Juncker’s State of the Union 2015

+++This piece was by Laura Shields (@mediawhizz) +++

What is the purpose of a speech?

Judging from some of the conversations I’ve been having with people on Twitter I have been unfair on Juncker because I wanted him to deliver his State of the Union speech in an engaging and convincing manner.

When I make comments like this, people in Brussels often assume that this is somehow a dig at the speaker’s English (which is usually perfect) and that I should cut them some slack because they are often talking in their third or fourth language.

So before I start this blog in full I want to make a number of things clear.juncker

  • I am in awe of people who work and communicate in several languages. As a Brit who works almost exclusively in her mother tongue and speaks passable (but not professional) French and Spanish, I know how hard it is to work at an effective and nuanced level in other languages.
  • Doing speeches in multi-lingual environments is incredibly tough, particularly as cultural differences exist over what makes an authoritative speaker. Personally I think speeches should be banned from EU policy environments because they don’t add anything and almost all policymakers do better when taking questions rather than delivering set piece speeches which they aren’t good at.
  • I don’t want everyone to sound like Tony Blair. Or Angelina Jolie.  Far from it. I want them to be the best possible version of themselves if they are going to convince an audience to listen to their message. This does not make me superficial and unduly fixated on metaphors.  Nor does it mean I overlook substance in favour of rhetorical flourish (whatever that is). Rather, it means I accept that all public speaking is an exercise in creating and sustaining a convincing connection with an audience over a set period of time.  The Greeks knew this thousands of years ago when they were using speechmaking to cement ‘democracy’ in Athens. And not being boring matters more than ever in the increasingly impressionistic digital age we now live in.

So, caveats aside, the speech was a game of two halves. It was beautifully crafted, with lovely soundbites, great numbers and sticky stories but delivered in such a flat and listless way that it made me want to put a biro through my eyeball.

Quite simply, you  wouldn’t have known this was the make or break speech it had been trailed as.

The Good:

  • Beautifully written: lots of sizzling soundbites such as  ‘There is a lack of Europe in Europe and a lack of union in the European Union’ and ‘Europe cannot house all the world’s misery’. Chapeau to Juncker’s speechwriters, who have done a very good job in focusing the content on their audience.
  • Great numbers – such as 20mn Poles live outside Poland – helped create a strong narrative arc and context for discussing the refugee crisis.
  • Strong storytelling and examples to help make the speech visual and real. There was also very little jargon.

The Bad:

  • Just one major point: the delivery was flat with terrible energy  and no light or shade (in all three languages, not just English). This is not a language issue. It’s a performance issue. No speaker will be convincing if they do not seem interested in and engaged by their own subject.  Most of us have to fake energy and enthusiasm when it comes to public speaking. It does not mean you have to be a fake to do it.

I am a broken record on the energetic delivery point. I cannot emphasise this enough. You can have the best or worst content in the world but if you have no ooomph as a speaker  then you will always fail to ignite or even connect with your audience.

A strong speech certainly helps. But performance, passion and conviction are everything.

20.10, 1900 – Violeta Bulc (Transport)

bulc

Political Flair 7.5/ 10
Credibility 7.5/ 10
Energy 7.5 / 10
Warmth 8 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 7.5 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 8/ 10
Overall rating 7.5 / 10

Bulc is the new Slovenian nominee, replacing Alenka Bratušek. The review of Bratušek’s hearing is here. Šefčovič will replace Bratušek as VP Energy Union, and Bulc will have a hearing about the Transport portfolio that was previously Šefčovič’s position. The review of Šefčovič’s first hearing (on Transport) is here.

So this was interesting because Jon and I disagreed completely about Bulc (he didn’t rate her, whereas I was pleasantly surprised).

From my perspective, despite the nature of her appointment and some of the scurrilous commentary which had preceded the hearing, Bulc actually delivered a solid if unspectacular performance. She was anything but the fruitcake that the media would have liked to portray her as.

If anything, the speech was deadly dull (lots of ‘essential backbones’ (eh?) and ‘solutions’) and I have to confess that as soon as she started talking about ‘integration’, infrastructure’ and ‘innovation’ I wanted to put a biro through my eye in despair.

