Julian King clears first Parliament hurdle

Julian King told MEPs during his audition that he would serve "European interests" | Patrick Seeger/EPA

Julian King clears first Parliament hurdle

MEPs on civil liberties, justice and home affairs panel back Britain’s commissioner-designate.


9/13/16, 12:35 PM CET

Updated 9/13/16, 9:59 PM CET

STRASBOURG — Julian King passed the first test in his bid to become Britain’s member of the European Commission, winning the support Tuesday of a key parliamentary committee.

Claude Moraes, chairman of the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee, said his panel would approve King’s appointment to be the EU commissioner for security issues.

The decision came after a confirmation hearing Monday night at which King appeared to win over MEPs with his vow to uphold “European interests” even as his country prepared to leave the EU. The full Parliament is set to vote Thursday on the appointment, and MEPs said they expected he would be approved for the post.

The Parliament’s largest political group, the European People’s Party, also gave its blessing to King’s appointment.

“We are convinced that he sees the need for a strong EU common response to the great variety of security challenges we are facing,” said German MEP Monika Hohlmeier, the bloc’s spokeswoman on the civil liberties panel.

Moraes, a British MEP from the center-left Socialists & Democrats political bloc, spoke to reporters after coordinators from his committee met to assess King’s performance on Monday. King is “well prepared and understood the challenges of his portfolio,” Moraes said. “On the question of competence, commitments, clarity, determination, he would act as a guardian of the treaties.”

Despite questioning from some MEPs during the hearing about the Brexit situation, Moraes said the political context of the U.K. withdrawal from the EU would not be addressed in the panel’s official evaluation of King’s fitness to serve on the Commission. 

King, currently Britain’s ambassador to France, told MEPs during his audition he saw “no contradiction” between being British and European, and that if approved as the U.K.’s commissioner he would serve the “European general interest and only the European general interest.”

But not all MEPs on the panel were convinced by King’s reluctance to discuss Brexit in detail or his assurances that he wouldn’t let British politics get in the way of carrying out his duties.

“There were so many unoriginal words while the situation is exceptional,” said Sylvie Goulard, a French MEP from the centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe bloc.

Constance Le Grip, a French center-right MEP, tweeted Tuesday that she had not yet decided whether to support King’s confirmation.

Before Thursday’s vote of the full Parliament, the civil liberties committee will present its assessment of King to other committee chairs. The appointment will also be debated by the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents, which includes the leaders of the assembly’s political groups.

Maïa de La Baume