France proposes Atos CEO as its new EU commissioner

30 October 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron has nominated Thierry Breton, the chief executive officer of Atos, as France’s next candidate to serve as the country’s European commissioner. If Ursula von der Leyen and her team of commissioners approve Breton’s candidacy, then he will oversee EU’s internal market, industrial policy, defence and space industry.

After the European Parliament turned down Sylvie Goulard, France’s previous choice for the role, Macron launched a search for a new candidate. Described by French politicians as “a man with a vision coupled with on-the-ground experience” and a “convinced European”, Thierry Breton has now been put forward as the right person to fill the shoes.

Breton has been leading Atos as chairman and chief executive since 2008. In the past decade, he managed to double the revenue of the French-origin IT services giant to €12.3 billion. Breton played a key role in diversifying the company into new services (e.g. cloud computing and big data) and in the major acquisitions of Siemens’s IT business in 2011 and last year’s $3.4 billion purchase of US-based Syntel.Thierry Breton, CEO at AtosBreton, previously tipped as the next chief executive of French multinationals Total and Carrefour, also has a background in politics. He served as France’s economy minister from 2005-2007 under then-President Jacques Chirac, and was one of the few French economy ministers that actually managed to bring down the county’s national debt.

Elaborating on Macron’s confidence in Breton for the EU role, Elysée said in a statement; “Thierry Breton has strong experience in the areas covered by this portfolio, specifically industry and digital, because he was a finance minister in charge of industrial policy and CEO of several companies in the industrial and telecom sectors.”

“I am very honoured by the trust that President Macron and Ursula von der Leyen have put in me,” Breton wrote as part of his official comment following the nomination.

In the coming weeks, Europe’s commissioners will scrutinise Breton’s candidacy. Former candidate Goulard was rejected overwhelmingly after she failed to answer questions about alleged conflicts of interests, and faced doubts if she was capable of covering the full breadth of the portfolio.

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