Wednesday, May 05, 2004

No second class on the gravy train

Sources: AFP, Eupolitix, EU Observer, and others

As befits the Euro-train, hurtling onwards to destinations unknown, there is no second class – and that’s official.

Prodi has told the European parliament, in its last formal session before the MEPs scatter to the winds in order to renew their season tickets, that the ten new Commissioners from the accession states will not be second class members, even though they will have no portfolios of their own.

"You can't talk about commissioners of different tiers, they come from the old countries and the new countries. That's how Europe works," he told the MEPs. The Commission has repeatedly rebuffed suggestions that the Brussels newcomers are "trainee commissioners," or as some wags in Brussels say "interns with BMWs."

Meanwhile, the MEPs themselves have made sure that their comfortable life-styles will be protected when they return after the elections – those that do. The political group leaders have deferred a decision to reform the travel expenses regime until after July. “It was impossible to find a compromise,” said one political group spokesman.

Perhaps by way of a parting “thank you” to the Commission, the MEP have rejected by an absolute majority a motion to censure the Commission over its failure to take political responsibility for the Eurostat affair, voting 515 against the motion to 88 for, with 63 abstaining.

The vote effectively gives Commissioners a carte blanche to deny responsibility for anything that happens in their directorates, as long as they claim that they knew nothing about it, and dump the blame on their officials.

Finally, in an attempt to suppress comment on their own tarnished images during the sensitive election period, German MEPs have acted against the Austrian MEP, Hans-Peter Martin – the former journalist who rocked the parliament with his allegations that colleagues have fudged their €262 daily expenses. They have gained an order from a Cologne court, requiring him to refrain from damaging the reputation of his colleagues or face a €250,000 fine.

As they say, you couldn’t make it up.

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