But you have to pity Bulc and her speechwriters who had to mop up what was left after Sefcovic’s first effort. But once it was over she did much better with the Q&A. There were some nice stories (including about her time as manager of Slovenia’s cohesion funds, travelling to airports in the Hebrides and Slovenia) which seemed genuine and showed an ability to communicate what is, frankly, an unsexy brief, to audiences outside Brussels.

She also made the right noises about ‘social dumping’ (she’s not a fan in case you were wondering) and Ebola (the EU shouldn’t restrict transport systems to combat it). And her energy levels, eye contact and warmth were mostly good.

The downsides were a lack of  overall vision (she was definitely a bit too on message), too lengthy answers and an absence of really hard facts. But she seemed like a real person, showed an ability to get to grips with a brief quickly and was calm and authoritative. My sense is that she’ll be good if given the right support and doesn’t borrow too heavily from the EU Lexicon when she goes out to meet people.

Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.

#EPHearings2014 Scorecard [Infographics]

I know, it’s only Tuesday night and there will (or might) be other hearings scheduled in the following days. But, as every candidate had the chance to get into the lions pit (and for some, let’s say it’s been painful), let’s have a quick look on how our dear candidates played it. Just to let you know, a couple of remarks before reading the datas :

    • As the “likelyhood to being approved by the EP” remains more as a political criteria than a true “communications” one, we did not use it to calculate the overall rating for each of these commissionners.
  • Concerning Jonathan Hill, we did calculate an average grade for his two performances.

We hope you’ll enjoy it !

07.10, 1430 – Frans Timmermans (First Vice President)

timmermans

Political Flair 8 / 10
Credibility 7 / 10
Energy 10 / 10
Warmth 9 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 9 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 9 / 10
Overall rating 9 / 10

This was a political performer in his element. Timmermans delivered his opening statement in flawless English, and weaved a story of how Europe mattered to him and why the European Union matters. He spoke swiftly, with some conviction, and with positive and engaging body language. It was almost more like a speech befitting of a Commission President, not a Vice President.

The EU has seen amazing change in 25 years, not least in central and eastern Europe he said. The European Union has also avoided meltdown and fragmentation, and this was welcome. He kept MEPs happy saying that this is “the first European Commission truly born in the European Parliament”.

The European Union is a community of nations and people, he said. EU can be strong if member states are strong, and the strength of member states depends on the strength of the union. He also promised to take debates to National Parliaments.

The nature of Timmermans’s portfolio means he could not be especially concrete on any specifics, although he did say he would work to ensure the implementation of a mandatory lobby register. On the topic of better regulation, it is not about deregulation, he said, and this process must not be an attack on social rights or environmental protection. He was also clear that there must be consistent and scrupulous in the application of the rule of law – both from the Commission and Member States.

Timmermans was even better in his replies to questions, using Dutch, Italian, French and German, as well as English in his replies. He even apologised for not being able to reply in Polish. He showed stature and sharpness, did his best to reply directly to the questions posed, and was not afraid to make very political and ethical points.

He scores 9 and not higher more because his portfolio means he could not be as concrete as he too might have liked. Timmermans is most definitely one to watch in this Commission.

Photo: CC License from flickr – original source here.

07.10, 1300 – Jonathan Hill (2nd Hearing)

This is the second hearing for Jonathan Hill. The first hearing review can be found here.
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Political Flair 9 / 10
Credibility 7 / 10
Energy 9 / 10
Warmth 9 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 7 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 7 / 10
Overall rating 8,5 / 10

It needed to be straight down to business today for Jonathan Hill who didn’t need to prove that he’s a jolly nice chap nor that he *hearts* the EU. He just needed to prove that he knows the detail of the job ahead of him.

A smiling but clearly nervous Hill got a joke in within the first 10 seconds. And even though it could open him up to more accusations re his charm (an apparent crime amongst MEPs), it actually broke the palpable tension in the room and even watching the livestream, you could feel some of the stress flowing away.

Settling into the show, instead of listing what he wanted to do for the next five years, Hill told a story about the EU in 2019. It’s all going to be rosy apparently, but it was a good way to avoid a boring tick-box approach. Hill mentioned trust a couple of times (if you say it enough….) and then pulled a bit of a masterstroke by going into detail about SMEs taking on the big guys, leaving us in no doubt as to which side he is on.

During the questions, Hill got to show off his knowledge. And he dropped enough acronyms (SDG, CMU etc etc) to show that he now knows his stuff. Completely baffling to most people of course, but today was the day for playing to the MEPs.

