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

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 14.37.24

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *