Category Archives: Hearings

01.10, 1800 – Miguel Arias Cañete (Climate Action & Energy)

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

Note: the controversy surrounding Canete makes me wonder if we should have opened a separate category for ‘character’ credibility. Let us know what you think. Thanks.

Plagued by accusations of sexism and conflicts of interest, Canete’s hearing was always going to be one of the most colourful. In the event, he he came out of the box swinging but did not deliver a flawless performance.

Bombastic in manner and imposing in stature, Canete raced through his (largely technocratic) opening speech in a volley of Spanish that left the interpreter sounding breathless and stressed.

Clearly watching the clock, Canete decided to deal with the character issues up front, which, depending on your view point, was a a proactive gesture towards transparency, or a cynical attempt to shoot your enemy’s fox outside your hen house. (Sorry for all the mixed metaphors today but I’m in a hurry to get this piece out).

In the end, he apologised for making sexist remarks earlier in the year and argued that he had sold his wife and son’s (and his own) shares in family related oil forms.  He held firm on this when pressed about his brother in law in the Q&A (which he handled in flawless English and French), even going as far as to explain that it takes 3-5 days to sell shares in Spain.

Canete also demonstrated considerable knowledge about renewable energy and the structural problems within Europe’s energy markets. This grasp of detail combined with a passionate defence of his green credentials (including a personal anecdote from his time as Environment Minister in Spain) made it very difficult for his critics (the Greens and Spanish Socialists) to land any real blows. How, after all, are you supposed to criticise a man who counters UKIP’s climate sceptic questioning with the phrase: ‘global warming is not a question of opinions, it’s a question of statistics’?

So yes, controversial. But also impressive and knowledgable.

Will this be enough to get him through?  I have no idea. I’ve given him a very high score for his performance in the Q&A and knowledge (hence he does well for credibility). But clearly others feel he is not a credible candidate. And he still could be the one that the EP sends back. But it won’t be on the basis of this hearing.

Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.

We shouldn’t forget the hearings are theatre

We’ve had some interesting feedback on the scorecard so far. So thank you for all your input. One of the themes (criticisms) we’ve come up against is the idea that we’re avoiding taking a stand on the politics and policy by not commenting on the ‘substance’ of the hearings.

In fact, we do include the grasp of policy in our criteria (it’s included in credibility and we all refer to it in our individual pieces).  We just don’t make it the centre piece of our assessment. Because that’s what everybody else does. And we don’t have a political or policy axe to grind so we’ve chosen not to have that conversation here.

Of course the substance matters. But the idea that the Commissioners are going to have the depth of knowledge or experience of this particular brief before they are in the job, or are going to drop some kind of moral howler which will force them to withdraw is naive.

Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget that these events are highly stage managed pieces of political theatre where opening statements and follow up Q&A are not only prepared in advance but tightly corralled in terms of time.

As such they are, in many ways, a series of long elevator pitches in which smart Commissioners set out their vision and (some) MEPs ride their particular hobby horse so that they can tweet about it afterwards and say they are doing something. Everyone knows the rules of the game and cuts their cloth accordingly.

In this context, making an assessment of how well a Commissioner weaves their substance (or lack of) into an argument, connects with their audience and seems fired up for the job is not un-important. For too long these qualities have been considered secondary in Brussels, which is almost certainly one of the reasons why euroscepticism is on the up.

The aim of our project is to try and make an early assessment of the kinds of skills the Commissioners will need if they are going to make the EU more accountable and accessible to all Europeans. Policy and personal character matter as well. But they are not the only skills that should be valued.

01.10, 1330 – Jonathan Hill (Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union)

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Political Flair 8 / 10
Credibility 6 / 10
Energy 7/ 10
Warmth 8 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 8 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 7/ 10
Overall rating 7/ 10

Given the narrowness of the tightrope Hill had been given to walk, he did the only politically sensible thing he could. He walked carefully down the centre. And on tip-toes.

