Mairead McGuinness to improve transparency if endorsed by MEPs as EU commissioner

McGuinness, a long-standing MEP, will be heard by Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee on Friday.
Mairead McGuinness MEP

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

01 Oct 2020

The Irish MEP will be quizzed by MEPs after her nomination for the Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union dossier.

Current commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, who has been nominated for the trade role, will appear at a separate confirmation hearing of the International Trade Committee. The Latvian has served as commissioner for “An Economy that Works for People” since last year.

The Commission was forced into a mini reshuffle after Phil Hogan quit his trade post following the so-called “Golfgate” scandal when he allegedly broke Coronavirus quarantine rules in his native Ireland.

Ahead of the hearing, both McGuinness and Dombrovskis were sent a long list of questions by MEPs on their new roles.

McGuinness was asked what “specific commitments” she was prepared to make to improve transparency and cooperation between the EU institutions.

Her reply, seen by this website, says, “I take Parliament’s role in confirming my nomination very seriously and I and those who work for me will continue to be accountable to Parliament if I am confirmed.”

She says that “having served in parliament, I have full respect for the work of fellow MEPs and Parliament collectively. I know the importance of transparency to Parliament and will take this experience to the Commission with me.

“Having served in Parliament, I have full respect for the work of fellow MEPs and Parliament collectively. I know the importance of transparency to Parliament and will take this experience to the Commission with me” Mairead McGuinness

“I believe I can assist in the communications between the Commission and Parliament, as well as communication and transparency on the side of the Commission towards citizens.”

She goes on, “We need to strengthen the links between our institutions in order to serve our citizens effectively.”

She was also asked if she was “ready to provide Parliament with information and documents on an equal footing with the Council.”

McGuinness replies, “I believe that in order to make good legislation, the institutions must have good working relationships, respect each other’s respective roles and work together to make progress.”

She is  committed, she says, to full implementation of the Inter-Institutional Agreement on Better Law-Making and the Framework Agreement, adding, “Parliament and council are co-legislators under the EU treaties and I will respect the principle of equal treatment for both institutions.”

She says she also supports Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s “commitment to strengthen Parliament’s right of initiative and the Commission’s commitment to follow up to parliamentary resolutions within three months.”

On Brexit, McGuinness, a Vice-President of Parliament, writes, “As tensions in the overall EU-UK negotiations have increased, we continue to prepare for all possible scenarios.”

“I believe I can assist in the communications between the Commission and Parliament, as well as communication and transparency on the side of the Commission towards citizens” Mairead McGuinness

But she does not believe that, despite the deadlocked Brexit talks, risks to financial stability have increased in recent weeks, adding “Firms have been urged to complete their readiness measures by the end of 2020; they should be ready for all possible scenarios as they have had over 4 years to prepare since the referendum.”

She admits that the end of the transition period on 31 December will lead to “significant changes” in the relationship between the UK and the EU in the field of financial services, adding, “These changes will come irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement.”

“There will be a very different relationship compared to the current situation in terms of market access.”

Her replies, running to some 18 pages, adds, “As with all third countries, cooperation must be based on trust. Experience with various third countries shows that when trust is present, voluntary and flexible forums often lead to a more dynamic cooperation.”

She adds, “My role in these times of pandemic would be especially significant. My 16 years’ experience in Parliament, on a range of committees and different policy areas, has given me a depth of experience in shaping EU policy.”

Dombrovskis, in his replies to MEPs, says he is “convinced that trade can only be free if it is fair” and he aims to establish “a level playing field for all by strengthening the EU’s trade toolbox.”

He will “deepen our strategic relationships and diversify our trade ties, which is critical to our post-Covid recovery” and wants the EU to lead the reform of the WTO “to make it fit for today’s world.”

He says, “The WTO is facing its deepest crisis since its inception and there is today a genuine risk of demise of the multilateral trading system. The COVID-19 pandemic has added another dimension to the crisis the WTO is facing.”

On future trade with the UK, he says there must be “a level playing field for open and fair competition, as well as by effective management and supervision.”

“The Commission is putting good faith efforts in order to conclude the negotiations so that an agreement with the UK is in place at the end of the transition period.”

Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs met on 24 September to evaluate the candidates’ declarations of financial interest and has said there is no conflict of interest.

A Parliament spokesman said, “This is an essential precondition for the hearing to be held in the relevant policy committee.”

Each hearing lasts three hours and the candidates will make a 15-minute introductory statement, which will be followed by questions from MEPs.

There will be 25 questions altogether. Before the hearings end, the two candidates will each have the possibility to give a 5-minute statement.

The hearings will immediately be followed by meetings in which the chair and group representatives (coordinators) of the committees will evaluate the suitability of McGuiness and Dombrovskis.

The conference of committee chairs will assess the outcome of the two hearings on 5 October and forward its conclusions to the Conference of Presidents.

A plenary vote is set to take place on 7 October.

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