France picks Breton for top EU commission job

Paris, Oct 24 (AFP/APP): President Emmanuel Macron announced Thursday he has proposed former economy minister Thierry Breton who rescued France Telecom, as Paris’s candidate for a major portfolio in the European Commission.

European members of parliament rejected Sylvie Goulard, his first candidate for the Brussels executive on October 10 in a rare political defeat on the European stage for the French leader.

The presidential Elysee Palace issued a statement saying Macron had forwarded his proposal to the new head of the commission Ursula von der Leyen for Breton to take over the ambitious portfolio covering industrial policy, defence spending, high-tech and space.

Von der Leyen had already approved the proposal after she and Macron “agreed on the profile”, the Elysee statement said.

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“If we are proposing this candidate, he is suitable,” it added.

“Thierry Breton has solid skills in all the areas covered by the portfolio, particularly industry and high tech,” the statement said, noting he “enjoys a reputation as a man of action”.

Breton was Jacques Chirac’s economy minister from 2005 to 2007 having taken an ailing France Telecom to privatisation.

He currently heads information technology multinational Atos where he has doubled turnover to more than 12 billion euros and staff numbers to 122,000.

If Breton is approved in Brussels, he would take over the role on December 1, a month later than orginally planned.

Former MEP Goulard resigned in June 2017 from a short stint as France’s defence minister after questioning by investigators in a ghost jobs scandal involving a parliamentary assistant.

The EU Anti-Fraud Office has also opened an investigation into the case. Both proceedings are ongoing, but Goulard has not been charged.

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