Written by Nicole Zandi
The lead-up to the European Commission’s appointment in autumn 2014 had its fair share of excitement. With five Member States failing to choose their candidates by the 1 August deadline, to unprepared Commissioners-designate, and disgruntled MEPs, the new Commission has sparked debate and speculation like never before. Our colleagues in the European Parliamentary Research Service have helped inform the discussion, by providing timely information to MEPs about the candidates, their portfolios, and the process. With all this preparation in Parliament, and collaboration and support during the hearings, the new Commission was in the end able to start work on 1 November, as scheduled.
The ‘Parliament’s Commission’
The new Commission has been greeted with extra enthusiasm from within and out the EU institutions. It has been dubbed the ‘’ as the president, Jean Claude Juncker, was the candidate of the European political party which formed Parliament’s biggest political group, the EPP. The process of picking and promoting “lead candidates” for the European elections came to be known by the German term . The idea was that by voting for a party, voters were also expressing their support for the lead candidate as president of the European Commission. As a result, it could also be considered the ‘People’s Commission’.
It was therefore important that EPRS properly document the hearings, which were expected to, and indeed did, gain a lot of interest from across the EU. Our series of briefings on the hearings were widely distributed within Parliament, including to every Member. And they were much referred to outside Parliament, both within Brussels and beyond, with thousands and thousands of downloads of each of them in the days up to and throughout the hearings period. Top of the download charts was our handy to the whole hearings process.
Informing the discussion
People were keen to find out more about the Commission, as well as the Parliament’s role in choosing it. Our rounding up the candidates was very popular, generating new peaks in numbers of hits over the short period in which the hearings took place.
Our blog provided easy links to briefings on each of the 27 Commissioners-designate. Each briefing included biographical information about the candidate, background on the portfolios they would take on, and an overview of issues in that area. Further briefings were published to take account of .
These last documents had to be published in a hurry, in time for the new hearings. But that was just the culmination of a lot of work. We started preparing over the summer, then stepped up a gear when Jean-Claude Juncker announced his team, and publishing the whole set of briefings the week before the hearings started.
Ensuring that the publications were available was central EPRS’s informative function in parliament. Apart from electronic and paper distribution in Parliament, our blog ensured they were available to the wider public and helped keep readers up-to-date. In total, 14 posts were published during September and October with the tag.
Making our publications widely available gave MEPs, journalists, and citizens information to better understand the hearings procedures and the portfolios of the Commissioners-designate. For this reason it was vital that our documents were published well before the hearings began – including for the extra hearings.
Along with the blog posts all our documents will remain, archived, on the and can be revisited at any time for reference or comparison. This body of analysis will allow anyone review the promises made by or to measure the progress of other Commissioners. And that’s the power of social media.