This was an old-school Tory on a charm offensive, seizing the low hanging fruit straight away by adopting the self depracating manner of the lesser-spotted Brit speaking a foreign language abroad.  (French and Italian).  And of course this will have gone down well in Brussels in a way that Anglo-supremacists who’ve never lived abroad (and think the best approach with foreigners is to bark more loudly in English) will never fully grasp.

Furthermore, his language and manner oozed moderation. This was a man who wanted the Parliament to know that he had a ‘proven record of consensus’, that he is ‘open-minded’ and that he thinks the choice between ‘regulation and growth’ is a ‘false dichotomy’. And all delivered in a soft tone, with lots of eye-contact, glasses being pulled on and off (why not just leave them on?) and peppered with literary references from across Europe.

All the while the sharks were circling, whether in the form of UKIP trying to call him out over his inability to protect the City of London or French socialists desperate to pin him on details of what ‘safe regulation’ really means.  He balanced on the tightrope through all of these.

So far, so tactical. Unfortunately, charm cannot make up for gaps in knowledge .  And while I have some sympathy for the Commissioners-designate who are expected to become overnight experts, to say Hill didn’t seem to have a full command of the brief would be something of an understatement. When pressed on CNAV funds, Eurobonds, Solvency Two or the Capital Union he kicked the questions into the long grass with long, woolly answers and an emphasis on due process.

It’s hard to tell whether this approach was deliberate or reflects a lack of a grasp of the substance. I liked Hill because he came across as sincere and thoughtful. But there’s a limit to how far the  Hugh (pre-Divine Brown) Grant act will carry him if he can’t back it up with the substance in what is clearly a very complex and technically challenging portfolio.

Photo: CC License from wikipedia – original source here.

01.10, 1330 – Věra Jourová (Justice, Consumers & Gender Equality)

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Political Flair 7 / 10
Credibility 8 / 10
Energy 6/ 10
Warmth  7/ 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 6 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 7.5/ 10
Overall rating 7/ 10

Tasked with a new portfolio that combines the sensitive areas of justice, gender and consumers, Jourova needed to find an early leitmotif that could yoke these three seemingly disparate themes together without making it look like a random shopping list. In the end she went for ‘more choice, more protection, more trust’, using an uncontroversial  tricolon to create a red thread that will ‘put people’ at the centre of her mandate.

This was also a deeply personal speech, citing Jourova’s experience of being wrongfully imprisoned for corruption, as well as a reference to Czech national hero Vaclav Havel as a champion of the values that Europeans hold dear.

So far, so catch-all, so crowd-pleasing. And Jourova will have hit all the key dog whistle words needed to mobilise the groups she’s been assigned to protecting. That said, some MEPs were clearly annoyed that she will have to share these issues with other Commissioners andhow this works in practise may well be a problem.

In terms of delivery, Jourova came across as sincere and credible and she got a round of applause at the end of the hearing when she conceded she was tired and thanked the MEPs for the nice and unexpected atmosphere. And at times she even looked as though she couldn’t believe her luck that she was sitting there being interviewed for this job.  But she came across as a little cool and lacking in energy, which is a shame since she clearly feels her experience at the sharp end of the Czech justice system has given her the fire in her belly to do this job well.  Again, this comes down to reading off the page and she probably also has a naturally low key style.  But I have marked her down (possibly a bit unfairly) because she didn’t communicate her internal enthusiasm convincingly enough.

Jourova has a real chance to use her portfolio to connect with Europeans who feel that the EU has brought them nothing but trouble. But her team will need to work hard to find real stories  (noticeably absent from her speech) to back up her argument that her term will ‘put people’ at the centre. Otherwise the talk of women’s and Roma rights and  creating a ‘fairer’ single market will remain lofty legalese that rings hollow in the ears of people outside Brussels.

