Durão Barroso’s EU Commission has finally taken office amid a new row over one of its members, the French transport commissioner, Jacques Barrot, who failed to reveal a conviction for embezzlement when he was interviewed for the post. The charge was later dropped under a French fraud amnesty and Barroso has stood by Barrot, saying he will make an “excellent commissioner”.
The Commission is already starting work three weeks late after the former Portuguese Prime Minister was forced to withdraw his original line-up when left wing MEPs objected to Italian nominee Rocco Buttiglione’s views on women and homosexuality.
The new Commissioners were finally voted in last Thursday, but Britain’s anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) then revealed Barrot’s conviction in 2000 and demanded his resignation. Barrot admits that he received a suspended prison sentence for party funding offences, but points out that it was immediately voided by a 1995 presidential amnesty.
He has now released a letter to the President of the European Parliament clarifying the situation. In it, he acknowledges he was “the object of a judicial procedure opened in 1995 and closed on February 23, 2000 concerning all leaders of the Centre of Social Democrats [CDS].” But Barrot says that he has never been barred from holding public office, writing: “I had nothing to cover up and I absolutely did not look to cover up anything from the European Parliament, which I profoundly respect.”
A Commission spokesperson said Barroso believed Barrot had now explained his position satisfactorily and should be allowed to begin work. “Mr Barroso feels that under these conditions Mr Barrot will be an excellent commissioner.”
The new EU team
Out: Rocco Buttiglione (Italy) and Ingrida Udre (Latvia)
In: Franco Frattini (Italy) and Andris Piebalgs (Latvia)
Moved: Laszlo Kovacs (Hungary) from Energy to Taxation