GUE/NGL
News

Day 6: Commission hearings

9/10/2019

12h45 – GUE/NGL will not support Timmermans

Our Left MEPs’ evaluation of Frans Timmermans is ongoing but it is clear that he will not have the support of our members for his nomination.

The group’s coordinator on the environment committee, Silvia Modig, has asked for the following minority view to be included in the letter on Timmermans:

“GUE/NGL cannot support this Commissioner without further commitments in following the scientific recommendations on reduction targets for greenhouse gasses; to strongly address the inconsistencies between climate and agricultural policies; and on ending fossil fuel subsidies.”

Frans Timmermans – courtesy of European Parliament

 

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21h45

This is the end of the official hearings. Please stay tuned for late updates and critical reviews of the hearings.

 

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20h45 – More veg for Frans?

Will Timmermans commit to reducing meat consumption, provide more money for organic industries, and ensure some margins in his policy for animal welfare?

That’s what Dutch MEP Anja Hazekamp wants to know as animal husbandry is chiefly responsible for the huge emission of greenhouse gases:

 

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20h20 – Unconvincing performance by a master Dutch performer

When you think back to the slick campaign videos released by Team Timmermans earlier this year in the run up to the EU elections, our MEPs on the environment and industry committees have been left somewhat underwhelmed by the Dutch nominee so far at the hearing….

 

Silvia Modig reacts after questioning Timmermans:

 

 

Belgian MEP Marc Botenga wonders if Timmermans has become too ‘institutionalised’:

 

 

Swedish MEP Malin Björk says more concrete proposals are necessary from Timmermans – not airy fairy promises:

 

 

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19h45 – Following further scrutiny of Ylva Johansson….

Given her unconvincing performance last week, GUE/NGL MEPs on the civil liberties committee demanded further answers from the Swedish nominee, Ylva Johansson, in order to fully assess her suitability for the position of the home affairs portfolio. Having studied carefully, this is what they concluded:

Civil liberties committee coordinators met today to assess the second round of written answers provided by Commissioner-Designate for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, as a follow-up to her hearing. She was approved at the evaluation with the following positions taken by the different groups: EPP, S&D, Renew and Greens approved of her confirmation whilst GUE/NGL and ECR abstained, and ID voted against.

As GUE/NGL, we stated during this second evaluation meeting that she is qualified both to be a member of the college of Commissioners and to carry out the specific tasks assigned to her. However, our position has been to abstain for reasons of political substance in light of her stated support to expand policies that we have strongly opposed under the previous Commission.

In the area of asylum and migration, we very much welcomed some of her commitments including not to support any initiative that would lead to external asylum processing; her support for opening more safe and legal pathways to the EU; and to ensure that humanitarian assistance is not criminalised.

However, our group has serious concerns about her explicit statement on refusing to suspend the cooperation with the Libyan coast guards, despite clear evidence of human rights abuses that led lawyers to present a case at the ICC.

We are equally concerned by her statement in line with her predecessor that cooperation with third countries should be strengthened – even asking for full flexibility of the Asylum and Migration fund which was designed as an internal funding instrument, to be used in third countries, a position that is opposed by the European Parliament.

Finally, Johansson’s statements on increasing returns through the increasing use of conditionality and her push for the swift adoption of a reformed Return Directive demonstrate to us that she will continue to push for the same policies where fundamental rights of migrants and asylum-seekers will be violated.

Regarding mass surveillance, although in the new written replies, she provided some more answers than at the hearing, there are no elements suggesting that she will adopt different policies from her predecessor.

The Swede considers ‘interoperability’ – which GUE/NGL strongly opposes – as a crucial success and its implementation as a top priority. She also affirms that the national implementation of interoperability ‘is not just a technical exercise, it is political’.

Moreover, she indication further extension of the border management databases. Naturally, she also mentioned the need to respect fundamental rights; however, the somewhat vague description of her approach to the use of new technology in law enforcement is not promising.

On encryption, she writes that introducing backdoors into systems or devices would be ‘counterproductive’, she does recognise that encryption is a ‘problem’ that needs to be overcome.

We strongly believe that on internal security, and namely on the development of surveillance tools, the EU Commission should not continue pursuing policies that create tensions with privacy and fundamental rights, as recognised by courts and independent authorities on several occasions.

Ylva Johansson – courtesy of European Parliament

 

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19h30 – Stop dithering, Frans!

Dutch nominee Frans Timmermans’s unwillingness to immediately adopt the recommended 55% target for EU’s climate targets by 2030 was seized upon by Finnish MEP Silvia Modig as evidence that Timmermans is not fully committed to the cause – in spite of flowery words and holding the portfolio, ‘European Green Deal’.

His stance on the 55%, and his views on saving biodiversity also came under scrutiny from Modig:

 

 

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18h29 – The final furlong

One last Commission hearing … well, until the replacement Hungarian candidate gets his audition next week, and…maybe even a British one next month.

Regardless, it is Frans Timmermans’s turn tonight and he will be bringing his European Green Deal to the committee tonight. Before that, our main concerns:

 

 

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16h51 – Don’t argue with a Saxonian….

