The Development Committee questioned the candidate for the international partnerships portfolio on future development cooperation and respect of EU values.

Political groups’ coordinators from the committee will meet within 24 hours to assess the performance of Commissioner-designate Jutta Urpilainen.

EU-Africa strategy, gender in development, and EU values

During her introductory speech, Jutta Urpilainen said that the 2030 agenda for sustainable development goals is “a golden opportunity for the European Union” to continue to play a leadership role in supporting partner countries to eradicate poverty worldwide, whilst also “promoting values, including empowering women and girls as a precondition for inclusive societies”. Gender equality should be a top priority and mainstreamed in all policies and programmes, she added.

MEPs put forward several questions on the ongoing negotiations on the proposed Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument, the post-Cotonou agreement with countries from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, calling for greater transparency to keep the European Parliament and the public informed.

Members also questioned the Commissioner-designate on how she would ensure that EU values are respected, particularly on gender equality and women’s empowerment, which are a priority in international cooperation. Later in the hearing, MEPs raised the issue of linking development to migration challenges and the Paris Agreement on climate action.

EPP: Urpilainen needs to better understand the challenges ahead

“Jutta Urpilainen’s performance today was controversial. Her personality is very positive, but as regards the knowledge of the portfolio, she still needs to better understand the challenges ahead, mainly on migration and security. She acknowledges that we have to approach the root causes of development problems, however her answers to the questions posed during the hearing were very generic”, said György Hölvényi MEP, EPP Group Spokesman in the European Parliament’s Development Committee, reflecting on her performance at the EP hearing in her capacity as Commissioner-designate for International Partnerships.

“On the one hand, she has to close negotiations on the Post-Cotonou Agreement which has many unsolved issues still pending at the moment. This negotiation will be determinative for EU-relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. We therefore expect a strong commitment to keep the role of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly of the EU with these countries. On the other hand, the new Commissioner will be responsible for the newly-merged development instrument (Neighbourhood Development and International Cooperation Instrument). She must conduct a dialogue with the Member States on this instrument. In this sense, there will be an enormous need for cooperation with the European Parliament. As the biggest political group in the Parliament, the EPP Group will have a crucial role in this process in order to find the necessary common ground for a successful dialogue”, said Hölvényi.

“In the upcoming years, we need to see how Jutta Urpilainen will ensure that the European Union can increase private investments in Africa. She needs to preserve the leading position of the EU in the field of development cooperation with Africa”, he added.

“The effectiveness of the EU Development Policy is also an important topic, especially after the criticism directed towards previous Commissioners in the recent past. Also, the involvement of faith-based organisations in the EU Development Policy is essential for us”, Hölvényi concluded, adding: “The EPP Group can also see the Commissioner-designate’s dedication to investing in security, but it remains to be seen what the reality will be.”

S&Ds: Fully confident Jutta Urpilainen will do an outstanding job

Following today’s hearing in front of the development committee (DEVE), the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament is fully satisfied with the answers, explanations and commitments outlined by Jutta Urpilainen and confirms its strong support for her to become the next Commissioner for International Partnership.

“Jutta Urpilainen is not only fit to be Commissioner but we are also confident that in her role she will give a strong boost to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. During her hearing, Urpilainen has confirmed her clear commitment for leaving no one behind, fighting inequality and poverty, and achieving a sustainable future for all. We are satisfied with the answers outlined by the next Commissioner for International Partnership in her hearing,” commented the S&D DEVE coordinator, Udo Bullmann.

“We welcome the fact that Urpilainen promised to closely consider the annual strategic report on the implementation of the SDGs that the European Parliament adopted only a few months ago. This report is a milestone and calls on the Commission to pave the way for the Sustainable Development Goals to be fully integrated into EU policies. We also welcome the clear reference to Africa as a top strategic priority in her agenda, aiming at eradicating root causes – poverty, unemployment, violence, scarce level of education and respect of basic human rights – that prevent African countries from fully reaching their potential and forcing young African people to emigrate. With this in mind, the S&Ds will back Jutta Urpilainen’s appointment as the next EU Commissioner and look forward to closely working together to finally move from words to deeds when it comes to implementing the SDGs,” concluded Bullmann.

Based on the committees’ recommendations, the Conference of Presidents will decide on 17 October if Parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to elect the Commission as a whole on 23 October, in Strasbourg.