Socialist rebels contest Oettinger’s exemption from MEP vote

Günther Oettinger [European Parliament]

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.

Gomes: Outrageous that Oettinger gets away with it because he’s German

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 in an exclusive interview.

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.

No vote

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.

European Parliament renounces control over Oettinger's nomination

EXCLUSIVE /  The European Parliament’s Conference of the Presidents decided on Wednesday (23 November) that Günther Oettinger will not face a plenary vote before taking on his new portfolio. EURACTIV France reports.

“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.

Political argument

“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.

Hungary asked Kremlin lobbyist to airlift Oettinger to Budapest

The Hungarian government yesterday (17 November) explained that EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger’s controversial flight to Budapest on board a Kremlin lobbyist’s private jet took place as part of Hungary’s contacts with the businessman.

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.

'There is no scandal': Oettinger refuses to apologise for ‘slitty eyes’ speech

EXCLUSIVE/ Under-fire Commissioner Günther Oettinger this morning (2 November) refused to apologise for describing the Chinese as “slitty eyes” and mocking women and gay marriage.

“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.

Subscribe to our newsletters