Barroso should come clean

in:

On the 25th May European Commission President José Barroso was asked to give an explanation before the European Parliament of an apparent conflict of interest. In August, 2004, shortly after he was designated as the new Commission President, Mr Barroso holidayed on the private yacht of Greek shipping magnate John Latsis. Barely a month later a shipbuilding firm belonging to Mr Latsis was awarded €10.3 million in state aids. Such aid by national governments within the EU can only be given under strict conditions and with the permission of the European Commission, which is responsible for ensuring that the rules are followed.

SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard was amongst the Members who signed the motion obliging Mr Barroso to appear before the European Parliament. “There is nothing untoward about asking the Commission President to appear before the Parliament to explain himself,” said Ms Liotard. “This is one of the Parliament's functions. And if there is no problem then Mr Barroso will have the opportunity to put the record straight.”

The major political groups in the European Parliament – the right wing European People's Party and the so-called Socialists - put those who had signed the motion under intense pressure to retract. Yet those who had supported the motion point out that all they were seeking was a satisfactory explanation. Under the Parliament's rather bureaucratic rules, a motion of no confidence was the only procedural device available which would oblige the Commission President to appear before the Parlaiment's plenary sitting, the roughly monthly meeting at which all MEPs are in principle present.

Ms Liotard described herself as surprised by the uproar which resulted from the motion: “Barroso's attitude has simply added fuel to the fire. We aren't accusing him of corruption, but only of saddling himself with what appears to be a conflict of interests. Isn't it perfectly normal for a politician to have to explain such a thing? It is precisely this type of reaction that is eroding confidence in the political process and politicians. Through the paucity of the information which Barroso has presented to the Parliament, he risks fuelling suspicion.”