To become a European Commissioner means sitting a test. The European Parliament has power of approval over the whole team, though individual rejections are proscribed. This means each national nominee goes through three hours of questioning by committees specialised in the field to which he or she has been assigned responsibility. These hearings took place from 11-19 of this January.
Some candidates prepare effectively and win broad approval… Others attract scorn. Bulgaria’s first choice was one of these. Sociologist and Foreign Minister Rumiana Jeleva underwhelmed MEPs. She failed to convince them she was competent to handle the humanitarian portfolio.
The Parliament made known it could not in good conscience approve a Commission including her. She threw in the sponge and Bulgaria named an economist in her place.
The new EU foreign affairs chief won moderately positive reviews. Briton Catherine Ashton largely avoided controversy, though some MEPs would have preferred punchier, pithier answers. The former commissioner for trade was designated by all 27 member states to set up a new EU diplomatic corps.
French designate Michel Barnier, former head of several national ministries, former Commissioner and an MEP himself since the last European election, said he would close major gaps in the internal market. He managed to play down President Sarkozy’s glee in having a Frenchman placed in charge of new EU financial regulatory values. He guaranteed he would not take orders from Paris.