01.10, 0900 – Marianne Thyssen (Employment, Social Affairs, Skills & Labour Mobility)

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

Marianne Thyssen almost nailed it. “In life it is important to say things as they are” was a refreshing opening line for a EP hearing. Fighting unemployment and putting the “social” back into ‘social market economy’ will be her priorities. She seemed confident and on top of her topic. You could tell that she is an extremely experienced politician and that she has a background in EU politics; also when she announced to have “no quick solutions for complex problems”. Her analysis of the crisis in Europe was also spot-on: “We have not managed to restore the confidence of Europeans”. She repeatedly highlighted that current levels of unemployment are simply unacceptable. Her aim is to create a fairer and a more sustainable Europe. As a former MEP she clearly knows what her audience wants to hear (do I really have to mention that she can effortlessly switch between English, Dutch and French?) Well, so far so good.

The problem of the hearing emerged in the second part of her opening statement – and continued through the Q&A sessions: The toolbox of the European Commission is extremely limited in this area – but at least she is fully aware of the problem as you could tell from her answers to MEPs.

“I want to stimulate investment in job creation, help unemployed back to work – and I will mobilise all available financial instruments to invest in people…” is one of those sentences that sums up the paradox of grand plans but limited EU competence. Most of the issues firmly lie in the responsibility of the member states and it remains questionable how exactly the EC can improve the situation (except with some rather small funding instruments and a few recommendations) What exactly can the European Commission do to boost job creation, growth, labour mobility etc? Is it enough to include more social elements in the European semester? Questions that Mariann Thyssen will continue to address in the coming years.

She vehemently defended the principle of ‘free movement’ but she might look into the problems of the ‘posted workers’ directive’ – something that will be welcomed in the UK and Germany. Her political approach is straight forward. Facts inform policy. Solid analysis guides negotiations. She seemed competent and came across as a tough and clever negotiator. (It’s not surprising that Herman Van Rompuy discovered her political talents). I think she might surprise us as a European Commissioner.

In her closing statement, Thyssen put her fate into the hands of the member states: Her term as Commissioner can only be called a success if the unemployment situation in Europe has improved.

Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.

01.10, 0900 – Corina Crețu (Regional Policy)

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Political Flair 5 / 10
Credibility 6 / 10
Energy 6 / 10
Warmth 5 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 5 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 7.5 / 10
Overall rating 5.5 / 10

Corina Crețu is a former spokesperson of Romanian president Ion Iliescu and she has been an MEP since 2007. However, in her opening statement she did not mention her experience in the European Parliament which is surprising given her general lack of experience when it comes to regional policy. She also seemed a bit nervous reading out a statement that did not work as a speech – a surprise, given her long career in politics. Maybe this is indeed one of the key lessons for many politician in Brussels: Speechwriting and drafting policy documents are two different things. If you only use headlines from the DG REGIO website for your speech you end up with some sort of ‘regional policy bullshit bingo’:

Regulatory framework – check;  conditionality, more jobs and growth, synergies, community action – check; programming period, not business as usual, beneficiaries, concrete results, together we are stronger – check;  good governance, institutional capacity, sound financial management, evaluation – check; zero tolerance to fraud, constructive dialogue, transparency, mutual trust – check.

There was absolutely no vision in her opening statement. No new ideas, nothing.  We don’t know what she is planning in the coming years or what her priorities will be. She had nothing to say, and used many words to say it. There were a lot of general and vague statements without a clear structure (despite her insistence of using numbers to structure her speech) At some point it even felt that she contradicted herself by saying that ‘regional policy is a tool of solidarity’ but not ‘charity from rich to poor’.

Let’s hope that one of the MEPs will ask how her “zero tolerance to fraud” will work in practice and how she intends to make life simpler for SMEs that find regional policy instruments “too bureaucratic”. During the first round of questions a few misunderstandings happened and she struggled to make a point in the allocated time – the next two hours could become quite difficult for Corina Crețu…

Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.

30.09, 1800 – Maroš Šefčovič (Transport, Space)

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Political Flair 6 / 10
Credibility 8 / 10
Energy 7 / 10
Warmth 5 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 5 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 10 / 10
Overall rating 7 / 10

It is not a giant leap to swap “inter-institutional relations” with “space policy” when you work in a place called Berlaymont. A cynic might respond that the European Commission is not the sort of environment  where giant leaps are possible anyway. But, be that as it may, you can tell that Maroš Šefčovič, the former European Commission Vice President, must have read many Commission proposals (and the infamous citizens’ summaries!) during his time in Brussels. He knows what’s going on in different DGs, he is slick and professional.

