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A new European Commission for a new European Union

17-10-2014
This image shows Hearings of commissioners-designate at the EU
© EU
Hearings of commissioners-designate at the EU

In May 2014, the European elections took place and European citizens were able to decide the new configuration of the European Parliament (EP). Four months later, from 29 September to7 October, this new European Parliament had the opportunity to talk with the Commissioners-designated.

A more democratic way to shape the future of the EU

On 25 May 2014, EU citizens expressed their interest and concerns about the future of the European Union by participating in the EU elections. The results of these elections show a more heterogeneous Parliament. With a turnout of 42.54%, some Eurosceptic political parties from the extreme right increased their influence. CBM has followed this process during the first part of the year, along with the International Disability and Development Consortium.

For the first time in EU history, the results of the EU elections directly influenced the composition of the new European Commission (EC). In that sense, on 1 July Martin Schulz, from the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) party, was re-elected by the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) as their President; and on 15 July Jean-Claude Juncker, from the European People’s Party (EPP) party, was elected by the EP as the new President of the European Commission (EC). After his election, Juncker announced his Commissioners-designated and their Portfolios, and only after the Commissioner hearings by the EP they will proceed with their taking-office. This is what the EP and the EC lived these last two weeks: from the 29 September to the 7 October, the European Parliament received each Commissioner-designated to discuss their capacities and plans for the following five years. CBM has followed this process, focusing its attention on the following Commissioner hearings.


Neven Mimica, Commissioner-designated for International Cooperation and Development

This image shows Mr. Mimica during his Commissioner hearing at the EU ©Reuters
Mr. Mimica during his Commissioner hearing
Mimica was one of the first Commissioners-designated in proceeding with the Commissioner hearings of the European Parliament. For more than three hours, he proceeded with his fifteen-minute speech and answered questions posed by the Development Committee. His programme was based on three pillars: solidarity, the Post-2015 framework and the revision of the Cotonu agreement. You can follow his hearing here.

Although he did not mention the rights of persons with disabilities, he emphasised the need to respect human rights in International Cooperation and Development, as well as the need to develop inclusive societies. In that sense, and given that the EU ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), in which Article 32 is focused on International Cooperation), this is an opportunity to foster inclusion of persons with disabilities in the Post-2015 framework.

On several occasions Mimica highlighted the importance of better coordination within the European Commission, and declared his intention of working in collaboration with the rest of the Commissioners in order to achieve better policy coherence, taking into account human rights and climate change, at internal and external level. According to him this collaboration will also be extended to the European Parliament and their specific Committees.

Chrystos Stylianides, Commissioner-designated or Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management

This image shows Mr.Chrystos Stylianides during his Commissioner hearing at the EU ©EPA
Mr.Chrystos Stylianides during his Commissioner hearing
Stylianides’ speech was, probably, one of the most passionate hearings. He stated that he wants to be “the spokesperson of the most vulnerable, the voice of the voiceless”. In his introductory speech, Stylianides referred to climate change, poverty and armed conflicts, saying that the European Union has a duty to work on these issues, “today and not tomorrow”. His conviction about these ideas was established by his own personal experience. You can watch his hearing here.

Taking advantage of his sentence “I want to be the voice of the voiceless”, Heidi Hautala, MEP from the Greens, raised the first question related to persons with disabilities. She asked how the EC will include persons with disabilities in humanitarian aid, and Chrystos Stylianides did not hesitate to declare that he has no experience in disability issues, and because of that he will seek collaboration with civil society and organisations of persons with disabilities in order to guarantee inclusive policies. A second question related to disability, raised this time by Adam Kosa, MEP from the EPP party, was about the need of specific indicators for persons with disabilities. Stylianides proclaimed that he will explore the possibility of establishing an Action Plan that will guarantee the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Humanitarian policies, according to Article 11 of the UN CRPD.

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy

©EU
Ms.Federica Mogherini during her Commissioner hearing
In a very relaxed environment, joking with the MEPs of the Foreign Affairs (AFET) Committee, Federica Mogherini demonstrated her leadership capacities and her expertise in the field of foreign affairs. During her hearing, which was focused on geographical areas affected by recent conflicts, she based her speech on the need of collaboration among the different portfolios of the EC, as well as joint work with the EP. You can follow her hearing here.

Mogherini mentioned the key role of the European Union in Development and International Cooperation and she expressed her commitment to work on the Post-2015 agenda prioritising the needs of people.

Collaboration and human rights were the pillars of her speech. Here key message was collaboration, not only inside the EU but also with countries in transition and citizens around the world,. A human rights based approach to this collaboration will be the framework in which the European Union will work with its different partners.

More collaboration and more human rights

The common message from these three Commissioners-designated was the need to strengthen collaboration within as well as outside the European Union with the purpose of ensuring real human rights. Participation of civil society with the EU can guarantee these two goals. CBM will soon be in contact with the new Commission, to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are included in the framework of human rights, development and humanitarian work.


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