Saturday, May 07, 2005

The lies of Barroso

We will return to election analysis later today but, in the meantime, José Manuel Barroso, and the repercussions from his holiday on board the luxury yacht of Spiros Latisis, have returned to the news.

We are told by The Financial Times that Barroso is set to give up responsibility for regulating shipping competition, despite his spokeswoman having insisted on 20 April he would not give up such cases.

Barroso took on the competition dossiers because of potential conflicts of interest affecting Neelie Kroes, the Dutch competition commissioner, who had been a board member at Royal P&O Nedlloyd, the sea-freight company.

No decision has been made on which commissioner will take on the portfolio but Barroso is now telling us that he always intended to pass on the job, saying: "My orientation was not to personally retain such files on a permanent basis, but to reassign such files to another commissioner as soon as my commission has settled its working ways."

Equally, Barroso denies any conflict of interest or any connection with his holiday. The move, he says, is simply down to his "very heavy workload."

His denials, however, are sounding less credible by the day. In the current edition of the Spanish magazine la clave is an article entitled "the lies of Barroso".

This alleges that the commission has approved a €522 million scheme for oil pipelines between Bulgaria and Greece without revealing that construction of the infrastructure would be undertaken by a group in which the Latsis family is the main shareholder.

The approval was given a week before Barroso revealed details of his holiday, whence his spokeswoman denied any business links between the commission and Spiros Latis. Gradually, though, the net seems to be closing round the commission president.

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