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European Parliament’s role in hearings of the 2019 Commissioner-designates

Meeting of the EP Conference of Presidents in presence of Ursula von der LEYEN - President-elect of the European Commission

© European Union 2019 – Source : EP / DAINA LE LARDIC

The European Parliament regularly receives enquiries from citizens about its role in the approval process of a new European Commission.

Under the Treaty on European Union, the European Parliament intervenes twice in the approval process of a new European Commission.

In a first phase, the European Parliament elects the President of the new Commission, based on a proposal by EU leaders in the European Council.

On 16 July 2019, the European Parliament elected, with 383 votes in favour, Ursula von der Leyen as President of the next European Commission. Individual governments of EU countries subsequently put forward candidate members of the European Commission. On 10 September 2019, President-elect von der Leyen presented her team, along with the proposed allocation of portfolios.

In a second phase, the European Parliament approves or rejects the new European Commission as a whole. Although it does not vote on individual Commissioners-designate, the threat to vote down the designated Commission has proven a powerful means to influence the composition of the European Commission.

To evaluate individual Commissioners-designate, the European Parliament organises hearings before the relevant parliamentary committees. Apart from initial hearings before the Legal Affairs Committee to examine any potential or actual conflict of interests of the Commissioners-designate, which are held in camera, these are held in public and are broadcast live. Hearings aim to evaluate Commissioners-designate on the basis of their general competence, European commitment and personal independence.

Hearings, which generally last three hours, start with an opening speech by the candidate, followed by up to 25 questions from Members of the European Parliament. The commissioner-designate can make a brief closing statement.

The public hearings on the commissioners-designate of the von der Leyen Commission will take place between 30 September and 8 October 2019.

Immediately after each hearing, the chair and leaders of political groups in the parliamentary committee responsible for the hearing meet in camera to evaluate the Commissioner-designate. If they are unable to reach a consensus, the chair will convene a committee meeting and, as a last resort, call a vote by secret ballot. The committee’s evaluation statement is made public within 24 hours of the hearing.

The European Parliament is expected to vote on the new Commission as a whole on 23 October 2019. After approval by the European Parliament, EU leaders in the European Council can formally appoint the new Commission. The term of the new European Commission starts on 1 November 2019.

Continue to put your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP)! We reply in the EU language that you use to write to us.

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