European nominee for energy commissioner faces protest

Europe’s controversial nominee for Energy and Climate Action commissioner, the Spanish politician Miguel Cañete, is facing protests on the day of his confirmation hearing.

European policy news site EurActiv reports that between 50 and 100 people are expected at a ‘Stop Cañete’ demonstration this afternoon on Place Luxembourg, close to the European Parliament building in Brussels. The confirmation hearing is scheduled for 6 pm.

Cañete (pictured) is thought to have conflicts of interest due to holding shares in the Petrolifera Ducor and Petrologis Canarias oil companies. In a statement to the Spanish government in 2011, Cañete valued the shares at €326,000 ($410,000).

While he sold the shares in August on the advice of MEPs who said he would not be approved otherwise, commentators have pointed out that his wife, son and brother-in-law still hold shares in the companies.  Cañete stepped down as president of both firms in 2012, while his brother-in law became director of both Petrologis and Ducar and is Ducar’s second-largest shareholder. His son is a Ducar board member.

Cañete has previously come under fire for his oil industry connections as Spain’s agriculture and environment minister from 2011 to 2014, when Ducar won government contracts.  

“We will question him in the hearing about his commitment to a low carbon economy as well as his personal and political integrity and we expect clear answers,” Jo Leinen, a German MEP and member of Europe’s environment committee, was quoted as saying. “Parliament has refused various candidates in the past so there is no guarantee that he will come out as a commissioner.”

In a statement, Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The code of conduct for European Commissioners states: ‘A Commissioner shall not deal with matters within his/her portfolio in which, she/he has any personal interest, in particular a family or financial interest which could impair her/his independence’. The clear and strong links between Miguel Arias Cañete’s family and the oil sector would exclude him from any decisions regarding the sector.”

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