However, his opening statement was a breathless recital of a list of bullet points he seemingly copy/pasted into a document. How to put this nicely? The art of reading out loud a written statement and making it sound like a great speech is not one of Maroš Šefčovič’s strengths. It sounded like this: “Transport is at the heart of European integration … Europe needs all modes of transport … we need a sustainable and innovative transport system … I am a strong believer in [include one of EU’s transport initiatives] … transport is the backbone of modern society …  it’s important for the 21st century … it is a showcase for European competitiveness… and we need to protect the environment”. But it was almost funny to hear him promise  “cool jobs for young people” (!) in the context of “interoperable, integrated products”. And yes, he mentioned the “deep and comprehensive” approach. Well, this is just the sort of Brussels jargon nobody really understands. The substance was definitely there but the sparks were missing. And when I say substance I mean a lot  of promises.

As he has been in Brussels for a while he also knows how to flatter MEPs (maybe he remembers the rather awkward hearing 5 years ago): he not only reminded MEPs that he also ran for the European Parliament and campaigned in the election campaign he also also did a very impressive “Juncker” switching between Slovak, German, English and French.

Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.

30.09, 1800 – Christos Stylianides (Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Management)

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Political Flair 9 / 10
Credibility 7 / 10
Energy 10 / 10
Warmth 5 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 7 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 9 / 10
Overall rating 8 / 10

Christos “the voice” Stylianides gave a passionate opening statement about the challenges of humanitarian aid. In fact, it was so passionate that he probably could have entertained the chamber without a microphone. If he wanted to demonstrate how forceful a “voice of the voiceless” (that he aims to become) could sound – I think he did quite well. However, giving a passionate speech only works if you are able to alternate your passion with some quiet, reflective points. Here, he clearly failed. We witnessed 10 minutes of pure adrenalin. But then again, considering the occasion we should be thankful that there are still politicians hat show some signs of passion.

Overall, he seemed well-briefed and said the right things. He also talked about his past as a doctor and his background of growing up in Cyprus to make the point that he understands the importance of humanitarian aid and aid workers. He sounded like an experienced politician although he never held a ministerial post back in Cyprus. One of the interesting bits in his speech was his commitment that aid should be based on ‘needs – not on political expediency’ – something that other Commissioners with foreign policy portfolios may disagree with.

Did I mention he sounded passionate? Actually he almost sounded like a NGO worker who was a bit overexcited by the “huge challenges” ahead of him. And he managed to put all those challenges in one long sentence: Ebola, ISIS, South Sudan…  Unfortunately his statement also included some worn-out catch phrases. He wants to become the “spokesperson of the most vulnerable” who also cares about the “forgotten crisis”. He agrees that “prevention is better than cure”, and that the EU should stop with its strategy of doing “too little too late”. Here is an exercise: Make 1 (ONE) sentence using the words “transparency”,“accountability”, “risk assessment”, “constant evaluation”, “resilience building” and “economies of scale” and you’ll get the idea…

Well, after a while it got a bit tiring with all this passion and thankfully the round of questions began. Stylianides also switched from English to Greek which changed the whole atmosphere (at least for the non-Greek speakers). “Dear colleague, thank you for your question…” became the new meme of the hearing. But overall he played it cool, he knew his stuff, he answered to all questions with ease and agreed with a lot of what Parliamentarians suggested (always a good strategy in hearings!).

Stylianides seems like a humble guy. He mentioned a few times that he is still learning about some of the issues. He was also not afraid to say that he does not (yet)  know about a certain topic – a rare thing for politicians to admit. He stressed the need to cooperate with other Commissioners and emphasised his commitment to continue the work of Kristalina Georgieva.

So, don’t expect big surprises when it comes to EU humanitarian aid.

Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.

