Monday, November 22, 2004

Commission tries damage limitation

Once again from a Reuters news report, we have an update on l’affair Barrot. The new commission, we are told, has spent its first day in office trying to quell a storm over M. "wheel" Barrot’s previously undisclosed, pardoned conviction.

Barrot has written to the president of the EU parliament acknowledging that he had been "the object of a judicial procedure opened in 1995 and closed on February 23, 2000 concerning all leaders of the Centre of Social Democrats (CDS)".

In the letter, made public by the commission, Barrot claims he has never been barred from holding public office. But he did not say on what charges he had been found guilty nor what sentence he received, arguing that since the conviction was subject to a 1995 pardon, it ceased to exist under French law and he had not felt a duty to make it known.

A commission spokeswoman said that commission president Barroso would rather have been informed about the matter from the outset and not learned about it only last Thursday. But she said he believed Barrot had now explained the case satisfactorily and should be allowed to get down to his job as transport commissioner.

"Mr Barroso feels that under these conditions Mr Barrot will be an excellent commissioner," the spokeswoman said, describing the offences involved as "minor and amnestied". She declined to say whether Barroso would make Barrot resign if a majority in the EU parliament believed he should go, saying it was a hypothetical question.

Interestingly, if the commission decribes presiding over a £2.5 million illegal party funding scam a "minor" offence, one really does have to wonder what you would have to do for it to be considered "major". But there again, commission standards, this probably is a minor offence.

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