by Peter N.Kramer
The European Parliament overwhelmingly rejected Sylvie Goulard, the French nominee to be commissioner for the EU’s internal market and industrial policy after she failed in two hearings to sufficiently explain allegations of financial misconduct, and a very high-paid consulting position with a U.S.-based think tank for which she did little work. The vote, by secret ballot, wasn’t even close: MEPs crushed her nomination 82 to 29. The question is whether it was justice or revenge.
An embarrassed French President Emmanuel Macron said he had suggested three candidates to be French commissioner and it was Von der Leyen who insisted on Goulard. And Von der Leyen assured him she had consulted with the group leaders — Manfred Weber of the EPP, Iratxe Garcia of the Socialists & Democrats and Dacian Ciolo? of Goulard’s own Renew Europe. Garcia and Weber quickly issued statements denying they had been consulted about Goulard’s candidacy in advance. And a Von der Leyen spokesman said he could neither confirm nor deny Macron’s words. Strange.
Goulard’s rejection was a betrayal of Von der Leyen by her own European People’s Party (EPP). Its leader, Weber, was once EPP’s Spitzenkandidat for the Commission presidency, but he was blocked by the liberal and social democrat leaders in the European Council, notably by Macron. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted her party keeps the Commission presidency, the job went to Von der Leyen. So, was Weber taking revenge by blocking Goulard’s nomination?
Anyhow, Goulard’s defeat brought symmetry to the confirmation process after Parliament rejected also over ethical concerns the conservative Hungarian nominee, Laszlo Trocsanyi, and the social-democrat Romanian nominee, Rovana Plumb. Adding to the mayhem, the Romanian government fell down this week, making it impossible to predict when Bucharest might put forward a new candidate for the Commission.
Getting three replacements confirmed by the EP won’t happen in time for a plenary vote on the full College in Strasbourg in October. It now looks like the new Commission will not take office the first week of December, at the earliest.