STRASBOURG — EU lawmakers will grill Wopke Hoekstra, the former Dutch deputy prime minister who is in line to be the EU’s commissioner for climate action, on October 2, a spokesperson for the European Parliament confirmed Thursday.
The fiscal hard-liner will face a grueling three-hour ordeal in front of lawmakers from the environment, industry, foreign affairs and development committees in Strasbourg, who will likely be eager to probe his lack of experience in climate policymaking and the fact he worked for oil giant Shell.
The following morning, MEPs will also subject Commission Executive Vice President Maroš Šefčovič to questions about his expanded portfolio as Green Deal chief in another three-hour hearing. This will come just days after Slovakia holds an election where Šefčovič’s social democratic Smer party — and its controversial pro-Russian populist leader Robert Fico — are on track to win.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has lined up Hoekstra and Šefčovič to fill the gap left by the departure of Frans Timmermans, who quit the Commission to lead a Green-Left alliance in the Dutch election slated for November.
Von der Leyen split up Timmermans’ roles into two parts which would see Hoekstra reporting to Šefčovič. Hoekstra hails from the center-right European People’s Party, whereas Timmermans represented the center-left Socialists and Democrats faction, meaning the appointment of Hoekstra as his replacement would tip the Commission rightward nine months before EU elections.
Top members of the European Parliament in the Conference of Presidents finalized the timetable for the hearings Thursday morning. The Parliament holds only a consultative role in the appointment of commissioners and lacks the power to reject the candidates outright. But it can request an embarrassing second hearing for the nominees — and the Commission is obliged to take its final opinion into account.