30.09, 1330 – Dimitris Avramopoulos (Migration & Home Affairs)

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Political Flair 8 / 10
Credibility 8 / 10
Energy 9 / 10
Warmth 6 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 7 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 8 / 10
Overall rating 8 / 10

With the confidence and authority of the political veteran, Dimitris Avramopoulos launched into a fast-paced, punchy opening speech. Migration & Home Affairs is a sensitive and explosive portfolio and Avramopoulos made no attempt to play it soft, using words like “exploding”, “struggling”, “threats” and “ghettos” in the first two minutes of his speech. No story-telling here: there were many issues to get through. Perhaps too many though, as it required concentrated listening to absorb them all, and Avramopoulos had to rush through the end of his speech to beat the clock.

Avramopoulos exuded confidence in his delivery (although one camera angle clearly showed a nervously bouncing leg). Despite flying through pages and pages of speaking notes, he gave the impression that this speech was his alone.

The pace slowed down for the questions: so much so that Avramopoulos complained that the clock restrictions were stressing him out. He continued to deliver answers in a confident, sometimes uncompromising, style. This was not a lighthearted delivery – but perhaps any joviality would be misplaced given the portfolio Avramopoulos faces.

Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.

30.09, 1330 – Johannes Hahn (Neighbourhood Policy)

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Political Flair 7.5 / 10
Credibility 9 / 10
Energy 7 / 10
Warmth 8/ 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 6/ 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 9 / 10
Overall rating 7.5 / 10

Hahn was a completely mixed bag. I wanted to write him off as a technocrat hiding behind the safety of process and a set-piece speech. On the one hand he was relaxed and approachable during the Q&A, combining gravitas and sincerity with flashes of an impish wit (both in English and his native German). But the speech was mostly dull and safe. By and large an uncontroversial second-term candidate, Hahn set out his stall with three broad brush ‘make or break’ issues (the rule of law, economy and democracy) which no one sensible could really take issue with. However, he frog marched through the speech at a pace that was practically brusque and didn’t alter his tone when moving from relatively untroubled countries such as Armenia to Syria, Egypt and Libya. There were very few personal anecdotes (beyond referring to his experience at DG Regio) and there weren’t a great deal of numbers, although he did say englargement was off the table for the next 5 years. His body language warmed up considerably once the Q&A started but he was evasive on migrants and refugees and resorted to the safe EU language of ‘sustainable solutions’. Overall, he was a bit frustrating to watch. This is clearly a man who is confident of his material, isn’t afraid of the limelight but can’t be bothered to add any stardust or passion. Which is a bit of a shame but not a deal breaker.

Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.

30.9, 0900 – Carlos Moedas (Research)

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Political Flair 7 / 10
Credibility 8 / 10
Energy 6 / 10
Warmth 7 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 7 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 9 / 10
Overall rating 7 / 10

Carlos Moedas is relatively new to politics and to Brussels. Pity then that his opening statement sounded like a rerun of speeches we’ve already heard over lukewarm wine and crab sandwiches somewhere in Brussels. Moedas commendably started his opening statement with his life story. It fell a bit flat though – not because of his impressive journey from a disadvantaged region of Portugal – but because it was peppered with clichés that hardly resonate beyond Brussels: “unique European values”, “instruments of European solidarity”, “the European project”… He used the first five minutes of his statement to demonstrate how much he loves the EU – without a mention of the job assigned to him.

He continued with the abstract Euro jargon (“competitiveness”, “European semester”) through his description of his take on the research & innovation job ahead. Structuring his priorities into three areas was good, however. And then – at last – we saw a lift in energy as he rounded up his statement: saying he would focus on “delivery, delivery, delivery” and sounded convinced about “breaking silos”.

When it came to the questions, Moedas seemed to start getting into it. He gave concise and confident answers that were well-structured. A genuine enthusiasm started to shine through, which was conveyed in his body language, tone, an occasional smile and his citing of some concrete examples. The capability to be more compelling is there in Moedas, let’s hope he lets it break out.

Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.

