Trade

EU farm nominee faces further grilling after botched hearing

Europes agriculture commissioner-designate, Janusz Wojciechowski, looks set to face a second round of questions from MEPs after a stuttering performance at his parliamentary hearing on Tuesday.

The difficulties of the Pole from the ruling Law and Justice party compound the woes of Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, who is struggling to find solid picks for Eastern European commissioners. Her nominees from Romania and Hungary have already been shot down by lawmakers.

While Wojciechowskis hopes are still alive, he has a grueling climb ahead after a hearing in which he struggled to give answers on topics such as big land investments, glyphosate and his own financial affairs, which have been the subject of an investigation by the EUs anti-fraud unit.

Parliamentarians across the political spectrum lined up to slate the nominee for his vagueness, with European Peoples Party coordinator Herbert Dorfmann telling POLITICO that the “hearing was too weak. He needs to come back. This is not sufficient.”

Asked if that was the collective view of group coordinators, Dorfmann replied: “Seems so.”

“I dont think anyone can say that they would have confidence in him as a commissioner based on todays hearing” — Seb Dance, S&D vice chair of the environment committee

People close to the proceedings said that the first step would be for the main parties to put more written questions to Wojciechowski, who at times strained to find the right words in English. If his next batch of written responses are unsatisfactory, the parliamentarians will demand a second hearing.

Some from the Socialists and Democrats echoed Dorfmanns complaints, saying that the group was “not satisfied at all” with the Polish candidate.

Seb Dance, the S&D vice chair of Parliaments environment committee, told POLITICO: “I dont think anyone can say that they would have confidence in him as a commissioner based on todays hearing. The goal should be to impress sufficiently on the first go and I dont think that has happened.”

Accepting that Wojciechowski could be “in trouble,” Dance added that a second hearing “is not an unusual request.”

A call for applause by agriculture committee chair Norbert Lins at the end of the session was greeted with silence.

The nominees two-and-a-half hour appearance was peppered with bland comments, emphasis on dialogue and a weak response to the sole question about his financial tangles with OLAF, the EUs anti-fraud office.

A call for applause by agriculture committee chair Norbert Lins at the end of the session was greeted with silence.

Lins later

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