The purpose of the hearings
Why are the hearings being held?
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
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
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