Goulard’s indictment confirms EU Parliament doubts

European Commissioner-designate in charge of Internal Market from France, Sylvie Goulard, during her second hearing before the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 10 October 2019. Goulard was rejected by a vote of 82 MEPs against 29. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

France’s first pick for the EU Commissioner post, Sylvie Goulard, has been indicted by the Court of Paris for embezzlement of funds in the employment of EU parliamentary assistants, confirming doubts expressed by MEPs during her failed confirmation hearing. EURACTIV France reports.

The indictment of the former French candidate for the European Commission raises questions about President Emmanuel Macron’s staunch defence for Goulard’s candidacy after MEPs rejected her, officially on ethical grounds.

As the new European Commission has just taken office, the Court of Paris has confirmed the charges brought against Goulard by the Prosecution in June 2017, which accuse the former defence minister of embezzling public funds for the creation of fictitious parliamentary assistant jobs for MEPs of the centrist MoDem party, according to sources cited by AFP.

Two other former MoDem MEPs, Marielle de Sarnez and François Bayrou, will also be heard by the court and risk being charged, based on the same accusations. The court suspects that the MoDem institutionalised this embezzlement practice.

In October, MEPs rejected Macron’s pick on ethical grounds, officially citing the pending case of embezzlement brought against her.

Following the rejection, Macron had presented his candidate’s dismissal as the result of a “settling of the scores” between EU political families. Goulard’s rejection, he argued, was motivated by resentment from MEPs in the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) who punished the French President for dismissing their lead candidate for the European Commission, Manfred Weber.

Why the European Parliament rejected Sylvie Goulard

The parliamentary committees rejected the candidacy of France’s Sylvie Goulard for the Commissioner’s post, officially on ethical grounds. However, her refusal is also a sign that German conservatives are finding it difficult to trust French President Emmanuel Macron. EURACTIV France reports.

An avoided fiasco?

However, it now appears that MEPs may have prevented France from having its EU Commissioner indicted immediately after having been sworn in.

But while the fiasco was avoided, the question of France maintaining Goulard’s candidacy remains a mystery, according to some elected officials. For French Socialist MEP Sylvie Guillaume, Goulard’s indictment questions, once again, the French President’s unwavering support for the candidate.

European Affairs Minister Amélie de Montchalin even stated in September that the European Parliament had “cleared” the French candidate from allegations in the fund embezzlement case.

And although Goulard had finally reimbursed the institution with €45,000 to cover several months’ pay of her former parliamentary assistant, investigations were still ongoing in France.

MoDem is far from being the only party to have found itself in the crosshairs of justice for allegedly creating fictitious jobs in the European Parliament.

Similar investigations were opened against far-left party La France Insoumise, as well as against far-right party Front National, now known as Rassemblement National. About twenty people, including far-right party leader, Marine Le Pen, have been indicted so far.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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