France to get super-portfolio in new EU Commission

(MENAFN- ING) The background

Breton made it through the first round of hearings in the European Parliament, passing the legal affairs committee (by a vote of 12-11) on 12 November and then a plenary session on 13 November, where the Socio-Democrats and the European Conservatives and Reformists joined the European People's Party and Renew in endorsing him.

This did not come without cost and some sacrifices had to be made. For example, the Commissioner in charge of 'preserving the European way of life was too close to the right for the Socialists and Democrats. Still, France has been able to secure significant influence over areas such as the single market, industrial policy, IT and defence.

The Commissioner role was thrown into question when the EU Parliament dismissed Macron's first choice, Sylvie Goulard. And Breton was not an uncontroversial choice. Until the 13 November hearing, he was CEO of Atos, the first European manufacturer of supercomputers. The EU Commission plans to invest €2.7 billion in high-performance computing within the 2021-2027 framework programme.

The right mix

Nevertheless, we believe Breton is a good choice as he offers the right mix of political and business experience.

  • 1981: Created his first software engineering company.

  • 1986: Adviser to the education ministry.

  • 1993: Helped to restructure a national computer manufacturer.

  • 1997: Nominated CEO of Thomson Multimedia, a state-owned consumer-electronics company that was on the verge of collapse after the French government failed to sell it to Daewoo. In five years, he made Thomson a global multimedia player by diversifying its businesses.

This latter post led the French government to nominate him as head of multinational telecommunications firm France Télécom in 2002, at the time one of the world's most indebted listed companies. In three years, he managed to reduce its debt, allowing the French government to finalise its privatisation.

This is how Breton moved to the front and centre of French politics, becoming Jacques Chirac's last Minister of Finance from February 2005 to the 2007 elections, with a clear mandate to help reduce France's public debt.

As CEO of Atos, he has integrated the IT activities of Germany's Siemens Group, turning his company into one of the five biggest IT service players in the world. Atos is widely considered one of the most important Franco-German industrial collaborations since Airbus, with two headquarters, both in France and Germany. Breton left Atos and sold all his shares of the company before the hearings in Brussels in November.

Key priorities

During his three-hour hearing, Breton made clear that digital transformation and climate change would be high on his agenda, in line with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's priorities. He said that 5G, blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, cybersecurity, cloud and quantum technologies would enable the EU to be a 'key industrial player. He also defended 'ambitious industrial policies.

We believe that at a time when the EU is losing the race of the digital space, Breton is a strong asset to the European Commission.


Author: Julien Manceaux
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