Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Another whistleblower goes to court

Following what is becoming something of a tradition in EU affairs, another whistleblower has made the weary journey to Luxembourg, to tell the ECJ of commission misdeeds.

This one is Dorte Schmidt-Brown, a Danish official who worked at Eurostat, the EU's statistics wing, who lifted the lid on what the EU anti-fraud body called "a vast enterprise of looting".

Readers will recall that allegations were made against two of Eurostat's top officials, including Yves Franchet, the French director-general for the past 16 years, who were investigated for alleged use of a private bank account in Luxembourg to cream off £650,000 of public money through one of their retained contractors.

Ms Schmidt-Brown now claims that her name was smeared by the contractor and that the commission did not give her the necessary support during the affair despite pledges to protect whistle blowers. Unaided, she was forced to bring her own libel case against the contractor, which was settled out of court after it apologised for the distress caused.

Enter our old friend Neil Kinnock, then EU administration commissioner, charged with cleaning up the dung hill in Brussels. He initially refused to grant her legal support to fight back against her accusers, although he did eventually relent.

"It is the responsibility of the organisation to protect its employees. The Commission could have done this very easily," Schmidt-Brown said after the hearing yesterday at the Court of the First Instance, where she was asking the court to recognise that the commission was wrong in not seeking the withdrawal of allegations made against her by the contractor in question.

Following so soon in the wake of the recent dismissal of Marta Andreason, the record of the commission for throwing its whistleblowers to the wolves remains at an untarnished 100 percent, in contrast with the somewhat naïve assertion from Schmidt-Brown who said: "I was 100 per cent sure that my hierarchy would protect me."

Where has she been all these years?

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