Phil Hogan has resigned as the Commissioner for Trade of the European Union after allegedly defying several COVID-19 safety restrictions during a golf event in his home country of Ireland.
In what has been dubbed Golfgate, Hogan along with members of the Irish government were among more than 80 guests who attended a golf dinner in County Galway on August 19.
It was becoming increasingly clear that the controversy concerning my recent visit to Ireland was becoming a distraction from my work as an E.U. commissioner and would undermine my work in the key months ahead.
The previous day, the government had reinstated COVID-related measures forbidding large social events and allowing up to eight people to share a table in restaurants.
Hogan also faced criticism for a detour to his home town of Kilkenny, which breached quarantine rules. He had flown back to his home country directly from Belgium, which is currently not on Ireland’s COVID-19 ‘green list.’See Also: COVID-19 Updates
In a joint statement, the leaders of the coalition government in Dublin said that the guidelines “clearly required him to restrict his movements for 14 days” and that people are “correctly angered by these actions.”
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Pressure on Hogan to resign mounted as the Commission’s president, Ursula Von der Leyen, requested clarifications after she became aware of his movements in his homeland.
“It was becoming increasingly clear that the controversy concerning my recent visit to Ireland was becoming a distraction from my work as an E.U. commissioner and would undermine my work in the key months ahead,” Hogan said in a statement.
“I deeply regret that my trip to Ireland – the country that I have been so proud to represent as a public servant for most of my adult life – caused such concern, unease and upset,” he added.
Phil Hogan, a former farmer, was first appointed by the Commission as the agriculture commissioner back in 2014. Last December, he moved on and took over the much-coveted chief of trade position under the presidency of Von der Leyen.
His resignation comes at a challenging time with Europe currently caught in the midst of trade tensions with the U.S. over state subsidies and import tariffs, while still negotiating the post-Brexit terms with the U.K. and new trade and economic relations with China.
“He was a valuable and respected member of the college [of commissioners],” Von der Leyen said in a farewell statement. “I wish him all the best for the future.”
Hogan’s position will be temporarily covered by the Commission’s executive vice-president, Valdis Dombrovskis, until a new trade commissioner is nominated.