EP commissioners-designate hearings almost complete

Timmermans promised climate law in 100 days, Dombrovskis will regulate cryptocurrencies

Frans Timmermans

European Parliament committees continued last Monday and Tuesday with hearings of the commissioners-designate almost completing the procedure, the EP press service reported. After Frans Timmermans, Margrethe Vestager, Vera Jourova, Josep Borrell, Valdis Dombrovskis and once again Janusz Wojciechowski expressed their views before MPs, only Romanian and Hungarian candidates are to be questioned in the coming days.

Timmermans, candidate for the European Green Deal portfolio, said to MEPs that EU policies on climate action must be centred on fairness, and spoke in favour of a dedicated “just transition fund” to support people and communities in coal-reliant regions and energy-intensive economies. He announced that, within 100 days, a climate law will be proposed, to enshrine the 2050 carbon neutrality objective, deliver on higher ambition for 2030 and update existing climate legislation.

Margrethe Vestager, who is to lead Europe fit for the Digital Age portfolio, pointed out that “climate change and the digital transformation will affect every aspect of our daily lives”, pledging “not to make Europe more like China or the US, but more like itself”, with strong values where markets work for people. She added that an EU industrial strategy needed to be developed. Vestager also reiterated plans to present a Digital Services Act to upgrade liability and safety rules for digital platforms. Proposals on Artificial intelligence (AI) would be tabled within the first 100 days, she stated.

Vera Jourova, candidate for Values and Transparency, stated that her portfolio is “about Europe's soul and the challenges that Europe is facing, internally and externally” and that she will “try to build bridges across the EU based on our common values”. MEPs asked questions on threats to media freedom, ranging from physical violence to abusive litigation. Potential measures mentioned by the VP-designate included anti-censorship legislation, as well as legal and financial aid for those facing rule of law violations.

High Representative/VP-designate Josep Borrell stressed before MEPs his intention to engage in reforms in the Western Balkans, support democracy and the integrity of Ukraine, address the challenges in the southern neighbourhood, develop a new strategy towards Africa, work on political relations with Asia, step up cooperation with Latin America and reinstate transatlantic relations. “The world has changed for the worse...There are few agreements, more vetoes”, he said.

Valdis Dombrovskis, candidate for An Economy that Works for People portfolio, explained to MEPs that the EU must be able to leverage its economic and political weight and act independently. It therefore needs a solid financial footing and must lead on green and digital transformation. Changes can only succeed if they are socially fair, he added announcing that an action plan to ensure the European Pillar of Social Rights will be effectively implemented. Furthermore, Dombrovskis expressed ambition to propose new rules to regulate virtual currencies. “Europe needs a common approach on crypto-assets such as Libra,” he told MEPs.

Janusz Wojciechowski, agriculture portfolio candidate, was quizzed once again after initial hearing on 1 October was interrupted due to commissioner-designate's insufficient knowledge on certain matters.

Based on the committees' recommendations, the Conference of Presidents will decide on 17 October if Parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the plenary will vote on 23 October on whether or not to elect the Commission as a whole.

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