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Von der Leyen proposes Wopke Hoekstra as EU Commissioner for climate action

Von der Leyen proposed Wopke Hoekstra for the post of EU Commissioner for climate action following an interview Tuesday.
Von der Leyen proposed Wopke Hoekstra for the post of EU Commissioner for climate action following an interview Tuesday. Copyright THOMAS COEX/AP
Copyright THOMAS COEX/AP
By Mared Gwyn Jones
Published on Updated
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European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has proposed outgoing Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra for the post of EU Commissioner for climate action.

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If his candidacy is approved by the Council and the European Parliament, Hoekstra will inherit responsibility for the EU's ambitious package of climate policies, aimed at achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

He was nominated as the next European Commissioner for the Netherlands by Mark Rutte's caretaker government last week, after Frans Timmermans resigned to run in the upcoming Dutch elections.

In a statement published on Tuesday following an interview with Hoekstra, von der Leyen said he had shown "strong motivation for the post and great commitment to the European Union."

"His governmental experience will be a strong asset in particular for Europe's climate diplomacy in the run-up to COP28 and for climate finance, as well as for the implementation of climate-related legislative instruments," she added.

But some members of the European Parliament, who will decide on whether to approve his candidacy in a hearing scheduled for early autumn, have questioned his climate credentials and his suitability for the role.

In a statement on social media platform X, Pascal Canfin, MEP for the centrist Renew Europe group and Chair of the European Parliament's Environment Committee, said that Hoekstra's candidacy is "not a done deal", in a sign of a tough hearing ahead.

Hoekstra belongs to the right-leaning Christian Democratic Appeal party, whose political family the European People's Party (EPP) has come under fire recently for attempts to dilute and block landmark EU climate policies.

Hoekstra's appointment would mean that responsibility for the EU's climate action policies would lie in the hands of a conservative politician for the first time.

In a statement responding to the appointment, The Left Group criticised Von der Leyen's proposal, saying Hoekstra could not possibly fill Timmermans' shoes and that "tilting the political balance in favour of the political right is incomprehensible."

"Wopke Hoekstra is a former Shell employee and a member of a party that has systematically been trying to sabotage important parts of the European Green Deal such as the Nature Restoration Law," Left MEP Anja Hazekamp said in the statement.

The group of the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) has argued the climate portfolio should remain theirs, describing Hoekstra as a "controversial" candidate.

“Against the backdrop of the conservative EPP’s recent cynical and populist manoeuvres to water down the Green Deal and derail key legislative files such as the nature restoration law, it is crucial for our Group that the climate portfolio remains in the hands of the Socialists and Democrats family," the S&D Group said in a statement.

Von der Leyen confirmed that Hoekstra would steer the EU's climate policy under the guidance of socialist Maroš Šefčovič, who has inherited Timmermans' previous responsibilities as European Commission Vice-President for the Green Deal.

When serving as the Dutch finance minister from 2017 and 2022, Hoekstra gained a reputation in Brussels as one of the most vocal critics of shared fiscal burden, rallying a group of so-called "frugal" countries to oppose issuing collective debt in the form of "corona bonds".

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