Next week, the European Parliament will be questioning the 26 nominees for the new European Commission – an important task, as the new Commission cannot take up its work before parliament has approved the new team of officials. But is one week of hearings enough to make up one’s mind about which direction the EU should take in the next five years? Below, I’ll describe how the hearings work and explain why I’m asking for your support to demand greater accountability of Team Juncker.

In the upcoming week, every candidate for the new Commission will appear in a public, web-streamed hearing before the European Parliament. Each hearing is three hours long, which leaves just enough time for 45 questions, at least if the candidate doesn’t take more than two minutes to answer, which in itself is a bit of an unrealistic assumption. The 45 questions are divided among political groups roughly according to their size, which then in turn divide the questions among their members who are on the parliamentary committees relevant to each Commisioner’s portfolio.

EU Commission hearing schedule

(based on the table by @Europarl_EN)

This immediately raises the question of which committees are considered relevant. In many national parliaments, committees are formed after the government has announced its ministers and cabinets. This is not true for the European Parliament, which has already formed its committees in July, when we had no idea what the new Commission would look like. Take the case of Günther Oettinger, the designated Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society: His portfolio spans issues that fall into the responsibility of the committees on Industry (communication networks), Legal Affairs (copyright), Internal Market (e-commerce), Home Affairs (civil liberties online, IT security) and Culture (digital works).

When one of the smaller groups such as the Greens/EFA, of which I am a member, tries to distribute its four questions to Oettinger among the committees, it is clear that some important topics are going to remain untouched and many MEPs will not get to ask any questions at all.

I think the Commission needs to do better than that. The European Parliament has used its power to reject the entire Commission in the past to make sure that the nominations of unsuitable candidates were withdrawn. In 2004, Parliament rejected the Italian nominee Rocco Buttiglione after he made homophobic and sexist remarks during the hearing. So clearly the ability to ask the candidates some tough questions is key for parliamentarians to be able to do their jobs.

But if Commission President Juncker wants to make good on his ambition to make this a more political (rather than just administrative) Commission, the scrutiny cannot stop there. A real European democracy requires a Commission that is transparent and open to Europeans’ participation.

That’s why I am calling on the designated Commissioners to open themselves to questions by the general public. I have created a platform where you can submit questions for the two Commissioners responsible for Internet topics, Günther Oettinger and Andrus Ansip. I will personally have the chance to ask each of them one question in the upcoming hearings and will take the opportunity to ask them to also address the questions collected from you, the Internet users. Please contribute your questions to this online hearing and spread the link:

What would you ask?

Then it will be up the the new Commission to rise to the challenge and win the support not only of the European Parliament, but of the over 500 million people that will be directly affected by their initiatives.

Header image based on photos by David Patrick (licensed cc-by-sa) and European Youth Forum (licensed cc-by-sa)

To the extent possible under law, the creator has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.

One comment

  1. 1

    Ist in diesem Text mit Absicht “accountability” gewählt worden, Verantwortung im Sinne von Rechenschaft?