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A debacle, a cold shower and a slap in the face: French commentators spared no hyperbole in describing the rejection of Frances nominee for the European Commission, Sylvie Goulard, claiming Emmanuel Macron had been punished for his arrogance.
In a humiliating first for France, European lawmakers (MEPs) on Thursday voted overwhelmingly – by 82 to 29 – to refuse Goulard's appointment for a broad economic portfolio covering industrial policy, defence spending, high tech and space.
Goulard is under investigation by the EU Anti-Fraud Office over allegations she and other MEPs from France's centrist MoDem party used European Parliament funds to pay assistants based in France. French police have also questioned her over the claims, though she is yet to face charges.
The allegations forced Goulard to resign as France's defence minister just weeks after her appointment in 2017, but she was still deemed fit to represent France in the EUs powerful executive body – a case of double standards deemed insulting by many European legislators.
“If she was unfit to serve as a minister [in France], why did she apply for a similar position at the European level?” asked an editorial in left-wing daily Libération, denouncing a “deceitful distinction that clearly irked lawmakers unwilling to see European rules flouted".
On top of a “severe lesson in humility”, Goulards snub marks a “lesson in democracy” for France, wrote the pro-EU, pro-business daily LOpinion, adding: “Europe is not – or no longer – a democratic by-product in which to recycle those who have been ditched by national politics.”
The vote signaled not only “an unprecedented defeat for France”, concluded Le Figaro, the conservative daily; it also marked the French president as a “sore loser” who “blamed everyone but himself”.
Like a boomerang
In characteristically unapologetic mode, Macron responded to Goulards rejection with a terse comment on “the resentment, perhaps the pettiness” at play in the European Parliaments vote.
"I was told 'your nominee is great', […] and now they finally tell me they don't want [her] anymore. I need that to be explained to me," the visibly angered president told reporters in the French city of Lyon.
His words betrayed an admission of failure, wrote Le Monde, Frances daily of record: “The failure to grasp the extent of the European Parliaments identity crisis, a crisis he fuelled without fully measuring its consequences, and one that has turned against him like a boomerang.”
The newspaper pointed to the role played by centrist forces like Macrons in upending the traditional left-right dichotomy that has governed the parliament since its inception. It also highlighted the French presidents part in scuppering attempts by the assemblys largest bloc, the conservative PPE, to place its candidate – Manfred Weber – at the helm of the European Commission.
Breaking with decades of tradition, Macron worked with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to outmaneuver MEPs and impose Ursula von der Leyen, a former German defence minister, as a compromise candidate for European Commission chief, a choice only grudgingly approved by the parliament in an unusually tight vote.
“Macron failed to realise to what extent the European Parliament felt violated by von der Leyens appointment,” European lawmaker Arnaud Danjean, a member of the PPE, told Le Monde.
French – or European – fiasco?
Goulards rejection signaled MEPs “willingness to take revenge on Macron, seen as the one who didnt want the parliament candidate, Manfred Weber”, added Peter Nedergaard of Copenhagen Universitys Centre for European Politics, in an interview with FRANCE 24.
The fact that Goulard herself “came across as arrRead More – Source