A group of Socialist MEPs has contested the procedure foreseen for Commissioner Günther Oettinger’s change of portfolio, demanding the Parliament president call a plenary vote. EURACTIV France reports.
The “free pass” handed to the controversial Commissioner for the Digital Economy has infuriated many on the left of the European Parliament. Socialists and Democrats (S&D) MEPs have called for a vote on his promotion to the Budget and Human Resources brief, following the institution’s rules of procedure.
Oettinger, who has been embroiled in repeated scandals in recent weeks, was nominated by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to take over the portfolio from his Bulgarian colleague Kristalina Georgieva when she leaves for the World Bank in January.
But at the end of November, the Conference of the Presidents, an assembly of the leaders of each of the Parliament’s political groups, decided to break their own rules and spare the German Commissioner a potentially humiliating plenary hearing and vote.
Instead, the Commissioner will face three parliamentary committees close to his new responsibilities – the committees on budgetary control, budgets and legal affairs – which will deliver their conclusions to the Conference of the Presidents. But no plenary vote is scheduled.
“This choice appears to have been inspired by the model established when Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis inherited his competence for financial stability, which he already supervised in his role as Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue,” a group of around 20 S&D MEPs wrote in a letter to Parliament President Martin Schulz and their group President, Gianni Pittella.
The two Socialists, both members of the Conference of the Presidents, agreed to exempt Oettinger’s promotion from parliamentary scrutiny.
“We think the case of Commissioner Oettinger is different. And we feel obliged to express our strong reservations regarding the agreement reached by the Conference of the Presidents,” the letter added.
The MEPs went on to argue that the Parliament must respect its own rules of procedure, which foresee a plenary vote. This procedure was applied in 2008 when the French former Commissioner Jacques Barrot changed portfolio.
But formalities aside, the MEPs’ main argument is political. Oettinger’s recent racist and homophobic outbursts and his decision to travel on a private jet belonging to a businessman with close ties to the Kremlin have badly damaged his reputation.
“At a time when trust in the European political process is weak, we should not allow people to think that the prerogatives of the European Parliament are being undermined. In this context, a derogation procedure is all the more inappropriate,” the letter concluded.
Neither Schulz nor Pittella immediately responded to EURACTIV’s request for comment.