The future president of the European executive, Ursula von der Leyen, was forced Monday to reshuffle her team, MEPs forcing her to ask Romania and Hungary two new candidates for the positions of Commissioners.
Even before their oral confirmation, the Romanian Social Democrat Rovana Plumb (Transport) and the Hungarian Laszlo Trocsanyi (EPP, Right, Neighborhood and Enlargement) were deemed "unfit" by the MEPs because of alleged conflicts of interest.
After this setback, the German conservative von der Leyen asked the two capitals to present alternative solutions. She has already had to face a heated controversy over the title of a portfolio of commissioner associating migration and "European way of life", which she has for the moment refused to change.
After the rejection of his initial candidate, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban proposed a new name, that of the Hungarian ambassador to Brussels, Oliver Varhelyi.
Mr Orban explained that he had voluntarily chosen this time "a technocrat", and not "a politician".
"His resume makes a good impression," said spokeswoman von der Leyen.
With the Romanians, "we are still in discussion", he added. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis (center right) has called his Social Democratic Prime Minister Viorica Dancila to discuss on Wednesday the name of a new contender to the Commission.
The rejection of future commissioners is a first for the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI), responsible for validating their declarations of interest.
The Romanian is in the visor of the Parliament for two contentious loans. And Mr Trocsanyi was questioned about his relationship with the law firm he founded in 1991 before becoming Viktor Orban's Justice Minister.
- Low leeway -
This was a preliminary step before a series of hearings of candidates by MEPs, which started on Monday and will end on 8 October.
The green light of the European Parliament is obligatory for the entry into office of the 26 Commissioners.
In the past, he did not hesitate to postpone, in 2014, a Slovenian candidate. As for the French socialist Pierre Moscovici and the Spanish conservative Miguel Arias Canete, they had been approved only in favor of an arrangement between the two main political forces of the parliament.
Small thinning in the cloudy sky above the von der Leyen team, the European Anti-Fraud Office, Olaf, closed Friday evening the investigation concerning the Polish Janusz Wojciechowski. He recommended the reimbursement of travel expenses dating from his mandate as MEP, up to 11,250 euros, but dismissed administrative or judicial proceedings. This recovery has already been done.
Olaf is conducting a second investigation into a candidate commissioner, the French Sylvie Goulard, also a former MEP. The file is still open, but it has already repaid 45,000 euros corresponding to several months of salary of his former parliamentary assistant, in the case of fictitious jobs MEPs MoDem.
Mrs Goulard (Internal Market) has received the green light from the Committee on Legal Affairs, but should not escape the curiosity of the MEPs in charge of her hearing, as well as a handful of other colleagues whose cases will be closely scrutinized.
"All the candidates will have a fair chance, but the candidates must convince us that they are qualified for the job and that their integrity is blameless", summarize the MEPs from the EPP group as the hearings approach.
In the face of Parliament's criticism, Mrs von der Leyen's room for maneuver is very narrow since it was confirmed by MEPs with a majority of only 9 votes. She will take office with her commissioners on November 1st.
© 2019 AFP