After a vaguely plausible answer to the first six-million dollar question on his previous lobbying clients, Hill took the gloves off to Sven Giegold’s follow up question. Any implication that he is in the pocket of anyone Is. Not. True. he said, glaring at Giegold while making sure we all know they have already had several conversations on the subject. And while I’m not sure that calling a valid question is a “red herring” is wise, the steely side that Hill showed in shutting it down can do him some good.

A solid show. More tough roast beef than plum pudding. More Gary Oldman than Hugh Grant. Let’s see if MEPs go for it

Photo: CC License from flickr – original source here.

06.10, 1430 – Valdis Dombrovskis (Euro, Social Dialogue)

dombrovskis

Political Flair 6 / 10
Credibility 7 / 10
Energy 5 / 10
Warmth 5 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 4 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 7 / 10
Overall rating 5,5 / 10

As her fellow Vp-designate Bratusek was on the grill at the same time, attention has not been so hard on Dombrovskis hearing, one of the VP that could have a very large portfolio with euro and Social Dialogue, especially with Moscovici raising several doubts in the European Parliament. “Cooperation, democracy, jobs, growth, iron curtain, peace, european values”. In the first two minutes of his preliminary speech, Dombrovskis has already put on stage all european and Juncker-commission keywords.

Moreover, his very technocratic speech is clearly the kind that ordinary people don’t get, focusing on macro-economic, stabilization, etc. The social dialogue is only here in 3 or 4 sentences, with a very blur program. Eventually, Dombrovskis was more confident on all economic subjects, opening his arms, using his gands and less reading his briefings.

But, everything went down on any sensible questions on how he will work. For instance, on the transparency, on how the VPs and commissionners will work together, he seems very defensive. Will he represent the eurozone ? Who will take decisions on euro policies ? How the Commission will work with the Parliament ? Everytime on these subjects, Dombrowskis withdrew behind his crossed arms and the official position on the Juncker team, clearly showing he’s the “I don’t know yet but I won’t tell you” guy.

One can think that after a start in latvian and a follow up in english, the language was maybe the reason to talk with a monoton voice. But it’s not, reading his sheets with few body language and eye contact, Dombrovskis is surely a commissionar that will not bring any charism into the next Commission team.

Photo: CC License from flickr – original source here.

07.10, 1000 – Jyrki Katainen (Jobs, Growth etc.)

katainen

Political Flair 6 / 10
Credibility 7 / 10
Energy 7 / 10
Warmth 7 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 6 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 9 / 10
Overall rating 7 / 10

A confident looking Katainen set out his stall at the start – that his statement would be more about his background and standing as a person, and less about the concrete details of his portfolio. This was a fair start, especially in light of the difficulties Bratušek and Dombrovskis had faced the previous day trying to work out where their VP portfolios ended and the portfolios of the regular Commissioners started.

Katainen started with a story about his personal background – how Erasmus had allowed him to study abroad, something that his family would not have been able to afford. He also said he had been a foot soldier in the campaign in the 1990s for Finland to join the European Union.

He said is political philosophy was based on 4 points: Encouragement, Civilisation, Tolerance and Social responsibility, although his explanation of what these actually meant. He also said that he stepped down from his role in national politics to focus on the EU, words that came across as a little hollow.

Katainen’s delivery, in English alone in his opening statement, was reasonably engaging and smooth. While he read a lot, he also looked up from time to time, and engaged the audience in eye contact. He also brought along iPod earphones rather than the clunky EP ones to use when listening to interpretation – a classy touch.

The end of his statement was especially strong. “I do not recognise how I have sometimes been portrayed,” he said. “Finland is not the wild west!”

His response to questions was an interesting one. He tended to recap the questions posed to him by MEPs, trying to actually get to the essence of the waffle that came from many of them. This was an interesting tactic, but bordered on the patronising. He was strong in response to a UKIP question on free movement of people – is a core value he said, and he said the EU needed to get to the bottom of the practical problems. When it came to his role as Prime Minister and Euro bailouts he was less sure, answering a question from a Greek GUE MEP about collateral demanded for bailouts by blaming his electoral opponents in Finland – his effort to portray himself as a pragmatist did not entirely convince.

In the end party politics, with his party at the core of the EPP, will probably see Katainen through, while his intelligence and decent ability to communicate will serve him well in the Commission. What he did as Prime Minister, and the broad nature of his portfolio, prevented him putting in a stellar performance though.

