Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Working with the new European Commission

Charlemagne is back in EuropeWhile the UK media has been focusing on Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle and what it means for the Tories’ 2015 election strategy, an even bigger shake-up has been taking place in the running of the European Union. A bit like during the Lib Dem European election campaign, the most frequently heard words this week in Brussels and Strasbourg have been “jobs, jobs, jobs”, and this time it is all about our own.

The last time we were in Strasbourg two weeks ago the Parliament sorted out who got what job, President, Vice-Presidents and committee chairs. I was delighted and a little surprised to be elected as a Quaestor which gives me a seat on the Bureau, the highest body of the parliament, where together with 4 others I will represent MEPs and be their problem solvers while they do their everyday work.

The biggest job of course is the one now going to Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, who was voted in by the European Parliament as the EU’s next Commission President.  Personally I didn’t support his candidacy.  I would have preferred someone with a clearer and more ambitious vision of how to reform the EU, and I would also have liked him to make a much stronger commitment to protecting the environment and preserving biodiversity, both in the EU and across the world.

However, the important thing now is to work together with Juncker and the rest of the new Commission, still yet to be fully nominated, to kick-start economic growth in Europe and lead the global agenda on issues such as  trade, climate change and development. That means we will need to start rebuilding and strengthening Britain’s relationships with our EU allies and leading the reform of the Union from within.

For that reason, the appointment of Lord Hill as the candidate to the UK’s next EU Commissioner isn’t such a bad move. He might not be well-known to the public, but he’s known in the House of Lords for his ability to build alliances, compromise and get things done, just the kind of skills that are needed to navigate the corridors of Brussels. He’s also relatively pro-European, having worked as a special advisor to Ken Clarke and then as permanent secretary for John Major during negotiations over the Maastricht Treaty. Encouragingly, he is already setting the right tone by emphasising the need to work with others to improve and rebuild support for the EU.

But first Lord Hill must pass the Commissioner hearings in the European Parliament!  These are taking place in September and MEPs will quiz all the nominees, which will be no easy test for them all.  Lord Hill must also make sure that he gets a decent portfolio in negotiations between EU leaders over the summer. Neither of these will be easy, especially given Cameron’s confrontational approach to blocking Juncker’s candidacy. However, both are crucial to securing Britain’s future at the heart of Europe.


* Catherine Bearder is a Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Leader of the European Parliament Liberal Democrat Group.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.


  • Charles Rothwell 19th Jul '14 - 2:43pm

    Congratulations on appointment to the Bureau and I hope very much that it will not be too long before you are rejoined by Liberal Democrat MEPs of the quality of Edward MacMillan-Scott and others once again.
    The appointments process overall has hardly been what one can term an overwhelming success/likely to gain many more supporters for the EU ( and it is crucial that the reform agenda is driven forward seriously by HMG winning allies in a skillful and sophisticated manner (totally unlike Cameron’s fairly pathetic recent attempts; laying down the full red carpet when Merkel recently visited London to very little end and then adoitly painting himself fully into a corner (with Hungary) even when the leaders of countries like Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and (although Merkel had to change tack due to domestic pressures (Schutz and the fact she is in coalition with the SPD)) Germany as well all knew that Juncker was not at all the man for the job at this stage of the evolution of the EU. Let us hope Lord Hill proves to be a good (if “hardly” anticipated!) choice at this crucial time.

  • Richard Dean 20th Jul '14 - 4:04pm

    I would like to hear of some achievements that benefit British people.

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