Gala dinner, lack of sanitary rules … European Trade Commissioner resigns

European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan resigned after breaking health rules for Covid-19 during a trip to his country, Ireland. By breaking the quarantine he was subjected to, he attended a dinner with 80 people, organized by a prestigious golf club. His behavior caused outrage in Ireland.

The “Golfgate” scandal caused European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan to resign on Wednesday 26 August. The Irishman has been accused of violating current health instructions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in his country, after attending an 80-person gala last week organized by a golf club.

The dinner took place shortly after a decision by the Irish authorities to tighten restrictions on gatherings and banned meetings with more than six people indoors, due to a resurgence of the epidemic that has left nearly 1,800 dead in Ireland. .

The performance of Phil Hogan, a political heavyweight in his country, irritated some public opinion and led to the resignation of the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Dara Calleary. The government decided that Phil Hogan had violated the health instructions by attending the dinner in question, even though he would restrict his movements for fourteen days, as would all travelers arriving in Ireland.

Test negative for Covid-19

“It became increasingly clear that the controversy surrounding my recent visit to Ireland distracted me from my job as European Commissioner and would have hindered my work in the crucial months ahead,” the outgoing Commissioner said in a statement. .

Phil Hogan had already made a public apology three times in recent days, while ensuring that he had followed all the rules during his trip. With a negative Covid-19 test, he defended himself from violating the two-week quarantine to which he was subjected. But his proclamations of good faith failed to stop the general uproar in Ireland.

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Commission President Ursula von der Leyen asked him for a detailed account of his twenty-day stay in Ireland, during which he traveled three times to County Kildare, then during containment measures.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin and Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, leader of the Fine Gael party, from which Hogan hails, said the latter had made the right decision on resignation and added that they would think quickly about its replacement.

Phil Hogan held one of the key positions in the European Commission. His departure comes at the worst of times, when the EU’s trade relations with the United States, but also with China, are particularly strained.

The relatively rare resignation of a Commissioner is always a sensitive issue, as it affects the whole geographical and political balance on which the Commission is based. Each EU country has an assignment. And the team of 26 people chairing the conservative von der Leyen is the result of a smart mix between the most important political families in the EU, according to their results in the EU elections in May 2019.

It is not certain that the future Irish candidate for a Commissioner will retain the trade portfolio, Ursula von der Leyen may choose a change of EU Executive Director.

With AFP and Reuters