Slovakian Commissioner Maros Sefcovic (C) attends a hearing at the European Parliament. EPA-EFE/JULIEN WARNAND


EPP upset by grillings as Šefčovič and Hoekstra get committee majority


European People’s Party, the European Parliament’s largest group, expressed dissatisfaction with the pre-appointment hearings of European Commission nominees Maroš Šefčovič and Wopke Hoekstra on October 4.

Despite that both received the backing of two-thirds of the European Parliament’s environment committee, as required.

In the first week of October, both candidates were subjected to tough questioning from MEPs who will vote to confirm the positions on October 5.

In the increasingly polarised European Parliament, Slovakian Šefčovič and Dutch politician Hoekstra – who are from the centre-left and centre-right, respectively – found themselves undergoing politically partisan interrogation.

Speaking to the press for the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), Peter Liese said he found the nature of the grillings troubling.

“I think the discussion is just not mature”, the German MEP said.

Speaking to Brussels Signal, Liese said he believed that the centre-left S&D Group and the Greens had used the process to extract unreasonable commitments from the EC candidates. Both Hoekstra and Šefčovič promised that the European Union would reduce emissions by 90 per cent by the year 2040.

“Other groups easily jump on high targets”, he said. Major measures and “behavioural changes are necessary for these targets … [but] S&D and Greens think industry can simply press a button [to achieve them]”.

After the EU’s Green Deal tsar Frans Timmermans left the EC for Dutch politics, his portfolio has been split between two candidates.

To keep the centre-right and centre-left pleased, Climate Action will be given to Dutch EPP member Hoekstra, while Slovakian Commissioner Šefčovič will be given oversight over whole Green Deal, including Hoekstra’s work.

Hoekstra came under fire during his quizzing on October 2.

Despite his claiming to be ardent supporter of the EU’s environmentalist ambitions, many hounded him for previous statements to the contrary, citing what they said was a cynical U-turn. Others highlighted his previous employment with Shell and the corporate consulting giant McKinsey & Co.

Liese said that it was “really outrageous” that Hoekstra’s employment had been dragged up against him, especially by a Greens group MEP.

He added it was hypocritical, pointing out that one of the Greens MEPs had also spent years working for McKinsey and had come straight to the European Parliament from the controversial corporation, which is currently tied up in a French corruption scandal.

Liese said was in favour of Šefčovič’s appointment, who also received a hard time from the EPP at his hearing, the day after Hoekstra’s. Some observers said that was the EPP’s retaliation for Hoekstra’s grilling.

Šefčovič’s party in Slovakia, the left-wing and populist Smer, recently won the national elections on what was described as a “pro-Russian” platform.

After Šefčovič was repeatedly pressed about his commitment to the EU’s support for Ukraine, Liese tweeted he was “not convinced” with Šefčovič’s answers.

Despite that, Liese said he was pleased with the Slovakian’s overall performance.

“In the written answers he was more concrete,” Liese said, as Šefčovič confirmed he would support the EU’s pro-Ukraine stance regardless of his domestic politics.

He added that Šefčovič was an improvement on Timmermans, as the Slovakian “is more realistic and pragmatic”.

“Timmermans was a problem,” Liese said. “The well-founded demands of the EPP could not be achieved [when he] was in control.”