French nominee for EU won't automatically resign if indicted
By SAMUEL PETREQUIN
October 10, 2019 04:01 AM
BRUSSELS (AP) - France's nominee for the next European Commission said Thursday it will be up to the next EU chief to decide whether she needs to step down in case she is indicted in a French investigation into alleged misuse of funds.
Summoned to a second hearing by European lawmakers assessing if she is fit to become the next commissioner in charge of the bloc's internal market, Goulard said she won't automatically step down if handed preliminary charges.
Goulard, a close ally of French President Emmanuel Macron, resigned as French defense minister when the investigation was opened two years ago.
"If I were to be formally put under investigation, I would have a discussion with (Commission) President Ursula von der Leyen," Goulard said during her audition.
After her initial hearing left many lawmakers unimpressed and asking for more guarantees, Goulard had to submit written answers to a set of questions before she was quizzed again.
"I gave you all the elements in my possession," she said. "It's a thrilling mandate, hopefully you will give me the chance to carry it out."
The EU's anti-fraud office is also investigating Goulard, who served in the European Parliament during 2009-2017, over the allegations of misused funds.
Goulard has been accused of using the funds to pay a legislative assistant who actually worked for her former party. She told lawmakers the issue was related to overpayments she made after the employee stopped working for her and is denying wrongdoing.
In September, she answered questions from French investigators.
"One can never be certain of what will happen, but normally I won't end up being charged," she said.
Goulard again reminded lawmakers of the legal right to be presumed innocent. If approved for the post, Goulard would take office with the rest of the new European Commission in November. The full college of commissioners needs to be approved in a vote at the European Parliament.
European parliament lawmakers have so far rejected two candidates over suspicions of conflict of interest.
By SAMUEL PETREQUIN
Updated: October 10, 2019 04:01 AM
Created: October 10, 2019 03:48 AM
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