Category Archives: Opinion

#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 !

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?

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!

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.

What this project is *not*

I’ve come in for some grief this afternoon for Malmström getting 7.5/10 in her hearing, because the substance of what she said caused some controversy. Tweets like this:

came my way.

Among the 8 people currently volunteering on this project we have no common ideology. Some of us may agree with TTIP, others disagree. Same for green issues, security and defence and many others. This was outlined in our original introduction.

We therefore aim to assess the Commissioners’ capacity to communicate, and the grasp of their brief, and how they come across in their hearings. That’s it.

Gripe with us if you wish. Disagree with the politics of the Commissioners by all means. But we are not trying to judge whether their policies are right.

Introduction to the project

Welcome to Commissioner Hearings project – to assess and rank the performance of the Commissioners-designate during the hearings in the European Parliament.

We are a group of independent consultants working on EU-related stuff, whether in speechwriting, social media, media training or other areas of communications and public affairs.

From 29 September to 7 October we will score the candidates according to a set of criteria where we think we can add value. The final results will be ranked in a league table that will remain online once the hearings finish. A short analysis paragraph will also be provided for each candidate.

Our criteria broadly cover the qualities we believe should be met by anyone who wants to be an ‘ambassador’ for the Commission specifically, and the EU more generally.

This means we will be looking for the Commissioners-designate to demonstrate credibility (knowledge of their brief and ability to handle tough questions), warmth and energy, rhetorical flair (or lack of) and the likelihood of them being accepted by the European Parliament.

We will also assess them for the common touch i.e. whether they look like they will be able to connect with an audience outside the Brussels Bubble. This is particularly important in light of the EU’s dreadful standing in many Member States, as well as President Juncker’s pledge to make his new team more accessible to the media and ordinary people across Europe.

Our assessment will be based on each candidate’s speech as well as some of the initial Q&A. Clearly, it is not intended to be exhaustive. Rather, we aim to provide a snapshot of how the Commissioners-designate stack up on their first major outing. Second term Commissioners may have a slight advantage over some of the rookies but having spent four years in Brussels is by no means a guarantee of being an impressive speaker.

Finally, we do aim to cover all of the hearings as they happen but given that we all have other work (and family) commitments we apologise if some of the analysis and scores don’t appear until a bit later!

We hope you find this project interesting and look forward to your feedback.

Laura (Shields), Jon (Worth) and the rest of the team.