Hololei: I stepped down to allow department to work in peace

Henrik Hololei.
Henrik Hololei. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonian official Henrik Hololei, who stepped down from his role as the EU's transport chief on Wednesday, said he did so as the scandal was affecting his department and its work.

Hololei, formerly director general of the European Commission's transport department, also known as the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, resigned over business class flights on Qatar Airways between 2015-2021.

Six trips were related to negotiations to allow Qatar Airways into the European Union market, Politico reported. While four were paid for by the Qatari government or related parties. It is reported that the official decided there was no conflict of interest.

The European Commission subsequently changed its policy after the story broke.

"I still cannot comment on all the details, but I followed the rules that were in force at the time, which have now been changed," Hololei told ERR.

Hololei confirmed he would step down in an email sent to colleagues. The reason he gave is that the media coverage has started to interfere with work.

"But in a situation where Politico has found it necessary to write more stories about the directorate-general in the last four and a half weeks than about the war in Ukraine and the banking crisis put together, my first priority was to ensure that my directorate-general can work in peace. A directorate-general that I have been in charge of for seven and a half years and which is very close and very important to me. That is why I asked for a transfer to my new post, which was approved today by the College of Commissioners," he said.

"It was my own wish, because, after all, there are few director generals who have been in one post for so long. And I think that in today's situation, what is most important for me is what is most important for the directorate-general, because during this time we have grown together and we have a great team and my wish was to ensure that this team has peace of mind," said Hololei.

The official already has a new role. From April 1, he will start work as a political advisor at the European Commission's department for international partnerships. 


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

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