Ferdinando Nelli Feroci was approved as interim Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship by the European Parliament on Wednesday.
Feroci replaces Antonio Tajani who left the Commission to take up his seat as a member of the Parliament (MEP) at the beginning of July.
Members of the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) committee held a confirmation hearing in Strasbourg on Monday to assess the interim Commissioner’s credentials.
In his opening statement, Feroci, a former career diplomat, said free trade agreements will play an important role in reviving Europe’s industry. He told MEPs that his focus in the coming months will be on the three legislative measures that need to be concluded before the end of the mandate of this Commission.
These are, “market surveillance and safety of products, the regulation on car registration and the regulation on [the emergency response system] e-call,” he said.
MEPs asked Feroci how he would assist small and medium-sized firms (SMEs), helping them to win EU funding, reduce red tape and improve access to information.
He was also asked about his plans for energy efficiency and independence, the negotiations with the US on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and EU climate and energy goals.
In response, Feroci noted a proposal on energy efficiency due next week, a planned public consultation on the Small Business Act, and the importance of SMEs tapping the expertise of the European Enterprise Network. He also promised to be "vigilant" about anything in TTIP that could have a negative effect on SMEs.In general, ITRE members seemed to hold back with their questioning, perhaps reserving fire for the confirmation hearings of the nominees for the full term of the next Commission in September and October.
The hearing was chaired by Jerzy Buzek, the former president of the European Parliament and new head of ITRE.
Three other interim Commissioners were voted into office by MEPs: Jyrki Katainen (Finland) for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Martine Reicherts (Luxembourg) for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship and Jacek Dominik (Poland) for Financial Programming and Budget.
The plenary voted en masse in favour of the four candidates by 421 votes in favour, 170 against and 32 abstentions.A permanent replacement for Tajani will be named in the autumn, following the expiration of the current Commission’s term on 31 October.