Miguel Arias Cañete, the Spanish politician nominated as the new EU Commissioner for Climate and Energy, faced tough questioning from MEPs in his parliamentary hearing this evening.
Ahead of his hearing Friends of the Earth Europe revealed fresh evidence about his links to the oil industry and his long history of conflicts of interest, and there was growing public opposition to his appointment.
Shortly before his confirmation hearing Mr Arias Cañete’s declaration of financial interests to the European Parliament was updated to include an additional job as president of Partido Popular’s election committee – a position that earned him between €1000 and €5000 per month.
Commenting on Mr Arias Cañete’s hearing, Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends if the Earth Europe said:
“The European Parliament rightly questioned Mr Arias Cañete on his climate credentials as well as his long history of alleged conflict of interest and the involvement of him and his family in oil companies. By updating his declaration of interests just hours before the hearing he brought even more attention to his controversial business dealings. We are of the opinion that his brother-in-law falls within the scope of the code of conduct and continues to create a conflict of interest.
“Mr Arias Cañete has clearly been well briefed to answer climate questions, but he was less able to give straightforward answers on his conflicts of interest.
“In his closing speech Mr Cañete mentioned his 15 years of experience in the European Parliament – this should not detract from concerns about his integrity and suitability to fulfil the role of Climate and Energy Commissioner.
“Given Mr Cañete’s track record, his trustworthiness to handle controversial issues like fracking, tar sands and nuclear, is seriously in doubt. He described the current EU plans for tackling climate change by 2030 as ambitious when in fact they are far short of the action science tells us is needed.
“The resistance we’ve seen this week to Mr Cañete being given the climate position is part of a bigger picture of serious citizen concern about the whole direction of the new Commission which is towards prioritising business interests at the price of citizen safeguards and wellbeing. The parliament now needs to show it puts the long-term interests of citizens first, by rejecting Mr Cañete and demanding a rethink of the Commission structure.”