Phil Hogan at the centre of a huge row about his political future

EU trade commissioner facing numerous calls to quit after he allegedly broke quarantine rules in his native Ireland.
European Commission Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

26 Aug 2020

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is making a “thorough assessment” of a report from EU commissioner Phil Hogan who is at the centre of a huge row about his political future.

The information was provided by Hogan following a request by von der Leyen.

Hogan, the trade commissioner, has faced numerous calls to quit after he allegedly broke quarantine rules in his native Ireland.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheál Martin, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, and Green coalition partner Eamon Ryan said on Tuesday that his “delayed and hesitant” response undermined public confidence.

On Tuesday, the Irish government said there were clear breaches of Covid-19 public health guidelines during Hogan’s recent trip to Ireland.

Hogan attended a golf club dinner last week that outraged the Irish public but, he has insisted that he had adhered to all rules during the trip.

He gave a detailed account of his 20-day trip to von der Leyen on Tuesday. In the documents he said he tested negative for Covid-19 during a hospital visit on 5 August.

He said this meant he was "not under any subsequent legal requirement to self-isolate or quarantine".

However, Irish Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said the government in Ireland has lost confidence in Hogan because of the lack of immediate transparency and communication from him.

It has been claimed that Hogan breached public health advice by attending the golf club event when there was clear Irish government advice to avoid large congregations.

Irish health minister Stephen Donnelly has called on Hogan to consider resigning.

“[European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen] is now studying the report from Commissioner Hogan very carefully. It is a very detailed report which has also been made public to ensure full transparency about his movements during the relevant period” European Commission spokesperson

At a press briefing on Wednesday, a Commission spokesperson said president von der Leyen was treating the matter “very seriously” but declined to speculate on Hogan’s future as a European Commissioner.

The spokesperson, who faced a barrage of questions about Hogan, said, “The president is now studying the report from Commissioner Hogan very carefully. It is a very detailed report which has also been made public to ensure full transparency about his movements during the relevant period.”

“The president is also in contact with Hogan about this report and has taken note of a statement on the issue from the Irish authorities.”

“She will continue to consider the matter and examining his report because she needs to have the full picture on this. She is committed to making a thorough assessment which is both comprehensive and fair.”

The spokesperson declined to answer questions from reporters about whether the Commission still had trust or confidence in Hogan.

She added, “It is impossible to enter into a discussion about this and I would point out that it is less than 24 hours since we had the report from Commissioner Hogan.

“It is impossible to say when the assessment will be completed but this will be communicated immediately when it is.”

Asked whether the affair was overshadowing the Commission’s work, she replied, “Our work in relation to trade continues unabated and I would point out that last Friday we made an important announcement on trade.”

“The president is determined that this matter does not detract from our work both on trade and the pandemic.”

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