Three days after the hearing os Sir Julian King, UK’s EU Commissioner-designate in Strasbourg, the European Parliament endorsed his candidature for the Security Union portfolio. Sir King was proposed after Lord Jonathan Hill resigned the next day of Brexit vote ate the end of June.
The European Parliament’s Strasbourg plenary supported Sir King’s appointment by 394 votes to 161, with 83 abstentions, in a secret ballot, three days after his public hearing from the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee, according to the article 246 of the Treaty of Function of the EU (TFEU).
Sir King’s portfolio is going to be supportive on the implementation ofvthe European Agenda on Security and he is expected to contribute to delivering an operational and effective Security Union, working under the guidance of Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermanns, complementing the work of Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner on Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.
However, this vote was not as easy as expected. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) has decided to abstain from the vote, as second thoughts on questions that remained with no answers, stormed the members of ALDE.
With 70 MEPs, ALDE is at the moment the fourth political power in the European Parliament. Its vice-president, Sophie In’t Veld, informed political group leaders on Thursday, that the ALDE Group will vote to abstain on the nomination of Sir King as the UK Commissioner.
ALDE suggest that the appointment of Sir King on behalf of the UK is not the one that is causing problems, but the Security Union portfolio suitability for a member state that is about to kick-start the Brexit process, is questioned. This choice was made by the EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, as he is responsible to handling out the mission letter to EU Commissioners.
Brussels sources clarify that President Juncker is not in direct conversation with the European Parliament Political groups on this issues.
“ALDE is convinced Julian King is highly competent, and has the qualities needed to fulfil the position of Commissioner. We are also convinced of his European commitment,” said In’t Veld, that appeared to be sceptical.
On LIBE Committee hearing, the MEPs do not only assess the personal qualities of the candidate, “but also the political context” adds In’t Veld.
“In this regard, ALDE feels President Juncker should clarify his decision on the allocation of this portfolio, in view of the UK opt out of the policy area and of the Brexit,” underlines In’t Veld. “We would also like some clarifications about the position of the EU Commissioner during the Brexit negotiations. Against this backdrop, we feel we are unable to answer the second question in the affirmative,” concludes In’t Veld.
On the same issue, Cecilia Wikström, ALDE coordinator of the civil liberties committee in the European Parliament, regrets ALDE’s abstain from the plenary vote on Sir King. “We do so out of respect for him, knowing he would be a good commissioner. Given the British opt-outs in the field of security and the unprecedented situation after the Brexit vote, the ALDE-group can unfortunately not vote in favour of the Commissioner designate”.