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Hoekstra ‘definitely’ fit for EU climate job, says environment chief

Former Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra, a fiscal hard-liner with limited experience in climate policy, is “definitely” suited to lead the European Commission’s work on climate action, Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius told POLITICO.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier this week nominated Hoekstra as climate commissioner, a role in which he’ll be in charge of climate action “under the guidance” of Maroš Šefčovič, who was named executive vice president for the European Green Deal.

Speaking to POLITICO, Sinkevičius said he had “no doubt in … [the] president’s choice” to replace Frans Timmermans, who held both posts before he resigned from the Commission to run in the Netherlands’ November election.

While those shoes are “not easy to fill,” Hoekstra “deserves the chance and then … we can judge … his work at the end of the day,” the environment commissioner said.

He added that he was confident Hoekstra would win over MEPs during what’s expected to be a tough grilling in the European Parliament, saying he believed “the candidate will be able to answer [their] questions … and get their trust.”

Left-leaning and liberal MEPs have raised concerns that the Dutch conservative will tip the political balance in the Commission and bemoaned his lack of experience in climate policy.

The Socialists & Democrats group, in particular, has described Hoekstra’s political affiliation as a problem, saying it doesn’t want to see EU climate policy in the hands of a member of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), which has been pushing to slow down green lawmaking.