“Question time” is a question and answer session, where MEPs can ask the Commission about specific topical issues.
Rule of law in Hungary and Poland
Ursula von der Leyen announced that EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn has informed the Hungarian authorities about the Commission’s plans to “move on to the next step” and formally “launch the rule of law conditionality mechanism” to protect the EU budget, mainly over corruption concerns.
Replying to concerns regarding the disbursement of recovery funds for Poland, President von der Leyen said that the independence of the judiciary was still a major concern in Poland. The conditions that need to be met to approve Poland’s recovery plan are still, as put forward by the EU Court of Justice: dismantling the disciplinary chamber of the Polish Supreme Court, reforming the disciplinary regime and reinstalling unlawfully dismissed judges.
Strengthened commitment to the Green Deal
Ursula von der Leyen confirmed to MEPs that besides the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, there was an “equally serious climate crisis looming in the background”. She stressed that the “last horrible four to six weeks” have only reconfirmed for the EU how important it is to push through with the green deal and get rid of the “ugly dependence on fossil fuels”. Investment in renewable energy sources was now a “strategic investment in security”, she stressed.
Russian invasion of Ukraine
Replying to MEPs’ questions regarding the EU’s strategic autonomy, its energy independence and support for EU countries receiving large numbers of refugees from Ukraine, President von der Leyen stressed the importance of the EU acting together in the procurement of new gas channels and pointed to an analysis of the EU’s defence capabilities. Finally, she praised Central and Eastern European countries for welcoming Ukrainian refugees, confirmed the promised financial assistance to countries receiving many refugees, and spoke of her plans for the “Stand up for Ukraine” pledging event to be held together with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on 9 April in Warsaw.
MEPs also asked about mid-term plans to revise the current Multiannual Financial Framework, progress on social policy legislation, namely on unemployment reinsurance, poverty reduction and the minimum wage directive. They also demanded more “tax justice” and asked why the Commission was not prioritising the fight against tax havens even more now that it was clear that they were undermining the sanctions against Russia.
The current Commission assumed office on 1 December 2019, following the European Parliament’s approval. This “Question Time” format, being tested this week, gives MEPs the possibility to question the Commission on specific topical issues in a lively debating format requiring short questions and answers without prior notice or preparation.