U.S. professor declines EU job offer after backlash from lawmakers

European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager.

Jean-francois Badias | Afp | Getty Images

American citizen and Yale professor Fiona Scott Morton decided not to take up a key job in the heart of the European Union after facing significant backlash from politicians in the bloc.

Scott Morton had been nominated earlier this month to take the role of chief competition economist, a prominent role in the team of Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition chief.

“Given the political controversy that has arisen because of the selection of a non-European to fill this position … I have determined that the best course of action is for me to withdraw and not take up the Chief Economist position,” she said in a letter to Vestager shared online Wednesday morning.

The EU’s competition chief faced intense questioning from European lawmakers Tuesday for nominating Scott Morton. The criticism focused on her nationality (the fact that she isn’t European) and her previous work consulting for Big Tech.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, when asked by journalists in Brussels, said Tuesday that he was skeptical of the appointment and said this was not coherent with the region’s strategic autonomy goals. Different members of the French government had also in recent days expressed their concerns.

Jean-Noël Barrot, France’s minister delegate in charge of the digital transition and telecommunications, said via Twitter: “At a time when Europe is embarking on the most ambitious digital regulation in the world, the recent appointment of the chief economist of the DG [directorates-general] Competition is not without raising legitimate questions.”

Scott Morton has a bachelor’s degree from Yale College and a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also worked in economic analysis at the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice between May 2011 and December 2012.

The EU has been working on curbing its dependence on other parts of the world, most notably the U.S. and China. The political group has actually taken the lead over the past decade on tech regulation, which the EU member states remain committed to.

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