30.09, 0900 – Vytenis Andriukaitis (Health & Food Safety)

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

You have to hand it to Vytenis Andriukaitis. Earning a round of applause from MEPs for your opening statement is no mean feat. But Andriukaitis got right in there telling his life story – starting in the gulag and rising to over 20 years “saving lives” as a doctor. It was delivered with feeling, using emotive language (“trust”, “my calling”) and through no less than four languages. He gave the impression – unlike some others – that he relishes the prospect of his new job.

Andriukaitis’s performance was not just about emotion and storytelling though. He is knowledgeable: he repeated the fact that he is a doctor to illustrate his knowledge. And honest: he stated that he still has more to learn about his portfolio. He answered questions throughout – even those where he sat on the fence – with confidence and conviction, saying several times “my position is clear”. He kept his answers short and used some useful real-life examples such as when talking about vaccinations. We rarely saw a smile from Andriukaitis but instead of coming across as stern or aloof, this reflects a man who is serious about the task ahead.

Photo: CC License from Wikipedia – original source here.

29.9, 1830 – Neven Mimica (Development)

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Political Flair 8.5 / 10
Credibility 9 / 10
Energy 9 / 10
Warmth 9 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 9 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 10 / 10
Overall rating 9.5 / 10

Watching Neven Mimica you can’t help wonder why they didn’t make this guy the President or at least a VP. He may well disagree, in response to one question Mimica played down the role of the seven VPs as simply allowing better team work. His Hearing went well. The Croatian comes over as passionate, knowledgeable, personable and able to project the EU and its benefits to a wider audience than the Bubble. A Hearing on the Development dossier took in climate change, TTIP, the Financial Transactions Tax, G8, property rights, and he showed himself pretty on top of his issues. My main takeaway was the next Commission will work together more closely to get the link between trade and development right, and the need to get value for money. So all in all, a nice change after the turgid Oettinger, someone who projects a real passion about getting things done.

Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.

29.9, 1830 – Günther Oettinger (Digital)

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

Filling Neelie Kroes’ shoes was never going to be easy. The fact that the gaffe prone Gunther Oettinger was put forward for the job should at least keep the headlines ticking over. Oettinger will have a tough job ahead of him breaking down barriers to a true single telecoms market, but made a big play of his experience in the energy market and that (early) part came across as okay. He was less convincing when actually talking about things like, The Internet. It was a bit like your Dad at points. So like many seasoned Brussels figures, good on the big picture, big jargon, but when it got down to brass tacks, very specific questions about policy or products or people, it all went a bit flat. It should be enough for these MEPs though. But for those outside the room, there was no real vision or insights.

Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.

29.9, 1430 – Karmenu Vella (Enviroment, Fisheries)

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Political Flair 5/10
Credibility 6 / 10
Energy 6 / 10
Warmth 6 / 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 5 / 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 8 / 10
Overall rating 5.5 / 10

I’ve revised the likelihood of Vella being accepted by the EP down to an 8. I still think he’s likely to get through but there are question marks and the lower score reflects that.

There’s no way to put this nicely but Vella looks and sounds like one of the old guard i.e. an older white man in a grey suit. Straight out of the box, he had his buzz words – ‘sustainability’, ‘circular economy’, ‘green economy’, ‘competitiveness and jobs’. Just what Brussels needs more of, right?  Vella can’t help his background and age but his liberal use of EU jargon was straight out of the hand book and won’t endear him to a disgruntled electorate or some of the MEPs. Vella was clearly well briefed and, as he quipped, if he’d spent as much time getting to grips with his university degree as he did with his portfolio then he’d have got a PhD by now. The opening remarks were composed and assured (if almost entirely read from the page) and he used examples from his time as Maltese Tourism Minister and his childhood to counter difficult questions about whether he would protect Maltese birds and fish. He also knew his way around the treaties and international fisheries treaties. But he didn’t come across as fired up or enthused about the brief and I didn’t count many smiles (from him or the MEPs).  And that matters. Overall, I’m reminded of the answer one-time Republican hopeful Fred Thompson gave to reporters when asked on a scale of 1-10 how much he wanted to be President. ‘About a 7’.

Photo: CC License from Wikipedia – original source here.