By Our Brussels Correspondent
The EU Commissioner-designate for Energy yesterday faced a barrage of questions and criticisms by MEPs during the confirmation-hearings into the appointment of Spain’s Miguel Canete.
After the approval of the first 10 of the nominees in the first two days of hearings, angry scenes in parliamentary committee rooms yesterday threatened to disrupt a timetable under which the new Commission is supposed to be approved en bloc on 22 October and to take office on 1 November.
Cañete, a former Spanish agriculture minister, ran into a barrage of criticism over past links with the oil industry and last-minute changes in his statement of financial interests.
Besieged with questions, Cañete said he had resigned as patron of the Faes Foundation, that he no longer receives salary as president of the Popular Party National Electoral Committee and that he had sold his shares in the oil companies Ducar and Petrologis. But he repeatedly dodged questions about his brother-in-law’s interest in energy firms.
Although the commissioner-designate insisted that both he and his wife and son are now completely detached from this sector, several MEPs asked repeatedly about his brother’s relationship with corporate shareholders of the two companies in question.
Cañete stated that the declaration of interests submitted to the European Parliament refers only to his closest family. He said that he has gone beyond the requirements of the code of conduct of the Commission.
Cañete also apologised for having made what he called an inappropriate sexist comment during this year’s European Parliament election campaign. After a debate against a female candidate, he had said debating a woman was hard because a man who used his “intellectual superiority” might appear chauvinist.
Cañete was also criticised for his domestic policies on shale gas, and also on the import of oil from Canada, a country exploiting tar sands.
Green and GUE/NGL groups promoted the manifesto # StopCañete, which so far have signed up more than 80 MEPs, also from the group Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy, and some MEPs from the Socialist group.
In a message posted online, Jude Kirton-Darling, a British Socialist and Democrat MEP, said: “We’ve received many tweets, comments and phone calls asking for my view on Miguel Arias Cañete – Commissioner-designate for Energy and Climate Action. I question the suitability of a candidate with strong links to fossil fuel industry who is set to become the Commissioner in charge of tackling climate action.”
Jo Leinen, a German Socialist and Democrat MEP, said, “Canete’s past involvement in the oil industry is a clear case of conflict of interest. He is the wrong man for the wrong job. The EU needs an ambitious climate and energy agenda that ensures a sustainable energy mix and a drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”