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US economist resigns as EU chief after political protests

US economist Fiona Scott Morton has decided not to take the European Commission’s advisory role offered by EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Her decision comes after French President Emmanuel Macron expressed doubts about hiring an American for the position.

Yale University professor and technology expert Fiona Scott Morton has been hired as chief economist by EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to advise on antitrust strategy.

However, her appointment was later criticized not only by French politicians, but also by several EU lawmakers from both the right and the left. On Tuesday, Mr Macron voiced her opinion.

This was followed by the intervention of five of Mr. Vestager’s colleagues on the commission, who crossed the ranks and urged EU President Ursula von der Leyen to reconsider the appointment.

Mr Macron said the hiring of Americans by EU officials had raised “many questions” and said neither the United States nor China would hire foreigners for such positions.

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He said whatever Scott Morton’s credentials were, giving her advice to the commission on how to regulate US tech giants would be “inconsistent” with his vision of the EU’s strategic autonomy. suggested.

Ms Vestager, outraged by MEPs, defended the choice, arguing that Europeans would be better served by having the most qualified candidate fill the role, regardless of nationality.

He said conflicts of interest created by Scott Morton’s work as a consultant for US giants Apple, Amazon and Microsoft would be dealt with under existing rules.

But the next day, Scott Morton announced his decision to resign.

political controversy

In a letter posted on Twitter, Mr Vestager said he was resigning due to “political controversy over the selection of a non-European for this post”.

“I have decided that the best course of action for me is to leave the job as chief economist,” Scott Morton said in a letter to Vestager.

France’s undersecretary for digital transition Jean-Noël Barraud welcomed Scott Morton’s “responsible” decision and told AFP that “Europe’s digital sovereignty is absolutely necessary.”

However, Mr. Vestager expressed regret in a statement from the European Commission.

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“I have also spoken with Professor Scott Morton and accept her decision with the utmost respect for my regrets and her integrity,” Professor Bester wrote.

“I also wish her good luck in the future and that she will continue to leverage her exceptional skill set and expertise to drive strong competition enforcement and regulation on both sides of the Atlantic.”

The controversy has raged in Brussels politics for more than a week since the commission first announced the hiring of Scott Morton.

The appointments have been approved by Mr von der Leyen’s committee, including five who are seeking a review of the decision.

i doubt it

Scott Morton held professorships at Yale University and the University of Edinburgh, and held senior positions in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in 2011 and 2012.

Most recently, he has consulted for several large US technology companies under the supervision of Mr. Vestager’s office in Brussels.

This has led lawmakers to argue that she would not be able to impartially advise on these cases, especially now that the EU is pushing to tighten technical regulations.

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Some critics branded her a “lobbyist” for American interests, despite her academic track record as an advocate for strict regulation to protect competition in the field.

“There are many questions and questions remain,” Macron said.

However, Scott Morton, with the support of many of her academic peers, including 39 senior European economists, signed an open letter in support of her appointment.

“The European Commission, and more broadly, we Europeans, are very lucky to have elected such a talented person,” they wrote.


Originally published on RFI US economist resigns as EU chief after political protests

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