Ireland Loses EU Trade Job After Coronavirus Breach

European Commissioner Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis speaks at EU headquarters in Brussels last year. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

BRUSSELS (AFP) — Ireland lost the EU’s coveted top trade job on Tuesday, paying the price for mistakes made by Phil Hogan, who resigned after breaking coronavirus guidelines.

Instead, the post of trade commissioner now goes to EU veteran Valdis Dombrovskis, a former Latvian prime minister who is seen as a steady pair of hands for one of the bloc’s most sensitive jobs.

Ireland, however, did better than expected in the reshuffle, with the important financial services portfolio going to the country’s new commissioner, senior MEP Mairead McGuinness, the EU said.

With the post, McGuinness becomes a key regulator of banking in Europe and will help determine the role of the City of London in the EU’s future ties with the UK.

“Congratulations to @MaireadMcGMEP on her appointment as European Commissioner in an important financial portfolio,” tweeted Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin.

Phil Hogan answers questions during a 2019 hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels when he served as the European commissioner designate for trade. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

Hogan, one of the bloc’s most senior officials and a powerful force in Brexit talks, quit last month after a week-long stream of revelations about his whereabouts during a visit to Ireland.

In a scandal known as Golfgate, the Irish government said Hogan flouted a trio of coronavirus guidelines during the trip, although the former commissioner himself insisted he broke no laws. 

He also attended a parliamentary golf club dinner on August 19, in breach of coronavirus restrictions on social gathering numbers announced just 24 hours earlier in a bid to curb a surge in cases.

An outburst of public anger in Ireland persuaded EU chief Ursula von der Leyen to ask Hogan to step down, forcing the Irish government to put forward new candidates for the job.

Dombrovskis had already been in the EU Commission under Jean-Claude Juncker since 2014 and was promoted to executive vice president by von der Leyen last year.

The role of trade commissioner is one of the hardest in the EU executive, challenged in recent years by the protectionism of US President Donald Trump and tensions with China.

The occupant of the post will also have to handle rising opposition to trade deals by European voters who have growing doubt on the merits of globalization championed by Brussels.

The reshuffle still needs the final approval of European Parliament.

© Agence France-Presse

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