Controversy Surrounding US Appointment In EU Competition Directorate

Fiona Scott-Morton is due to become the new chief economist of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition on September 1. His appointment dates from July 11 and it provokes an outcry.

This brilliant 56-year-old university professor, Yale graduate and MIT doctor, specialist in competition issues, was assistant attorney general “antitrust” under Obama. In May, six civil society organizations had already expressed concern about this candidacy. In the European Parliament, this Thursday, July 13, his appointment sparked many unwelcome comments. In a rare unanimity, all the parties send a volley of green wood to the European Commission.

Heartbreaking, unacceptable, scandalous, MEPs do not have words harsh enough to criticize or even condemn the decision to hire Fiona Scott-Morton. It is particularly in the French ranks that the most virulent criticism is heard and it goes from the far right to the far left, even the centrists are associated with it. On the side of the Insoumis and the National Rally, it is above all his American nationality that gets stuck. “The proof that this Europe is no longer European at all,” squeaks Marine Le Pen, while Jean-Luc Mélenchon denounces “the annexation of our continent by the North Americans”. Ecologist MEP Yannick Jadot says he is scandalized by an appointment “unethical and contrary to our digital sovereignty” while his comrade in the European Parliament, the Republican Geoffroy Didier regrets a “clumsy and dangerous” decision while Brussels displays the ambition to crack down on the American digital giants.

Less than a year from the European elections, the danger of this appointment was quickly perceived on the side of the French government: it is necessary to “reconsider” this decision, judged the French Minister for Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna, just like her colleagues in the government. Jean Noel Barrot and Laurence Boone.

Fear of potential conflicts of interest

They want explanations and ask to give up appointing Fiona Scott-Morton, with a question: “How did the Commission manage not to find a competent European? The hiring of foreigners is allowed for their language or very specific skills, but of the Commission’s 32,000 employees, less than 2,000 are neither European nor British. They mainly work in representative offices outside the EU. Within the Commission, some discreetly regret this choice which would have been imposed by surprise by the Commissioner for Competition, Margrete Vestager.

On an ethical level, MPs are concerned about potential conflicts of interest, as Fiona Scott-Morton has been a consultant for Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. And the powerful Directorate-General for Competition is precisely responsible for ensuring the proper functioning of competition in the European Union and for investigating in particular the abuse of a dominant position by the digital giants, which has given rise to record fines in recent years. years. This appointment of Fiona Scott Morton comes at a time when the EU must implement ambitious new legislation to regulate this sector and fuels criticism of Ursula von der Leyen, considered to be very Atlanticist.

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