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EU's Reynders says will take over commission's competition portfolio

FILE PHOTO: G7 Justice Ministers meet in Berlin

PARIS (Reuters) -EU justice chief Didier Reynders on Tuesday said he had been assigned the European Commission's competition portfolio following outgoing Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager's announcement that she is officially a candidate for the presidency of the European Investment Bank.

"I have been assigned the portfolio responsibility for Competition. I will continue to ensure that EU competition policy & rules are vigorously enforced," he said in a statement on his X account, adding that he thanked European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for her trust.

Reynders and Vestager are from the same liberal pro-European party group Renew Europe, which said on its X account that it fully supports Vestager's EIB candidacy.

"She embodies the European general interest and the forward- looking mindset that our institutions need more than ever," it said.

Vestager, known for her crackdown and hefty fines meted out to Big Tech for anti-competitive practices, on X said that as of Tuesday she officially is a candidate for the EIB presidency and that she would take unpaid leave from the commission to focus on her candidacy to a post that has never been held by a woman.

The Spanish government in early August put forward their own candidate for the presidency, its finance minister Nadia Calvino.

Vestager, who has been in her post at the European Commission since 2014, is scheduled to finish her second five-year term late next year.

The last weeks for Vestager have been rocked by a spat over the planned appointment of a U.S. economist for a senior EU antitrust position.

Fiona Scott Morton, chief economist at the Department of Justice during the Obama administration, had been due to take up the post as chief competition economist at the European Commission on Sept. 1 but had to pull out in mid-July after her appointment triggered criticism from the president of France and some EU lawmakers.

French foreign ministry spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre told reporters that Paris had been against Scott Morton's appointment because it potentially impacted the bloc's sovereignty and may hurt European businesses and consumers.

(Reporting by GV De Clercq and Marie Mannes; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Mark Porter)