Brussels View Point – Denise Grech
Think you’ve had a rough week? Just thank God you’re not European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen. This past week was marked by meetings confirming her nominations for the Commission.
But the German former minister had to make some tough calls in a short period of time. She had already got the job with a wafer-thin majority, some two months ago.
But then- for the first time ever- two Commissioner nominees- from Hungary and Romania- got rejected by the European Parliament. The Hungarian nominee, László Trócsányi, and Romania’s Rovana Plumb were both kicked out on the grounds of conflict of interest.
‘Replacement’ nominees have been proposed and we wil need to see if they will be approved. Still, 16 out of 26 Commissioners have so far been confirmed. Hearings will continue next week.
Another headache for von der Leyen was the backlash caused when she named the migration portfolio ‘Protecting the European Way of Life’.
The nominee, Margaritis Schinas, spent a gruelling three-hour session on Thursday hearing MEPs criticise the name of his portfolio. The portfolio’s name was widely seen as a way to appease far-right and populist rhetoric that refugees pose a threat to the way Europeans live.
Even French far-right Opposition leader Marine Le Pen endorsed the name.
Schinas used the grilling on a late Thursday evening to do what he does best: defend his boss and defend his title. Known for being the Commission’s chief spokesman for the past five years, the Greek politician insisted he would not be asking for the role to be changed while also stressing that he respected the views of those who object to the title.
There were some (including Schinas’ European People’s Party), who dismissed reservations about the name. There was nothing wrong with saying politicians should protect European values, they said.
Schinas also insisted that open values and integration were key parts of the “European way of life”, in an effort to quell concerns this would be appeasing populists.
In the end, his efforts proved successful. His nomination was approved by a two-thirds majority.Other candidates, including Malta’s very own Helena Dalli, managed to sail through. For a full analysis of what took place then, check out our article on the six topics she was grilled about.