Page last updated at 18:20 GMT, Tuesday, 2 March 2010

MEP Nigel Farage fined over 'insulting' tirade

Farage: "I have not done this as a publicity stunt"

Eurosceptic MEP Nigel Farage has been fined just under 3,000 euros (£2,700) after refusing to apologise for a tirade in the European Parliament.

He was reprimanded for "insulting" behaviour after telling President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy he had "the charisma of a damp rag".

The authorities said he would lose an allowance paid to MEPs for 10 days but would not be suspended.

Mr Farage said his was a legitimate "voice of opposition" to EU policies.

'Not acceptable'

He said he would continue to criticise the powers wielded by Mr Van Rompuy and other senior officials who had not been elected.

Mr Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) group in the parliament, drew jeers last Wednesday when he said Mr Van Rompuy had the appearance of a "low-grade bank clerk" and described Belgium as "pretty much a non-country".

I cannot accept this sort of behaviour in the European Parliament
Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament

The president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, said such language was "not acceptable".

During a meeting with Mr Farage to discuss his comments, Mr Buzek said he had asked him to apologise for the personal criticism of Mr Van Rompuy which he said was "offensive".

"I defend absolutely Mr Farage's right to disagree about the policy or institutions of the European Union," he said.

"But... his behaviour towards Mr Van Rompuy was inappropriate, unparliamentary and insulting to the dignity of the House... I cannot accept this sort of behaviour in the European Parliament."

Given Mr Farage's refusal to apologise, Mr Buzek said he would be docked his right to a daily allowance paid to all MEPs for 10 days.

Mr Farage said the amount he would lose would be about 3,000 euros (£2,722).

The European Parliament had the power to suspend Mr Farage but decided against the move.


Speaking after the meeting, Mr Farage was unrepentant: "The only people I'm going to apologise to are bank clerks the world over - if I've offended them then I'm very sorry indeed," he said.

He said he did not think he had been insulting or used "unparliamentary language" and his comments had sparked a debate on Mr Van Rompuy's role as president of the European Council - a role created under the EU's controversial Lisbon Treaty and opposed by Eurosceptics.

President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy
Mr Van Rompuy got a blistering attack on his first appearance before MEPs

Mr Farage's party, UKIP, campaigns for a withdrawal of Britain from the European Union. It has 13 representatives in the parliament.

During his attack on Mr Van Rompuy last week - during the former Belgian PM's maiden appearance in the role - Mr Farage said "nobody in Europe had ever heard" of him.

He told the BBC he would continue to draw attention to the fact that Mr Van Rompuy and other EU officials had the power to "fundamentally change" the lives of UK citizens even though they had not been elected.

Mr Van Rompuy, 62, was chosen unanimously by the governments of the EU's 27 member states to take on the role of the first permanent European Council president.

Mr Van Rompuy said he held Mr Farage's comments "in contempt", without elaborating.

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