Blog AnalysisEU Institutions

A rise in power of control by the European Commission

(B2) Since the start of its election by universal suffrage, the European Parliament has wanted to interfere in the appointment process of the European Commission, which initially only concerned governments. A movement that was built in stages

First of all, the assembly succeeded in transforming the vote of censure into a motion of confidence. But this one concerns the whole Commission or nothing. In 1995, a system of hearings was put in place. By threatening to overthrow the Santer commission in 1999, the assembly showed its teeth and affirmed that the possibility of a vote of no confidence was not purely formal.

The audition system is refined and becomes a real test where the candidate must not only demonstrate their European enthusiasm, their integrity but also their knowledge of the files. This resulted in several candidates being sent home — the Italian Rocco Buttiglione and the Latvian Ingrida Udre in 2004 (read: Five years ago ! Three failed commissioners), the Bulgarian Rumiana Jeleva in 2009 (read: Jeleva in front of the European Parliament. Bye bye Rumiana?) — or to change the portfolio of other candidates — that of László Kovacs in 2004.

Prior control of conflicts of interest

A new step was taken in 2019 with the establishment of a prior mechanism for examining possible conflicts of interest, making it possible to individually eject commissioners even before the hearing procedure. This mechanism, which combines comparison of official declarations of interest, written questions, and even hearings of interested parties, becomes a real hearing before its time. It resulted in the ejection of two candidates — the Romanian Rovana Plumb and the Hungarian László Trócsányi. But it also showed its limits since, for largely political reasons, Sylvie Goulard fell through the cracks.

A lesson for the future

We can bet that this system will now be strengthened, so that all known or unknown elements can be examined well in advance and upstream. And not at the last moment. We will therefore have two hearing systems in the future: one on conflicts of interest, another on the merits. Future presidents of the European Commission, like the heads of government who appoint their commissioners, will have an interest in perfecting their control systems and not being content with sworn declarations or an appearance of good faith. The past of their candidates must be spotless and flawless.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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