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It's tough at the top

Posted by Helen Friday, September 17, 2004

As the European Parliament prepares to go through its farce of questioning the would-be Commissioners, it is becoming more and more obvious that most of the not-so-tough grilling is going to be about personal matters and clashes of interest.

There is, for instance Nickel Neelie (Kroes) the Board Lady, whose many interests we have detailed before. She has now apparently resigned from all those boards but has, naturally enough, kept her shares in the various companies. Furthermore, recent resignation does not mean that is an impartial judge of such matters as competition and take-overs, which happen to be the subjects she will be dealing with.

Not a problem say the Commission’s legal advisers. She can pass sensitive cases, that is cases that involve one or more of the many companies Ms Kroes has had interest in, to other Commissioners on a case by case basis. What a mess that will be! Can’t you just imagine the agonies of trying to decide whether a particular case stays in the Competitions Commissioner’s in-tray or gets passed on? And what if the other Commissioner also has interests in that particular company? Not to be ruled out. Will they play a pass the parcel round the Commission?

Then there is the Danish Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel. As our readers will remember she is in trouble because her husband owns and manages a large farm that receives a substantial subsidy through CAP, the policy Ms Fischer Boel will be managing.

To clear herself of any possible suspicion of any conflict of interests (such nasty suspicious minds people have!) Ms Fischer Boel’s has presented a set of accounts prepared by her accountants. The Commission lawyers breathed a sigh of relief and that seemed to be the end of the matter.

The Danish newspaper Politiken, however, as EUObserver reports, has uncovered an interesting fact. Apparently the supposedly independent and fully professional set of accounts was checked and corrected in several instances by the Danish Prime Minister’s office before being sent off to Brussels.

We are await reports on other Commissioners and their various business dealings with great interest.