France’s European Commissioner-designate Thierry Breton pledged to stay away from decisions directly involving his former company Atos and to avoid conflicts of interest in his financial declaration filed to the European Parliament.
“In agreement with [President Ursula von der Leyen], he will automatically recuse himself of every decision of financial administration, of contractual nature or assimilated that would directly involve Atos or one of its subsidiaries,” the document obtained by POLITICO reads.
The declaration doesn’t mention how Breton would deal with regulatory initiatives impacting Atos.
Breton is set to have a broad portfolio spanning industry, digital, defense and space. The size of the portfolio was an issue raised by MEPs when they rejected Sylvie Goulard, but French President Emmanuel Macron insisted France should keep it.
Atos’ business activities include data management, cloud services, cybersecurity, digital infrastructure, high performance computers and e-commerce payment services. The Commission’s digital department, to be headed by Breton, largely oversees regulation on these sectors.
The 10-page document details Breton’s previous managerial and board positions and investments in his long career in the private sector, including as CEO of tech company Atos, from which he stepped down on October 31.
It confirms the nominee sold all of his shares in the company.
“Mr. Breton will apply with an extreme rigor the code of conduct of members of the European Commission … [to] avoid any situation that could result in a conflict of interest, or could be perceived as such,” the document also reads.
Following his nomination, several MEPs raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest linked to Breton’s business background, including in the digital sector, for which he will now be a top EU regulator.
In late October, France’s Junior Digital Minister Cédric O shot down conflicts of interests concerns but said Breton “cannot deal with areas involving Atos” as EU commissioner.
According to Breton’s declaration, he has quit at least four different jobs as of October 24. Breton was a member of multiple company boards across several industries, including finance, agri-business and tech.
He was a board member of retail giant Carrefour from 2008, a member of Bank of America’s “global advisory council” from 2013 and a board member of Bank of America Securities Europe’s French subsidiary from January this year. Breton was also a board member of Senegalese telecom company Sonatel from 2015 to October this year, according to his declaration.
The commissioner-designate has also left his non-remunerated position at France’s National Association for Research and Technology (ANRT), an organization gathering public bodies, private actors and academics on research and innovation.
Breton’s declaration of financial interests will be assessed by the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee on November 12. His hearing before the Industry and Internal Market committees is provisionally scheduled for November 14.
Manon Aubry, the co-leader of the far-left GUE party and a member of the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee, questioned Breton’s pledge to stay away from any decisions which involve Atos in a statement to POLITICO, arguing that “if Breton withdraws from any file that presents a conflict of interest with Athos, it means we will nominate a part-time commissioner.”
Aubry said her group would question Breton next week about the sale of his shares and its mechanics.