Thursday, June 13, 2024

EU’s centre-right should give commissioner posts to Socialists, Schmit says 

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As Luxembourg’s future commissioner pick, Nicolas Schmit, the Party of European Socialists (PES) lead candidate for the Commission presidency, told Euractiv that governments led by the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) should nominate Socialists to rebalance powers.  

While the EU Socialists currently hold four governments—Germany, Spain, Malta, and Denmark—the next 27-strong college could see just three Socialist commissioners, as Chancellor Olaf Scholz will not be able to put forward a candidate from his own party, SPD. 

Germany’s representative is likely to be EPP’s current Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, while up to 13 other commissioner candidates could be nominated by EPP-led national governments.

“There should be an arrangement here on how to rebalance,” Schmit said during an interview on the campaign trail in Vienna when asked whether EPP governments should nominate Socialists. 

He argued that the results of the election should reflect the results of the election.“This is an issue which has to be resolved,” Schmit added. 

“Because if [the Socialists] are the first or the second group [in the European Parliament after June’s European elections], well, without us, it will be difficult to find a majority (…), and it cannot be that commissioners are the national representatives of their government,” he argued. 

Officially, the Commissioners do not represent the views of their own countries. But they are heavily influenced by their national backgrounds, especially as they are nominated by their governments. 

As the expected second political group, according to Europe Elects’ polls for Euractiv, the Socialists will highly influence the upcoming Commission programme shaped during negotiations in the European Parliament following June’s election. Schmidt said this cannot be left to be implemented by just “two or three social democratic commissioners.”

Schmit, vice-president of the Commission?

When asked, he also considered it “logical” for him to be appointed vice-president if he did not manage to get the presidency. This means the EPP-led Luxembourgish government would need to nominate him instead of Christophe Hansen, who was promised the post by Prime Minister Luc Frieden.  

While he is now commissioner for jobs and social rights due to his experience in social policy and labour market policy, “obviously I could have done different things,” he said.  

Each of the 27 leaders nominates Commissioners-candidates, which the Commission President picks to form their college. Each commissioner goes through a hearing process in the European Parliament and submits an evaluation. The Parliament then needs to approve the college as a whole by majority vote. 

Schmit also affirmed that former centre-right EPP Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agrees with the idea: “I have talked to Juncker on that, and Juncker was very clear [on the need to rebalance powers to reflect election results].” 

He also argued that the Socialists will try get a hold of portfolios linked to the Green Deal, economic, and social issues. 

With Spain’s nominee, Vice President, and Minister of Energy and Environment, Teresa Ribera, the Socialists aim to get a high-calibre portfolio to keep control and ensure the continuation of the Green Deal.

This is amid voices from the centre-right and liberals that call for a ‘regulatory pause’ and even a rollback of policies such as the highly contemptuous combustion engine ban.  

Possible nominees for Denmark include Minister for Development Cooperation Dan Jorgensen and Industry Minister Morten Bodskov, but their portfolio preference is unclear.  

In Malta, commissioner-nominee Chris Fearne, former health minister and current minister of European funds, has resigned from the race after criminal charges were filed against him over a high-level healthcare scandal, leaving no one in the running for now.

Read more with Euractiv

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