29.9, 1830 – Neven Mimica (Development)


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)


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.

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.

29.9, 1430 – Karmenu Vella (Enviroment, Fisheries)


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.

29.9, 1430 – Ceclia Malmström (Trade)


Political Flair 8 / 10
Credibility 8/ 10
Energy 9 / 10
Warmth 9/ 10
Ability to connect with people outside Brussels 6.5/ 10
Likelihood of being approved by the EP 8.5 / 10
Overall rating 8.5/ 10

Update on 2 October.

Having seen some of the others I’ve revised Malmstrom up because she was a lot better in comparison. And because she was given a harder time than some. And because she went first which is always hard.  At the moment I’m still not convinced she’s got enough  to communicate effectively with people outside Brussels.

Update on 30 September. I’ve revised down my score for the likelihood of Malmstrom being approved by the EP. I still think she’ll get through but it’s hubristic to give her a 10 especially in light of the concerns about her.

Malmstrom has done this before and you can tell. What she lacked in a coherent vision and watertight answers she made up for with warmth, enthusiasm, empathy and inclusive body language. As such, she was mostly pretty good to watch.  She even showed a flash of anger (which can be a good rhetorical aid) when pressed about the leaked emails relating to the EU/US trade talks. That said, she set out her stall early on as being all about ‘transparency and accountability’ then struggled to define what this would mean in practice. When pushed by British Tory Emma McClarkin in the Q&A she couldn’t spell out the tangible benefits of current trade agreements (e.g. Singapore) which means her speech would probably have worked for the Brussels Bubble but not a wider audience.  Her top-line grasp of the substance was impressive – she was able to reference minutiae from the Canada and Singapore agreements.  However, she needs to make trade – which she concedes is a ‘dry and technical’ subject more concrete for Europeans. Overall, she’s set the bar quite high though. Not sure if the others will be as impressive in how they hold it together.

Have a look at my #EPHearings2014 tweets (@mediawhizz) if you want to see more live comments from the actual session.

Her opening remarks can be read here.

Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.

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.