Incoming EU business envoy withdraws from post after criticism

By Thomson Reuters Apr 15, 2024 | 4:34 PM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday her pick for the EU’s new business envoy had decided not to take up the post, after critics linked the appointment to cronyism.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, has reiterated that it followed all the rules in picking Markus Pieper, a lawmaker from von der Leyen’s German centre-right party, as a special envoy for small- and medium-sized businesses.

“The President both respects and regrets Markus Pieper’s decision not to take up his post as SME Envoy on 16 April as planned. Markus Pieper is a proven expert on SMEs and has prevailed in a multi-stage selection process,” von der Leyen’s spokesperson said in a statement on Monday evening.

Von der Leyen’s opponents in other parties have pointed to media reports that the Commission rejected two other candidates who scored better than Pieper in the initial selection process for the special envoy post.

The European Parliament last week approved a text calling on the Commission to rescind his appointment.

Pieper told the Handelsblatt newspaper on Monday his appointment had also been complicated by opposition by France’s EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, who leads EU industry policy.

“I currently see no possibility of fulfilling the legitimate expectations associated with the office,” the newspaper quoted Pieper as saying.

Pieper’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday evening.

Von der Leyen’s spokesperson said the EU Commission head had suspended the reopening of the selection procedure for the role until after the European Parliament election in June, following which, a new European Parliament and Commission will be formed.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett and Andrew Gray; Editing by Stephen Coates)