Hoekstra is already starting to work in; appointment not yet certain

Former Dutch minister Wopke Hoekstra has started his training period in Brussels and Strasbourg as the new European Climate Commissioner, although his appointment is not yet certain.

On Wednesday, the intended successor to Frans Timmermans will make his appearance in the European Parliament in Strasbourg at the traditional annual speech of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The Brussels machinery has still not made a decision about Hoekstra's hearing (read: job interview) with the European Parliament. Commission President Von der Leyen 'appointed' Hoekstra two weeks ago, but there are doubts and reservations in European politics about his Climate capabilities. 

Particularly in the centre-left factions, there are doubts whether the Christian Democrat Hoekstra is 'green enough', or whether he - like the EPP/CDA faction - wants to slow down Climate and Environmental Policy.

Moreover, it is 'sensitive' that Von der Leyen has only put forward one (male) candidate, while she always places so much emphasis on pairs and double nominations, of a man and a woman. It is not yet clear why she decided not to do so in this case (sometime between August 22 and 25).

On Wednesday, Hoekstra will have numerous introductory meetings and coffee dates in Strasbourg with party leaders and politicians from almost all groups. A separate meeting is also planned with all Dutch MEPs.

Last week he was given an extensive tour of the offices of the European Commission and the European Parliament in Brussels by Diederik Samsom, the top European official of Frans Timmermans, who has returned to The Hague. Samsom is seen as one of the architects and founders of European Climate Policy.

Hoekstra hopes to hear from the leadership of the European Parliament on Thursday when his job interview will take place (at the earliest in the first week of October; could also be two weeks later). It should also be clear on Thursday by which committee he will be questioned about his Climate Vision: the climate-oriented ENVI Environment Committee, or the agri-oriented Agriculture Committee, or the more financial-economically oriented Committee for Foreign Trade. 

In any case, any new Commissioner needs the support of two-thirds of the European Parliament. This means that Hoekstra does not need the support of the current coalition of Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and Liberals, but that the right-wing ECR conservatives or the Greens must also support his appointment.

At the moment there seem to be many question marks in the circle of S&D Social Democrats, and that faction could also 'abstain' from voting. In that case, achieving a two-thirds majority (voters in favor) only becomes more doubtful. He will really have to convince us, it is said.

The appointment procedure also provides for a possible second job interview if the candidate does not have sufficient support after one interview. In that case, a candidate can also withdraw from his/her nomination.