Commission: Breton not involved in EU tender won by his former company

European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton talks to journalists during an online news conference at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 03 September 2020. [EPA-EFE/FRANCISCO SECO]

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton was not involved in the decision on the launch or the evaluation of the supercomputer tender won by Atos, of which Breton was CEO just before he became a Commissioner, an EU spokesperson told EURACTIV.COM.

“Following the commitments made during his hearing, and President Ursula von der Leyen’s decision in this regard, Commissioner Thierry Breton was not involved in the decision on the launch or the evaluation of this tender. Thus, the Commission sees no ground for political or moral concern,” an EU spokesperson said.

EURACTIV asked the EU executive if it was politically acceptable that a day after Breton was appointed as Internal Market Commissioner, a tender was launched, which was ultimately won by the company he had worked for until just a month before.

See here the background of the story and how the European Commission replied.

According to his declaration of interests, Commissioner Breton was the CEO of Atos from 16 November 2008 until 31 October 2019.

After the rejection of President Macron’s first proposed candidate Sylvie Goulard, Paris put forward Breton. The portfolio changed from defence to the internal market.

On 27 November the European Parliament approved the new Commission, which started its work on 1 December.

On 28 November 2019, the EU made the first call to acquire world-class supercomputers in Europe. Commissioner Breton officially assumed his post three days later.

On 19 October 2020, the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking, together with CINECA, a leading supercomputing centre, announced the European company Atos as the awarded vendor for the procurement of LEONARDO, a new world-class supercomputer, powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“Note that the technical assessment of the offers was done by the EuroHPC JU with the help of external experts. According to the EuroHPC regulation, all countries that invest in a particular supercomputer are voting on that particular investment, as well as the Union,” the spokesperson said.

“The decision by the President in relation to Mr Breton’s commitments regarding i.a. Atos had been made publicly available,” the EU official added.

Another source said tenders of this kind are prepared weeks before they are launched, and this happened in the previous mandate.

(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)

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