Protest at “vow of silence” for Commission candidates
Euro MPs today vented their frustration with Commission candidates who are turning up to public hearings in the European Parliament under apparent orders to say little or nothing in response to questions.
S&D Group vice-president Hannes Swoboda led the attack, accusing some candidates of failing to show respect for Parliament.
Said Mr Swoboda: “There have been nominees who are ready to go beyond the restrictions set by President Barroso but some have shown disrespect to Parliament because they adhered strictly to his injunctions.
“They appeared to have been ordered to take a vow of silence. Either they did not dare to present their ideas or they do not have any ideas or strategies. It is important for Mr Barroso to make clear that Commission candidates have the obligation to present their ideas and strategies to the Parliament. This is in order for Parliament to evaluate the competence of commission nominees to carry out their jobs.”
Mr Swoboda added: “Some commissioners – including Almunia from the Left and Barnier from the Right – gave excellent presentations.”
He singled out nominees Semeta, Rehn and Jeleva for special criticism. “In the main, the nominees who failed to present themselves properly were inexperienced but we were surprised by the performance of Olli Rehn, who is an experienced commissioner.”
Mr Swoboda’s criticism that “the low level of knowledge of some nominees is below standards that members of parliament expect from commissioners” was echoed by colleagues.
Accusing the European Conservatives in the EPP group of playing party politics with the hearings, Mr Swoboda said: “Some of the nominees have recently taken up party political functions in the EPP. This introduces party politics into the hearings, as can be seen in the EPP Euro MPs’ defence of the Bulgarian candidate Jeleva. This creates a danger that the hearings will no longer be about the capacity of nominees but about political allegiances.”
Full discussions would take place in the S&D Group, said Mr Swoboda, and some nominees might be invited to undergo a second parliamentary hearing before a decision was made, though he backed group leader Martin Schulz’s earlier verdict of incompetence on the Bulgarian candidate.
Mr Swoboda stressed: “Even when we approve a new European Commission, we will not be giving them a blank cheque. We will be keeping an eye on them and calling them back if we need to in order to monitor their performance.”