Newspaper article International New York Times

Lawmakers Derail E.U. Nominee for Energy Post

Newspaper article International New York Times

Lawmakers Derail E.U. Nominee for Energy Post

Article excerpt

Opposition by European Union lawmakers derailed the candidacy of a former prime minister of Slovenia who was nominated to oversee the bloc's energy policy.

A former prime minister of Slovenia who had been nominated to oversee European Union energy policy withdrew her candidacy on Thursday amid strong opposition from the bloc's Parliament.

Showing an eagerness to put their stamp on the way the European Union operates, lawmakers in two committees late Wednesday helped to derail the candidacy of the former leader, Alenka Bratusek, who Jean- Claude Juncker, the incoming president of the European Commission, had picked to take over a top portfolio in his new administration.

The withdrawal of Ms. Bratusek's candidacy marked the first time a former prime minister of a member state was denied a top job at the commission, the European Union's executive body.

"It's a big scalp," said Charles de Marcilly, the head of the Brussels office of the Robert Schuman Foundation, a research organization. "The fact that she would have been a vice president of the E.U.'s executive branch and she's a former prime minister shows this Parliament already having a really significant impact."

The current crop of lawmakers at the Parliament came to power amid a backdrop of deep discontent, which has been aggravated by the perceived failure of the European Union to show austerity-weary citizens that an integrated Europe delivers jobs and prosperity.

The Parliamentary panel soundly rejected Ms. Bratusek's nomination after a stormy hearing on Monday, with 112 lawmakers voting against her and only 13 in favor.

"Alenka Bratusek was rejected simply because she performed very badly at her hearing," Gianni Pittella, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats group in the Parliament, said on Thursday. Manfred Weber, the chairman of the center-right European People's Party, said on Thursday that his group would "only support a woman candidate with experience."

Ms. Bratusek would have been expected to help Europe break free of its dependence on Russian energy at a time when Gazprom, the country's main gas exporter, has again cut supplies to parts of the Continent. But she raised the ire of a large number of lawmakers for previously supporting the construction of a pipeline, called South Stream, that would run through Slovenia and deliver more Russian energy to Europe.

Another factor that damaged Ms. Bratusek's candidacy was an investigation by an ethics panel in Slovenia, which has been looking into whether her decision to put her name forward as candidate for a job in Brussels while also caretaker prime minister was a lapse in judgment.

That panel, the Slovenian Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, determined on Thursday that Ms. Bratusek's nomination had been plagued by conflict of interest concerns, according to an English-language report by STA, a Slovenian news agency. …

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