EU’s Vestager says U.S. economist Morton won’t take top EU post

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said on Wednesday U.S. economist Fiona Scott Morton had decided not take up the post of chief economist at the European Commission.

Vestager gave no reason for the decision but it comes after a backlash at her appointment. French President Emmanuel Macron had on Tuesday criticised the hiring of a U.S. economist for a key EU antitrust job.

“Professor Fiona Scott Morton has informed me of her decision to not take up the post as chief competition economist,” Vestager said on her Twitter account.

“I accept this with regret and hope that she will continue to use her extraordinary skill-set to push for strong competition enforcement,” Vestager added.

Leaders of the main political groups at the European Parliament had also chided Vestager for picking Scott Morton, 56, chief economist at the U.S. Department of Justice during President Barack Obama’s tenure.

Scott Morton was supposed to advise the European Commission on its investigations into Big Tech and its enforcement of a series of landmark rules to rein in tech giants.

France had been the most vocal member state opposed to the appointment and its foreign ministry spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre told reporters on Wednesday that Paris had been against Morton because it potentially impacted the bloc’s sovereignty and may have hurt European businesses and consumers.

Legendre said in the future there should be more thought to recruitment rules especially where there could be conflicts of interests in the “most strategic and sensitive positions within the European institutions.”

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and John Irish Editing by Charlotte Van Campenhout and David Holmes)