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Brussels, 25 October 2006

Accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU: the appointment procedure for the two new

Article 45 of the Act of Accession sets out that "A national of each new Member State shall be appointed to the Commission as from the date of accession. The new Members of the Commission shall be appointed by the Council, acting by qualified majority and by common accord with the President of the Commission, after consulting the European Parliament". Compared to former enlargements, the Accession Treaty for Bulgaria and Romania for the first time explicitly fore-sees the consultation of the European Parliament.

The main steps in the appointment procedure for the two new Commissio-ners, as set out in Article 45 of the Act of Accession:

  • proposal (to the Council and in agreement with the Commission President) of a nominee by the governments of Romania and Bulgaria;
  • formal designation of these candidates by the Council and formal consulta-tion of Parliament;
  • assignment of portfolios to the nominees by the Commission President;
  • hearings of the Commissioners-designate before the competent parliamen-tary committees and subsequent vote in plenary;
  • formal appointment of the new Commissioners by the Council.

The President of the Commission wrote to the Prime Ministers of Bulgaria and Romania on 26 September, inviting them to launch the appointment procedure by announcing the names of the candidates as soon as possible after the October Council meetings (GAERC/Informal Summit Lahti), so that the portfolios can be assigned and Parliament be informed immediately thereafter.

The role of the European Parliament.

  • It must be noted that Parliament’s opinion is compulsory, but not binding from a legal point of view; however, from a political point of view, and in light of the commitments entered into in the revised Framework Agreement (article 3), it is clear that a negative vote would signal a lack of confidence in the candidate. Should that be the case, the President of the Commission would have to give serious consideration to Parliament’s view, in accordance with the Framework Agreement; (Article 3 FA: "If Parliament decides to express lack of confidence in a Member of the Commission, the President of the Commission, having given serious consideration to that decision, shall either request that member to re-sign, or explain his or her decision to Parliament").

The exact range of measures the President may take is not indicated in the Framework Agreement. The Pre-sident may decide, inter alia, to ask the Commissioner-designate to resign, to allocate him/her a different portfolio or to withdraw certain tasks from him/her.

  • While Parliament’s opinion is compulsory from a legal point of view, the hear-ing procedure is not requested by the Treaties and thus remains a purely politi-cal and preparatory exercise. The hearings are an internal instrument used by Parliament in order to prepare the way for its final vote on the new Commissio-ners and to better asses the candidates’ personal integrity and professional ca-pacities. Parliamentary hearings of Commission candidates were first used in 1995. Since then, Parliament has consolidated this practice, namely in the event of (a) the approval of a new Commission, (b) a vacancy to be filled, (c) the ac-cession of a new Member State and (d) a substantial reshuffle of portfolios. The revised Framework Agreement of 2005 codifies the practice already established during the previous hearing exercises. The Commission has always welcomed the hearing procedure as a useful tool to increase the democratic legitimacy and accountability of the Commission vis-à-vis the Parliament.
  • The hearings will keep the same format as the previous hearings in 2004: their organisation will be based on the principles, criteria and arrangements set out in Parliament’s resolution of December 2005 (DUFF report). The oral part of the hearings will be prepared by written answers to be given by the Commis-sioner-designate to a general and a portfolio related questionnaire. The general questionnaire is likely to be the same as in 2004, with only a slight update as re-gards the question on the Future of Europe. The specific questionnaire will be limited to 5 questions. The answers given by the Commissioners-designate will be published on Parliament's website. Each Commissioner-designate will ap-pear before the appropriate parliamentary committee or committees for a single hearing of three hours. The hearings will be in public. Observers from Romania and Bulgaria will be able to actively participate in these hearings. The evaluation will take place on the grounds of general competence, European commitment and independence, knowledge of the relevant portfolio and communication skills.
  • The Conference of Presidents decides upon the com-mittees responsible for the hearings, once names and portfolios of candidates are known by then; the adoption of the specific questionnaires by the competent committees is foreseen for 6 November; the hearings are scheduled for 27 No-vember (afternoon), followed by an evaluation by the Conference of Committee Chairs at the end of the same week, and by the Conference of Presidents du-ring the following week.
  • On 28 September, the Conference of Presidents decided that Parliament will vote only on the two new Commissioners, and not on the whole enlarged Com-mission (as this was the case in May 2004).
  • Parliament will vote in plenary in the December session (11-15/12/2006) according to the decision of the Conference of Presidents of 26 october.

Administrative aspects

The Commission provides to Commissioners-designate certain services in order to facilitate their interaction with the Commission and the EP during the transition period.

  • a contract as special advisor;
  • mission expenses;
  • the possibility to be assisted by 1 administrator and 1 secretary (either to be employed on a contractual basis or by making available in-house staff);
  • access to the Commission's carpool and drivers;
  • offices and the related equipment and services (e.g. telephone, computers etc);
  • logistical support to be offered by our delegations in Bulgaria and Romania;
  • support from the Commission Spokespersons Service on media issues.

Languages: Interpretation from/into Romania and Bulgarian will be available in the Press Room for the debriefing of Commission meetings from 1 January. IP Notes, Memos in the two languages will be available from the same date.

Declaration of interests

In line with previous practice, the declarations of interest of the new commissioners will be published.

Useful links:

The appointment of the two new Commissioners – Indicative Timetable

26 September
Adoption of the Commission's monitoring report on Bulgaria and Romania (COM (2006) 549), in which it concludes that the two countries will be in a position to accede to the Union on 1 January 2007, as provi-ded in the Accession Treaty.
17 October
General Affairs and External Relations Council en-dorses this conclusion
19 October
Decision by the Conference of Presidents on the ge-neral framework of the hearings.
Week 43
Indication of names of candidates by the Bulgarian and Romanian governments to the Council, in agre-ement with the President of the Commission; assi-gnment of portfolios by the President of the Com-mission; formal designation of candidates by the Council and formal consultation of Parliament.
26 October (planned)
Decision of the Conference of Presidents on the di-vision of responsibilities of the parliamentary com-mittees for the hearings.
6 November (planned)
Adoption of questionnaires in parliamentary commit-tees.
week 48
Hearings before the parliamentary committees, im-mediately followed by evaluation meetings.
week 48
Extraordinary meeting of the Conference of Commit-tee Chairs.
week 49
Conference of Presidents meeting.
Closure of the hearings.
11-15 December
Vote of approval by Parliament on the two new Com-missioners, followed by formal appointment of the two new Commissioners by the Council (exact date to be confirmed).
1 January 2007
Accession of Bulgaria and Romania
Date to be confirmed
Oath before the Court of Justice

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