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Analysis: Energy Union vice-president selection turmoil

EUROPE: European Commission president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker's decision to make Spanish politician and oil and gas investor Miguel Arias Canete energy commissioner was one of the more controversial appointments to the EC leadership team.

Alenka Bratusek faced questioning by MEPs (© European Union 2014 - European Parliament)
Alenka Bratusek faced questioning by MEPs (© European Union 2014 - European Parliament)

However, it was the nomination for vice-president, former Slovenian prime minister Alenka Bratusek that took the headlines. It is effectively a new role and tasked with increasing energy security by diversifying energy sources and reduce dependency on countries outside the EU.

In a humiliating result, Bratusek secured only 13 votes out of 127 (two abstentions) in favour of her taking the position. Canete made it through, but only after being called back for a second hearing.

The reason for Bratusek's rejection was a poor showing in her appearance before the environment and the industry, research and energy committees. During questioning, she was criticised over her knowledge of the energy sector and a failure to provide any details about her plans for the role.

Speaking to Windpower Monthly about the hearing, vice chair of the energy committee Morten Helveg Petersen, who questioned Bratusek, said: "I think for many members [of the committee] she showed that she did not have a sufficient grasp of details, and they felt there was a lack of direction.

"She did not come across as powerful enough in order to pick up a position as a vice president with the European Commission. At the end of the day, this is a person who might end up sitting across from [president] Putin, having to negotiate gas contracts."

In response to the vote, Juncker reshuffled his team and selected Slovakian Maros Sefcovic to fill the energy union role, with Slovenian deputy prime minister Violeta Bulc replacing Bratusek and taking Sefcovic's proposed transport commissioner spot.

Sefcovic faced three-hours of questioning from the committees on his vision for the energy union on 20 October, less than a week after being offered the job. Petersen said: "It's a demanding hearing and this is the way it should be. It's really a demanding job and a demanding task. The committee as a whole didn't find [Bratusek] sufficiently qualified to do this. Now it is up to Sefcovic to prove himself better.

"One of the challenges Sefcovic will have to come up with answers for is; What does 'energy union' mean? How does this work in practice? Some details are necessary."

Juncker will be hoping Sefcovic is confirmed quickly or risk the vote by the parliament on the whole commission being delayed beyond the planned 22 October date.

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