ANN CAHILL: Team Juncker clears hurdle

Team Juncker roared past the finishing post in the European Parliament, right on schedule, promising to present a €300 billion plan for investment, growth and jobs within six weeks.

Four of Ireland’s ten MEPs present in the Parliament voted against the former Luxembourg prime minister and his college of 27 Commissioners that includes former Fine Gael environment minister Phil Hogan as Agriculture Commissioner.

They included Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy, Lynn Boylan, Liadh Ní Riada and independent Nessa Childers.

The 59-year-old veteran politician was supported by 423 MEPs to 209 with 67 abstentions and will take office on November 1 promising to be more political, and reduce the amount of legislation.

His two-tier commission with seven vice-presidents responsible for coordinating Commissioners with portfolios, often with cross-over responsibilities, will decide also what draft legislation goes to the weekly Commission meeting.

Despite considerable controversy surrounding many of those nominated as Commissioners by their member states, MEPs rejected just one, and Mr Juncker satisfied disagreements over others changing their responsibilities.

However, he was castigated by the left United Europe group to which the Sinn Féin MEPs belong for handing energy and climate change to the Spanish Commissioner who founded two oil companies which his family now controls. The Spanish Socialist MEPs abstained in the final vote.

Mr Juncker also moved responsibility for medicines and pharmaceutical goods out of the enterprise portfolio and back into health after huge criticisms of him seeing medicine as only a business issue.

Responsibility for citizenship was removed from the Hungarian Commissioner Tibor Navracsic culture portfolio because he was justice minister in Viktor Orban’s government that introduced a swathe of measures restricting media and public interest.

Britain’s Jonathan Hill was given the high profile financial stability, services and capital markets union. British prime minister David Cameron had campaigned against Mr Junker but sources claimed that he had agreed his MEPs would support the new team.

However, on the day that a new Ipsos Mori poll said that British citizens’ support for the EU was at its highest for 23 years at 56%, the Tories in the parliament were split, just half voting for him.

After the vote Mr Juncker warned against Mr Cameron’s demand for change to free movement of EU citizens.

“Freedom of movement is a basic principle of the EU since the beginning. I am not prepared to change this – if we are destroying freedom of movement other freedoms will fall in later course and I’m not ready to compromise in an irresponsible way,” he said.

He was less unequivocal in his commitment to reject what has been a key issue in the EU-US trade agreement (TTIP) on allowing special trade tribunals to adjudicate complaints by business against governments for legislation they consider to be against their interests.

“There will be nothing that limits for the parties the access to national courts or that will allow secret courts to have the final say in disputes between investors and states”, he said. He did not rule out tribunals, but said they would be conditional.

Mr Juncker moved forward the date by which he will have plans ready for his promised €300bn investment package for jobs, growth and competitiveness.


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