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Confirmation hearings of nominee Commissioners

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The purpose of the hearings

Why are the hearings being held?

| To Expert report | The Santer Commission resigned collectively on 15 March 1999 following the Committee of Independent Experts' report on mismanagement, fraud and nepotism.

On 24 March 1999 Mr Romano PRODI was nominated as the new President of the Commission by the Berlin European Council.

The nominee for President of the Commission needs to be approved by the EP according to the provisions of Article 214 of the EC Treaty; the President and the other proposed Members of the Commission are then subject as a body to a vote of approval by the EP. Before the final vote occurs the nominees Commissioners are requested to appear before the appropriate EP Committees according to their prospective fields of responsibility, and to make a statement and to answer questions (Rule 33 of the EP's Rules of Procedure).The practice of holding confirmation hearings for proposed Commissioners was first used for the Santer Commission in January 1995. EP confirmation hearings have also been held for nominees to the European Court of Auditors, for the Presidency of the European Monetary Institute and for the Presidency and Executive Board of the European Central Bank.

Which Commission will the EP be voting for in September?

The outgoing Parliament's approval of Mr Prodi as President-elect of the Commission (in its resolution of May 1999) was limited the unfinished part of Mr Santer's term of office. Parliament will thus be formally voting in September for the Commission which is to last until the beginning of 2000. The new Parliament will then have to re-confirm Mr Prodi as President-elect of the so-called "Millennium Commission" from 2000-2005, and to take a second formal decision on the Millennium Commission as a whole before the end of 1999.

What are the main objectives of the hearings?

The main objectives of the hearings are to prepare the way for the final EP vote on the Commission as a whole by providing insights into the personalities and views of the various nominees. The hearings process also helps to strengthen the democratic accountability and legitimacy of the Commission and, in case of approval of the Commission, to establish a working relationship between Parliament's Committees and the relevant Commissioner at the earliest possible moment. Finally they also serve as an initial benchmark for examining the subsequent performance of the Commissioner concerned.

What will be the outcome of the hearings?

At the end of each hearing the Committee or Committees concerned will hold an "in camera" session of 45 minutes to evaluate the performance of each nominee. After the 1995 Santer Commisssion hearings letters were sent out by each Committee chairman to the President of the Parliament, who then published them and held a press conference. It is expected that a similar procedure will be adopted on the present occasion. As before, the EP Committees will not take formal votes after each hearing, since the EP has no power to reject individual nominees. Negative evaluations of individual Commissioners will, however, be taken into account when the EP votes on the Commission as a whole. Before the EP votes, the President of Parliament may also ask the President-elect of the Commission to make adjustments to his original proposals, such as by making alterations to prospective portfolios If there are too many negative individual performances, the EP may of course then decide to reject the Commission as a whole. The EP vote on the Commission is expected to take place during the plenary session in Strasbourg from 13 to17 September..

What else will the EP be looking for when it votes on the Commission as a whole?

Besides looking at the personalities, views and experience of the nominees, the EP will also be reviewing the proposed structure of the Commission as a whole, such as whether the portfolios are the most appropriate ones, whether there are too many overlaps between them and how they fit in with the structure of the Commission's directorates-general. Finally the EP will also be looking at the Commission's proposed overall policy programme(which Mr Prodi will present in September), and whether the most appropriate policy priorities are being put forward.

PE 231.299 2/2

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Article 214 (ex Article 158)

  1. The Members of the Commission shall be appointed, in accordance with the procedure referred to in paragraph 2, for a period of five years, subject, if need be, to Article 201. Their term of office shall be renewable.
  2. The governments of the Member States shall nominate by common accord the person they intend to appoint as President of the Commission; the nomination shall be approved by the European Parliament.

    The governments of the Member States shall, by common accord with the nominee for president, nominate the other persons whom they intend to appoint as Members of the Commission.

    The President and the other Members of the Commission thus nominated shall be subject as a body to a vote of approval by the European Parliament. After approval by the European Parliament, the President and the other Members of the Commission shall be appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States.

Article 215 (ex Article 159)

Apart from normal replacement, or death, the duties of a Member of the Commission shall end when when he resigns or is compulsorily retired.

The vacancy thus caused shall be filled for the remainder of the Member's term of office by a new Member appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States. The Council may, acting unanimously, decide that such a vacancy need not be filled.

In the event of resignation, compulsory retirement or death, the President shall be replaced for the remainder of his term of office. The procedure laid down in Article 214(2) shall be applicable for the replacement of the President.

Save in the case of compulsory retirement under Article 216, Members of the Commission shall remain in office until they have been replaced.

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Rule 33
Election of the Commission

1   The President shall, after consulting the President-elect of the Commission, request the nominees proposed for the various posts of Commissioners to appear before the appropriate committees according to their prospective fields of responsibility. These hearings shall be held in public.

2   The committee shall invite the nominee to make a statement and answer questions.

3   The President-elect shall present the college of Commissioners and their programme at a sitting of Parliament which the whole Council shall be invited to attend. The statement shall be followed by a debate.

4   In order to wind up the debate, any political group may table a motion for a resolution. Rule 37 (3), (4) and (5) shall apply.

Following the vote on the motion for a resolution, Parliament shall elect or reject the Commission by a majority of the votes cast.

The vote shall be taken by roll call.

Parliament may defer the vote until the next sitting.

5   The President shall inform the governments of the Member States of the election or rejection of the Commission.

6   In the event of portfolio changes during the Commission's term of office, the Commissioner concerned shall be invited to appear before the committees responsible for the areas of responsibility in question.

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