What aspects of your personal qualifications and experience are particularly relevant for becoming Commissioner and promoting the European general interest, particularly in the area you would be responsible for? What motivates you? How will you contribute to putting forward the strategic agenda of the Commission?
I have started my career in a small textile company. In 1995, I took up employment with the Ministry of the Economy, where, beside very important obligations, I was fully engaged in setting up of the small business promotion network. In 1999, I moved to Ministry of Finance and was appointed Head of Department for Agriculture, Economy and Government Offices. In 2004, I became Head of Budget Directorate and continued in this role until 2011. I was responsible for the national budget, financing of local communities and drawing of European funds. I was twice elected to the Slovene National Parliament where I was Chairperson of the Finance Control Committee.
In 2005 and 2006 I was a member of the working group called "Harmonisation and Coordination of the State’s Development Planning", with goal to synchronise Slovenia's Development Strategy, National Development Program 2007-2013, National Reform Programme 2008-2010 (Europe 2020) and the state budget for each financial year. Coordination of the State’s Development Planning covered all areas of the so-called "development part of the budget" of the Republic of Slovenia aiming at modernisation of the public sector, establishment of medium-term financial framework and increase of efficiency and effectiveness of sectorial policies. Between 2007 and 2008, I played an active role in the preparations for the Slovenian EU Council Presidency. As a member of the operational working group for presidency preparation, I headed the budget sub-group.
Experience from my earlier professional life gives me a good foundation for being an effective Commissioner and a Vice-President. Last year and a half I have been Prime Minister, the first female Prime Minister, in Slovenia. It was very difficult time for my country. But I am very proud we were able to overcome the crisis without needing external financial assistance. Especially I am proud because many observers were convinced that my Government would not be able to solve their own problems and that my country would go bankrupt. They were wrong.
A lot has been achieved during this period. The banking system was rehabilitated, the consolidation of public finance was started and the privatisation of state enterprises begun. Most importantly it seems to me, we have shown that with the right measures we put the country back on track.
I am deeply motivated and committed to promoting the European general interest. Since I come from Slovenia, which has been independent for more than 20 years as a result of bloody conflicts among ex-Yugoslavia states – we cannot take freedom for granted. Therefore I see the European Union primarily as a guarantee against growing insecurity worldwide. The next five years will be decisive for the EU. The crisis has left devastating consequences in many countries. We are faced with youth unemployment practically all over Europe. Many things should be changed. European Union should pay more attention to people and their needs. Too often EU is perceived as an institution that does not recognize the real problems and needs of common people. Thus much needed reforms are received with hostile feelings. I believe that next five years will be the most important ones to restoring confidence in the European Union. Our agenda for jobs, growth, fairness and democratic change will be concretised by a good team and our mutual cooperation. In this mutual cooperation I see European Parliament as one of the most important partner to the European Commission.
I am also deeply motivated and committed to promoting the EU Energy Union, the area I will be responsible for if confirmed. The Energy union is an important part of that. In particular, energy efficiency and projects associated with this can have a very positive effect on jobs and economic growth and of course also to the environment and climate. An important share of the promised 300 billion EUR will have to be dedicated to this project.
What guarantees of independence are you able to give the European Parliament, and how would you make sure that any past, current or future activities you carry out could not cast doubt on the performance of your duties within the Commission?
I commit to fully respect the Treaty obligations on independence and integrity, impartiality and availability, as defined in paragraph 3 of Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union and in Article 245 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. I solemnly declare to comply with the ethical standards as set out in the above mentioned articles and the Code of Conduct for Commissioners.
In line with these rules, I have already completed and made available a Declaration of interests. I do not have any stakes in the business sector or any other conflicts of interests relative to my future office. In case of changes, I will immediately update my Declaration.
Moreover, I shall avoid any position or situation which might put in question my independence, impartiality and availability to the Commission. I shall refrain from holding any other public office and from engaging in any other professional activity, unpaid or paid. I commit to immediately inform the President of the Commission if a situation involving a possible conflict of interest in the performance of my official duties were to emerge.
