Oettinger to face tense questioning from MEPs

Written by Martin Banks on 9 January 2017 in News

Three parliamentary committees are set to quiz controversial European Commissioner Günther Oettinger on his new portfolio, which would see him take charge of budget and human resources.

Günther Oettinger | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

He is expected to come under fierce questioning at the meeting, amid ongoing concerns about his suitability for the post.

Oettinger will be quizzed on Monday evening in a joint, 90-minute hearing by MEPs from three committees - budget, budgetary control, and legal affairs.

MEPs will then file an opinion to Parliament President Martin Schulz and group leaders, who will discuss the issue on 12 January.


Oettinger is a former energy Commissioner and currently in charge of the digital dossier.

The new tasks, including the prestige post of Vice-President, were assigned to Oettinger by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker following the resignation of Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva, who has joined the World Bank as its chief executive.

Nine MEPs have urged Juncker to reconsider his promotion of Oettinger to a sensitive EU portfolio. They say his "recent actions" were "not appropriate behaviour for a Commissioner and breach the code of conduct for Commissioners", a reference to his allegedly racist remarks at a dinner with German businessmen last October and to his flight, last May, on the private jet of a German pro-Russia lobbyist.

Further pressure on his position also came last week from a group of NGOs who urged Juncker to shelve Oettinger's planned new role.

A letter from the alliance states, "Commissioner Oettinger has repeatedly attracted criticism over his way of interacting with lobbyists. 

"Evidence shows that Oettinger has not been proactive in pursuing an inclusive and balanced approach to stakeholder consultation as almost 90 per cent of his meetings have been with corporate interest groups. 

"This is the highest percentage of any Commissioner, and is contrary to President Juncker's instruction to the team of Commissioners to ensure balanced stakeholder representation."

Elsewhere, Corporate Europe Observatory's lobby transparency campaigner Vicky Cann said, "A trip on the private jet of an unregistered lobbyists, secret meetings with the car industry, sexist, homophobic and racist remarks - how much longer will President Juncker put up with Commissioner Oettinger's antics?"

However, on Monday, a spokesperson for the EPP group said that it wants the committee meeting to focus more on the German's "technical" ability for the new role. 

Spanish deputy José Manuel Fernandes, group spokesperson in the budgets committee, said, "We expect that this meeting will clarify Oettinger's technical and policy expertise on EU budgetary issues."


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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