Lithuania's nominee for the European Commission (EC), Economy Minister Virginijus Sinkevičius, is appearing at a confirmation hearing at the European Parliament (EP) on Thursday.
EC President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has proposed Sinkevičius to the the environment and oceans commissioner, but he needs MEPs' approval to be given the job.
On the eve of the hearing, MEPs said they expected to learn more about the Lithuanian candidate's personality and leadership qualities.
At the start of the three-hour hearing, the candidate will be able to make a 15-minute introductory statement, followed by a question and answer session in which he will have to answer 25 questions falling within the sphere of his portfolio.
The hearing is organized by the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee and the Fisheries Committee. Sinkevičius has already provided answers to written questions from the committees.
After the hearing, a meeting will be held to evaluate the candidate's performance. The committees may request additional information through further written questions. If they are still not satisfied, a shorter second hearing may be held.
The EP is scheduled to vote on the full Commission in a plenary session in Strasbourg on September 23.
If approved, Sinkevičius, 28, will become the youngest ever European commissioner.
Invisible but important work
The environment and oceans portfolio assigned to Sinkevičius will involve a lot of invisible but important work, Lithuania's Ambassador to the EU Jovita Neliupšienė says.
According to her, the environment commissioner will have to oversee the implementation of EU legislation and represent the bloc in negotiations with third countries.
“We are not aware of and do not see much of the hard work that is done by the commissioner responsible for environmental protection, waste disposal, cleaning, and implementing the directives and regulations that the EU adopts,” Neliupšienė told reporters in Brussels. “We do not see that day-to-day work with member states to oversee and ensure that all of us understand the regulations and directives we are adopting.”
“Another area of huge responsibility, which we sometimes may not notice but which is visible from an international perspective, is to speak to third countries, non-EU countries, to make the world a cleaner, more sustainable, healthier place,” she added.
Sinkevičius will also have to deal with issues related to the Baltic Sea, such as pollution, intensive shipping and fishing quotas, Neliupšienė noted.
Advice from outgoing commissioner
Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, the Lithuanian member of the outgoing European Commission, says he has advised Sinkevičius not to yield to pressure to make untenable promises during confirmation hearings at the European Parliament.
“I advised him to prepare well for the hearings, to do all his homework, to study the material provided by the Directorate [...] and to be able to answer questions,” Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.
“I advised him to listen to the questions very carefully and not to make any premature promises, because that is incredibly dangerous,” the outgoing commissioner said.
“If you see that the questions are tricky and catchy, and try to provoke you to say something you will have to deliver on, that will be very dangerous,” he added.
Andriukaitis, the outgoing commissioner, is in charge of health and food safety. His predecessors are Dalia Grybauskaitė and Algirdas Šemeta.