Following the refusal by the MEPs, the Slovenian Commissioner-nominee Alenka Bratušek stepped down and was replaced by Violeta Bulc. This put Jean-Claude Juncker, the President-elect of the European Commission, before a tough choice. He needed to assign a portfolio to Ms Bulc and taking into account her relatively weaker political profile, Ms Bratušek being an ex-prime minister, it was not expected that he would nominate her for the vacated energy union vice-presidency post. Any other assignment would, however, bring the need for at least two new committee hearings in the EP – one for Ms Bulc and one for the new designated Vice-President, whose original portfolio Ms Bulc would get. The Commission is supposed to start on 1 November, but must by then pass plenary vote in the EP and also formal approval of the European Council. The latter will meet in Brussels on 23 and 24 October. The parliamentary vote is thus scheduled for 22 October. That means there are only a few days left for the new hearings, having in mind that Ms Bulc needed to be formally endorsed by the Council, which takes some time through written procedures. This approval was obtained on 15 October. Subsequently Mr Juncker announced that Ms Bulc will get the transport portfolio and the originally designated transport Commissioner Šefčovič, the Slovak nominee, will be Vice-President for energy union, as was largely expected by insiders. The new hearings of both candidates were scheduled for 20 October. This tough schedule should assure all formal procedures to be done by 1 November and the Juncker Commission should be ready to start working on that day. However, the time both candidates have to prepare for the hearings is extremely short. This leads to doubts about their performance before the MEPs. Any problems would inevitably lead to postponement of the 1 November start date.
Meanwhile, in the European Parliament, the eurosceptic EFDD political group of Mr Farage ceased to exist. Any political group must have at least 25 MEPs from at least 7 Member States. Mr Farage´s UKIP party alone has enough MEP numbers, but he struggled to find enough MEPs from different Member States. Earlier this summer, he managed to convince the Italian 5 Stars movement of Beppe Grillo, and one or two MEPs from Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and France. Last week, the Latvian MEP informed the Parliament presidency, that she left the EFDD group. The presidency thus announced that EFDD group ceased to exist. The reasons of the Latvian MEP for leaving Mr Farage are not known, some speculate about a backroom deal, some see the recent Latvian elections as the reason. The fact is that Mr Farage´s MEPs will now be non-aligned, and thus not entitled to additional speaking time or EU financing. This could be, however, a new opportunity for Ms Le Pen of the French National Front to form her eurosceptic platform, which she failed to do after the elections.
20th February 2019
25th January 2019