By Niels Gheyle
Marianne Thyssen, Belgian Commissioner-designate for Employment, Social affairs, Skills and Labour mobility showed great composure in her Parliament hearing on 1 October 2014. In her opening statement, the nominee underlined the need to win back confidence of European citizens by getting tangible results, especially when it comes to unemployment and poverty. Thyssen, who (as a woman and a member of the EPP) was expected to be handed a bigger portfolio by Jean-Claude Juncker, stated after her nomination that she was eager to start working in this domain, which sprouted big expectations of her being the renewed ‘social face’ of Europe.
In addressing the MEPs, she stressed to work with all instruments available to her: free up investment for unemployed to get back to work; a bigger focus on social indicators in the European Semester; proportionate common rules for a level playing field to protect workers; and get most out of the instruments and partnerships at hand. A lot of social issues are “complex problems”, she said “, that cannot be met with simplistic answers”.
MEPs, from their side, were especially interested in how Ms. Thyssen would make the Youth Guarantee Programme more efficient, her view on the link between education and working life, and family and disability oriented policies. In answering these questions, Ms. Thyssen never made a poor show and was only blamed once for being too vague on the future of the posted workers directive. Her defense of the free movement of persons (as a reaction to UKIP-member Paul Nuttall) even generated a large round of applause.