The Brief: Day 4 - Commissioner hearings - the rough and the smooth

The Brief: Day 4 - Commissioner hearings - the rough and the smooth
By Joanna GillStefan Grobe
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In this edition of the The Brief we look at how the French candidate Sylvie Goulard had a tough time in her hearing to take over the Internal Market dossier, while we also profile the man who is set to protect 'our European way of life'.


Day 4 of the Commissioner hearings, another six face the test - Italy, Austria, Greece, Croatia, Lithuania, Estonia. We take a look at the nominee with the portfolio attracting the most controversy.

Schinas - Protecting our European Way of Life

For five years, he was the man behind Jean-Claude Juncker - his master's voice, the chief spokesman of the European Commission: Margaritis Schinas from Greece. For Brussels journalists and TV audiences across Europe, Schinas is a familiar face. And when Ursula von der Leyen entrusted him to be Commissioner for the Protection of Our European Way of Life, he immediately became the center of a political controversy. Now he needs all his considerable ability to put some spin on it. Schinas respected the media, but could be sharp-tongued, as some journalists have learned. He is a veteran of EU affairs. He has been a public servant in the European Commission since 1990, interrupted only by a brief stint as member of the European Parliament from 2007 to 2009.

One thing is certain: we will now see him much less in the briefing room.

And a quick recap of how the Day 3 hearings went - not so well for one in particular.

At the center of the attention: the French nominee Sylvie Goulard, handpicked by President Emmanuel Macron. Slated to become the next internal market commissioner, Goulard is a controversial figure, given her murky history over the misuse of public funds.

Goulard was severely grilled by members of the European Parliament whose questions were more about her personal integrity than the intricacies of industrial policy.

"Don't you think yourself that you are questionable on this? You have the OLAF case pending and a pending case in France, you have even paid back 40.000 euros. Don't you think it is worth questioning whether you are questionable? asked MEP Christel Schaldemose (Denmark).

"I'm not indicted. I can't prejudge the outcome of a procedure, obviously. It is up to the judiciary. I believe that an accurate presentation of the facts is needed, an accurate presentation of French law, and, above all,I ask you all, a very high respect for the presumption of innocence," Goulard replied.

Other nominees had a much smoother sailing, notably Belgium's long-time foreign minister Didier Reynders, the pick for justice commissioners. Reynders denied recent money laundering allegations against him, saying that prosecutors had cleared him entirely.

Other nominees, like Helena Dalli from Malta and Elisa Ferreira from Portugal, made it through their hearings without major hiccups.

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