Government will send a Fine Gael nominee for EU commissioner role; Simon Coveney the favourite

Government will send a Fine Gael nominee for EU commissioner role; Simon Coveney the favourite
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney, is seen as the frontrunner for the job.Photo: Sam Boal/

The Government will send a Fine Gael nominee to become Ireland’s new EU Commissioner, it has been agreed.

The Irish Examiner has confirmed that the seat on the EU Commission remains in the control of the European People’s Party, the European grouping to which Fine Gael belongs, and therefore they retain the right to nominate.

This has been agreed by Taoiseach Micheál Martin as it is likely his party will have the right to appoint the next full Commissioner in 2024, should the Government still be in office.

Government sources have also scotched suggestions that a non-political person will occupy the role. “We need a politician over there not a technocrat or diplomat,” said one minister firmly.

It is likely that the decision to replace Phil Hogan could happen as early as the weekend, with Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney the firm favourite to take over.

While EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has requested the government give her two names of possible appointees, one male and one female, senior government sources here say such a scenario is not straight forward.

“It is tricky to find one suitable candidate who ticks all the boxes, but nearly impossible to find two and two of different genders,” said one minister.

“It is the duty of the Irish government to decide who they send over, so I presume contacts and communications with the President’s office will occur, but it will be Coveney more than likely,” the minister added.

Candidate will be chosen by consensus before thorough committee evaluation

The decision to appoint a European Commissioner has traditionally been in the sole gift of the Taoiseach, but Mr Hogan’s replacement will have to be a consensus candidate given the tripartite government.

Normally, the Taoiseach would nominate someone and present their name and credentials to the EU Commission President.

If agreed, that person would then be sent forward for approval by the European Parliament.

Commissioners-designate have to appear before parliamentary committees in their prospective fields of responsibility, depending on the portfolio allocated to them by the President.

Each committee then meets to draw up its evaluation of the candidate's expertise and performance, which is sent to the President of the Parliament.

A negative evaluation has prompted candidates in the past to withdraw from the process.

Normally all Commissioners are approved as one collective grouping at the start of the Commission’s term.

The full Commission, including the Commission President and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, then needs to be approved in a single vote of consent by Parliament.

As just one position is being filled, the process is somewhat different and could be more streamlined.

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