France will nominate Sylvie Goulard, a close ally of French President Emmanuel Macron, as its next European commissioner, several senior French officials told POLITICO.
Currently deputy governor at the French central bank, Goulard is known for her expertise in economics and European affairs but will likely face scrutiny over alleged misuse of EU funds by her party during her time in the European Parliament.
A former adviser to Romano Prodi, the ex-Commission president, Goulard was an MEP for the liberal ALDE group from 2009 to 2017 and served as a rapporteur on many high profile economic files including eurozone governance. She is one of the most ardent promoters of Franco-German ties and one the few French politicians who can speak German and Italian.
In 2017, Macron appointed her defense minister but she resigned a month later, following a legal investigation into whether she used assistants inappropriately during her time as an MEP. She has not yet been cleared of these suspicions, and many officials believe those could complicate her nomination hearings in the European Parliament in October.
If Goulard secures the support of Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen and the European Parliament, she will replace Pierre Moscovici — the current European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs — as the French commissioner.
Though it is not yet clear what portfolio she would get, French officials say the government wants an economic job.
Macron indicated to von der Leyen France’s interest in either a climate and energy portfolio or an economic one when they met in Paris at the end of July. But an Elysee official said at the time it would also depend on the profile of the candidate put forward.
“We’ve said we are interested in a portfolio that has meaning in terms of our big political priorities,” the official said. “Economic reform, industrial policy and competition policy have meaning in terms of the agenda.”
After they opened an investigation in France in 2017, judges asked the European Parliament to provide information on suspicious contracts inside the centrist MoDem party. European Parliament officials say the information was provided and the legal case is now in the hands of French judges. “We take note of the fact that the investigation is ongoing, and we are waiting,” one of the Parliament officials said.
Goulard’s work consulting for a U.S. think tank while she was a MEP also raised eyebrows.
Some French politicians have already attacked Macron for his choice.
“Very embarrassing! What prevented her from being minister in France is negligible on the European level,” tweeted French Green MEP Yannick Jadot.
Goulard had been a lead contender for the position for weeks but France’s announcement was delayed after Macron requested an extension from von der Leyen.
The president-elect is currently interviewing nominees put forward by EU countries, with a decision expected on portfolios next week.