Holding the EU executive to account: Hearings of commissioner-candidates

| August 27, 2019
Hearing of CommissionersParliament will hold hearings to scrutinize proposed commissioners

Before the new European Commission – the EU’s executive body – can take office, Parliament will organize public hearings to assess the commissioners’ suitability for the job.

On 23-26 May, 200 million people in 28 EU countries went to the polls to elect MEPs, giving them a strong democratic mandate, including voting into office and holding to account the new European Commission.

In July, MEPs elected Ursula von der Leyen as the next president of the European Commission and in late September/October they are set to examine the competencies and abilities of her proposed team of commissioners. She has been busy putting together a team during the summer, based on nominees from member states. Ensuring gender equality is one of her priorities.

The hearings: How it works

Once the Council has approved the final list of commissioners-designate, the incoming Commission president will unveil her new team, the College of Commissioners, including the allocation of portfolios.

Before the commissioners-designate can take office, Parliament organizes hearings with the proposed candidates to examine whether their skills and qualifications match the posts proposed for them.

Each candidate is invited to a three-hour hearing, streamed live, in front of the parliamentary committee or committees responsible for the portfolio they have been assigned. Following the hearing, the responsible committees prepare their evaluation of the candidate’s competence, which is then finalised by the Conference of Presidents, made up of the leaders of the political groups and the Parliament’s president.

Occasionally, the hearings can lead to the withdrawal of a candidate or to a change in their portfolios. For instance, in 2014 Alenka Bratušek, who had been proposed for the energy portfolio, withdrew her candidacy following a negative evaluation by Parliament’s energy and environment committees.

Once the hearings are completed, Parliament must approve the entire College of Commissioners before it can take office.

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