How would you assess your role as a Member of the College of Commissioners? In what respect would you consider yourself responsible and accountable to the Parliament for your actions and for those of your departments?
The incoming European Commission will build on a comprehensive political experience by its members, including several former Prime Ministers including myself, and a focused agenda as set out by Mr Juncker. As Vice-President, I see my role as a catalyst and facilitator, initiating work across different policy areas, always maintaining the focus on the Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic change on the basis of which the European Parliament elected President Juncker. Specifically, I will coordinate and push forward efforts to create a true European Energy Union. In order to achieve this, I will bring together the expertise of other Members of the College and their services and promote a team spirit with Commissioners working on the various aspects of Energy Union, promoting a shared understanding about the programme to be delivered and gaps to be closed.
What specific commitments are you prepared to make in terms of enhanced transparency, increased cooperation and effective follow-up to Parliament's positions and requests for legislative initiatives? In relation to planned initiatives or ongoing procedures, are you ready to provide Parliament with information and documents on an equal footing with the Council?
As a former Prime Minister, I can assure you that I will always seek an active dialogue and cooperation with all political groups in the Parliament. I am looking forward to working closely with all the relevant Committees and all Members on a basis of openness, transparency and exchange of information. I will be fully accountable to you. It is absolutely essential for the success of European integration that the European Parliament has all the necessary means to exercise the democratic oversight. You can count on my full cooperation in this regard.
Ensuring a close working relationship between the Parliament and the Commission is in our mutual interest and also in the wider interest of the EU and its citizens. I am counting on the Parliament's help and support in this endeavour. To achieve this, I will, amongst others, regularly attend Plenary and Committee meetings, ensure a frequent and direct flow of information, in particular with the Chairs of the relevant Parliamentary Committees, and be available for informal discussions and bilateral contacts.
I will ensure the representation of the Commission in my area of responsibility in a way that optimises the Commission's political presence in Committee meetings and in trilogue negotiations. I am convinced that the new working methods of the Commission and the role of coordinating Vice-Presidents will offer important added value to the special relationship between the European Parliament and the Commission.
The Commission is fully responsible and accountable to the European Parliament as the democratic representative of the Union's citizens. Without prejudice to the principle of collegiality, I accept my personal political responsibility in the areas assigned to me, in line with the Framework Agreement between the European Parliament and the Commission.
In my area of responsibility, I will ensure that the Commission's follow up to EP positions is given the utmost attention. We need a shared understanding between the Commission and the co-legislators to be able to deliver on such a comprehensive and challenging project as Energy Union. I will therefore apply the provisions of the Framework Agreement and, in my areas of responsibility, make sure that the Commission responds to Parliamentary Resolutions or requests made on the basis of Article 225 TFEU, within 3 months after their adoption. In this context, I support and fully endorse the commitment given by the President-elect Juncker that the future Commission will be particularly attentive to legislative initiative reports. In responding within the three-month deadline for written follow up I will also take account of the state of internal preparation and collegial discussion within the Commission, the need for broad stakeholder consultation and rigorous impact assessment, reflecting our shared emphasis on the quality of legislation and the right regulatory environment.
It goes without saying that I support and commit to fully implement the principle of equal treatment for the European Parliament and the Council regarding access to meetings or the flow of information, in line with the provisions of the Framework Agreement.
3. Commissioner's priorities
What are the main priorities you intend to pursue in your Energy Union portfolio? What timetable do you envisage for achieving those priorities? What are the specific legislative and non-legislative initiatives you intend to put forward, and according to what timetable?
As President-elect Juncker has said, we need to create a resilient Energy Union with a forward-looking climate policy. The goal has to be to ensure affordable, secure and sustainable energy for businesses and households alike. The main elements of the EU Energy Union are clear: reducing the amount of energy that we consume and continuing to decouple energy consumption from economic growth, increasing our energy security in a way consistent with maintaining Europe's competitiveness and making the transition to a low-carbon economy, , increasing the share of renewable energy sources in the overall energy mix, reducing our dependence on imported oil and gas, diversifying energy sources and suppliers, expanding and pooling energy infrastructure across the EU, strengthening our collective voice with international partners - and all of this within a genuine internal energy market in the EU and in our immediate neighbourhood.
