Kadri Simson (Centre), who was nominated to replace Andrus Ansip (Reform) in the European Commission, will have to wait until this fall to take over as commissioner after her confirmation was delayed by stalling in the European Parliament's internal elections. As a result, Estonia will not have a representative in the European Commission for two and a half months.
"The unsuccessful election of a chairperson in the [European Parliament's] Committee on Employment and Social Affairs means that my hearing in the European Parliament will be postponed for reasons beyond my control," Simson said in a press release on Tuesday night. "Of course we had hoped that the hearing and the following vote in the European Parliament would take place this week, but unfortunately, things went differently."
Typically, it is the European Parliament committee in whose field a new commissioner is to begin work that hears candidates for the European Commission. Outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, however, did not grant a portfolio to either Simson or Romanian candidate Ioan Mircea Pașcu, and so the two candidates should have been heard and sent to the plenary by a conference of committee chairpersons.
The conference is only operational, however, once every European Parliament committee has elected its leadership, and the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs failed to elect a chairperson either last week or this Monday, as the candidacy of Polish ex-prime minister Beata Szydło was rejected twice.
As the European Parliament will begin its summer recess following the plenary to conclude at noon on Thursday, this means that Simson and Pașcu's confirmations by the plenary will be delayed until mid-September, when the European Parliament returns to work.
The Estonian government sent the European Commission a formal letter on July 8 nominating Simson as Estonia's candidate to replace Ansip, who was elected to the European Parliament in the 2019 European Parliament elections in May, as commissioner. Juncker had previously requested a decision by the Council of the EU not to start appointing new commissioners for a few months prior to the conclusion of the Commission's current term, but member states rejected his proposal.
As recently as last week, Simson expressed hope following a meeting with Juncker and receiving his approval that she would be able to participate in the July 24 sitting of the European Commission already.
"It is unfair that the Parliament's inability to elect one committee's chairperson will leave us without a commissioner for months," MEP Ansip wrote on social media on Tuesday. "This sends the wrong message, as though commissioners should not seek a new mandate from the people, and punishing us by leaving us without representation altogether."
Juncker's Commission's term ends on Oct. 31.
On Tuesday night, the European Parliament voted to approve Germany's Ursula von der Leyen as the next president of the European Commission. The Estonian government has decided to nominate Simson to von der Leyen's Commission as well.
Editor: Aili Vahtla