BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Parliament concluded a first week of confirmation hearings on Thursday for nominees to the incoming European Commission, the EU executive body to be led by Jean-Claude Juncker.
The process faces a turbulent second week after consensus broke down between Juncker’s centre-right and the centre-left in parliament, notably over the nominations of Spanish conservative Miguel Arias Canete to the energy and climate change brief and French Socialist Pierre Moscovici to economic affairs.
Remaining timetable (GMT) followed by details of the team:
MONDAY, OCT 6
1230-1530 Dombrovskis Bratusek
1630-1930 Ansip Mogherini
TUESDAY, OCT 7
DATE/TIME NOT SET Hill
PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER
Luxembourg, centre-right, 59. Prime minister for 19 years. Confirmed in office by parliament after nomination by state leaders in July over British objections. He wants to centralise power, promises “political not technocratic” Commission focused on reviving economy and regaining trust of voters who backed host of anti-EU parties in European Parliament election in May.
Italy, centre-left, 41. Nominated by EU governments despite reservations in Eastern Europe that she is soft on Russia, a key gas supplier for Italy. Promises youthful energy, to hold Moscow to account over Ukraine and engagement in Iran and Arab world.
FIRST VICE-PRESIDENT FRANS TIMMERMANS
Netherlands, centre-left, 53. Juncker’s “right-hand” with a roving brief to keep order in new, two-tier hierarchy, charged with delivering Juncker’s promises. Former diplomat and foreign minister, prodigious linguist including Russian learned on military service. That may serve well as Ukraine crisis goes on.
VICE-PRESIDENT, BUDGET, KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA
Bulgaria, centre-right, 61. Former World Bank economist, ran humanitarian affairs in outgoing Commission after last-minute nomination prompted by parliament’s rejection of Sofia’s first choice. Competence in office, plus gender, meant she was long tipped for high office. Won centre-left backing after hearing.
VICE-PRESIDENT, ENERGY UNION, ALENKA BRATUSEK
Slovenia, centrist, 44. As a former prime minister and a woman she fits a profile Juncker wanted to promote. But having nominated herself after losing an election, risks trouble in parliament since new Ljubljana government has complained. Could suffer in right-left row over energy commissioner appointment.
VICE-PRESIDENT, JOBS & GROWTH, JYRKI KATAINEN
Finland, centre-right, 42. Prime minister until June and now filling in as EU economy commissioner, he’s a fiscal hawk in the euro zone, close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Would oversee Frenchman Pierre Moscovici, who succeeds him, as well as Hill, Thyssen, Bienkowska, Cretu and others.
VICE-PRESIDENT, EURO & SOCIAL DIALOGUE, VALDIS DOMBROVSKIS
Latvia, centre-right, 43. Physicist turned bank economist, finance minister and, until January, the prime minister who kept power despite deep pain inflicted on crisis-ravaged Baltic state so as to join euro zone. Resigned over deadly collapse of a Riga supermarket building. Another fiscal hawk, he will oversee commissioners Moscovici, Hill, Thyssen, Bienkowska and others.
VICE-PRESIDENT, DIGITAL SINGLE MARKET, ANDRUS ANSIP
Estonia, centrist, 58. Qualified chemist and former Soviet Communist party member, he was prime minister for nine years until stepping down in May, retaining popularity despite hardships of qualifying for using the euro in 2011. An advocate of Estonia’s high-tech approach to development, he has been a vocal critic of Russian expansionism.
Czech, centrist, 50. Has been regional development minister. From ANO movement of billionaire Finance Minister Andrej Babis. Cleared and compensated after spending month in custody in 2006 over allegation she misused EU funds when in government. Centre-left demanded she answer more written questions after hearing.
Germany, centre-right, 60. Combative outgoing energy commissioner. Was state premier in wealthy Baden-Wuerttemberg. Low-key post for EU’s big power but Berlin keen to see data protection strengthened globally. At hearing, he stressed he would bring forward proposals to reform copyright rules and work to ensure rules protecting net neutrality are not watered down by governments discussing them. Approved.
France, centre-left, 57. Moderate socialist from France’s technocratic elite, son of prominent Romanian and Polish refugee psychologists. Europe minister 1997-2002. Finance minister under President Francois Hollande from 2012, he was denounced as “not credible” by centre-right at hearing, despite his assurances he would impose EU deficit discipline on Paris as on any state. His confirmation now hostage to multiparty bargaining next week.
Belgium, centre-right, 58. Long-time member of the European Parliament and former leader of Flemish Christian Democrats. At her hearing, she won a “green light” from the centre-left.
