Back to the drawing board
Part two of our look at the new European Commission.
Incoming European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is facing his first major political headache this morning after members of the European Parliament rejected the nomination of former Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek for the position of Vice President of Energy Union.
By an overwhelming margin of 112 votes to 13, MEPs on the Industry, Research and Energy Committee and the Environment Committee rebuffed Bratusek, who nominated herself for a commission role shortly before departing office. Opposition to her selection cut across party lines, with both members of the centre-right EPP and centre left S&D voting against.
The writing was on the wall for Bratusek after she stumbled badly in front of committee members at the start of the week. MEPs attacked the ex-Slovenian leader for offering foggy answers on her would-be policy portfolio, of which she had limited prior knowledge. Bratusek was also hamstrung by the circumstances of her nomination, which was made against the wishes of Slovenia’s current government.
Juncker now has a tight window in which to choose a successor to Bratusek - an up-or-down vote on his entire slate of commissioners is due on 22nd October. The initial betting is that Slovakia’s Maros Sefcovic, who cruised through hearings for the post of transport commissioner, will be moved up to take Bratusek’s place. That would certainly please Eastern European nations haggling with their western counterparts over renewable and energy efficiency targets.
Elsewhere, Spain’s controversial nominee for the post of Energy and Climate Change Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete prevailed after S&D members agreed not to stand in the way of his nomination. The former Rajoy government member made it through amid speculation Juncker offered to add sustainability to Dutch nominee Frans Timmermans’ position of Vice President for Better Regulation. Cañete may also have benefitted from some clever brinkmanship by EPP MEPs, who put French Socialist Pierre Moscovici through his paces before assenting to his confirmation as the EU’s economy chief. President Juncker will need to exhibit some cunning of his own to ensure his nominees can get down to work on time.