Thursday, September 23, 2004

Who else has diplomatic passports?

From France comes an extraordinary story. In Li├Ęge the police arrested a criminal gang and found that, among other things, it was in possession of 100 diplomatic passes that belonged to the European Economic and Social Committee (Ecosoc).

Why precisely does Ecosoc have diplomatic passports, which presupposes diplomatic immunity wherever these shadowy committee members go. And why so many? Their ostensible purpose is to allow the holders move fast through passport checking points at airports, a matter of some security worry, if there are so many of these documents floating around in so many hands. They were originally intended for MEPs and senior officials in the EU institutions. But, as the European Voice says:
“… members of the Ecosoc – which was set up by the 1957 Treaty of Rome to give employers and trade unions a say in drafting European Community laws – can apply for them, as can local authority representatives on the Committee of the Regions.”
How very nice. And how cheering for the rest of us as we queue up for hours on end to satisfy the various security checks.

It seems that the passes were stolen by members of a removal firm (or criminals masquerading as removal men – the story is not clear on that) in June when the Committee moved to its sparkling new headquarters in the rue Belliard.

Extraordinarily, the Committee was not aware anything was amiss, though the passes had been kept in a secure place, which must have been rifled, until the police communicated the details of their find to them. The police had not been aware of anything either, until a member of the gang confessed.

But one “source” at the Committee knew where to put the blame. It is all the fault of the single market and the tendering rules for EU institutions, which obliged them to hire the company that offered the cheapest rates. Alas, there were a lot of breakages en route and a great deal of equipment was stolen. What a heart-rending story.

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