Friday, October 22, 2004

Commission corruption?

It's hardly a new allegation that the European Commission has a tendency towards what many would judge dodgy dealings, but it is fairly rare for a former high-up official to make the claims, especially when the official in question is the Commission's ex-chief accountant.

The Marta Andreasen business has been going on for a couple of years now, since she was suspended by Commission Vice President and former Labour party leader Neil Kinnock in May 2002. But last week she was finally sacked (and - apparently - they did it by email, which was nice).

Why? Well, because she "repeatedly and knowingly acted in disregard of her obligations, particularly those set out in Articles 11, 12, 17 and 21 of the Staff Regulations. Those articles are expressions of the duty of loyalty incumbent upon every official. According to the case-law, the relevant obligations are intended primarily to preserve the relationship of trust between the institution and its officials or other employees, which is fundamental."

In other words, Andreasen seems to have been sacked for uncovering potential for corruption (her job) but then not keeping her mouth shut about it.

In a press conference yesterday (hat-tip to North Sea Diaries), Andreasen made the unusual decision to appear alongside former UKIP MEP Ashley Mote, who was booted out of UKIP because of an upcoming fraud trial in which he is the defendant. When attacking fraud it might be best to avoid appearing with n alleged fraudster, and when attacking the European machine it might be best to avoid apearing with a staunch Eurosceptic. People may think there's politics going on here, not the selfless sense of duty Andreasen claims to be her motive.

But even so, some interesting points have been raised, and will continue to be now that she has handed over a pile of documents to the Serious Fraud Office.

Now that this seems to be hotting up, it could prove to be catastrophic, and the Eurosceptics are sure to latch on to Andreasen's allegations with full force. Can this be countered? Corruption and incompetence at the heart of Europe is just what we don't need in the run-up to the battle for the constitution. But at least this might force the incoming commissioners to take a stand and finally break with the past.

In any case, Andreasen's findings have mostly uncovered the potential for fraud, not necessarily fraud itself. Is the Commission corrupt?

Well, shall we say that when I did some work there a few years back I was paid cash-in-hand... It doesn't look good for Brussels.

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