Juncker’s Team May Face First Casualty in Bratusek Vote

The incoming European Commission is set to suffer its first casualty with lawmakers on the verge of throwing out the nomination of former Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek to coordinate energy policies.

The European Parliament environment and industry committees are scheduled to vote at 6 p.m. today in Brussels on Bratusek’s candidacy to be the commission vice president for energy union. A rejection would force the new commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, to come up with another Slovenian candidate or risk a parliamentary veto of his full 28-member team.

“The chances that she will survive the vote are minimal, so she may even withdraw before the vote,” Bas Eickhout, a Dutch member of the Greens group in EU Parliament, said in an interview yesterday after coordinators of political groups in the environment and industry committees met to discuss Bratusek.

Parliament is poised to draw first blood in its battle to control European Union policies during the next five-year term, and threatens to sabotage the appointments of a handful of other commissioners, including Britain’s Jonathan Hill, slated to be financial-services chief and Tibor Navracsics, nominated for the education and culture role.

Pierre Moscovici, the former French finance minister who is designated to become the EU’s next economy chief, and Miguel Arias Canete, proposed to become the EU’s climate and energy commissioner, are also among those to have their approval delayed after hearings before Parliament.

Bratusek’s Fate

Speculation over Bratusek’s fate intensified today, with some members of the Parliament announcing on Twitter that she had pulled out. Those claims were later denied by Juncker spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud.

“Today’s rumors on my resignation are false and are a continuation of pressures that have been going on over my candidacy,” Bratusek said today in a posting on her Facebook page. Telephone calls to her office were not returned.

The environment and industry panels will probably vote on Arias Canete at their meeting today, following a verdict on Bratusek, whose hearing on Monday drew criticism from across political groups in the European legislature.

The European People’s Party, the biggest group in the assembly, described her performance as “surprisingly weak.” Krisjanis Karins, a Latvian member of the EPP, said Bratusek failed to convince the group that she had the pro-EU track record necessary to push through the much-needed energy union, according to an Oct. 6 statement.

‘New Low’

Bratusek set “a new low” for the hearings, said Matthias Groote, a German member of the Socialists and Democrats group, Her answers were vague and her vision lacked ambition, he said on his website.

“My questioning by MEPs was indeed focused on principled answers, but that was my conscious decision after many consultations,” Bratusek said in her Facebook posting.

The Slovenian nominee may be replaced by a female candidate from the Socialists group, according to Claude Turmes, a Luxembourgish member of the Greens group. Arias Canete and Navracsics will stay with “cosmetic amputation of portfolios,” Turmes said on his Twitter account.

It is not clear yet who would get the post of vice president for energy union in any reshuffle following Bratusek’s potential rejection. The position may be given to Maros Sefcovic, nominated as transport and space commissioner, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

EU history is littered with fights between the parliament, the bloc’s only directly elected body, and the commission, made up of national appointees who propose and enforce EU regulations. The high point came in 1999 when the parliament ejected the sitting commission.

A parliament up-or-down vote on the entire commission is scheduled for Oct. 22.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.