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Who are the controversial candidates in Von der Leyen's new commission?

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Who are the controversial candidates in Von der Leyen's new commission?
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Some of Ursula von der Leyen's commissioner-picks, including the former French MEP Sylvie Goulard, are likely to face tough questioning in the next couple of weeks.

The European anti-fraud office (OLAF) told Euronews they were investigating Goulard and Poland's Janusz Wojciechowski.

Euronews looks at some of the commissioners under the spotlight.

Sylvie Goulard

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

As von der Leyen was announcing Sylvie Goulard as her pick for the post of EU commissioner for the internal market on Tuesday, France's ex-defence minister was being heard by the French anti-corruption authorities in Nanterre, outside of Paris, regarding the alleged use — while she was an MEP — of EU funds to employ parliamentary assistants to work for French national political parties, according to the AFP.

A spokesperson for Goulard told Euronews that Goulard was heard by the French authorities "as a simple witness in the investigation pertaining to the salary of her parliamentary assistant".

The investigation is still underway but Goulard is not its main focus, and she is not herself under formal investigation, the French authorities said.

Goulard quit her post as defence minister barely a month into the job after an investigation was opened into the way her political party, MoDem, hired parliamentary assistants in the European Parliament.

The former MEP previously reimbursed the European Parliament "seven to eight months worth of salaries" amid evidence that some allowances "had been paid without justification".

The European Parliament told Euronews in an email that the sums in question had been reimbursed "in full" and that the file had been closed.

The European anti-fraud office (OLAF) told Euronews that their own investigation into Goulard is ongoing, something dispute by Goulard's spokesperson.

Janusz Wojciechowski

Von der Leyen's pick for new agriculture commissioner is also under investigation by the EU's anti-fraud agency. OLAF told Germany's Der Spiegel that Poland's candidate was being investigated for alleged irregularities in the reimbursement of travel expenses.

The allegations date back to when Wojciechowski was an MEP from 2004 to 2014.

Wojciechowski said in a statement published on his Twitter account that he returned over €11,000 to the European Parliament in 2016 "on his own initiative" because he noticed that there was a risk of mistake in his declaration of travel expenses. He said he paid back the money "without anyone demanding him to."

The commission candidate went on to say that in March 2018, OLAF informed him about their examination of his travel expenses between 2009 and 2016, adding that he handed all necessary documents upon their request.

According to Wojciechowski, in May 2019, OLAF sent him a summary of facts after the investigation was closed.

"It says clearly that there were only formal mistakes in my declarations to the EP — mistakes in writing and in calculating," he said, adding the mistakes included things like his car's registration number or the wrong mileage of his car after travel.

He said that the mistakes were "unintentional" and caused "no damages to the EP".

Wojciechowski said he has asked OLAF to disclose the case document so the public can see that it was just a case of some "formal mistakes" and not "deliberate abuses".

In both cases, OLAF told Euronews that "the investigations did not mean that any persons/entities involved have committed an irregularity/fraud".

"OLAF fully respects the presumption of innocence and the rights of defence of the persons/entities concerned by an investigation."

Other controversial profiles

Rovana Plumb

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Romania's anti-corruption body filed a request to investigate Rovana Plumb, the country's pick for commissioner, but it never came to fruition because the Chamber of Deputies rejected the request.

Authorities wanted to investigate her because they believed she was implicated in the purchase of an island in the Danube that was branded as state property, said a press release.

The anti-corruption body told Euronews that the investigation had been closed and that they weren't planning on opening a new one.

Euronews has sent Plumb an email asking for comment.

Laszlo Trocsanyi

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Former Hungarian justice minister, Laszlo Trocsanyi, has been nominated to be the EU commissioner for enlargement. He is known as a defender of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's so-called illiberal state. He defended fierce anti-migration and anti-NGO laws. Speaking to Euronews in 2014 he defended the government's record on rule of law.

"We just want one thing, to avoid that politicians decide about rule of law. If there is a political debate, there are always political aspects behind it. As I said, I am a lawyer, and I'm proud to be a lawyer. Therefore I think if there are questions related to the rule of law, it has to have a legal nature."

Josep Borrell

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Josep Borrell — the candidate to be EU Foreign Policy Chief — was forced to leave the board of renewable energy group Abengoa when it was disbanded due to the protocols of bankruptcy, which the group declared soon after.

Borrell acknowledged that the sale "was not adequate" at the time it was made, not because of "the appearance of irregularity" it could have generated, but rather he described it as "a minor problem" that did not affect his "suitability to exercise the ministerial function".

For the 2000 presidential elections in Spain, he was named candidate from the socialist party. He withdrew his candidature amid financial scandals involving two of his former co-workers.

Read more: Spanish socialist Josep Borrell, undiplomatic head of European diplomacy?

Didier Reynders

REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
Didier ReyndersREUTERS/Ints Kalnins

The Brussels Prosecutor's Office confirmed to Euronews on September 16 that Belgium's incoming commissioner, Didier Reynders, was the subject of a preliminary investigation.

The country's deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs and defence is being accused of money laundering in the Democratic Republic of Congo by an ex-member of Belgium's intelligence services.

Reynders is to become the EU Commissioner for Justice. If confirmed by the European parliament he would be in charge of ensuring rule of law is upheld across the bloc.