Will Mr Wojciechowski pass the test?

Ever since the replacement of the next Polish Commissioner, Mr Wojciechowski has kept a low profile trying to avoid the temper of the gods of the European Parliament who are on the hunt in this years hearings. Today he takes the centre stage; will he pass the Parliamentary hearing?

Janusz Wojciechowski is a 64 year old former Member of the European Parliament 2004-2016, a lawyer by profession, and most recently a member of the European Court of Auditors (2016-2019). His auditing experience goes back to his times as the President of the Supreme Audit Office of Poland (NIK), 1995-2001. He is an experienced politician, who has kept a low profile throughout his career. Controversial due to his political affiliation to Law and Justice (PiS) and prior transfer from the Polish People’s Party (PSL) to PiS in 2006. PSL is a member of the EPP; PiS dominates the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

The 2016 ECA nomination did not go smoothly in the European Parliament. Mr Wojciechowski lost an EP vote, nevertheless the Council proceeded with his nomination disregarding the Parliament’s opinion.

What will happen today?

Ahead of the hearing scheduled for this afternoon there are two competing narratives. In Warsaw many are hopeful: OLAF just terminated a case against Mr Wojciechowski and the same JURI committee in the European Parliament that has twice vetoed the candidats from Hungary and Romania has cleared Mr Wojciechowski of any conflict of interests.

Even the centrist media in Poland report that because the Hungarian and the Romanian politicians have been rejected in the Parliament the chances of Mr Wojciechowski are better.

It is because the media, the commentators and the politicians believe that the Parliament requires sacrifices.

Meanwhile the atmosphere in Brussels is different than five, ten and fifteen years ago. The Parliament does not need to mark its political position against the Council or the Commission. The Parliament is angry. The Parliament is angry with the Commission-President for how she managed the vetting process of her Commissioners. The Commission’s response is weak by the EP standards: the von der Leyen transition team is small.

The Parliament is angry with the Council for how the member states dealt with the Spitzenkandidat system back in July. The Parliament wants to be at the centre of European political debate; hence the hearings this time are not a theatre. The hearings are the real vetting process. The Parliament has tools to use and shall not shy to use them. Or, will it?

The Parliamentary anger goes so far that this morning the Brussels media report that Sylvie Goulard could be scarified over her financial misbehaviour in the European Parliament. The normally neutral Parliament Magazine reports that Mr Wojciechowski has to pay back 11,243 Euros to the coffers of the European Parliament over his financial misbehaviour years ago.

If Ms Goulard is vulnerable, so is Mr Wojciechowski. Maybe even more so if we take into account that Mr Wojciechowski is supposed to be a long-time auditor at NIK and recently at ECA. There is a saying: “the shoemaker’s children go barefoot”. Voila.

And on top of things, Mr Wojciechowski is a representative of the unpopular current Polish government. Ms Goulard has Mr Macron to cover her back.

On a positive note, Mr Wojciechowski seems to have support of the Polish EPP Members. The EPP is crucial to maintain his confirmation chances alive in the Parliament.

The hearing begins today, 14:30. Here’s the link to the online transmission.

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