Friday 15 February 2019

Hogan tipped to stay on amid pressure to name next EU commissioner

European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters
European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters
John Downing

John Downing

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will come under increasing pressure to make an early decision about who will be Ireland's next EU Commissioner.

There are growing signs in political circles that Mr Varadkar will offer the current incumbent, Phil Hogan, another five-year term in the job which, carrying a gross salary of €290,000 a year, is the biggest political plum job a Taoiseach has to offer.

Mr Hogan became Agriculture Commissioner in autumn 2014 and his five-year term ends in November.

But in a year of huge change in Brussels senior posts, EU leaders will have their first discussion on the issue at a summit in March and decisions on who will head the new Commission are due this summer.

Many government TDs believe an early declaration would help secure another influential post for the Irish nominee as the EU enters its most challenging years since its foundation in 1957.

Well-placed sources have said Mr Hogan is "very likely" to get the nod from Mr Varadkar for another term and he is known to be interested in continuing in Brussels. Renewal of the Confidence and Supply Agreement underpinning the Coalition means the Taoiseach will have the power to make the appointment.

Tight parliamentary numbers also rule out the prospect of appointing a Fine Gael TD. Mr Hogan, who still carries a deal of influence within Fine Gael, was helpful to Mr Varadkar's successful party leadership bid in the summer of 2017.

The Agriculture Commissioner has control of almost 40pc of the EU's annual €150bn budget.

That gives him considerable political leverage in Brussels and across the other EU capitals and he is rated by independent observers as having done a very good job in Brussels and internationally.

While there are 27 EU Commissioners, there are few jobs with real political clout. Mr Hogan could retain the agriculture portfolio, but others tip him for another influential post like trade commissioner along with the prospect of a vice-president's post.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach praised Mr Hogan's work thus far, but suggested there will be no rush to make a decision on the appointment, for now at least. "The Taoiseach has often said Commissioner Hogan is doing a very fine job," the spokesman told the Irish Independent.

Mr Hogan was not available for comment on the issue.

Irish Independent

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