Government stands ‘firmly’ by Hogan despite 50:50 gender demand

Ursula von der Leyen says she will ask all states to present male and female candidates

 European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The Government is “standing firmly” behind its nomination of Phil Hogan as Ireland’s next EU commissioner despite a demand for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to put forward a male and female candidate for the post.

Ursula von der Leyen, who has been nominated by the European Council to be the next president of the European Commission, on Wednesday morning said she wanted her commission to have a 50:50 gender split.

She told Renew Europe MEPs: “I want a commission that is 50 per cent women, 50 per cent men, so I will ask the heads of state and government to present two people, two persons - a man and a woman. So this is what we are looking for.”

The explicit call for EU leaders to each nominate a man and a woman, and effectively allow Ms von der Leyen choose which would be that country’s commissioner, caused surprise in Brussels and Dublin.

It is likely to put pressure on Mr Varadkar to name a female alternative to Mr Hogan after the Cabinet this week agreed that he be put forward for a second term in the European Commission. The former Minister for the Environment and Kilkenny TD has been agriculture commissioner since 2014.

Government sources, however, said Mr Varadkar is standing “firmly behind” Mr Hogan, adding: “It’s up to member states to decide who to put forward.”

Along with Ireland’s nomination of Mr Hogan, other countries such as Latvia, Slovakia, Finland, Luxembourg, Estonia, the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain have already identified their designated commissioners.

Each European Union member state has one commissioner and the allocation of their portfolios is at the discretion of the president of the European Commission.

The Government push-back on Ms von der Leyen’s suggestion is likely to be followed by other EUmember states.

A Government spokeswoman said on Wednesday evening: “Commissioner Hogan is Ireland’s candidate for the new commission. The decision to re-nominate him is an endorsement of his work to date, and an indication of the importance we place on our engagement with EU institutions. He has done an excellent job in his five years as commissioner for agriculture and rural affairs.

“We are aware the nominee for Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, has spoken of her interest in having each member state propose two candidates for commissioner as part of her engagement with the European Parliament.

“In the first instance President von der Leyen’s appointment must be endorsed by the European Parliament, after the process will get underway which will see the new Commission formed and portfolios allocated.”

The news of a possible requirement for a gender quota came during an interview with Mr Hogan on RTÉ Radio One’s Seán O’Rourke.

At the end of the interview, the host said Maeve McMahon of Euronews had “just tweeted a comment from new president of the Commission Ursula van der Leyen – she wants a commission that’s 50 per cent male and 50 per cent female and she’ll ask each member State to send two candidates each.

Mr Hogan responded: “I’m sure she has to ask the president-elect of the European Commission to clarify that. I’m glad to be one of the names that actually is being put forward anyway and I hope I don’t have to go through some of the hoops that I did on the last occasion about my gender.”

Ms von der Leyen on Wednesday evening re-emphasised her policy by posting a video of her announcement, which drew applause from MEPs, on social media. The video was accompanied by a social media message which read: “Gender equality is a topic close to my heart, which is why I came forward with this proposal.” She also included the message “#EuropeIsAWoman”.