the new affair which weakens the president of the European Commission – L’Express

the new affair which weakens the president of the European

Avoid awkwardness and communication hiccups. Stay away from scandals. This is the agenda of a candidate a few months before an election he intends to run for. Thus, less than 12 weeks before the renewal of the presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen is making her words rarer: not a tweet for more than a month. Weigh your words. But don’t escape controversy.

After getting caught up in Pfizergate, the President of the Commission finds herself embroiled in a new affair. The “PieperGate”, according to the formula of journalists David Carretta and Christian Spillmann, on their blog “The European Morning“. The scandal is said to have arisen from a letter addressed to the President of the European Commission by part of the College of Commissioners: the Vice-President and High Representative, Josep Borrell, and the Commissioners Thierry Breton, Paolo Gentiloni and Nicolas Schmit.

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In this letter dated March 17, senior European officials contest the recent appointment of Markus Pieper. This German MEP, head of the CDU-CSU delegation within the European People’s Party (EPP), was appointed on January 31 as EU envoy for small and medium-sized businesses. A position supposed to replace the Commissioner for the Internal Market. But the choice of Markus Pieper raises “questions about the transparency and impartiality of the appointment process”, the four commissioners argue in their letter.

Valuable support to return to the head of the Commission?

More generally, within the European institutions, many are wondering about the vagueness surrounding this appointment. Firstly, this was recorded in the absence of the responsible commissioner, who is none other than Thierry Breton, co-author of the letter. The senior French official had notably expressed his preferences for another face. Secondly, according to La Matinale Européenne, this appointment was not preceded by any discussion between the chiefs of staff of the commissioners. Third, Markus Pieper was chosen even though his opponents for the position obtained a better score in the evaluation by independent selection committees. Of the three personalities appearing on the “short list” drawn up internally, Markus Pieper came last, behind the Czech Martina Dlabajová and the Swede Anna Stellinger.

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In short, all the ingredients come together to fuel suspicions of favoritism. Especially since Ursula von der Leyen and Markus Pieper do not only share a nationality. They also belong to the same political family: the CDU, the German conservative party. Thus, for part of the College of Commissioners, there is no doubt: Ursula von der Leyen offered this generously paid position – between fifteen and twenty thousand euros per month – to Markus Pieper in order to obtain the support of her party next June during the election of the new president of the Commission.

Markus Pieper retained in his post (for now)

Already on March 1, fourteen European deputies, Greens, Socialists and Democrats, had highlighted the promotion of Markus Pieper. In a priority written question, the elected officials questioned the Commission: what are the results of the internal and external evaluations of Markus Pieper? What additional qualifications justified this choice to the detriment of better candidates? And of course: did affiliation with the CDU play a role in this nomination? A request for clarification has since remained a dead letter.

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During a press briefing on April 4, the Commission’s chief spokesperson tried to downplay what many observers call a political scandal: “The President [Ursula von der Leyen] has full confidence that the process [de nomination] was carried out in accordance with all relevant procedures”. In other words, everything was done according to the rules of the art, move around, there is nothing to see, Markus Pieper remains in office. Which is not a sure thing for Ursula von der Leyen at the moment.