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Golfgate: Commission president requests 'further clarifications' over Hogan's COVID rule breach

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By Darren McCaffrey
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European Commissioner designate for Trade Phil Hogan answers questions during his hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.
European Commissioner designate for Trade Phil Hogan answers questions during his hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.   -   Copyright  Virginia Mayo/AP
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The European Commission President has requested 'further clarifications' from Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan, following a breach of Ireland's COVID-19 rules.

"This is a matter which requires careful assessment on our side, it is a matter where details count,' said Dana Spinant, European Commission, Deputy chief spokesperson.

She added that the President had asked Commissioner Hogan to provide a full report.

The EU Commissioner for Trade was forced to apologise at the weekend for breaking Ireland’s coronavirus rules, one of 80 guests at a golf dinner attended by other Irish politicians - some of whom have since resigned.

Now claims he travelled to an area in lockdown and was stopped by the police for using his phone while driving have emerged.

It is proving to be an interesting test for the EU Commission, just how and who is it accountable to? Should this European institution be driven by public opinion in one member state or indeed the views of the leaders of one member state? Hogan after all is an EU Commissioner - not Ireland’s, says Darren McCaffrey, Political Editor.

Any resignation would cause a political headache for Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, coming at a sensitive time for trade talks with the US and the UK.

'Everybody knows the importance of the trade portfolio, we have on Friday had an announcement about a trade related issue. So again, trade is important but as are all other portfolios,' Spinant told journalists Monday.

By digging in, Phil Hogan may well survive this scandal, but for his critics only with enormous reputational cost to him personally and the Commission as a whole.