The Internal Market and the Industry, Research and Energy committees questioned Sylvie Goulard, French candidate for the Internal Market portfolio.
The presidents and political groups’ coordinators from both committees will meet within 24 hours to assess the performance of the Commissioner-designate.
Completing the internal market and digitalising Europe
During her introductory speech, Ms Goulard underlined the importance of completing the internal market – both for services and industry. She highlighted the need to enable companies to contribute to growth, including by supporting SMEs and cutting red tape. She also mentioned the circular economy and referred to the opportunities that solving the climate crisis could bring about for European industry. Ms Goulard also raised problems related to lack of fiscal equality in EU member states and the need to have a fair minimum wage in the EU. A new law on Digital Services will be tabled, she announced, also mentioning that a balance between freedom and security must be reached.
MEPs put forward questions on how the Commissioner-designate plans to safeguard the single market’s four freedoms – goods, services, persons and capital – and ensure that the Digital Services Act will not create new barriers in Europe. Net neutrality must be safeguarded, some MEPs demanded. The need to properly enforce single market rules was also addressed. On artificial intelligence, Mrs Goulard reiterated that the new Commission will come up with proposals within its first 100 days in office.
Members also questioned the Commissioner-designate on her involvement in investigations in France and by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), related to staff payments when she was an MEP, and on remunerations she declared from a US-based think tank. The Commissioner-designate denied any wrongdoing, referred to the principle of presumption of innocence and indicated that the EP’s administrative procedure was closed.
Later in the hearing, MEPs also raised the issues of the EU Defence Fund, the EU programme Digital Europe, e-commerce, 5G and poor implementation of EU rules in some areas linked to the internal market.
EPP: Cloud of doubt hanging over Sylvie Goulard
“There is a cloud of doubt hanging over Commissioner-designate Sylvie Goulard. With an ongoing investigation into her financial dispositions by the EU anti-fraud office OLAF and the French judiciary, it would not be timely to give a final stamp of approval for her as Commissioner for Internal Market today. The EPP Group will demand that more questions are answered, and a possible second hearing, to clear up the outstanding issues and to make up our minds”, said Christian Ehler MEP, EPP Group Spokesman on Industry, Research and Energy in the European Parliament.
“Sylvie Goulard is supposed to take over an unprecedented, complex structure of 3 Directorates-General, each of a very different nature, but crucial for the EU economy, with ongoing legal allegations. It is thus hard to imagine how she is going to manage such complexity and to which extent this will burden her in the important issues she will manage”, added Ehler.
“In the hearing, it became clear that several Members still have doubts about Sylvie Goulard, despite her being cleared by the Legal Affairs Committee. We need a Commissioner who has the ability to put the Single Market back at the top of the political agenda. This is why we need a strong Commissioner for this important portfolio, whose aptitude is beyond any doubt. Sylive Goulard‘s commitment to an open Single Market without barriers is very positive in this regard. However, as some questions remained open during the hearing and need further discussion, the EPP Group wants to postpone the Parliament‘s decision on the Commissioner-designate for the time being,” said Andreas Schwab MEP, EPP Group Spokesman on the Internal Market.
S&Ds want further clarifications from Commissioner-designate Sylvie Goulard
Commissioner-designate Sylvie Goulard today has failed to convince the Socialists and Democrats who will ask for further clarifications, following her hearing in the European Parliament.
“Sylvie Goulard’s appointment raises many questions. In particular, we are concerned that she is still facing ongoing judicial investigations in France and at the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) on potentially fictitious employment of a parliamentary assistant,” stated S&D Group spokesperson on the internal market Christel Schaldemose.
“The case seems to be serious enough to have sparked her resignation as defence minister in France. If as Commissioner she is forced to face judicial proceedings, her appointment risks weakening the Commission as a whole. We want a Commissioner that is 100% committed and that is able to fully focus on the job at hand,” she added.
“Sylvie Goulard has not been able to give specific answers. It may be because she has an oversized portfolio. She will have to promote the single market, develop a long term strategy for European industry including digitalisation and, at the same time, take care of our defence, security and space policy. And also the audiovisual sector! She may well be very experienced in European politics, but we believe that the butter is being spread over too much bread,” said S&D Group vice-presidents responsible respectively for internal market and the industry policy, Biljana Borzan and Ismail Ertug.
“We are concerned about her ability to prioritise between her different fields of work. This broad portfolio could be challenging to coordinate and lead in equal measure the initiatives in all three DGs she will oversee, while maintaining a high level of quality in her work. In particular, we want to ensure that she will devote sufficient time to take care of the audiovisual sector which is under real pressure due to digitalisation, new market players and competition. On industry policy, we have concerns about her ability to be a game-changer. In her written answers, we fail to see anything new in terms of a coherent strategy that overcomes the silo approach of the current Commission. There are too many initiatives that will depend on different Commissioners and not enough streamlining. The risk is that it will be business as usual,” the two vice-presidents added.
Based on the committees’ recommendations, the Conference of Presidents will decide on 17 October if Parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to elect the Commission as a whole on 23 October, in Strasbourg.