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MEPs approve Thierry Breton as France’s European Commissioner

Francois Lenoir, REUTERS | Thierry Breton appears before a European Parliamentary hearing in Brussels, November 14, 2019.

European Parliament members approved French businessman Thierry Breton as France’s European Commissioner on Thursday, according to sources, after a grilling final hearing focused on conflict of interest concerns.

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Breton, a 64-year-old businessman and former French finance minister, appeared before members of the European Parliament’s internal market and industry committees in a bid to assuage concerns over alleged conflicts of interest from his previous leadership of the global IT firm, Atos.

Addressing MEPs, Breton promised to be “radical” in avoiding conflicts of interest. "As I speak before you today, I no longer have any financial interest in any business. I have sold all my stocks. To those who think that because I had managed particular companies I could potentially give them favours, I'd like to stress that such action would be impossible under European Commission rules," he said.

Breton’s approval came weeks after France's initial pick Sylvie Goulard was rejected last month over allegations she misused EU funds.

A familiar figure in the French business world, Breton took the helm of an ailing France Télécom in 2002, pushing through its privatisation and helping to bring it back from the brink.

Three years later, he was appointed France’s finance minister under Jacques Chirac’s presidency. During his stint as finance minister, Breton is credited with bringing down unemployment to its lowest levels since the 1980s.

But his private sector experience was a matter of concern for some MEPs – particularly socialist, far-left and far-right members – who questioned his credibility as EU commissioner for Industry and Internal Market.

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