The president of the new EU Commission could have been forgiven for thinking the worst was behind him, but Jose Manuel Barosso’s already-delayed team has spent its first day in office trying to diffuse a new row.
Several MEPs are urging a review of the French transport commissioner’s position after it emerged Jacques Barrot had failed to declare a conviction for embezzlement, later quashed under a French amnesty. Nigel Farrage, from Britain’s anti EU UK Inpendence Party, revealed it last week: “From France we have Mr Jacques Barrot – he’ll take on transport. In 2000 he received an eight-month suspended jail sentance for his involvement in an embezzlement case and was banned from holding office for two years.” Barosso’s spokeswoman Francoise le Bail said: “I think we should remember that Mr Barrot has been a commissioner since April 1 and that he has carried out his duties since then without the question being raised. Also in France when a conviction is erased by an amnesty it no longer exists.” Barrot has released a letter clarifying the legal case around his conviction, pointing out he has never been barred from holding office. But that has not stopped calls for his head. Graham Watson, who leads the third largest group in the parliament, has demanded that Barrot resign or be suspended until the matter is fully resolved.