Covid party: EU trade chief Hogan quits

EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan stepped down from his position on Wednesday. The Irish government had pushed for his resignation after the country's agriculture minister also quit his post amid a scandal over the two politicians attending a dinner party with 80 guests in violation of Ireland's coronavirus rules. Did the government do the right thing?

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Irish Examiner (IE) /

A dangerous Rubicon has been crossed

The Irish government hasn't exactly covered itself in glory in this affair, the Irish Examiner complains:

“In addition to the loss of Mr Hogan, there is likely to be considerable fallout for Ireland in Brussels because of this. A dangerous Rubicon has been crossed. A national government has essentially orchestrated events to force the removal of an EU commissioner, who are supposed to be beyond the reach of domestic controversies. ... There will be fences to be mended and at a time when Ireland needs all the help it can get when it comes to dealing with Brexit, the Hogan affair was the last thing it needed.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Proof of a mature political culture

Dnevnik, on the other hand, praises the stance of the Irish Government:

“The resignation of Commissioner Hogan demonstrates a mature political culture, which we seek in vain among Slovenian or Hungarian officials. ... Ireland's prime minister and the deputy prime minister called for Hogan's resignation even though they knew it meant that the country would no longer have an equally significant post in the current EU Commission under Ursula von der Leyen. But even the risk of losing the prestigious trade portfolio did not shake the resolve of Ireland's political leaders. They called for a sense of personal responsibility on the part of their highest political representative in order to credibly demand further coronavirus sacrifices from the citizens.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

This heavyweight will be missed

Hogan's resignation weakens the EU Commission enormously, the Süddeutsche Zeitung comments:

“With this step his boss, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, loses one of her most experienced and important allies. Replacing him with someone who is equally competent will be a tall order, but it's absolutely crucial because Europe can't afford to have a novice or a mere follower in this powerful post. Especially since there are already a number of Commissioners who haven't really made much of an impression in the first nine months of their term of office in Brussels. ... Hogan is quite another matter: the Irishman was a widely respected heavyweight in this College which offers refuge to many a political lightweight. He will be sorely missed.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

We've seen bigger faux pas without dismissals

Handelsblatt hopes that the EU Commission president will stand by Hogan:

“Von der Leyen can't afford to lose Hogan as a key figure in transatlantic relations after nine months. She knows that his dismissal would be detrimental to her own interests. ... Major faux pas have been made in the past without the affair ending in the dismissal of an EU commissioner. Three years ago, for example, the digital commissioner at the time, Günther Oettinger, caused an outcry with his latently xenophobic 'slit-eyes' speech. After he apologised he was even promoted to EU Budget Commissioner. By comparison, Hogan's violations of the pandemic regulations are far more excusable.”

RTE News (IE) /

Brussels won't be bossed around by Dublin

The Irish government's recommendation that Phil Hogan should resign could actually help him stay in office, RTE News concludes:

“[I]t is also true that for a commissioner to be sacked because of domestic pressure would create a precedent that the Commission will not tolerate. Commissioners are accountable to the European Parliament, not national capitals. So far the Parliament, which is still in recess, has not been hugely exercised by the affair. Officials insist that if Commissioners were at the mercy of the partisan politics of member states then the system would simply grind to a halt.”