Von der Leyen Commission, EP already split on the new French candidate

The committee on Legal affairs of the European Parliament gave the green light to the hearings of the three commissioner-designated for Transport, Enlargement, Industry and defense. The MEPs decided that there are not clear conflict of interests, so Thierry Breton, Olivér Várhelyi e Adina Valean can be heard by the competent parliamentary commissions. The hearings will take place in Brussels in two days, on 14 November.

Breton, a French national, has been nominated to replace Sylvie Goulard, rejected for the post of responsible for industry, internal market, digital agenda and defense. He will be heard by the committees on Industry (ITRE) and Internal Market (IMCO).

Várhelyi, an Hungarian, has been put forward by the national government in order to secure the portfolio of enlargement. He has to answer the questions of the MEPs from the committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET).

Finally Valean, a Romanian, is supposed to deal with transport and mobility. She is waited in the committee on Transport (TRAN).

Still problems with France

MEPs already rejected three commissioners-designate. In the first round of checks and hearings the candidates from Romania and Hungary, Rovana Plumb and László Trócsány, weren’t admitted to join the parliamentary committees because of their conflict of interests. Sylvie Goulard, put forward by the French president Emmanuel Macron, was rejected at the end of the hearings.

Macron got furious for the decision made by the European Parliament. The problem is that the new name poses even more doubts. “Breton is more in conflict of interest than Goulard”, EP sources told this blog.

The committee on Legal affairs got split today on the French commissioner-designate. He passed by 12 votes, to 11. A very tiny majority which is not a good message for the president elected, Ursula von der Leyen. Her European Commission risks to experience a new stop in case of a new rejection.

“Breton has to be convincing”, stressed the president of the EPP group, Manfred Weber. “He is a prepared and skilfull person, especially on digital, but we want to see the program”.

The endorsement of the European Parliament to the French commissioner-designate cannot be taken for granted. But in case of a no-confidence vote, an earthquake would shake Europe. “A rejection of Breton would be the atomic bomb”, said in Brussels.

Social-democrats in fight mode

The left-wing forces within the EU Parliament are ready to make no concessions to the French candidate. Social-democrats (S&D) and the United Left (GUE) already gave life to an anti-Breton coalition. According to them there are still points to be clarified, and there is the idea that once again France proposed a person not in the position of serving as a commissioner.

“Conservatives and liberals are to blame for blocking crucial questions on Breton’s conflict of interests”, argued the S&D coordinator on the legal affairs committee, Tiemo Wölken. “I think there are many questions about his conflicts of interest. Therefore, I regret the decision” of not making further checks.

Further assessment will be produced during Breton’s hearing. Breton will have no easy life, as the new European Commission had so far.

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