EC in cred­i­bil­ity cri­sis over Oet­tinger and Barroso

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is fac­ing a cred­i­bil­ity cri­sis. If it is not ad­dressed soon, it risks con­firm­ing the worst prej­u­dices held about EU of­fi­cial­dom – that it is ar­ro­gant, elit­ist and out of touch.

Fail­ure to sen­si­bly en­gage with the fall­out from Dig­i­tal Com­mis­sioner Gün­ther Oet­tinger’s racist and ho­mo­pho­bic re­marks raises ques­tions about how se­ri­ously the ex­ec­u­tive takes th­ese is­sues.

Oet­tinger de­scribed vis­it­ing Chi­nese min­is­ters as “slit­tyeyed” in a shock­ing speech last week. He also mocked women and gay mar­riage, as The Brief re­ported on Fri­day.

Ger­many’s Com­mis­sioner used a news­pa­per in­ter­view to de­fend the re­marks, claim­ing they were “sloppy”, rather than racist. Oet­tinger has since faced calls for his res­ig­na­tion in Brus­sels and Berlin.

At its mid­day press brief­ing, the Com­mis­sion re­fused four times to apol­o­gise for the re­marks. Asked if there would be an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the ex­ec­u­tive’s chief spokesman said, “There is no FBI at the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion.”

We have “noth­ing to add” to the in­ter­view, he told in­cred­u­lous re­porters. That amounts to an ef­fec­tive en­dorse­ment of Oet­tinger’s “sloppy lan­guage” ex­cuse.

The fact that Jean-Claude Juncker did not speak to Oet­tinger about the speech, or a sec­ond set of com­ments where he branded Wal­lo­nia “a mi­cro-re­gion ruled by com­mu­nists”, also re­flects badly on the Com­mis­sion.

As­ton­ish­ingly, Oet­tinger has been pro­moted to Bud­get Com­mis­sioner since his “slitty-eyed” speech.

If this isn’t put to bed, Oet­tinger will face tough ques­tions from MEPs at his Euro­pean Par­lia­ment hear­ing be­fore he takes up his new job.

More im­por­tantly,

peo­ple

will

think

the

Com­mis­sion doesn’t take racism, sex­ism or ho­mo­pho­bia se­ri­ously, de­spite its reg­u­lar cham­pi­oning of “Euro­pean values”.

To make mat­ters worse, the Com­mis­sion on Mon­day pub­lished a re­port by its in­de­pen­dent ethics com­mit­tee. It ex­on­er­ated for­mer Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent José Manuel Barroso for tak­ing a lob­by­ing job with in­vest­ment bank Goldman Sachs.

It can­not af­ford to be guilty of a sim­i­lar white­wash Oet­tinger’s case.

Mean­while, MEPs are pil­ing pres­sure on the Com­mis­sion to ex­tend the cool­ing off pe­riod to two years and toughen up rules to pre­vent of­fi­cials from tak­ing up cozy lob­by­ing jobs. A ma­jor­ity of MEPs voted to cut around EUR 500,000 from for­mer Com­mis­sion­ers’ pen­sions.

Bul­gar­ian Prime Min­is­ter Boyko Borissov gets to name a new EU Com­mis­sioner and is eye­ing the ecol­ogy or re­gional pol­icy briefs. Borissov said Kristalina Ge­orgieva, who will

in start a new job at the World Bank in Jan­uary, al­ready “ful­filled her role” as bud­get chief by se­cur­ing an in­crease in EU funds for Bul­garia.

Wal­loon politi­cians said they were pres­sured and warned there would be “con­se­quences” if they re­fused to sign CETA. Wal­lo­nia blocked the agree­ment for ten days. In the US, of­fi­cials are doubt­ful the agree­ment on CETA will help move TTIP ahead.

Croa­tia is go­ing to coach Bos­nia on how to join the EU. Tur­key won’t be join­ing any­time soon if they keep ar­rest­ing jour­nal­ists. Geert Wilders is on trial for in­cit­ing racial ha­tred in the Nether­lands.

Mon­day was the ap­pli­ca­tion dead­line for can­di­dates to be the next leader of UKIP. One has al­ready dropped out of the run­ning. Gover­nor of the Bank of Eng­land Mark Car­ney will stay the course, de­spite crit­i­cism of his in­ter­ven­tions dur­ing the ref­er­en­dum cam­paign.

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