With stark disparity between EU regions – including Cornelia Ernst‘s own German region of Saxony – the MEP is keen to know what strategies Margrethe Vestager have up her sleeves so that every corner of the EU would have the same competitive advantage. This, in the Danish nominee’s own words, is critical to creating jobs and combating climate change.

“Is competition enough? What role does free and fair competition in order to enable fair developemnt of these regions? What about giving out aid to balance out the competition?” asks Ernst:

 

 

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16h05Schirdewan quizzes Vestager

As the Commissoner-designate who will be responsible for fairer digital tax, GUE/NGL co-president Martin Schirdewan is keen to know how the tax could look like under the Danish nominee’s leadership, and how this might affect SMEs & innovative companies.

Further, what will Vestager do to actually get these progressive proposals through the EU Council where member states are forever blocking anything pan-European on tax?

 

 

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15h50 – Our foreign affairs committee MEPs on the nomination of Josep Borrell

Josep Borrell – courtesy of European Parliament

 

Spanish MEPs Idoia Villanueva Ruiz (Podemos) & Manu Pineda (Izquierda Unida) said:

The Left group takes note of the commitments and the views that the Commissioner-designate made during the hearing, namely on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation and on the review of the 2008 Code of Conduct for Arms Exports. We would like to see action following commitments on the recognition of Palestine, Western Sahara, as the incorporation of sentences of the Court of Justice of the EU about natural resources in the renewal of agreements between Morocco and the EU. The commitment to uphold human rights clauses in association agreements remains weak, and this is something we will continue to monitor.

In the hearing, Commissioner-designate Borrell proved that he knows EU Foreign and Security policy and is aware of the mechanisms, institutions and the problems and difficulties in this area. We were disappointed that the Spanish candidate was unable to present a clear vision and strategy for his portfolio and that while he presented a personal vision for his portfolio; he intends to continue “policy as usual”.

GUE/NGL has been critical on how the EU has driven its foreign policy, being unable to distinguish itself from US President Donald Trump’s policy nor assert itself as an international actor with the defence of human rights as its core concern.

Leaving the coordinators’ meeting to decide on whether to approve Commissioner-designate Borrell, the GUE/NGL coordinators, Idoia Villanueva Ruiz and Manu Pineda, state:

“We want to see action following commitments on the recognition of Palestine, Western Sahara, as the incorporation of sentences of the Court of Justice of the EU about natural resources in the renewal of the agreements between Morocco and the EU. The commitment to uphold human rights clauses in association agreements remains weak, and this is something we will continue to monitor.”

The candidate obtained the 2/3 support needed from political groups and the GUE/NGL group will be monitoring his commitments and trying to achieve progress in foreign affairs policy and in the aforementioned issues.

Pineda added further:

“We have been very clear about Borrell’s designation during the past few weeks and his performance yesterday confirmed our suspicions. His firm support for NATO, his willingness to increase the budget on defence and his stance on Venezuela are only examples of the so-called ‘Stronger Europe in the World’ that he represents.”

“But that wasn’t it. He didn’t deliver when he had the opportunity to make a strong commitment on the protection of the human rights of the Palestinian people and the trade agreements between the EU and Israel. We will be monitoring all his actions and, of course, we will keep defending human rights and international law”.

 

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14h30 – Vestager up next

 

Margrethe Vestager is now in the hot seat. With competitions and digitalisation as part of her remit, here are what Left MEPs demand of the Danish nominee:

 

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14h15 – Quo Valdis with your answers?

Group co-president Martin Schirdewan‘s reaction on the Dombrovskis hearing:

 

 

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13h00 – Assessing Věra Jourová

 

Věra Jourová – courtesy of European Parliament

 

After yesterday’s hearing for the Czech nominee, Věra Jourová, here is how our French MEP Anne-Sophie Pelletier assessed her candidacy:

“Jourová’s commitment to ensuring rule of law was solid, and so was the protection for investigative journalists and media freedom.”

“As for the scope of the new European Rule of Law Mechanism, she clarified that it will cover four elements in all member states: the constitutional balance of powers, the judicial system, corruption and media freedom and pluralism. Furthermore, there will be other streams of work on the update of the strategy on fundamental rights and the action plan for democracy – the latter will include disinformation and protection of elections. It seems that the two parallel processes on fundamental rights and democracy are a way to please the European Parliament’s requests since 2016.”

“However, it is still unclear how will the European Commission address fundamental rights and democracy issues.”

 

Outcome of the evaluation: approved by consensus

During the evaluation, all groups were positive. EPP, S&D, Renew, Greens, ID and ECR supported her. We did not oppose her but Pelletier highlighted our dissatisfaction with her vague answers on the protection of the right to protest and on actions to address attacks against NGOs.

Pelletier asked the LIBE and AFCO chairs to include the following paragraph in the evaluation letter:

We regret that her responses on questions regarding the protection of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association, as well as on actions to address attacks against NGOs were quite vague. As Commissioner, we will expect her to do her utmost to protect these rights and to respond rapidly to any attacks on NGOs.

