Please note that this does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.
On October 6th, the AFET committee held the confirmation hearing of Federica Mogherini, Italian Foreign Minister, in which EU-Russia relations and the development of the common EU foreign, security and defence policies featured prominently. Committee members representing the political groups were allowed to ask follow-up questions, a notable difference from other confirmation hearings. While the committee pressed Ms Mogherini on her position towards Russia on several occasions, it was done in a supportive atmosphere, with few mentions of her previous stances as Italian Foreign Minister.
Most of the committee’s questions referred to various specific situations around the world requiring foreign policy attention. The EU’s Eastern Partnership policy by far drew the most attention, but partnerships with regional actors, such as Mercosur and ASEAN, and action in the Mediterranean region and Middle East were also discussed.
When given the opportunity, Ms Mogherini chose to focus on inter-institutional affairs, however. She explained she would be devoting considerable effort to coordinate policy with commissioners whose portfolios shared an external dimension, such as enlargement and trade, through regular meetings at the college level.
She also stated that one of the ways in which she would distinguish her tenure from her predecessors would be her commitment to regularly engage the Parliament before, during and after negotiations and support parliamentary diplomacy.
After discussing the procedure, the chairperson Elmar Brok (EPP, DE) commented that the committee had great expectations for the new commission. He explained the previous five years could be described as a trial period for the “triple-hatted approach”. The new High Representative and Vice President of the Commission would be expected to solidify the EU’s foreign policy apparatus. With the External Action Service (EEAS) taking shape, he said the goal would now be to build cases to present to the Foreign Affairs Council and promote a unified voice. He noted there were also many agreements and policies finalised under the previous commission that now needed to be implemented.
He acknowledged that foreign policy was an executive competence, and reminded the committee that the Parliament would still be responsible for approving budgets and agreements, which gave it scope for interaction and scrutiny. He highlighted one area where he hoped to have a discussion with the future High Representative, namely the “one-third, one-third, one-third” arrangement in the EEAS, saying the committee did not wish to see foreign policy executives in the member states become “foot-soldiers” in the Commission.
He then turned the floor over to the High Representative and Vice President of the Commission designate.
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