The European Parliament roundly rejected France’s European Commission nominee Sylvie Goulard on Thursday amid an EU anti-fraud inquiry, dealing a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron.
Goulard was nominated by Macron and allocated the internal market portfolio by commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen.
However, she came under fire from EU lawmakers over an ongoing EU anti-fraud investigation into staff payments during her time as an EU lawmaker, as well as lucrative consulting work she carried out at the time.
The issue is highly political, after Macron was instrumental in blocking the parliament’s main candidate for the post of commission president in 2019, arguing that only the best should be appointed to top EU posts.
The parliament must approve von der Leyen’s full commission team before it can take office on November 1. EU lawmakers decided that they could not approve the line-up if it included Goulard.
In a committee vote, 29 backed Goulard and 82 rejected her.
Earlier, she argued that the situation was different now to 2017, when she stepped down as French defence minister over the affair.
No charges have been made against her and she expects to be cleared, Goulard told EU lawmakers.
Faced with renewed questions on her consultancy work for the U.S. German investor Nicolas Berggruen which earned her tens of thousands of euros between 2013 and 2015 , Goulard pointed out that those activities had not breached any rules.
Green EU lawmaker Marcel Kolaja said “the fact that Goulard did not seem to see an ethical problem with taking large amounts of money from a U.S. think tank while being an MEP raises serious concerns.
Socialist EU lawmaker Jens Geier accused Goulard of having “no vision, no interesting idea, no proposal that she wants to champion,’’ arguing that this was in part due to the portfolio being too large.
France must now propose a new candidate, who will have to go through a new interview round with von der Leyen and fresh hearings in parliament.
Time is running short ahead of the new commission’s slated November start date.
The future commission chief, who carefully assembled her team to reflect a gender, political and geographic balance, has also reserved the right to make portfolio changes, depending on the final candidate line-up.
EU lawmakers have also rejected the nominees from Hungary and Romania.
Edited by Hadiza Mohammed/Ali Baba-Inuwa
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