France has proposed Sylvie Goulard as its European Commissioner candidate. An expert on European issues, the former centrist MEP was central to helping Emmanuel Macron develop his European contacts during his successful 2017 presidential campaign. EURACTIV France reports.
Two days after an informal deadline (26 August) to submit nominations, the French government finally proposed Sylvie Goulard to take on the position of European Commissioner.
If her nomination is successful, she will be France’s representative in Ursula von der Leyen’s college of Commissioners, pending approval from the new president and the European Parliament.
The 54-year-old economic expert, who worked in former Commission chief Romano Prodi’s cabinet, could be in the running to oversee a potentially new Directorate-General (DG) of the European Commission: that of a DG defence.
An economic and social background
Goulard was appointed defence minister in 2017, when Edouard Philippe’s first government was formed, before quickly resigning.
As a so-called ‘Enarque’, an ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration) graduate, as well as a graduate from the prestigious HEC (Haute Ecole de Commerce), she is well versed in economic and social issues. Particularly as an MEP, she developed her skills in these fields.
Since the beginning of 2018, she had been working as deputy governor at the Bank of France. She focused mainly on international issues and according to one of her colleagues, she “is a hard worker and had devoted herself wholeheartedly to the job.”
As an MEP, she also earned such a reputation. Particularly as part of the Parliament’s mighty economics committee, where she focused on the banking union and the stability pact.
Fighting poverty was also a cause she considered fundamental as she joined the committee on poverty and inequalities, which is part of the Parliament’s intergroup fighting against poverty.
A strong advocate for women
She has also been a strong advocate for women, running for president of the European Parliament in 2016, in time for the Parliament’s second term. In particular, she wanted to highlight the absence of women in this position.
In 2014, she told EURACTIV that “we cannot have a Commission of old white men!” Although this position became the norm in 2019, this was not the case five years ago.
In 2018, on Women’s Day, she explained the urgent need to fight against power abuse more generally.
“There is sexual abuse because a certain type of man holds power. The system of accession to power favours those who play the game of domination: this can discourage women – as well as men who refuse to adopt such practices,” Goulard said.
“We need to put an end to power abuse more generally, as well as domination, which leaves no room for others,” she added.
Fictitious employment allegations
While a Parliament hearing on technical matters should not be a problem, the judicial case that prevented her from remaining in her post as defence minister will likely be a point of discussion.
Together with two centrist MEPs, Marielle de Sarnez and François Bayrou, she was implicated in the opening of a preliminary investigation led by France’s office fighting corruption and financial crimes.
The investigation was based on suspicions of fictitious employment in the Parliament.
Following the start of this investigation, she was prompted to resign from the ministry of defence, following which Marielle de Sarnez and François Bayrou resigned from their government positions.
According to our information, the hearings of parliamentary assistants gathered by the police are more embarrassing for other members of the French Democratic Movement (MoDem).
The fact that this investigation has seen little progress in two years also speaks in her favour. In 2017, she explained her resignation from the ministry to French weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD) on ethical grounds.
“Can you imagine a judicial act concerning me in the middle of a military or terrorist operation? I felt that this was not possible,” Goulard told the JDD.
[Edited by Sam Morgan]