The European Commission president’s choice of commissioner for budget and human resources – a job that involves managing a €161bn annual budget and more than 30,000 staff – is expected to be endorsed on January 12, despite opposition from MEPs and NGOs.
The centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group, the second largest political group in the European Parliament, has said that appointing Günther Oettinger as the EC’s vice-president and finance chief “would send completely the wrong message to the European public”.
As reported by Global Government Forum online, Oettinger is known for his offensive remarks and his close relationships with controversial lobbyists. Most recently, he was criticised for mocking women and gay marriage, for describing Chinese ministers as “slitty-eyed” during a speech in Hamburg last October, and for taking a ride on board a Kremlin lobbyist’s private jet last May.
“He has been in the news for all the wrong reasons,” said the S&D spokesperson for the budget control committee, Inés Ayala Sender. “Rewarding this kind of behaviour with a promotion would send completely the wrong message to the European public.”
The S&D spokesperson for the budget committee, Eider Gardiazábal Rubial, added: “He does not seem to grasp the magnitude of the pressure facing the EU budget and his answers on increased transparency and lobbying were particularly weak.”
In an open letter published before a January 9 hearing in the European Parliament, a number of NGOs including Transparency International EU urged the European Parliament to oppose the appointment.
“At this crucial moment for the EU, it is more vital than ever to have a strong and credible commitment from the European Commission to counter discrimination and act for equality for all,” said the letter. “In our view, Oettinger is unfit to inspire compliance with existing ethics and transparency rules among Commission staff and his peers.”
But during the two-hour hearing, Oettinger insisted on his commitment to diversity, equality and independence. “I am completely independent vis-a-vis lobby groups,” he told MEPs. “I don’t have any shares in car manufacturers, energy companies or anywhere else.”