly in a Kremlin lobbyist’s private jet, days after being caught in a row over derogatory comments about Chinese people.

“At this crucial moment for the EU, it is more vital than ever to have a strong and credible commitment from the  European  Commission  to  counter  discrimination  and  act  for  equality  for  all.  The Commissioner in charge of human resources must lead by example. He or she should have clear plans for action to make equality for all a reality and speak out against racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia,” the NGOs state, adding: “In our view, Commissioner Oettinger is not the right person for this task.”

Ethics rules

Oettinger  has  repeatedly  attracted  criticism  for  the  way  he interacts with lobbyists, the NGOs point out.

“Evidence shows that Oettinger has not been proactive in pursuing an inclusive and balanced approach to stakeholder consultation as almost 90% of his meetings have been with corporate interest groups. This is the highest percentage of any Commissioner, and is contrary to President Juncker’s instruction to the team of Commissioners to ensure balanced stakeholder representation,” the NGOs argue.

Regarding the private jet used for the Budapest trip, the NGOs state that to this day, it remains unclear what the exact circumstances of this flight were and if the Commissioner broke ethics and transparency rules.

“In our view, Oettinger is unfit to inspire compliance with existing ethics and transparency rules among Commission staff and his peers,” the document concludes, urging MEPs to oppose that Oettinger be put in charge of Human Resources.

The ten NGOs are ILGA-Europe, European Women’s Lobby,  Transparency International EU, European Network Against Racism, Corporate Europe Observatory, IPPF European Network, Oxfam International EU Advocacy Office (Oxfam International), Volonteurope, Stichting ERGO Network (ERGO), and Lobbycontrol.

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