Oettinger has hit the headlines over recent times after referring to Chinese people as "slitty-eyed" and using terms like "sly dogs," when talking about a Chinese trade delegation which was male-only, since China doesn't have a female quota. The German commissioner mocked the business delegation, describing it as "nine men, one party, no democracy."
"No female quota, and no women — which follows logically. All of them [the Chinese ministers] in suits, single breasted dark blue jackets. All of them had their hair combed from left to right, with black shoe polish on their hair," Oettinger said.
Later he said:
"I had time to reflect on my speech, and I can now see that the words I used have created bad feelings and may even have hurt people. This was not my intention and I would like to apologize for any remark that was not as respectful as it should have been."
Oettinger's job transfer from digital commissioner to the Budget and HR portfolio vacated by Kristalina Georgieva — who is leaving to join the World Bank as Chief Executive Officer for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association — has proved controversial.
Given his propensity to gaffes and controversy, some MEPs demanded that he be questioned by the whole parliament, who would vote on his suitability to take on the new role. However, Oettinger will be questioned only by the presidents of the budgets, legal affairs and budgetary control committees.
Leading EU energy blogger Alice Stollmeyer described the move as "parliament retreating from precedent", because the committees would have no veto on Oettinger's appointment.