With the summer now coming to an end, the return to work is now just around the corner for everyone. This will not be the case for Phil Hogan, the now former Trade Commissioner of the Von der Leyen team. Hogan resigned on 26 August following the Golfgate case that broke out in Ireland in recent weeks.
According to the newspapers, the former Commissioner violated the 14-day quarantine for anyone entering Irish territory in order to take part in a dinner on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Oireachtas Golf Society, the Irish Parliament’s golf club, which was attended by some 80 people. In addition to Hogan, other members of Irish institutions who attended the celebration were “invited” to present their resignations, including the Minister of Agriculture, Dara Calleary, and the Vice-President of the Senate, Jerry Buttimer.
Pressure for Hogan’s resignation came from Dublin’s government led by Prime Minister Micheál Martin, who accused the former Commissioner of “undermining the whole public health strategy in Ireland”, de facto withdrawing the national government’s support for the Irish representative of the EU Commission.
According to Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), a Commissioner may be removed from the exercise of his or her duties due to serious misconduct or if he or she no longer fulfils “the conditions required for the performance of his or her duties”. This is therefore a sensitive precedent in an extremely tense European and international political context. Hogan was, in fact, responsible for major EU dossiers, such as the management of trade tensions with the United States, negotiations on the Brexit trade dimension and relations with China.
“I respect this,” said Ursula Von der Leyen in the press release the following day. And she continued: “In the current circumstances, as Europe fights to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and Europeans make sacrifices and accept painful restrictions, I expect the members of the College to be particularly vigilant about compliance with applicable national or regional rules or recommendations”.
In accordance with Article 246 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), it is now up to the Irish Government to present suitable candidates for a new Commissioner of Irish nationality, a proposal which must in any case be submitted to President Von der Leyen for approval. The nomination of David O’ Sullivan, former EU Ambassador to the United States, is expected, but until a new Commissioner is actually appointed, the interim mandate will be given to Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis.