The highly anticipated cross-examinations of the British nominee for the Commission, Lord Hill, took place this afternoon. Earlier in the day I set the scene with my preview of the hearing, so now it’s time to share my initial reflections on his performance.
Hill went out of his way to charm MEPs. He started his address in French; he showed that he has already learned lots of EU jargon; he deftly handled the occasional absurd question such as those thrown at him by UKIP; and he repeatedly said how important he thought it would be for him to work closely with MEPs.
And there were some very positive points: he emphasised his commitment to transparency, not just in financial services but in his own work; and he underlined his commitment to serve all 28 EU countries, pointing out that the UK’s interests as well as those of its neighbours are best served by a strong and well-managed eurozone and European financial sector.
When it came to the detail, he was less convincing. Several MEPs tried to pin him down to specific policies, specific measures, specific views on controversial issues — and although he didn’t exactly dodge the questions, he was often vague, falling back all too often on “well, we have to get the balance right”, or “I will work with you and others to address that in the right way”, or even (several times) “I’ve only had two weeks to think about this, so I can’t tell you yet”. These are no doubt all true, but they hardly help us assess the direction he’ll be taking and whether MEPs can support it!
But when all is said and done, he performed far better than many of the other candidate Commissioners.