News World Incoming EU executive stumbles early over team line-up

Incoming EU executive stumbles early over team line-up

The incoming European Commission is facing more headwinds than any of its predecessors before it takes office next month, amid concerns about possible conflicts of interest, corruption or financial irregularities among several commissioner candidates.

The turmoil could make the start of incoming Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s five-year term even shakier after she scraped through a European Parliament approval vote with a wafer-thin majority in July.

The EU executive, which has the sole right to propose European laws and is the guardian of the bloc’s treaty, is comprised of one commissioner per member state, nominated by his or her government for the next five years.

But even before the European Parliament started hearings of the candidates this month, von der Leyen had to ask Hungary and Romania for new nominees because the assembly’s legal committee objected to financial statements and declarations of interest made by their initial candidates.

Questioned why there were no background checks of the two candidates before they made the team, Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva stressed that the appointments are a joint matter between national governments, the EU parliament and the incoming Commission president.

“We don’t have an internal CIA in the Commission that carries out a screening of every single candidate,” Andreeva said, noting that the law envisaged only a job interview, a declaration of interests and a parliamentary hearing.

The European Parliament in theory cannot reject individual candidates for commissioners but can only approve the new Commission line-up as a whole.

But in practice, it can force individual changes by threatening to withhold approval of the whole team, as in 2004 when it rejected Italy’s Rocco Buttiglione, whose conservative Catholic views on homosexuality and marriage offended many.

In 2009, Bulgaria’s initial candidate, Rumiana Jeleva, was forced to step down over her financial interests.

And in 2014, EU parliamentarians forced the then-incoming Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to replace Slovenia’s commission candidate, Alenka Bratusek, seen as ill-qualified for the role, with Violeta Bulc.

Several other candidates in the von der Leyen team have faced or are still facing scrutiny over financial issues.

Poland’s candidate, Janusz Wojciechowski, earmarked for the agriculture portfolio, had to pay back more than 11,000 euros of improperly claimed travel expenses after an investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF into his time as an EU lawmaker.

France’s candidate for the powerful internal market job, Sylvie Goulard, is still under investigation by OLAF for misuse of funds to employ assistants during her time as EU lawmaker. Goulard has already reimbursed the money to parliament.

Belgium’s Didier Reynders, nominated for the justice portfolio, is under a preliminary investigation over alleged corruption and money laundering in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Reynders denies any wrongdoing.

(Reuters)

Top Stories

After first rainfall, flamingos are back to Larnaca’s wetlands – PHOTOS

Winter in coastal Larnaca region’s wetland is never complete without a visit from the distinctive flamingos and true to form they are back again...

‘Apostle Pavlos’ special education school on alert, 37 covid cases recorded

‘Apostle Pavlos’ special education school in Liopetri went on alert after 37 people there tested positive to coronavirus late on Monday. Board chairman of the...

Attempted murder of foreign man outside his Strovolos home

Police are investigating a case of attempted murder after a 28-year-old foreign man was attacked late on Monday outside his home in Strovolos, Nicosia...

Trump administration gives green light to proceed with Biden transition

After weeks of waiting, President Donald Trump's administration on Monday cleared the way for President-elect Joe Biden to transition to the White House, giving...

Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 59.05 million

More than 59.05 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1,396,757​ have died, according to a Reuters...

Taste

Squash soup

Ingredients: 1 kg pumpkin, cut into small cubes, approximately 5 cups 2 medium (400g) sweet potatoes, cut into cubes, approximately 2 ½ cups 1 chopped leek, only...

Mezedes

No visit to Cyprus is complete without enjoying the traditional meal of many small dishes known as ‘meze’. This large feast, which has been a...

Prawns with fried cheese, barley shaped pasta

Put the barley shaped pasta into a small pan with salted water, bring to a boil and when tender, drain. Peal the prawns leaving...

Salmon and shrimp sheftalies

Mix all ingredients for tabbouli in a bowl and keep to one side so flavours can combine. Prepare the sheftalies: wash and soak the casing...