Juncker Commission: ” “racing against time ” “

The Executive led by the Luxembourg politician is due to take office November 1st. But it's a bumpy course

A “democracy-test”, intertwined with complex institutional gimmicks, has been ongoing for months between Brussels and Strasbourg, with the aim of arriving at the installation of the Juncker Commission. In fact, the procedure outlined by Community regulations has been taken for granted in too many seats and on too many occasions. And now problematic issues have come to the fore along with a considerable amount of positive aspects. Unlike in the past, candidates to the presidency of the executive body of the European Union were recommended by their respective political groupings in the election campaign for the renewal of the European Parliament. They were the so-called “spitzenkandidaten”, flagships of EPP, Socialists and Democrats, Liberals, Greens and Left, among whom – according to a vote by universal suffrage of 22 to 25 May – prevailed EPP candidate Jean-Claude Juncker from Luxembourg, a man of great international experience. Between June and September, were adopted the procedures enshrined in the Treaties that involved the European Council (represented by the Heads of State and Government of EU28) and the EU Parliament, which, in representation of European citizens, finally had a say. Not only: since September so-called “hearings” took place in the Assembly – veritable examinations to all 27 candidates nominated by the respective Member States to be part of the Commission – ensuing a proxy by the president “in pectore”. That of the hearings is a rather complex liturgy, which envisages a written examination first, whereby the Commissioners-designate are asked to answer policy-specific questions on related portfolios: for example, economics, agriculture, transport, energy, culture and multilingualism, foreign affairs, consumer protection… A three-hour oral interview ensues during which candidates are asked a plethora of questions by MEPs members of the relevant parliamentary committees (i.e., Economic Affairs, Agriculture, etc.) Finally, after the evaluation statement for each candidate, the consent to the Commission as a whole is given by a vote in plenary sitting of the European Parliament. The cumbersome nature of the operation could certainly be made lighter, but it is a test of competence, responsibility, political stature for Commissioners-designate given the importance of the assignment for the next 5 years. But then, why not adopt a similar process in the composition of the national governments of EU Member Countries? As for the Executive headed by Juncker, according to the agenda it is supposed to take office on November 1st in order to assume the post of the College led by Portuguese President José Manuel Barroso. But over the past weeks the path of the Executive was slowed down by set of stumbling blocks. In fact, while some Commissioners-designate passed the hearings with flying colors (it is the case of Dutch candidate Frans Timmermans, deputy chairperson, Italian candidate Federica Mongherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs), others raised several doubts in terms of their personal skills or of their “European stature” and their adhesion to Community values. This is true, inter alia, for Spanish candidate Miguel Arias Canete, Tibor Navracsics (Hungary), Vera Jourova (Czech Republic). However, overall positive evaluations were submitted of several commissioners who will manage, in an unprecedented political and organizational cooperation, the economic package. These are: Finnish Jyrki Katainen, French Pierre Moscovici, Latvian Valdis Dombrovskis, British Jonathan Hill (although his eurosceptic positions raised several eyebrows). Moreover, former the Prime Minister of Slovenia Alenka Bratusek, indicated by Juncker to the post of Vice-President in charge of Energy, underwent Parliament’s firm rejection. Thus, Slovenia had to propose a new candidate, in the person of Vice-Premier Violeta Bulca, a person with scarce political experience and limited knowledge of the energy sector, so as to induce Juncker to assign her another portfolio, transport, thereby shifting Slovakian candidate Maros Sefcovic to the single energy market. That’s the situation so far. Next week Parliament will hold its plenary meeting in Strasbourg. The final evaluation on the Commission is scheduled to take place October 22. This means that the hearings of Commissioners-designate Bulc and Sefcovic (the latter having changed portfolio), whose positive outcome would lead to a voting session in the Hemicycle, should take place before then. It’s a race against time, but it’s not impossible. And however, it is widely known that democracy has its rules and its time. If it is put to advantage, it is worthwhile.

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