Juncker's team likely to survive EU power struggle

Sun Oct 5, 2014 4:12am EDT
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By Paul Taylor

PARIS (Reuters) - Party politics seems set to trump concerns about the competence and suitability of several candidates for the European Commission when lawmakers pass judgment on Jean-Claude Juncker's most controversial nominees this week.

The European Parliament has flexed its muscles by recalling Britain's Jonathan Hill for a second hearing on Tuesday on his fitness to be in charge of banking and financial services.

The French, Hungarian and Czech aspirants are being forced to take written re-sits. Parliament's lawyers are scrutinizing the financial statements of Spain's nominee for the energy and climate change portfolio, Miguel Arias Canete, who is also under fire over his family's oil industry ties.

And the former Slovenian prime minister, who nominated herself after losing an election, faces a bumpy ride on Monday.

Yet mutual dependence between the EU's two main political families -- Juncker's center-right European People's Party (EPP) and the center-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) of European Parliament president Martin Schulz -- means any major rejections seem unlikely.

"The worst case scenario that we keep all the bad candidates because they cut a deal cannot be ruled out," said Sylvie Goulard, a member of the centrist ALDE group on the economic committee, which grilled Hill and France's Pierre Moscovici.

She said Juncker would do better to reshuffle his pack so that weaker nominees are moved to less sensitive jobs but added: "That is not the direction things are going in."

A senior EU official, reflecting the institutional fears of Commission veterans, said score settling by the political groups had taken over from the examination of competence.   Continued...

Jean-Claude Juncker (L), the incoming president of the European Commission (EC), presents the list of the European Commissioners and their jobs for the next five years, as EC spokesperson Natasha Bertaud looks on during a news conference at the EC headquarters in Brussels September 10, 2014.  REUTERS/Yves Herman