Gloves come off and handbags are out as squabbles begin on Commissioners - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Gloves come off and handbags are out as squabbles begin on Commissioners

Thursday, 14 January 2010
The European People's Party (EPP), the majority centre-right group, has begun to mount an attack on one of the left's commissioner candidates and has vowed to defend its own contested nominee, Mrs Jeleva from Bulgaria.

Following Mrs Jeleva's disastrous hearing on Tuesday, the leader of the Socialist & Democrat group at the Parliament (S&D) Martin Schulz has reportedly sent a letter to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso "to inform him of the very serious doubts the group has regarding the Bulgarian candidate."

The EPP have responded by strongly defending Mrs Jeleva, a former MEP and a former vice-chairman of the group, who they say was the victim of a "witch hunt" and subject to "unfair treatment" by the rival parties.

"We will defend the integrity of her personality against unfounded allegations," EPP deputy chairman Jozsef Szájer, in charge of the commissioners' hearings, told journalists last night, before labelling the allegation potential conflict of interest as "minor".

Jozsef SzájerMr Szájer (left) then used the same briefing to attack a Socialist commissioner candidate later insisting it was not a tit-for-tat move.

He distributed copies of a document drafted (but not officially released) by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), an intergovernmental body monitoring elections, frozen conflicts and human rights around the world, in which Maroš Šefčovič, the Slovakian nominee for vice-president of the Commission in charge of administrative affairs, is cited as saying in 2005 that ethnic Roma were "exploiters of the Slovak welfare system."

"We are very worried about the statement of Mr Maroš Šefčovič which he made on 19 January 2005, when the Commission organised a conference on human rights and EU migration policies," Mr Szájer said.

"I don't think that the future vice-president of the European Commission, responsible for such sensitive issues as recruitment, as equal opportunities, as gender, can have such discriminatory views on this."

Mr Szájer then warned that the Slovak would have a rough ride when he appears in Parliament next week at his once hearing scheduled for Monday afternoon in Strasbourg.

An source close to the EPP leader apparently off-record said that both candidates (Mrs Jeleva and Mr Šefčovič) "were dead" - which hardly seems fair as the latter has yet to appear before MEPs!

It would certainly appear to me that the EPP has been keeping Mr Šefčovič's quote aside for use when one of its own Commissioner-designates comes under pressure, which is not only petty but somewhat irresponsible. In my view, if any particular Commissioner-designate is not the right man (or women) for the post, he/she should be changed, regardless of the political affiliation - but tell that to the Parties!

It would seem to me additionally that Mr Szájer's views are in themselves contradictory to his party's statements saying it was against personal attacks or "manhunts"... But nonetheless the gloves have come off and the political handbags are out.

Expect a bitter scrap - perhaps even some blood shed - but if it runs too long then it will put at risk the scheduled vote on the entire team on the 26th January and further delay the starting date of the new Commission; something that none of the political groupings want.

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