Photo: CC License from flickr – original source here.

06.10, 1830 – Andrus Ansip (Digital)

ansip

Political Flair 5 / 10
Credibility 8 / 10
Energy 5 / 10
Warmth 4 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 6 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 9 / 10
Overall rating 6 / 10

Cautious yet reasonably concrete are the words that spring to mind to describe Ansip’s performance.

His opening statement was delivered in English, slowly and carefully, and essentially just reading from his notes, and looking up to engage MEPs in eye contact at the end of each section. While his style was far from engaging, it was nevertheless stable and reassuring, giving the impression that he is someone that can command some trust. He made many references to his 9 years as Prime Minister of Estonia, and what he had learnt in that time when it comes to digitalisation – here is someone whose experience matches the portfolio Juncker has allocated to him.

Ansip also had the right lines when it came to the substance. We do not yet have a Single Market ready for the digital age, he said, but it is important that we should not regulate everything, but do need to create the right legal environment. This of course will be done in close consultation with the European Parliament.

He also made a fair effort to make his ideas concrete: “People are the starting point for everything […] what Europe can do to improve people’s quality of life,” he said, going on to explain how he thought that security and confidence, and protection of privacy, are the cornerstone of the digital single market. He also promised to look at copyright reform, and to reduce barriers to cross-border trade in the Single Market online. There were some internal points for the Commission too – paperless government can work, he said, and eInvoices and eProcurement should be introduced in the Commission by 2015, and eSignatures by the end of the mandate.

Ansip’s responses to questions – mostly in English, and sometimes in Estonian – were in a similar vein. He showed a decent grasp of his subject, and particularly when it came to points about government services online showed greater personal steel and inner commitment to these issues. He was also asked about his Communist past – “my past is open and transparent” he said, for the first time with a little edge in his voice.

We are “only limited by our imagination” he said in his level monotone at the end of his opening statement. Perhaps so, but a listener is left wondering how much imagination Ansip himself has. Here was a calm, grey, knowledgeable and reassuring figure, who will do a solid job.

Photo: CC License from flickr – original source here.

06.10, 1830 – Federica Mogherini (High Rep for Foreign Policy)

mogherini

Political Flair 8/ 10
Credibility 9/ 10
Energy 9 / 10
Warmth 8 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 7 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 9.5/ 10
Overall rating 8 / 10

Mogherini’s hearing was always going to be scrutinised for evidence of a pro-Russia bias and proportionately she did receive more questions on this topic than on others. However, in the event she was completely on message and across the brief almost to the point of being a bit dull.

But she had gravitas, came across as a listener (a skill which also served her predecessor Catherine Ashton well in relation to Iran and Kosovo) and seemed calm if a bit nervous. And there was the odd flash of charm and self-deprecating wit too. Speaking in English and apologising to the French speakers, she won smiles up front by saying that it would be impossible for her to speak in Italian and say everything she needed to in fifteen minutes.

We had all the buzz-words that the MEPs would have wanted to hear without Mogherini actually sucking up to them as the ‘conscience’ of the EU (which is how Malmstrom referred to them in her hearing).

So there were pledges to appear in front of the EP more often than Ashton, as well as saying the EU should give ‘full support’ to Ukraine and treat Russia with a combination ‘of diplomacy and assertiveness’. There was even a bit of role play involving a bear analogy (watch Richard Howitt’s question) which she went along with but (mercifully) knew how to get out of before it became embarrassing.

But there was an awful lot of safe talk about ‘partners’, ‘streamlining’, ‘cross cutting’, ‘strategic’ management of EU Foreign Affairs Ministers’ meetings and NATO. And at one point she seemed to perform a shout out to every single Foreign Affairs partner the EU has ever worked with. There weren’t a great deal of numbers or good stories to make it real for audiences outside Brussels, although she did mention Tunisia as an example of a success story from the Arab uprising and one that should be made more of.

So, in short, this was an unspectacular, safe and very competent performance. If Mogherini is confirmed hopefully she’ll relax a bit and let some of the charm and personality out a bit more. Then she’d be a pretty impressive High Rep both in Brussels and beyond.

Photo: CC License from flickr – original source here.

