Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Cinq gardes du corps et dix salaires

So runs the headline in the Belgian daily, La Libre Belgique, which starts its article with the words: "Mauvais timing".

Bad timing indeed – as Barroso continues to squirm in anticipation of the motion of censure over what has now been dubbed "yachtgate", due to be debated in the EU parliament on 25 May, the lacklustre commission president has been caught out big time on another transgression.

It appears that Barroso, as ex-prime minister of Portugal, is entitled to a personal bodyguard of five "agents" drawn from the national security police. And while these are each being paid by the Portuguese state at the rate of €6000 a month, they have also been drawing extra salaries from the EU as "temporary agents", at the rate of €2722 to € 3586 per month, without informing the EU administration that they were already being paid.

This, apparently, was reported on 3 March in the Portuguese daily newspaper Correio da Manh, but it was not brought to the Commission's attention. Without a specific exemption, such "double payments" are illegal. They are formally prohibited by article 11 (Title II) of the EU Staff Regulations.

Barroso's hapless spokesperson, Françoise Le Bail – she who did not know whether any of the Latsis group of companies had any financial relations with the commission - professed equal ignorance of this arrangement while, it seems Barroso was unavailable for comment.

Predictably, the Independence/Democracy Group have pounced on this further example of Barroso's infelicity, dubbing the president "Captain Calamity". "The man is a disaster," says the group leader, Nigel Farage.

"This just gives more evidence of his inability to police himself", he adds. "The bottom line of that motion is the old Roman concept; Qui custodiet ipsos custodes?, who guards the guards? In this case it seems quite literally that the guards are the image of the institutions they serve".

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