Latvian Valdis Dombrovskis has been named as the new EU trade policy chief. He replaces Ireland’s Phil Hogan, who was forced to resign last month after it was revealed that he had broken Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she had chosen Mr Dombrovskis, the EU’s erstwhile executive vice-president for economic policy, to take on the trade role as part of a reshuffle that also includes removing some of his current responsibilities. He will remain, however, alongside Paolo Gentiloni, a Commission representative on the Eurogroup, an informal body that brings together ministers from the euro area countries to discuss matters related to the euro.
The appointment of Mr Dombrovskis means that owing to Mr Hogan’s self-inflicted downfall, Ireland has lost the coveted trade portfolio. The country’s replacement EU commissioner, Mairead McGuinness, will instead be in charge of financial services and financial stability.
Ms McGuinness has been a staunch defender of the EU’s Brexit stance, and though her portfolio is less prominent than Ireland may have wanted, the financial services brief will play a consequential role in negotiations with the UK, considering London’s status as a financial centre.
“Ms McGuinness has significant political experience on EU issues, having been an MEP since 2004 and currently holding the post of first Vice-President of the European Parliament. This experience is crucial in carrying forward the EU’s financial sector policy agenda and ensuring it supports and strengthens the Commission’s key priorities, notably the twin green and digital transition,” said Mrs von der Leyen, announcing the changes to her Commission.
Mr Dombrovskis – who had been in charge of the trade portfolio on a temporary basis since Mr Hogan’s resignation – will have a vital job in coming months, dealing with post-Brexit Britain, and global trade tensions involving the United States and China.
“We are currently in turbulent waters,” said Mr Dombrovskis, a former prime minister of Latvia, speaking at the Brussels Economic Forum.
“We remain committed to multilateral, rules-based trade. What’s important moving forward, as we negotiate new trade deals, is to preserve our European approach, involving all member states,” he added.
Both Mr Dombrovskis and Ms McGuinness will need to attend confirmation hearings in the European Parliament before formally taking up their new roles.
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