Europe’s trade chief, Phil Hogan on Wednesday evening submitted his resignation following an outcry over his breaches of coronavirus rules during a golfing break in Ireland.
“It was becoming increasingly clear that the controversy concerning my recent visit to Ireland was becoming a distraction from my work as an EU Commissioner and would undermine my work in the key months ahead,” Hogan said in his statement of resignation submitted to the Commission’s chief, Ursula von der Leyen.
In his statement, the bloc’s trade chief apologised to the people of Ireland, acknowledging the impact of COVID-19 on families and individuals, and saying that he shares their “sense of hurt and anger when they feel that those in public service do not meet the standards expected of them.”
“It is important to state that I did not break any law,” stated Hogan, who had initially supported that it was the organisers’ responsibility to ensure the events’ compliance with corona restrictions.
“As a public representative I should have been more rigorous in my adherence to the Covid regulations,” he added.
His resignation was welcomed by the Commission President and the leaders of Ireland’s three governing parties, who issued a joined statement saying:
“We believe that it is the correct course of action given the circumstances of the past week. We all have a responsibility to support and adhere to public health guidelines and regulations.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the Irish government had signalled that Hogan should quit or be sacked, after some reports that emerged over the weekend showed that Hogan attended a parliamentary gold society dinner at a hotel in Galway, a city in the west of Ireland, that breached Coronavirus restrictions already in place in the country.
They supported that Hogan should have limited his movements to and from Kildare for essential travel only, and that he should not have attended the golf dinner.
When EU’s trade Commissioner reached Ireland, on July 31, he travelled to his temporary residence in Kildare and tested negative for COVID-19 a few days later, in a bid to do “everything possible to ensure he was no risk to anybody.”
However, the country’s health department said that any person arriving to Ireland from a country not on the green list, is required to restrict their movements for two weeks, since a negative test does not necessarily shorten the 14-days requirement.
On Thursday, von der Leyen invited the Irish government to propose a female and male candidate for the post, whilst Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis will be handling ad interim responsibilities for trade matters. At a later stage, von der Leyen will decide on a reshuffle and the final allocation of portfolios.
The Commission’s chief also asked from the members of the College to “be particularly vigilant about compliance with applicable national or regional rules or recommendations,” citing that Europe is trying to reduce the spread of Coronavirus and citizens are struggling to
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) August 27, 2020