If I am confirmed as Commissioner, the first task facing me and the colleagues with whom I shall be working closely is to translate this complex challenge into an ambitious, integrated reform and reorganisation of Europe's energy policy. I will need the close cooperation of the European Parliament, the Council and other stakeholders to get the vision right and to create a broad consensus around it.
Undisputedly, the 2030 climate and energy framework will be a key component of the Energy Union. It has to be developed into legislative proposals, so that we can meet our ambitions on greenhouse gas emission reductions, renewable energy and energy efficiency, to fight against climate change, ensure the competitiveness of our economy, and our security of supply. The work already undertaken and still to come on our domestic framework will also put us in a good position to prepare for the important climate change negotiations in Paris next year.
We will also need to build on the European Energy Security Strategy presented by the Commission in May 2014. In the immediate future, the major priority for Mr Cañete and me will be to ensure security of supply for the coming winter, in the event of shortages of gas from Russia and Ukraine. We will ensure that there is a short-term action plan in case of interruption of supplies, especially to those Member States most at risk, in line with the need for solidarity and responsibility on the part of the EU and its Member States. Medium-term measures will need to include a review of the Gas Security of Supply Regulation and an assessment of options for common purchasing of gas.
The Commission will do everything in its power to help Member States overcome the critical gaps in our energy infrastructure by facilitating the early implementation of the Projects of Common Interest listed in the Energy Security Strategy. Energy infrastructure needs to be modernised and extended to allow energy to flow freely within the EU and to eliminate energy islands. I am aware that securing the necessary financing by governments, industry and households will be a major challenge. EU funds are tightly constrained so innovative financial mechanisms are urgently needed to stimulate and leverage investments in energy modernisation and to incentivise investment by private households in energy efficiency. The 300bn euro investment package announced by President-elect Juncker will be one of the first major initiatives of the new College and I am looking forward to working closely with Mr Katainen and his team on the important contribution that energy and climate policy can make to this package.
Much work is needed to complete the internal energy market during the mandate of the new Commission, both in terms of full implementation of the existing legislation, as well as taking the internal energy market further. We need to take a fresh look at the internal energy market, in particular to bring about more regional cooperation. This will involve developing an energy grid capable of managing and distributing energy from renewable sources, optimising utilisation of the transmission infrastructure and bringing about a situation where households become active participants in the grid on both the supply and demand side and where prices for consumers are driven by market forces that take into account all externalities.
Renewable energy is a major challenge. Frankly, we are at risk of losing global leadership in renewables to emerging players such as China or Brazil. But I accept the challenge set by President-elect Juncker of making Europe's Energy Union the world number one in renewable energies. This will involve proposals on renewable energy to implement the 2030 climate and energy package, setting out the conditions for State aid post-2020, using EU funding to implement renewable energy projects on the ground, stimulating research and innovation in new renewable energy technologies and enhancing the competitiveness of European industry. At the same time, we must not ignore the concerns that have been raised over the sustainability of some elements of the renewable energy mix – biofuels for transport and biomass for power generation.
Likewise, we will come forward with fresh ideas on energy efficiency, in line with the President-elect's support for doing much more to enhance energy efficiency, not only to reduce energy consumption, but also as a stimulus to jobs, growth and investment as part of the President-elect's proposed 300 billion euro package. Buildings represent 40% of EU energy consumption. Refurbishment of the existing, ageing building stock offers huge potential for saving energy and reducing household bills, provided that we can design the right supporting environment to make it happen, including easier access to finance and technical services.
