The European Parliament's refusal to approve Frenchwoman Sylvie Goulard's candidature for a post at the European Commission represents "a major institutional crisis for Europe", the French secretary of state for European affairs, Amélie de Montchalin, considered on Friday when interviewed on France-inter radio.
"It is, first of all, a major institutional crisis for Europe because, without a French commissioner, the commission cannot get started," she pointed out. "It must be resolved calmly and without anger, but (the new Commission President) Ursula von der Leyen must tell us what she expects from France," she added.
"The European dynamic is now in Ursula von der Leyen's hands. Three candidates were proposed to her, she chose from them the one who was rejected yesterday in the European Parliament," de Montchalin pointed out during the same morning interview.
"A parliament is not a courtroom," the minister commented, referring to one of the factors fuelling criticism in Europe directed at Sylvie Goulard: in other words, her presumed involvement in the MoDem parliamentary assistants case.
The day before, the French president had already voiced his lack of understanding with a certain bitterness at the rejection of his candidate. "I was told 'your name is fine, we'll take it' and then eventually told 'we don't want it anymore'. I require an explanation," Emmanuel Macron riposted.
On Friday, Libération noted that other names had been considered over the summer for France's Commission candidature, one of which was that of Secretary of State Amélie de Montchalin. Clément Beaune, the Elysée's advisor for Europe, had also been mentioned.
On Thursday, President-elect Ursula von der Leyen issued a statement which said the three candidates from France, Hungary and Romania had not obtained majority support in the European Parliament for varied reasons. The nominations for these countries are therefore still open.
While von der Leyen acted under the presumption of innocence of the candidates in question, she apparently made a political mistake in selecting candidates who are suspected of wrongdoings. She might have thought that the Parliament will act to disqualify unsuitable candidates. It is unlikely that the Parliament had promised France that its candidate would be approved.
Whether this will lead to a delay in the voting in the Parliament on the entirety of the new Commission, due to take place on 23 October, and the entry of the Commission on 1 November is not clear.
In her statement, von der Leyen wrote that it is now necessary, together with Parliament, “to speed up the process so that Europe can act swiftly. At the same time, all involved in the process need sufficient time to approach the next steps with care.”
Pressed by journalists for a clarification of the statement at the daily press briefing yesterday (11 October), the acting chief spokesperson did not exclude that the present Commission will have to continue for a while to take care of “current affairs”. She declined to comment on the contacts between President Macron and President-elect von der Leyen.
The Brussels Times