MEPs have voted by a large majority in support of the new European Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker. The vote in Strasbourg on Wednesday went 423 for, 209 against and there were 67 abstentions, paving the way for the Commission to take office next month.
The commissioners underwent gruelling cross-examination at individual hearings in the European Parliament.
Juncker changed some appointments after objections from MEPs. Nine UK Conservatives abstained from the vote, but six voted for and three were against.
Hardline Eurosceptics, including the UK Independence Party, opposed the Commission, as did the Greens and leftists. But the main party blocs voted for the new team.
Reaction was swift, with the European Conservatives and Reformists Group leader Syed Kamall saying, “The structure of the new commission was positive and we liked many of the priorities that it has been set, but there are some new Commissioners that have been below par.”
He said, “In five years’ time we will debate the Juncker Commission’s legacy. We will judge it on whether it lifted its eyes from institutional navel gazing and towards the wider world; and on whether it tackled important issues like energy security, the digital single market and opening trade.
“As an open and democratic group the ECR had a number of discussions about this commission. We have some concerns and some things we like.”
In the debate, UKIP leader Nigel Farage told Juncker: “I don’t think that the European public or commentators understand what the European Commission really is. The Commission is the executive, it is the Government of Europe and it has the sole right to propose legislation. It does so in consultation with 3,000 secret committees staffed mainly by big business and big capital and all the legislation is proposed in secret.”
“Once something becomes a European law, it is the European Commission themselves who have the sole right to propose repeal or change of that legislation.”
Further comment came from Olivier Hoedeman, of Corporate Europe Observatory, who said: “Today’s vote to accept the Juncker Commission is a huge disappointment. Too many of the Juncker commissioners have backgrounds which make them unsuitable for their new portfolio and MEPs should have shown some political muscle by rejecting those about whom serious concerns were raised.”
Elsewhere, Emma Marcegaglia, President of BUSINESSEUROPE, said, “It’s a positive sign that Juncker has formed his team without further delay. His team received a strongvote of support from the European Parliament.
“Now we urge Mr Juncker and his colleagues to start their work immediately, as time is of essence. Not a minute more can be lost to strengthen our suffering economies. BUSINESSEUROPE will therefore present a comprehensive 10-point plan with its expectations to the new European Commission next week”.
By Martin Banks