Günther Oettinger, a conservative lawmaker from Germany’s center-right Christian Democrats, had originally been considered a frontrunner to take over the still-vacant position of European Commission vice president. Yet, according to a report by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, it appears Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker would rather not fill the post at all, saving taxpayers around €2,000 per month.
Speculation has been swirling ever since Kristalina Georgieva, a Bulgarian, left the commission to become chief executive of the World Bank at the start of this year. Mr. Oettinger was also shuffled around, moving from being in charge of digital affairs to the more high-profile job of EU commissioner responsible for budget and human resources. Ms. Georgieva’s role of vice president, a position normally occupied in addition to a commissioner’s usual porfolio, was left vacant.
Mr. Oettinger, who has spent the better part of the last decade in Brussels, is no stranger to controvsersy. He caused considerable public outrage last October when he referred to a delegation of Chinese diplomats as “slant eyes” during a speech in Hamburg. Shortly thereafter, he flew to Budapest in the private jet of a Kremlin lobbyist in order to attend a dinner with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. While Mr. Oettinger did not violate any ethics rules for EU commissioners, his actions did raise questions about his alleged proximity to lobbyists.
Responding to request for a comment from Handelsblatt, Mr. Juncker’s office remained tight-lipped. “A decision as to whether the vacant vice-president’s position is going to be filled has not yet been made,” said a spokeswoman.