A few words about the review of Elżbieta Bieńkowska’s hearing

When I watched the Elżbieta Bieńkowska hearing, and scored it 5/10, little did I know how much controversy that score would cause. It has been hit back and forth online now for days, becoming a political football in Polish politics in some way. There are also a bunch of comments under the post.

I’m going to explain the background of this a little further.

First, before this hearing I have never heard a speech given by Bieńkowska. Before she was nominated to be a member of Juncker’s Commission I had never even heard of her. I have no party political affiliation in Poland, nor indeed with any of the parties that are scrapping over her nomination. So make of it what you like, but I am in no way playing any Polish political game. I do not give a damn about that.

Second, as Polish MEP Róża Thun points out in this tweet:


I do own the Twitter account @BienkowskaEU. But this, like @ZapateroEU, @PascalLamyEU, @TimmermansEU and a number of others I own are just placeholders. They are not fakes, as Thun alleges. I register placeholder accounts just in case they might be useful in the future, and if the politician in question wants the account I will hand it over to them, for free.

Third, this whole project is about Commissioners’ ability (or not) to communicate. In my view Bieńkowska failed on this, and that is the reason for the low score – pure and simple. Her opening statement was a stream of soundbites, and her responses to MEPs were not any better. She had no clear rhetoric about what she would do in the post, nor an ability to communicate this to an audience beyond Brussels, and that is what we are looking for in this project.

Her communications were not very good, in my view, and that is why she received a low score. Why is that so complicated?

06.10, 1430 – Alenka Bratušek (Energy)

bratusek

Political Flair 4 / 10
Credibility 3 / 10
Energy 4 / 10
Warmth 4 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 4 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 5 / 10
Overall rating 4 / 10

The eyes of Brussels were on the Bratušek hearing, and she had plenty of smiles when arriving in the room. Her 12 minute opening speech was delivered soundly, relatively smoothly, although slightly breathlessly at the start. When talking about her time as Prime Minister she stated that she was used to working in high tension environment, but said that “a woman’s soft touch is needed to calm things down” – that line gained little favour with this reviewer.

On the question of her nomination she was clear and brief. Slovenia had two options, she said, either to wait for government formation in September, or put forward a list of three names to Juncker, and allow him to choose, and choose he did, she said.

Her opening statement, when it came to the specific aspects of her portfolio, was a line of sound bites one after the other, and it was impossible to work out what her own stamp would be on the policy.

As if that were not bad enough, things went downhill still further. The second question, from S&D MEP Kathleen Van Brempt MEP was about who, between her and Cañete, would set priorities in renewables and she had no answer. Concrete questions about finance (from Julie Girling), and further on renewables from Greens Turmes and Eickhout, were also not answered with any degree of conviction. She also kept on saying “at the risk of repeating myself”, and her body language became more and more defensive.

This hearing became painful to watch after just an hour. It is hard to tell what is due to Bratušek’s lack of grip of her subject, and what is due to general nerves and a general lack of communications ability. But this hearing has set a new low among the hearings so far.

Photo: CC License from flickr – original source here.

Round up – week 1

So we’ve rated all the hearings in the first week and here is the league table:

Neven Mimica – 9.5
Kristalina Georgieva – 9
Vytenis Andriukaitis – 9
Miguel Arias Cañete – 9
Margrethe Vestager – 8.5
Ceclia Malmström – 8.5
Pierre Moscovici – 8
Phil Hogan – 8
Marianne Thyssen – 8
Christos Stylianides – 8
Dimitris Avramopoulos – 8
Johannes Hahn – 7.5
Carlos Moedas – 7
Jonathan Hill – 7
Věra Jourová – 7
Maroš Šefčovič – 7
Günther Oettinger – 7
Tibor Navracsics – 6
Corina Crețu – 5.5
Karmenu Vella – 5.5
Elżbieta Bieńkowska – 5

Remember that we’ve been rating the Commissioners on their ability to communicate, and not on the substance of their briefs or their likelihood of being approved by the European Parliament.

That Georgieva, Malmström and Vestager score highly should be no surprise, but the appearance of Mimica, Andriukaitis and Cañete at the top of the table cannot have been expected in advance.

Anyway, take the long weekend to mull over our conclusions, and we will be back on Monday with scores for the final hearings!

