Ireland wants to retain a new Commissioner 'EU-Trade' with nomination

EP Plenary session - European Council and Commission statements - Conclusions of the extraordinary European Council meeting of 17-21 July 2020

If Ireland is to retain the European Commission's influential trading portfolio, the Dublin government will have to nominate someone to Brussels who is of the highest level and achievement - not just someone loyal to Irish party interests.

This is what Irish MEP Seán Kelly says in a conversation with the Irish agricultural newspaper AgriLand. He spoke to him about Ireland's chances of holding onto the important and influential job of the Trade Commissioner. That position is now vacant following the resignation of Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. He recently stepped down for being discredited about participating in a luxury golf party in Ireland in violation of corona regulations.

The Irish government on Friday nominated two candidates to Brussels to succeed Hogan: veteran Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness and second candidate Andrew McDowell, who held a senior position at the European Investment Bank (EIB).

It is far from certain that Hogan's successor will get the heavy trading portfolio. Von der Leyen may still move in the duties of the 27 supervisory directors.

McGuinness (61) has been in the European Parliament since 2004 and one of its vice-presidents since 2017. McDowell finished his four-year term this week as one of the eight vice-presidents of the European Investment Bank EIB. He said in his retirement that he hoped to be able to continue working for sustainable development.

The early resignation of a EU Supervisory Board member is extremely unusual. There is no specific reason why Ireland's next candidate cannot 'tie in' to the trade order. But there is no particular reason for permitting it either. Kelly explained that the replacement procedure is largely in the hands of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

The MEP suggested that if President von der Leyen allowed Ireland to keep the trade file, she would "insist on having a say" over who nominates the Irish government.

That is why, according to Kelly, it is “interesting that von der Leyen has asked Ireland to nominate both a man and a woman for the role”. Currently, the College of Commissioners (including President Von der Leyen and excluding Hogan) consists of 14 men and 12 women.

Kelly suggested that such an Irish move would enable President von der Leyen to increase the gender balance on her committee. Gender balance was one of President von der Leyen's main priorities when she assumed that role at the end of 2018.

Giving President von der Leyen the opportunity to do so could `` strengthen Ireland's hand '' in maintaining its trading position, Kelly said. But he stressed that even then "nothing would be guaranteed". MEP Kelly calls McGuinness 'tough' enough to also be able to get the influential trading portfolio, and he says she has a great chance with her wealth of work experience in Europe.

Now that the Irish government has put forward two candidates, it is up to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to choose one of them. After that, the European Parliament will hold a hearing with him or her, which is the standard procedure.

The European Parliament then votes for - or against - that candidate, and if so (provided the other relevant EU bodies are also satisfied) the candidate is officially appointed. Von der Leyen will probably give an indication of the portfolio she wants the candidate to take before then.