Friday, October 22, 2004

Drop the Italian or the Commission gets it

Roughly speaking that is the headline in today’s Times about the ridiculous imbroglio at the European Parliament, whose members are threatening to vote out the entire Commission, for the first time in the Parliament’s history, unless something is done about Rocco Buttiglione, who had the temerity to express the straightforward opinions that he considers homosexuality to be a sin and that children are better off being brought up by two parents.

Let me recapitulate: the would-be commissioners have been interrogated by the various relevant European Parliament committees and, by and large, have done all right, though with several there have been reservations. The Greek Commissioner of Environment, for instance, did not seem to care about it very much and, much to the chagrin of several MEPs, had to be forced to promise to keep up the incredible barrage of legislation that his predecessor, Margot Wallström had managed.

Our own Peter Mandelson, needless to say, charmed everyone.

There have been particular problems with four of the candidates. Buttiglione is the one that had attracted most attention. The others are: the Danish Mariann Fischer-Boel, the would-be Agriculture Commissioner, whose husband owns and manages a farm, on which he receives a substantial subsidy under CAP; the Hungarian László Kovács, a former Communist apparatchik, whose knowledge of his allotted subject, energy, was somewhere between zero and minus five; the Dutch Neelie Kroes, who was supposed to bring business knowledge to the Commission but who has managed to give business a bad name by her extraordinarily extensive corporate connections and inability to see immediately that there could be a clash of interests for a Competition Commissioner.

Two cases of certain lack of honesty and clash of interests, one of complete ignorance and one of politically unfashionable opinions, that will not interfere with the work. So which one is the members of the European Parliament are particularly upset about? Up with what will they not put? Need you ask?

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