 

Jourová’s answers to Pelletier:

1) On the right to protest: “Of course the freedom of association is one of the key freedoms and we have to protect it. We are always watching the situation in the Member States where there are such incidents and in case of need, we engage in a debate with the Member State. However, on these concrete cases I was not participating in the debates because it was more on the remit of my colleague who is responsible for security. Because among other things, this is also a security matter. Indeed, we should guarantee, together with the Member States, the security in case people want to exercise the freedom of association. I consider this as a very important matter.”

GUE/NGL’s LIBE MEPs believe that she should have tackled it as a problem of the implementation of the Charter by some member states, instead of being elusive by framing it as a security issue that is not under her remit.

 

2) On the attacks against NGOs: Jourová said: “I was already the contact person for NGOs in my current position. I had many debates with NGOs from some Member States, which were not positive at all because they denounced threats, difficult conditions to work, etc. I would like to continue to be their contact person.” She also said that NGOs can access funding from the European Social Fund and the Proposed Rights and Values programme.

Anne-Sophie Pelletier’s main point of this question was that reality shows us that sometimes is too late for funding and training. Therefore, we think that Jourová should have given examples of concrete actions to give a response to these ongoing attacks.

 

 

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12h31 – Clap clap!

He got a round of applause today from some MEPs on the Agriculture committee!

Has Wojciechowski done his homework then this time? We’ll let you know what Left MEPs think later….

 

Janusz Wojciechowski – courtesy of European Parliament

 

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11h53 – Luke vs Janusz: the rematch

The new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) could support farmers in their transition towards more sustainable farming systems but only if significant chunks of the budget is ring-fenced for eco-schemes that would help make farming more sustainable for the environment.

But, as usual, member states are loathe to lose their control over this scheme, and are being something of a roadblock in making this mandatory.

Previously, the Commission had suggested that at least 20% of the national ceiling should be reserved for eco-schemes.

This is an area that Irish MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan was eager to get an answer out of the Polish nominee, Janusz Wojciechowski:

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11h15 – Luke looks ahead

Flanagan vs Wojciechowski Part II coming up

 

 

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11h10 – Dombrovski’s bad joke

With 100 million EU living near or on the poverty line, Danish MEP Nikolaj Villumsen says fighting tax justice is moreimportant than ever…if only the European Commission and Council are on the side of citizens rather than multinationals;

“Multinationals are stashing away billions in tax havens that could have benefitted the poor.”

“You say that ‘social fairness is tax fairness’, will you commit to proposing a real EU blacklist of all tax havens?”

“We need to put an end to the absurd practise of not including EU tax havens such as Luxembourg on the blacklist.

“Secondly, we must abolish the EU’s so-called greylist as it means obvious tax havens like Panama and Jersey are left off the blacklist.”

 

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10h45 – Repeat car crash?

A reminder of what our Irish MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan thought of Wojciechowski one week ago at the hearing… #carcrash

 

 

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10h30 – The return of the also-ran….

Proper answers this time? The Polish candidate Janusz Wojciechowski is back for a repeat and much-needed grilling… one week on from his disastrous appearance before the European Parliament.

GUE/NGL co-president Martin Schirdewan is already not too hopeful of what’s to come:

 

 

Nor French MEP Manuel Bompard….

 

 

 

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09h57 – An economy that works (only) for the rich?

Greek MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis got down to the nitty-gritty straightaway by asking Dombrovskis about his portfolio title, ‘Economy that Works for People’? How exactly will his proposals alleviate rising inequalities across the EU, and what he intends to do to allay the fears of an imminent economic downturn:

 

Furthermore, Papadimlulis asked:

“How are we going to fund of all of the Commission plans with only a 1% cap on the EU budget?”

 

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09h55 – Concerns over Valdis

First question from Left MEPs coming up…. here are our key concerns for Dombrovskis:

 

 

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09h20 – Switzerland is clean?

Can it really be true? This would be a most regressive move by the EU is Switzerland is off the list! Find out in the Dombrovskis hearing.

Link here.

 

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09h25 – Papdimoulis gets ready

The Commission’s written answer to a question Papadimoulis asked on tax justice, tax evasion and non-refund of VAT in EU member states – amounting to €825 billion a year: “Commission’s priority in tackling tax evasion in the EU”.

(Link in Greek)

 

 

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09h01 

First up is the Latvian nominee, Valdis Dombrovskis on the bafflingly grand portfolio title ‘Economy That Works For The People’.

To set the scene, our MEPs Dimitris Papadimoulis and Nikolaj Villumsen will want to know all about the incoming Commission’s plans on tackling tax evasion, social inequalities and sustainable development:

 

 

 

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09h00 – The Triple Crown

Vestager! Timmermans! And…..Dombrovskis!

The first two-named are probably better known than Mr Dombrovskis (a former Latvian PM, no less!) but no doubt this last full day of hearings is also the biggest of them all, with the three nominees going for three of the most important jobs at the Commission: ‘Executive Vice-Presidents’.

From the environment to our economy, competition rules to digitisation, this is the day when we find out what these three Commissioner-designates will say on matters that will shape the EU’s next five years – and beyond.

As usual, we’ll keep you posted on all the reactions, views and verdicts from Left MEPs.

 

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