Romania, centre-left, 47. Former spokeswoman for President Ion Iliescu, later member of Romanian and then EU parliament. Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell denied having had an affair with Cretu after a hacker published what Powell said were “very personal” emails between the two last year. Was not asked about that at hearing. Centre-right says not impressed by her.
Austria, centre-right, 56. Outgoing regional commissioner and former CEO of gaming equipment manufacturer. May have a role in Ukraine crisis, though no new EU members seen joining. At his hearing, he spoke in favour of sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, something Vienna has been cool on. Approved.
COMMISSIONER, MIGRATION, HOME AFFAIRS, DIMITRIS AVRAMOPOULOS
Greece, centre-right, 61. Defence minister since 2013. Has also been Athens mayor and foreign minister. Greece on frontline of many EU efforts to stem illegal migration from Middle East. He told his hearing he supported outreach to asylum seekers and also reinforcing border security in Mediterranean. Approved.
Lithuania, centre-left, 63. Heart surgeon, born in Siberia to parents deported by Stalin, he was a long-time dissident. Cleared of corruption allegations that saw him quit parliament in 2004. Told hearing he would not let a U.S. trade deal force EU to accept “chlorine chicken”. Approved.
Britain, conservative, 54. Aide to premier John Major in 1990s, he founded a lobbying firm. As leader of David Cameron’s party in the unelected upper house, he had a low profile. Cameron, who tried to block Juncker’s appointment, hailed the nomination of Hill to a brief vital to London’s business interests. Charmed lawmakers personally but left them demanding he “resit” hearing next week to show more grasp of substance.
COMMISSIONER, INTERNAL MARKET, INDUSTRY, ELZBIETA BIENKOWSKA
Poland, centre-right, 50. Deputy premier for regions under Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the incoming European Council chief. Won moderate support from the centre-left after hearing.
Spain, centre-right, 64. Possibly most vulnerable nominee. Left and greens quizzed him hard on family ties to oil industry that they say are a conflict of interest in combined climate change and energy portfolio. Centre-right allies backing him as the whole team faces left-right bargaining next week.
Croatia, centre-left, 61 next week. Named commissioner for consumer protection when Croatia joined EU last year. A veteran of foreign and trade issues, a doctor in economics. Questioned on Monday, he said the EU should be more active in promoting development through aid, be “a player, not a payer”. Approved.
Denmark, centrist, 46. Won widespread respect in EU as Copenhagen’s economy minister. Has vowed not to be bullied by EU governments or big business as she takes on powerful post. She displayed a cautiously clear grasp of brief at Thursday hearing.
Slovakia, centre-left, 48. Outgoing commissioner responsible for EU institutions. Former diplomat in Brussels and Israel, a graduate of Soviet, French and U.S. universities. Told hearing he would work to improve networks and repeated EU criticism of German plan to tax foreign cars in transit. Approved.
Sweden, centrist, 46. Outgoing home affairs commissioner. Former minister and EU parliamentarian. Quizzed on Monday, she sought to assure lawmakers that U.S. multinationals would not be able to use a free-trade deal to force EU states to weaken consumer and other protections and said Russia could not amend an EU-Ukraine pact. Approved.
Malta, centre-left, 64. Architect, civil engineer and veteran minister, including in tourism. At hearing, was pressed on Malta’s failure to protect migratory birds from hunters and pledge to enforce EU rules on all governments. Approved.
COMMISSIONER, EDUCATION, CULTURE, CITIZENS, TIBOR NAVRACSICS
Hungary, centre-right, 48. As justice minister under premier Viktor Orban, he oversaw new laws, including media rules, that some lawmakers say were anti-democratic and make him unsuitable. Insisted he believed in European democratic values but centre-left wanted more “repentance” and set more written questions.
Portugal, centre-right, 44. Worked as a civil engineer in France before a Harvard MBA led to M&A role at Goldman Sachs. He founded his own investment company and was a negotiator with the EU, IMF and ECB on Lisbon’s bailout programme. Approved.
Ireland, centre-right, 54. A former teacher and auctioneer, has been 25 years in parliament, latterly as environment minister. Controversy at home over an opponent’s accusation of prejudice against nomadic travellers could affect hearings. Won support from the centre-left after hearing on Thursday.
COMMISSIONER, AID & CRISIS MANAGEMENT, CHRISTOS STYLIANIDES
Cyprus, centre-right, 56. Former government spokesman. He impressed many lawmakers at his hearing. Approved.
Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Robin Pomeroy