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


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.

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