A necessary condition for creating the European Energy Union is greater solidarity between Member States. The new Commission will assess how best to address the need to unite our negotiating power vis-à-vis third countries. Some have called for common gas purchasing to reduce the huge price differences faced by individual Member States. I will assess the options with a view to strengthening Europe's bargaining position, while ensuring full respect for our competition and internal market rules as well as trade law. We shall also need to intensify energy diplomacy more generally to create greater coherence with major energy partners and promote rule-based energy governance through the IEA, the G7, the G20 and the Energy Charter. I intend to work hard on this during my mandate, in close cooperation with High Representative/Vice President Ms Mogherini, as well as by mainstreaming the energy agenda in our Neighbourhood and Development policies in close cooperation with my colleagues in charge of these portfolios.
4. Quality and transparency of legislative proposals
How will you personally ensure the good quality of legislative proposals, full transparency of lobbying activities (directed at you and your services), and consistent and balanced consultation of all stakeholders taking also into account the need to carry out thorough impact assessments?
The Commission has developed a sound practice of evidence-based policy making, including in the energy and climate policy fields.
Impact Assessments of Commission's proposals have significantly improved during the two previous Commissions and we need to continue that trend. The preparations for the 2050 Roadmap and the 2030 Climate and Energy policy Framework were good examples. In addition, a number of preparatory external studies are regularly carried out to support policy development.
Transparency is absolutely essential to achieve full legitimacy and acceptance of policy-making. I believe that the transparency register plays an important role in achieving, and that all stakeholders should be registered. Policy proposals need to be based on comprehensive public consultations of all relevant stakeholders. In my area of responsibility, I will ensure that stakeholder input will be thoroughly reflected in the impact assessments as well as the further decision-making of the Commission and be fully considered in our discussions with the European Parliament and in the Council.
I will take particular interest in making sure that all voices are heard and that College decisions are based on fully fledged policy options properly presented and discussed in the impact assessments. I will also put particular emphasis on ethics and transparency regarding all contacts that I and my team hold with stakeholders on any matter related to EU policy making. In this context, I fully support our new commitment to transparency set out in the political guidelines by the President-elect. I commit to making public all the contacts and meetings I hold with professional organisations or self-employed individuals on any matter relating to EU policy making and implementation.
My intention is also to reinforce evaluations of existing legislation to check their performance and identify opportunities to refocus their scope, reduce regulatory burdens and simplify existing laws.
5. Coordination and cooperation
As Vice-President responsible for Energy Union, how will you manage coordination with the Commissioners in your team and with the other Vice-Presidents whose policy areas have an impact on, or are affected by, your policy area? How will you ensure enhanced cooperation with relevant parliamentary Committees?
Bringing secure, sustainable and affordable energy to the consumer means mobilising many strands of the public, regulatory and policy agendas. If confirmed, my role will be twofold. Firstly, to co-ordinate the work of creating the European Energy Union, bringing together different policies and instruments from areas which have traditionally been separate. Secondly, to support Mr Katainen and his team on the contribution that needs to be made by investment in energy networks, renewable energy and energy efficiency to new jobs, growth and investments package.
This work will create important synergies. For instance, we need to harness the potential of innovative technologies through research. We also have to find the right responses to tackle the impacts of food vs. fuel production in the agricultural sector. Fair competition rules must ensure a level playing field. We need an intelligent taxation policy that makes polluters pay. We have to deploy smart IT technologies in transit and distribution networks. These go hand in hand with active consumer participation in the market. The external part of the policy is also linked, among others, with the EU's development policies in the context of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. It is quite clear therefore that building our Energy Union will require several College members to work actively together in innovative ways in order to successfully deliver one of the Commission's major strategic projects.
I fully share the intention of the future President to cherish the special relationship between the Commission and the European Parliament and its committees, in full respect of the Framework Agreement. With the broad scope of my policy agenda, I look forward to having regular and deep policy discussions with the ITRE and ENVI Committees in the first place.
6. Scrutiny and international negotiations
What steps will you take to facilitate scrutiny by the relevant parliamentary Committees of legislative and non-legislative procedures (including preparation of delegated and implementing acts) and monitoring (follow-up) of their implementation? How do you intend to ensure that the relevant parliamentary Committees are kept appropriately informed in relation to any international agreements in your policy area, bearing in mind the experience gained in connection with the TTIP negotiations? How do you intend to ensure a coherent EU position in the upcoming international climate summits?
