Thursday, May 19, 2005

Latsis Affair - Update

The Motion for Censure is having what can only be described as an interesting ride. As of now the Parliament has still failed to put the debate onto the agenda for the parliamentary plenary session next Wednesday. The reason for this is simple, that will be to give those behind the motion a moral victory. They still believe that enough people will be bullied into removing their signatures.
An article in today’s European Voice is quite revealing. A Parliament spokesman is quoted admitting that they do not have rules governing the situation. That is after the motion is tabled – and has now been translated – with sufficient verified signatures can it be withdrawn. The metaphor one senior official used with me was “If somebody fires a gun, and while the bullet is on its trajectory decides that he doesn’t want to kill somebody, it doesn’t matter, the bullet has already left the barrel”. But this does not mean that the Parliament isn’t trying to get around this, and have asked their legal services to make a ruling – no prizes which way that decision will go.

Interestingly the report also claimed that a Maltese socialist MEP had removed his name. Dr John Attard-Montalto signed the motion, but was the only remaining member of the PSE on the motion. (According to the Parliament services today at 4pm he still is) However Mr Schulz (PSE leader) told the European Voice that he had removed his name. Interestingly Schulz claimed that he had been misled by the motion's proposers. I suppose Schulz thinks that Mr Montalto is not a responsible adult and couldn't work out for himself what he was signing. Montalto is a former Minister for Economics, a more senior and responsible position than the 'capo' Schulz will ever achieve.

Mr Schulz, who despite claiming to have put no pressure on Montalto agreed that he had phoned him and spoken to him - I bet he doesn't often phone up for a chat. I worked for an EPP/EDMEP for three years and the Group leader never phoned up my boss. A phone call on an issue like this is pressure - nobody expects him to say,
"Mr Montalto, Attard, my friend, if you do not remove your name we will reveal your secret Swiss bank account and the names of your five mistresses - including the labrador. That is after we have broken you on the wheel".
There is a little more subtlety than that.
The other socialist who had signed is Anna Hedh, now rechristened Richard. She caims that she signed in “error”. She says that she thought that it was a written declaration, not a motion of censure. The paper she signed has the words Motion for Censure in 28pt Arial Bold across the front of it. I don’t quite understand how she could believe that something that states
raises this motion of censure as its only tool to have the Commission President José Barroso to appear before it in plenary to explain how he could receive a gift to a value of several thousands euros from a billionaire businessman who then one month later, received the green light from the European Commission for a regional aid grant to a value of 10 million Euros.
1. Censures the Commission for this reason.
2. Instructs its President to forward this motion of censure to the Commission and notify the President of the Council and the President of the Commission of the results of the vote.
The reasons for censure are set out in the motion itself. However it is prepared to withdraw this motion of censure if it gets a reasonable explanation in plenary and clear rules obliging all commissioners to register all gifts of substantial value.
could be anything other than a motion of censure".

So she is either scared of the consequences, lying or stupid. Schulz also claims that reports in the German press that he had received instructions in a phone from Chancellor Schroeder to drop his demand that Barroso come clean were fictitious. I understand that the source for the claim works in Schroeder’s office and there has been no complaint to the newspaper.

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