European parliament cautiously approves Juncker commission

An alliance of parliament's three largest groups has pushed through the new commission.

By Jon Benton

Jon Benton is Political Engagement Manager at The Parliament Magazine

23 Oct 2014

The European parliament has approved the new commission of president Jean-Claude Juncker with 423 voting in favour, 209 opposing and 67 abstaining, leaving Juncker with a commission less popular among MEPs than that of outgoing president José Manuel Barroso.

There were common themes raised throughout the plenary meeting prior to the vote, particularly the criticism of certain commission choices, such as Hungarian Tibor Navracsics and the change in allocation of the Slovenian commission candidate.

"Never in the EU's history has a commission president benefited from such a democratic legitimacy and parliamentary support" - Manfred Weber

However, the EPP, S&D and ALDE ensured that commission would be approved, with each group expressing their support, while ECR abstained, and GUE/NGL, the group of the Greens/EFA and the EFDD group voted against.

Manfred Weber, president of the EPP group, enthusiastically backed the new commission, saying, "Never in the EU's history has a commission president benefited from such a democratic legitimacy and parliamentary support".

He ended by saying, "Jean-Claude Juncker and his team are the right people for this task. I am happy that a constructive majority of the European parliament has expressed its support for Juncker's team and ambitious programme."

"Mr Juncker, the real work starts today - we will be your critical social conscience" - Gianni Pitella

Gianni Pitella, president of the S&D group, also announced his group's support for the commission, but made it clear that the commission would be under scrutiny, particularly regarding the use of the €300bn development fund, saying, "Mr Juncker, the real work starts today - we will be your critical social conscience."

Guy Verhofstadt, president of ALDE group, after declaring the Liberal's support, called upon the commission to take social values more seriously, saying, "The European project is much more than the economy alone. It is about our shared values. It is about our common principles of liberty and diversity."

He also criticised the composition of the college of commissioners, claiming that it was not forward thinking enough. In his closing comments he said that the future of the commission should "not only (be) a question of economics, but values".

 "The European project is much more than the economy alone. It is about our shared values. It is about our common principles of liberty and diversity" - Guy Verhofstadt

Syed Kamall, chair of the ECR group, said that the structure of the new commission was positive and he liked many of the priorities that had been set, but suggested that there are some new commissioners that have been below par.

Kamall told Juncker that "some members of my group feel you have offered us an olive branch and I hope that both sides will grasp that olive branch and work with you over the next five years", suggesting that his group was divided on the decision.

However, Kamall announced that the ECR group would abstain from the vote, saying, "we will not join this cosy consensus and will abstain".

 "Some members of my group feel you have offered us an olive branch and I hope that both sides will grasp that olive branch and work with you over the next five years" - Syed Kamall

Gabriele Zimmer, leader of GUE/NGL, announced that her group would be voting against Juncker's commission. Zimmer expressed concern regarding the choice of some commission candidates and questioned whether they would have "the will or ability to do what the people of Europe want, following the elections".

Rebecca Harms, co-president of the group of the Greens/EFA, also criticised the composition of the commission and questioned whether the allocation of responsibilities was detrimental to its functioning.

In her closing remarks, Harms announced that the Greens would be voting against the commission, saying, "my group will say 'no' to the Juncker commission", arguing that it did not confront the problems of today and that it was distancing itself from challenging issues, namely climate change, refugees and the perceived failure of the common foreign and security policy.

Nigel Farage, chair of the EFDD, also announced that his group would unsurprisingly be voting against the commission, "based on the fact that it is an anti-democratic form of government".

"This commission now needs to push forward measures to transform its commitments into reality. When it does so it will have the European parliament by its side" - Martin Schulz

After the voting, Martin Schulz, president of the European parliament, congratulated the new commission, commenting that it "starts under the right auspices" and declared that "this commission now needs to push forward measures to transform its commitments into reality. When it does so it will have the European parliament by its side."

The Juncker commission begins its work on 1 November, with challenges such as the Ukraine crisis, the threat of recession, youth unemployment, development, energy and digital policy that need to be tackled.

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