Parliament should have right of initiative, Šefčovič tells hearing

Commissioner-designate Maroš Šefčovič has told his nomination hearing that he supports the European Parliament being given “a right of initiative.”

Maroš Šefcovic  | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

01 Oct 2019

This, he said, will “mark the start of new institutional era,” adding, “From day one I will reach out to Parliament.”

If Parliament tables any legislative proposal the Commission “will respond” and, once adopted, it will be seriously considered by the relevant commissioner.

If approved by his hearing, the career diplomat said he will ensure that Parliament is “regularly briefed” at all times across a range of issues.


He told MEPs, “I also want to work with you on better regulation, one that delivers results at minimum cost.”

Closer cooperation with Parliament was vital, he said, because “It is here where the heart of European democracy beats.”

Speaking at his parliamentary hearing on Monday, he also insisted that “we have to ensure that the EU does not end up a middle power, caught up between the United States and China. To address this we need ‘more Europe’ not less.”

“We cannot continue acting in crisis management mode,” added Šefčovič, who spoke in both English and French.

“If I am confirmed as Vice-President, I would want to build on this experience to consolidate our strategic partnership with the European Parliament and thus help improve democratic legitimacy in Europe”

Šefčovič, centre left candidate for the Commission presidency this year, also gave his backing to the creation of a conference on the future of Europe which, if confirmed, would be led by Parliament.

He said his nomination was “a great honour” and also “an emotional” moment as, in a few weeks, his country Slovakia celebrates 30 years of independence.

Šefčovič, the nominee for interinstitutional relations and foresight, was facing a three-hour hearing, the first in a series that will take place this week for each of the commissioners-designate.

He said the new Commission had a “very ambitious” programme  in the first 100 days, including tackling “administrative burdens” and clearing all the 100 pending files in the Commission’s in tray.

He has also pledged to make gender equality a top priority if he is approved by MEPs.

In his written reply to MEPs he said that Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has put gender equality high on her agenda and committed to “lead by example” by forming a fully gender-balanced College.

Šefčovič, who also served in the Barroso Commission, said, “I intend to apply the same principle to my team.”

“I am also committed to build on the ‘No-Women-No-Panel’ initiative launched in February and aim that public events organised by the Commission feature gender-balanced panels.”

Šefčovič added, “A new gender strategy presents an opportunity to further develop the concept and application of gender mainstreaming across EU policies.”

“A strengthened application of gender mainstreaming in policymaking makes better use of resources, makes policy more efficient, supports sustainable development and creates fairer societies.”

The official, also a candidate for a vice presidency in the Commission due to take office on 1 November, says he will prioritise good relations with the Parliament.

He said, “The European Parliament is central to Ursula von der Leyen’s vision to give citizens a greater say in shaping our agenda and stepping up our ambitions. A stronger European Parliament means a stronger Europe.”

“If I am confirmed as Vice-President, I would want to build on this experience to consolidate our strategic partnership with the European Parliament and thus help improve democratic legitimacy in Europe.”

Italian MEP Antonio Tajani, a member of the hearing committee and a former Parliament President, said, “It is often the case that EU institutions close in on themselves. But we have to ensure that we all get down to work quickly. A lot depends on the work Mr Šefčovič will do.”

Meanwhile, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe says the European Green Deal dossier in the new commission “contains a lot of ambiguity.”

Ursula von der Leyen has made climate policy a top priority, pledging to present a “European Green Deal” in the first 100 days of her mandate and giving greater power to Frans Timmermans, who is lined up to be the first Vice-President for the new portfolio and climate commissioner.

However, Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said, “Many of the initiatives which were included in her European Green Deal contain a lot of ambiguity. It will depend on all new commissioners whether von der Leyen's promises are translated into concrete policies and measures which will scale up climate action in line with the objective to limit temperature rise to 1.5C.”

“Worryingly, many of the proposed commissioners, including those in the European Green Deal team, do not have a strong track record on protecting the climate.”

Trio added, “Climate is not just an environmental problem, but concerns the whole economy and thus the whole Commission. The promises of the European Green Deal could become nothing more than an empty shell, unless all Commissioners recognise their responsibility for tackling the climate crisis and make ambitious commitments on climate action.”

“Several of the commissioner candidates have only recently changed their rhetoric in favour of more climate action. They still need to prove that they are real climate defenders, and not dinosaurs in disguise.”

“To make the European Green Deal meaningful, each future commissioner needs to support an increase of the EU’s climate targets by early 2020; to be in line with the 1.5C goal, the targets should be raised to 65 percent emission cuts by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2040.”

“The increase should be followed by a revision of all legislation. The Commission needs to make sure all sectors contribute to achieving these goals through a whole array of climate-related measures.”

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