02.10, 1800 – Margrethe Vestager (Competition)

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 14.37.10

Political Flair 6 / 10
Credibility 9 / 10
Energy 7 / 10
Warmth 7 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 6 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 10 / 10
Overall rating 8.5 / 10

“I will not be swayed by anyone” were the stand out words from Vestager’s introduction. She started briefly in Danish, and then switched to English, and had a stronger focus on the principles with which she will conduct her work than policy specifics – but that is inevitable given she is nominee for the Competition portfolio.

Unlike some nominees Vestager did not just read a script, instead glancing at what I assume was a list of bullet points. Her delivery was calm and reassured, and then when questions started she became a little more animated, showing small glimpses of a sense of humour when dealing with questions that were more rants than questions from MEPs. She also had mastered the main aspects of her brief prior to the hearing.

The Competition portfolio is a slightly odd one in the College of Commissioners – operating more alone than the other portfolios, and with more a question of the judgment of the Commissioner. Vestager’s calm reassurance – even gaining a positive reception from ECR MEP Kay Swinburne – struck the right note in this respect. She will be a competent, reassuring, calm and reliable Commissioner, and that is exactly the impression she has given in this hearing.

Photo: CC License from flickr – original source here.

02.10, 1330 – Kristalina Georgieva (Vice-President for Budget and Human Resources)

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Political Flair 8 / 10
Credibility 9 / 10
Energy 9 / 10
Warmth 8 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 8 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 9/ 10
Overall rating 9/ 10

Here we are: the Vice-Presidents or also called supercommissionners positions are finally on the EP grill. And after numerous rumors about getting one of the EU top jobs, Kristalina Georgieva has eventually been designated for a very political portfolio : Budget and Human Resources. With a good work as Commissionner in charge of Humanitarian aid, she’s been awaited by all the Brussels Bubble.

Under pressure of 3 committees, she started with a very didactic speech, facing and being realistic of the issues but also describing a program in different time scales : what she will do in her first days at the office but also in mid-term and facing the next MFF issue. She spoke from a very citizen-oriented point of view, talking about taxpayers money, tackling fraud as waste of money and hitting EU values.

After these first 15 minutes, she’s been on the grill especially on Budget questions, but linked to all the political dimensions of the Union (Gender equality, solidarity, global warming, etc.). She always seemed very comfortable, aswering all questions without any briefing and always looking at MEPs.

She also repeated her commitment to make these issues understable for european people, insisting on credibility and transparency of the EU. For instance, she called for an evaluation on some financial innovative tools, which raises concerns over the left, and said that if something does not work, the Commission must not be afraid to cancel something instead of generalizing it. Eventually, she’s been really realistic, saying she was disappointed the MFF has been lowered, but saying that this frame will not change. She also said that it was impossible to predict all the effect of a 7 year budget framework, calling for dialogue and evaluation.

If she gets into the office and take the floor for Q&A with people, she can be one of the forefront commissionner of the Juncker team.

Photo: CC License from wikipedia – original source here.

02.10, 1330 – Elżbieta Bieńkowska (Internal Market, Industry)

biekowska

Political Flair 5 / 10
Credibility 6 / 10
Energy 7 / 10
Warmth 4 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 4 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 9 / 10
Overall rating 5 / 10

Jobs and growth!

There can be no sustainable growth without a solid industrial base!

Industry is the heart of the real economy!

Goods and services are mutually dependent!

We need to boost industry’s competitiveness!

My approach will be comprehensive and will encompass all sectors!

Health and safety come first! (oh, hang on, wasn’t that jobs and growth?)

Let’s put Europe back to work!

So was the style of Bieńkowska’s hearing; it was in the Pizza Quattro Stagioni approach to hearings – give every member of the European Parliament a bit of a good taste, but at the expense of lacking any overall coherence. She also name checked half of her fellow Commissioners, trying to give the impression of being a collegial player.

Bieńkowska mostly read from a written script, clearly tried to cover a lot, and was high on slogans and sound-bites, and low on concrete policy commitments. Everything was a priority for her, meaning it was hard to tell what her priority actually was. A question from the S&D group tried to get more information about the balance of free markets and investment, and here too she tried to present both sides.

There is also something rather strange about Bieńkowska’s delivery, either in English (her initial statement) or in Polish (when answering) – she comes across as very stern and formal, patronising almost in her body language. Occasionally when answering questions she became more animated, and started to move her hands and engage MEPs in eye contact and came across better than in the initial statement.

Photo: CC License from flickr – original source here.