I am committed to building an atmosphere of mutual trust and openness that allows us to work together to the benefit of Europe and its citizens.
I am ready to regularly update you on progress made in international negotiations in my area of competence and in close cooperation with my fellow Commissioners involved in external relations when invited before the ITRE or ENVI Committee or on any other appropriate occasion. It is important for me to have an open dialogue with the Committees, to hear your take on international issues and to draw on the achievements of Parliamentary diplomacy. It goes without saying that the Framework Agreement is the basis for our mutual cooperation.
I am aware that the distinction between delegated and implementing acts introduced by the Lisbon Treaty and that different control mechanisms have led to inter-institutional controversies in recent years. This is a subject of common interest to all institutions. I fully support efforts to find treaty-compliant solutions that ensure more ownership and transparency. I consider that they need to be taken forward at a horizontal level in the Commission as they touch on all portfolios and are of an inter-institutional nature. The First Vice President will play a crucial role in this respect. In the areas under my responsibility I will ensure that the Commission's existing commitments in line with the Common Understanding on delegated acts and the Framework agreement with the Parliament are fully respected. I am thinking in particular of the commitment to carry out appropriate and transparent consultations at expert level in the preparation of delegated acts and to ensure that the Parliament and the Member States receive all relevant information. It also means full respect of the provisions in the Framework Agreement in relation to the participation of Parliament's experts in expert groups meetings. For implementing acts a clear and comprehensive legal framework is in place with Regulation (EU)182/2011 and transparency is ensured via the Comitology Register.
With regard to implementation of already adopted EU legislation, I will ensure that the Commission respects its reporting obligations under the relevant legislation. Where necessary, I will also ensure that the Commission responds to requests for information beyond these obligations, and report to Members in the context of our regular dialogue. I would like to reassure you that I will take the implementation and enforcement of the EU acquis as seriously as the further development of our policies.
In international negotiations, the EU is most effective when it speaks with one voice. This holds true both for the climate and for the energy fields. It will be therefore my priority to ensure coherent external positions, between the EU and its Member States, and across climate and energy fields in view of the very significant synergies.
In the energy field, there are to date some examples of international agreements with the EU as a party, but I would like to see more of those in the future. This is a key element if the EU is to speak with one voice to secure our energy supplies and promote a sustainable transition of our energy systems. When negotiating such agreements, I will of course fully comply with the relevant Treaty provisions, as well as with the Framework Agreement.
In international climate negotiations, it is by acting as a Union that the EU secured the breakthrough decision in Durban to conclude a new global agreement applicable to all in 2015. The EU and its Member States have acquired plenty of experience negotiating "mixed" agreements, including on climate change and other multilateral environmental agreements, and coordination within the EU is operational and transparent. I believe it is essential to ensure each Member State feels ownership of the 2015 Agreement before it is adopted and signed. Only this way, we can ensure that all Member States will ratify this legally-binding agreement (enabling entry into force well before 2020) and effectively implement what we committed ourselves to do.
The EU speaking with one voice on climate also calls for a strong, supportive majority in Parliament. The ratification and implementation of a binding new global climate agreement will require the Parliament's consent. In close cooperation with the Commissioner for energy and climate action, I will keep the Parliament very closely informed of the progress of the negotiations. Before and after the Lima and Paris meetings, I will be happy to discuss with Parliament the preparations and outcomes. I will also continue the tradition of welcoming a Parliament delegation to important negotiations, where I will provide daily progress updates.
Finally, in the nuclear field, the Euratom Community is party to all major international Conventions concluded under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency and has entered into several nuclear cooperation agreements with third countries. In accordance with a practice agreed with the European Parliament, we will continue to keep the relevant parliamentary committees informed of all international agreements negotiated on the basis of the Euratom Treaty.