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Macron picks longtime ally as EU commissioner

French President Emmanuel Macron likes to take risks — and his choice of European commissioner is no different.

In something of a gamble, he nominated Wednesday ex-Defense Minister and EU veteran Sylvie Goulard to be the countrys next commissioner. Though Goulard is a former MEP with extensive policy experience, she will likely face scrutiny over alleged misuse of EU funds by her party during her time in the European Parliament.

“She is a woman with long-standing European experience, and an intimate knowledge of European institutions, and perfectly shares the presidents vision having been one of his earliest supporters,” said Sibeth Ndiaye, French government spokesperson, on Wednesday. Goulard “has a personal relationship with Ursula von der Leyen,” she added.

The two met at least once in Berlin when they were both defense ministers in May 2017.

Currently deputy governor at the French central bank, Goulard is known for her expertise in economics and European affairs.

A former adviser to Romano Prodi, the ex-Commission president, Goulard was an MEP for the liberal ALDE group from 2009 to 2017 and served as a rapporteur on many high-profile economic files, including eurozone governance. She is one of the most ardent promoters of Franco-German ties and one the few French politicians who can speak German and Italian fluently.

In 2017, Macron appointed her defense minister, but she resigned a month later, following a legal investigation into whether she used assistants inappropriately during her time as an MEP. She has not yet been cleared of these suspicions, and many officials believe these could complicate her nomination hearings in the European Parliament in October.

If Goulard secures the support of Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen and the European Parliament, she will replace Pierre Moscovici — the current European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs — as the French commissioner.

Macron indicated to von der Leyen Frances interest in either a climate and energy portfolio or an economic one when they met in Paris at the end of July.

“I can confirm that we are aiming to get an economic portfolio,” a senior French diplomatic official said Wednesday.

An official in President Macrons office gave hints last week about the possible contours of the portfolio: “Economic reform, industrial policy and competition policy have meaning in terms of the agenda.”

The final decision on portfolios rests with von der Leyen, and is expected to be announced on September 15, the French official said.

After they opened an investigation in France in 2017, French judges asked the European Parliament to provide information on suspicious contracts inside the centrist MoDem party. The case revolved around whether Goulard and other MEPs employed assistants at the European Parliament who were actually carrying out work for their party in France.

European Parliament officials say the information was provided and the legal case is now in the hands of French judges.

A spokesperson for the Parliament said Goulards case in the EU chamber was “closed” as Goulard “paid back” what she owed for what the spokesperson described as “administrative errors which were not intentional and not systemic.” Those errors, the spokesperson specified, involved “incorrectly notifying changes of posting for assistants.”

However, the Parliament has only administrative powers in this case, and the fact that Goulard reimbursed the money she owed does not affect Frances current legal investigation over her ex-MoDem party.

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