How does the European Parliament confirm the incoming Commission?

European Parliament in Strasbourg, France
European Parliament in Strasbourg, France Copyright REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
By Lauren Chadwick
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Before incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen takes over on November 1, MEPs will scrutinise those nominated to be in her top team.


Before incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen takes over on November 1, MEPs will scrutinise those nominated to be in her top team.

The former German defence minister has unveiled her picks for EU commissioners, which includes a representative from each EU country, except the UK. There are also vice-president posts with special portfolios and the EU's foreign affairs chief.

"I want it to be a well-balanced, agile and modern Commission. This team will now have to gain the Parliament's confidence," the Commission President-elect said.

But, it's not certain that it will be an easy path to confirmation. Parliament will conduct hearings and vote on the commissioners before they can take office.

Von der Leyen, who will replace the outgoing Jean-Claude Juncker, was elected by a slim majority in the European Parliament: 383 MEPs voted in favour of her nomination to 327 against and 22 abstentions.

Now it's up to the European Parliament to vote on the college of Commissioners and evaluate their fitness for the job.

Euronews takes a look at how the process will work.

How the European Parliament votes in a new Commission

The 26 commissioner candidates, one per EU member state excluding the UK, will have to face EU parliamentary committees based on their portfolio subject.

Before the hearings start, the legal affairs committee scrutinises the commissioners' financial declarations and can ask for more information about potential conflicts of interest. The picks for commissioner also answer written questions on issues like their competences and European commitment.

Last week, the legal affairs committee blocked two proposed commissioners — Romania's Rovana Plumb and Hungary's Laszlo Trocsanyi—because of inconsistencies in their financial statements.

The Committee on Legal Affairs will hold an extraordinary meeting on Monday, September 30 to assess Plumb and Trócsányi's "actual or potential conflicts of interest."

Read more: Romanian and Hungarian candidates for EU Commission blocked over conflicts of interest

Each commissioner then attends a public hearing with one or more parliamentary committees to assess whether or not they are fit for the job. Each three-hour hearing is streamed live and each candidate makes an opening statement.

The parliamentary committees can request more information in writing and eventually evaluate the candidate, sending summary letters to committee chairs.

Based on these evaluations, the Conference of Presidents, made up of political group leaders and the president of the European Parliament, decide whether or not to close the hearings or request further action.

The European Parliament then votes on the college of commissioners as a whole.


The hearings take place between September 30 and October 8.

The first hearing is at 2.30 pm CET on Monday, September 30 in the constitutional/legal affairs committee for the Slovakian commissioner-designate Maroš Šefčovič.


There are between two and six hearings scheduled per day for the committees. See the full schedule below which includes the Romanian and Hungarian candidates:

Delays, rejections: what could unfold in the parliamentary hearings

"Knowing how the European Parliament works it’s almost inevitable that it will try to challenge one candidate," Agata Gostyńska-Jakubowska, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform told Euronews.

Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek's candidacy for commissioner in charge of the energy union was withdrawn in 2014 after being rejected by a parliamentary committee vote.

Von der Leyen drew criticism after designating Margaritis Schinas as Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of life which would include policy-making on migration and security. MEPs were quick to denounce the portfolio.

Other commissioners-picks are likely to face tough questioning from parliament over anti-fraud investigations. The designated agriculture commissioner, Poland's Janusz Wojciechowski, is under investigation by the EU's anti-fraud agency.


France's Sylvie Goulard, the pick for commissioner for the internal market, quit her post as defence minister in 2017 after an investigation opened into her political party's hiring of parliamentary assistants.

READ MORE: Who are the controversial candidates in Von der Leyen's new commission?

"One of the objectives of this whole exercise is to show its teeth and to show the Commission President-elect that the European Parliament wants to have a say on the makeup," Gostyńska-Jakubowska said.

"At the end of the day, the European Parliament has a certain leverage vis à vis the European Commission President... it seems to me they will be keen to use it," she added.

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