EU`s Juncker faces pressure to reshuffle team

The European Union`s incoming boss Jean-Claude Juncker was under pressure Tuesday to reshuffle his new team after parliamentarians savaged several of his candidates in confirmation hearings.

Brussels: The European Union`s incoming boss Jean-Claude Juncker was under pressure Tuesday to reshuffle his new team after parliamentarians savaged several of his candidates in confirmation hearings.

Lawmakers in Brussels have raised doubts over key members of the European Commission, the EU`s executive arm for the next five years, including the British, Spanish, Hungarian and Slovenian nominees.

Juncker held talks with senior parliamentarians to cut a deal on Tuesday and get his team through by the deadline of later this month, saying he would would not change his team, but was ready to make adjustments to some of their portfolios, political sources told AFP.

Final decisions by the parliamentary committees that carried out the hearings were postponed until Wednesday, a parliamentary source said.

"The relevant committees are meeting tonight to discuss their assessment, and Mr. Juncker will then meet with the European Parliament leaders to discuss the overall assessment," Juncker`s spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said.

The row stems from a power struggle between an increasingly assertive parliament and the European Commission, as well as from a split between conservatives and socialists in parliament itself.

The European Parliament can ask for European Commission candidates to be changed or be assigned new portfolios, as it did in 2004 and 2009.

It will also vote to approve or throw out the full Juncker team line-up on October 22. 

On Tuesday, Britain`s candidate Jonathan Hill faced further questions over his suitability for the role of financial services commissioner after being summoned for an unprecedented second hearing by parliament`s ecomomics committee.

"I`ve had to overcome some suspicions about being a Brit, especially about being a Brit in this portfolio,` he said, referring to doubts about whether he would be biased towards Britain`s huge financial services industry.

The former head of the House of Lords said he accepted the job from Prime Minister David Cameron so that he could make the case against a British exit from the EU in a referendum in 2017.France`s nominee for the key economic affairs post, Pierre Moscovici, and Spain`s controversial energy and climate man, Miguel Arias Canete, who has been criticised over alleged conflicts of interest, were both still nervously awaiting the nod from lawmakers.

Hungary`s Tibor Navracsics is set to have his portfolio changed after lawmakers voted on Monday that he was not qualified for the citizenship and education job, despite his attempts to distance himself from authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Former Slovenian prime minister Alenka Bratusek was reportedly one of the most at risk after lawmakers criticised her hearing on Monday for her nomination as vice president in charge of energy union.

Bratusek not only lacks support at home, having effectively nominated herself for the Brussels job while on her way out as PM, but as a member of the smaller liberal group in the European parliament, she is without powerful backers there as well.

She could be ousted "on condition that she is replaced by another, liberal female candidate from Slovenia," a source told AFP.

The European Parliament`s conservatives -- Juncker`s group -- and the social democrats belonging to parliament president Martin Schulz formed a grand coalition after European elections in May.

The squabbling threatens to distract from the EU`s attempts to appear less bureaucratic and political, given the rise of eurosceptic parties at a time of economic stagnation and high unemployment.

Juncker`s incoming right-hand man, former Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans, told his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that the EU had to cut red tape and become less intrusive if it was to survive.

"To a vast majority of our constituents, we are all seen as `Brussels`," he said.

On a dramatic day, dozens of Kurds burst into the parliament building in Brussels to protest against Islamic State militants.

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