Written by Maria Diaz Crego (updated on 23.09.2019),
The hearings of the Commissioners-designate before the European Parliament’s committees are a necessary ingredient in informing Parliament’s decision to give its consent to, or reject, the proposed College. Each Commissioner-designate appears before a single hearing, involving one or more parliamentary committees, after responding to a written questionnaire and presenting his or her declaration of interests.
In past hearings, the main points of criticism were some candidates’ lack of specialist knowledge of their portfolio, their vague answers and reluctance to make commitments, the existence of possible conflicts of interests in relation to the assigned portfolio and concerns regarding the integrity of the candidate. From the 2004 investiture on, Parliament has used its role in the appointment of the Commission to press for the replacement of certain controversial candidates and to force adjustments to certain portfolios, although it can only reject or accept the College as a whole.
Whilst some experts warn of excessive politicisation of the hearings, others welcome the increased accountability of the Commission to Parliament, and see the deepening political link between the two as a step towards further democratisation of the EU decision-making process. Hearings have become critical for Parliament’s holding the Commission to account, and are gaining in significance as a means for Parliament to take a greater role in agenda-setting at EU level.
This is an updated and expanded version of a 2014 briefing by Eva-Maria Poptcheva.
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Read the complete briefing on ‘Parliamentary hearings of the Commissioners-designate: A decisive step in the investiture process‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.