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January 04, 2005

Rascally European Union Commissioners

The Edge of England's Sword cites this November 2004 article by MEP Daniel Hannan:
How have we MEPs reacted to the revelation that Jacques Barrot, the EU's new transport commissioner, had a criminal conviction in a party funding scandal?...

Of the 25 commissioners, six are former Communists and four have recently lost elections - again demonstrating that the Commission is not so much undemocratic as anti-democratic, attracting politicians who have been expressly rejected by voters....

Again and again, it is left to the tiny contingent of Euro-sceptics to carry out what ought to be the primary duty of the European Parliament, namely to hold the Commission to account. For years, only British Tories ever asked awkward questions about the budget: most other MEPs were more interested in expanding the EU's finances than in ensuring they were properly spent.

It fell to a man called Nigel Farage, capo of the UK Independence Party, to inform the chamber of Mr Barrot's conviction. The pro-EU parties had not looked into his background because, deep down, they didn't want to find anything.

I hold no brief for the Farageistes. They are doing Blair's work for him, by dividing the Euro-sceptic vote. But the way MEPs reacted to Farage's revelation was horrible. One by one they rose to threaten him with legal action. The Liberal leader, Graham Watson, likened him to the football hooligans who had disgraced Britain in Europe. A fomer colleague of Barrot's, Jacques Toubon, rushed up and down the aisle, apparently looking for someone to punch (Robert Kilroy-Silk, recognising him as the minister who had tried to ban the English language from French airwaves, told him mischievously that no one would understand him unless he spoke English, which sent him into a choking fit). All this because Farage was doing the job that the rest of us ought to have done.

If you think I am exaggerating, consider the Commission's other personnel change - one that has been largely overlooked as a result of the Buttiglione and Barrot affairs. The Latvian candidate, Ingrida Udre, was withdrawn as a candidate. Her crime? To tell MEPs that she favoured tax competition. Her inquisitors were scandalised, and Mrs Udre was duly replaced by a Hungarian apparatchik.

I wonder what European government will be like in fifty years. An oligarchy? But perhaps that is what it is now.

Posted by erasmuse at January 4, 2005 07:45 PM

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