EC president says commissioners must comply with health guidelines

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, says she expects commissioners to be “particularly vigilant about compliance” with national rules in the current Covid-19 circumstances.

She has been speaking in Brussels in the wake of Phil Hogan’s resignation as European Commissioner for Trade.

Hogan resigned yesterday evening (Wednesday, August 26) following the mounting fallout from his attendance at the Oireachtas Golf Society function in Co. Galway last week, and the ensuing public debate about his conduct in relation to public health guidelines.

President von der Leyen said:

“I am very grateful to Phil Hogan for his tireless and successful work as a commissioner.

I thank him warmly for his valuable contribution to the work of the commission, not only in this mandate, but also in the previous mandate, when he was commissioner in charge of agriculture and rural development.

“Over the past days, I discussed with Phil Hogan about his movements in Ireland, in light of information that emerged regarding respect of public health guidelines in Ireland.

“In the current circumstances, as Europe fights to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and Europeans make sacrifices and accept painful restrictions, I expect the members of the college [of commissioners] to be particularly vigilant about compliance with applicable national or regional rules or recommendations.”

A future commissioner for Ireland

President von der Leyen added: “It is up now to the Irish government to present suitable candidates for a commissioner of Irish nationality. As in the past, I will invite the Irish government to propose a woman and a man.

“Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis will assume, ad interim, responsibilities for trade matters. At a later stage, I will decide on the final allocation of portfolios in the College of Commissioners,” she concluded.

There is mounting speculation about who may be nominated by Ireland for the role and whether or not the Irish commissioner will retain the trade portfolio.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and former EU ambassador to the US David O’Sullivan are among the names being mentioned for the job.

Other potential commissioners include MEP Mairead McGuinness and former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

Commissioner resigns

Yesterday (Wednesday, August 26), Phil Hogan issued a statement confirming his resignation:

This evening I have tendered my resignation as EU Trade Commissioner to the President of the European Commission, Dr. Ursula von der Leyen.

“I deeply regret that my trip to Ireland – the country that I have been so proud to represent as a public servant for most of my adult life – caused such concern, unease and upset.

I recognise and appreciate the devastating impact of Covid-19 on individuals and families, and I fully understand their sense of hurt and anger when they feel that those in public service do not meet the standards expected of them.

“As a public representative, I should have been more rigorous in my adherence to the Covid guidelines,” he said.