Beginning this afternoon and continuing over the course of this week, Brussels will play host to a series of public hearings with each of the 26 Commissioner-designates (plus Catherine Ashton) to face touch questions from the Parliamentary Committees.
Each "Commissioner-designate" whose name had been put forward by the Council and Commission President José Manuel Barroso
will each have to face three gruelling hours of questioning by MEPs that sit on the committees relevant to their proposed portfolios in order for the members to fully ascertain whether they are suitable for the job.
Each designate will thus, as laid down in Annex XVII of Parliament's Rules of Procedure
, be evaluated on the basis of their general competence, European commitment and personal independence. They will also be assessed on their knowledge of the prospective portfolio and their communication skills. Once their interrogation time is over the committees will deliberate and send their conclusions to the Conference of Presidents
who will then discuss the conclusions.
It is at this point that any possible requests for portfolio changes or in the composition of the proposed Commission will emerge.
In order to help citizens, journalists, MEPs and staff members alike to fully follow the hearing process, Parliament has set up a new website that outlines in great detail the procedures involved, the timetable of each hearing, their locations and full CVs of each Commissioner-delegate.
This site, we're told, will also include all the official documents relating to the hearings as soon as they become available, including the answers to written questionnaires prepared by MEPs and all press releases relating to the hearings will also appear on this site. In case you were in need of something to read before going to bed...
You can access the site by visiting europarl.europa.eu/hearings
Under the current treaties, Parliament can only approve or reject the new Commission as a whole and will not have the opportunity to vote down (if necessary) any individual candidate.
But cast your mind back to the events of six years ago (2004), when after pressure applied by MEPs before its final vote ultimately led to two changes in the line-up of Commissioners and one proposed candidate having his designated portfolio changed. An undoubted victory for the Parliament.
(It is worth noting here that one candidate due to appear this afternoon - the Brit Catherine Ashton (left) - is safe in her role after being named the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy - see previous blog.)
Parliament will hold its final vote on Mr Barroso's new team on 26th January at an especially convened plenary session in Brussels.
So there remains plenty of time for drama to unfold... and 2010 has only just begun!
See the timetable for the hearing here (pdf).