|Hill's hearing was less of a duel than expected|
The UK’s Commissioner-designate Lord Hill had his second hearing in front of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee today and by almost all accounts performed well. While he was at ease and fluid as in his first appearance, he was importantly much clearer and more specific on the details of what he would like to achieve (for example on capital markets and banking union). This, combined with his extensive written answers, means that there is no grounding for rejecting Hill on content.
There were, of course, those who questioned his impartiality and independence but as we pointed out here, these complaints seemed to have little to do with Hill himself (who has few direct connections to the City left) and more with the fact he was from the UK. As liberal MEP Sylvie Goulard said:
“He took the exercise very seriously…We think it is unfair just to reject him because of his passport.”Furthermore, compared to other Commissioners (Spain’s Miguel Arias Cañete springs to mind) Hill has far less recent and direct contact with his industry in question. His approval is now widely expected tomorrow.
Equally Cañete looks set to survive following a significant amount of political wrangling with the centre-right EPP sticking to its guns to ensure that the centre-left S&D does not try to block him – mostly by threatening to hold up the approval of France’s Pierre Moscovici, who incidentally also looks set to be confirmed.
As we always said though, things are looking less rosy for Slovenia’s Alenka Bratusek, who struggled on content during her appearance and also faces accusations of corruption over her nomination process. In fact it seems as part of the cross-party deal, she is likely to be rejected, meaning a new representative will need to be found for the post of Vice President for Energy Union.
Finding a new nominee for this position will be tricky not least because Bratusek is an experienced politician from a newer member state and contributed to the much debated gender balance of the new Commission. One option would be for Slovenian to put forward another one of its four nominees such as Tanja Fajon MEP, although she is unlikely to be considered high profile enough for the VP slot, meaning some reshuffling will still be needed (the FT has a plausible option here).
The other hearings from today went more or less as expected with the Netherlands Frans Timmermans particularly impressing, while Finland’s Jyrki Katainen produced a solid display in an area he has extensive experience in.
With Czech Vera Jourova now confirmed after being held up, the main wrangling will be over where to put Hungary’s Tibor Navracsics and who will fill Bratusek’s role. Much of this is expected to be decided tomorrow although with no firm timeline. One final issue which remains to be resolved is the exact split of powers between Commissioners and how the VPs will work with the standard Commissioners. Jean-Claude Juncker may have to provide further detail to the EP on this before he gets the final OK.
However, in the end, after pushing its luck earlier on the European Parliament now seems to have regained its control and sense of perspective.