There are few times when politics in the EU can be fun. 23 languages and tiresome procedures mean there’s very little spectacle. Monday evening will be one of the rare exceptions. Designate European Commissioner for Trade Baroness Ashton will be facing more than 2 hours of questions in the International Trade (INTA) Committee of the European Parliament (watch online here), and a vote from the Committee on whether they think she is adequately qualified to become a member of the Commission. If Ashton does not get that vote of approval then we have a Rocco Buttiglione moment on our hands.
So why will it be some kind of bloodsport? For a start the chair of the INTA Committee is Helmuth Markov from Die Linke in Germany – essentially a (little) reformed Communist. Not someone who would appreciate the UK’s traditional liberal line on international trade. Secondly there are a bunch of Tories in the INTA Committee (Sumberg, Kamall, Sturdy) who will do their best to give Ashton a hard time. Thirdly there are the questions about whether Ashton is even legally allowed to become a Commissioner at all.
So it’s all set for a bit of a scrap at 1800 Monday. I suspect Ashton will be well enough briefed and adequately conciliatory to keep the Committee happy, but I look forward to seeing what happens.