Three parliamentary committees questioned Commissioner Günther Oettinger last night to assess his suitability for a new portfolio including responsibility for the EU budget and human resources. The hearing attracted extra attention following a speech in which Oettinger referred to Chinese people as “slitty-eyed rascals” and questions about the Commissioner’s interaction with unregistered lobbyists. It was revealed that Oettinger had failed to declare travelling with an unregistered lobbyist on a private jet on a recent trip to visit Victor Orban. Despite this, Commission president Juncker provoked MEPs by appointing Oettinger to his new functions ahead of yesterday’s hearing.
The Conference of Presidents will decide on Parliament’s conclusions from the hearing on Thursday. While Oettinger already exercises his new office as Commissioner for budget and human resources, Juncker still has to decide whether he also appoint Oettinger as a Vice-President.
MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group and deputy member of the budget committee, commented:
‘The jury is still out on Günther Oettinger. While we should accept his unreserved apology for his offensive speech in Hamburg, it came pretty late in yesterday’s hearing. He answered questions on budget policies with no difficulty but he holds no special qualifications for the human resources position.
Oettinger is stubborn on his dealings with lobbyists. He unrepentantly defends his track record of meeting 90 percent industry lobbyists and only 10 percent trade unions and civil society. He shows no awareness of citizens’ concerns about the large numbers of lobbyists representing financially powerful interests. It took questions by MEPs from four different groups before Oettinger agreed to help tightening rules on lobby meetings.
While Juncker’s appointment of Oettinger prior to the hearing was a slap in the face of all parliamentarians, he may nevertheless be fit for his job as Budget Commissioner. His suitability as Vice-President and Human Resources Commissioner remains in doubt.’
P.S. This afternoon the candidates for president of the European Parliament will answer questions by the Green Group: 16:30h Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE), 17:15h Gianni Pittella (S&D). Questioning continues tomorrow morning 9:30h Antonio Tajani (EPP), 10:30h Eleonora Forenza (GUE) and 11:15h Helga Stevens (ECR).