Ireland’s Mairead McGuinness this morning (2 October) interviewed for her new role as Commissioner-designate for Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union in the European Parliament’s ECON Committee.
While McGuinness, who has been a MEP for Ireland’s Midlands North-West since 2004, is more known as an expert on agriculture matters, members of the economics and finance committee got the opportunity to dig deep into her qualifications as she endeavours to take on one of the most demanding, technical and influential Commission roles.
With issues such as the completion of the Capital Markets and Banking Unions, the recently presented Strategies for Digital Finance and Action Plan on Anti-money laundering, the upcoming Solvency II review as well as the steering of the EU’s financial services industry through the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and a potentially messy Brexit at the end of the year, McGuinness, if confirmed, would not have any honeymoon period during which to attain further industry knowledge.
Responding to questions from MEPs on how she would work to minimise the economic fallout of the pandemic on the financial industry, she pledged to ensure the continued stability of the EU’s financial system as her ” highest priority.” She did, however, acknowledge that some companies will not recover and that financial institutions will face an increase in non-performing loans and that this will be something “we must prepare for.”
While promising to continue the work of her predecessor, Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis who will take over the Trade portfolio, she added that she aimed to “inject fresh energy” into the stalled discussions on completing the Banking Union with a particular focus on establishing a European deposit insurance scheme.
In reference to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s Agenda for a European Green Deal, McGuinness also pledged to urgently progress work on sustainable “green finance,” including through the setting of EU-wide green bond standards.
Responding to a question by the European Greens’ finance lead on how she would crackdown on money laundering activities in the EU, she vowed to force Member States to enforce EU rules on anti-money laundering. Yet, in a prospective clash with the Parliament, McGuinness did not directly back ECON demands for a single EU AML supervisor or strong EU-level harmonised legislation on the subject. Mrs. McGuinness and her team are due to present updated legislation on tackling anti-money laundering in the EU in the coming year.
Regarding almost-universal questions regarding Ireland holding yet another finance role in the EU, she responded to questions from German party colleague Markus Ferber and Dutch social-democrat chair of the Parliament’s tax sub-committee Paul Tang, that she’ll be a “European Commissioner, defending European interests [with a] community approach.” Responding to Ireland’s oft-maligned tax practices she swore to “strongly support [Commission] college efforts in favour of fair taxation.” With respect to Brexit, McGuinness pledged a hard line saying that “we cannot take any risks,” in areas such as equivalence as long as there is no information about the UK’s future direction.
Following this morning’s hearing, the ECON Committee party leaders will either green-light McGuinness or ask her for further clarifications in the coming days. Should the Committee approve her, the Parliament’s plenary is expected to vote on her confirmation next week.