Thursday, July 01, 2004

Edith Cresson can continue to enjoy her substantial pension

A Belgian court has dropped all charges against former French Prime Minister and former Commissioner Edith Cresson with the Assistant Prosecutor explaining that the charges were political and should not have been presented in a court of law. This does raise the question of who actually presented those charges. Not the Prosecutor or the Assistant Prosecutor?

The decision to drop all charges was taken after a meeting behind closed doors so the arguments presented by the defence are not available.

Mme Cresson was, naturally, delighted that the research contracts she had awarded her personal dentist as well as other contracts to other friends and relations, were not found to be in any way criminal or fraudulent. She happily explained that all this was a result of political tittle-tattle, gossip and hysteria. At the time, as some of our readers may remember, she shrugged her shoulders and wondered aloud why she should be persecuted by those puritanical Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxons for normal political practices.

Mme Cresson is not completely out of the woods. There was another hearing yesterday, also behind closed doors. The Commission has to decide whether Edith Cresson failed in her duties as a Commissioner. If they find that she did, the case may go to the European Court of Justice.

There is no need for our readers to hold their breath. Mme Cresson has already announced that the Commissioners, several of whom are her former colleagues were sympathetic to her point of view, understanding that:

“…as commissioner, you are at the mercy of no matter whom ... if Kafka forms part of European culture, they have had an example of it there."
French politicians do seem to have a habit of parading their cultural sophistication, whether it is appropriate or not.

On the other hand, the people of the European Union may not be entirely in agreement with Mme Cresson, the Belgian court or the Commission. It is notable that Paul van Buitenen, the whistle-blower who had triggered off the investigation into Cresson’s and others’ eccentric mode of accounting and awarding contracts is now in the European Parliament as is a colleague of his as part of a Transparency Party.

In the meantime there has been some plain talking from the Chairman of OLAF’s supervisory body. OLAF is the Commission’s anti-fraud organization that has been more interested in getting information about the sources for German journalist Hans-Martin Tillack’s stories than in dealing with dubious financial proceedings.

During a hearing in the House of Lords in the UK on 19 May, the Chairman of the supervisory body, Raymond Edward Kendall, said that OLAF had been given "enormous powers with no legal supervision".

He cited the case of Herr Tillack, as being an example of raids carried out and documents confiscated by the Belgian police on the basis of “hearsay” supplied by OLAF.

It is good to know that there are times when the Belgian law-enforcing authorities become very active and take even hearsay seriously.

Meanwhile Edith Cresson continues to draw a handsome Commissioner’s pension and complain about being a victim of a political witch-hunt.

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