UPDATE 1-Macron's candidate for top EU job faces rejection, lawmakers say

  • In US
  • 2019-10-10 11:42:06Z
  • By Reuters

* Goulard faces questions over time as an EU lawmaker

* Formal vote expected at 1400 CET on Thursday (Updates with quotes from Goulard, lawmakers)

By Marine Strauss and Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Sylvie Goulard, France's choice to be the next head of European Union industrial policy, was set to be rejected by the EU assembly on Thursday after a second hearing in which she failed to quieten doubts over her role in a jobs scandal.

The likely rejection led by the biggest group in the European Parliament also reflects a power struggle between lawmakers and French President Emmanuel Macron about who should lead the next European Commission, the EU's executive.

Macron proposed Goulard, an experienced former French diplomat and EU lawmaker, for the post of EU internal market commissioner, responsible for European defence integration.

The centre-right European People's Party will vote against Goulard later on Thursday, a spokesman for the EPP said, while the Greens, the far-left and a grouping of far-right parties also decided against her in a committee meeting.

The formal vote is expected at 1200 GMT on Thursday

Goulard has the support of Macron's liberal group in the parliament, known as Renew Europe, but needs two-thirds support from EU lawmakers in a parliament fragmented between pro- and anti-EU groups since elections to the assembly last May.

"The opinion of the EPP will certainly be to vote against her ... the line of the EPP is to vote against her," Pedro Lopez de Pablo, the spokesman for the EPP in the parliament, said.

Hostility comes ostensibly from a fictional jobs scandal at the European Parliament implicating Goulard and also for her high-paid work as an adviser for a U.S. think-tank.

"Your candidacy poses an ethical problem ... and your written answers and oral presentation don't allay our fears," Damien Careme, a French Green lawmaker, told the hearing on Thursday.

Goulard protested her innocence at her second hearing, as well as during an earlier hearing on Oct. 2.

"I am not under formal investigation but in a situation judicially different, much clearer," Goulard told lawmakers.

She also expressed regret that her work for Berggruen Institute during her time as an EU lawmaker, where she received more than 10,000 euros a month from 2013 to 2016, had cast a shadow over her candidature.

But lawmakers and aides said the EPP group is angry that Macron killed off their initiative in July to decide who would become the Commission chief, which helps decide policy for 500 million Europeans, based on the results of the European elections last May.

Incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was eventually proposed by Macron and agreed by EU leaders, but EU lawmakers are unwilling to rubber-stamp von der Leyen's proposed candidates in the confirmation hearings.

Von der Leyen, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is seeking a strong mandate to take on a host of challenges for the next five years, ranging from anti-EU populists at home to a more assertive China abroad. (Reporting by Marine Strauss and Robin Emmott; editing by Foo Yun Chee)


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