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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 11:52 GMT
Giscard d'Estaing refused EU salary
Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1993
Mr Giscard d'Estaing's demands did not go down well
The vetern French politician Valery Giscard d'Estaing will not receive a salary for heading the EU's new reform drive, officials in Brussels have decided.


It is simply that things should be comfortable

Valery Giscard d'Estaing
The 75-year-old former president is reported to have demanded a salary in excess of 20,000 euros ($17,671) per month, plus expenses, for the position at the helm of the Convention which starts debating the future of Europe at the end of next month.

He is also said to have asked for a luxury suite of rooms in a Brussels hotel for a year - despite the fact that he is not expected to be permanently based there - and for a handpicked private staff of up to 12 people.

"There will be no salary," said a diplomat in Brussels, after a meeting of EU ambassadors.

They agreed however that Mr Giscard d'Estaing's expenses would be reimbursed.

Diplomats privately suggested that if the former president wanted more, he should turn to Paris, which had lobbied hard for his appointment.

Too much

EU officials have said it would cost several million euros to satisfy Mr Giscard d'Estaing's demands, and that the sum could not be financed from the existing budget.

Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder
Mr Chirac said he would veto any other candidate

Mr Giscard d'Estaing has denied being greedy.

"It is simply that things should be comfortable," he told the Le Monde newspaper.

Mr Giscard d'Estaing was appointed to the post at last month's Laeken summit, amid acrimonious bickering by the 15 member states.

His appointment was pushed through by French President Jacques Chirac, who said he would veto any other choice.

Tasks

The task of the Convention is to examine how to "reconnect" the EU with citizens who perceive it as a distant and over-bureaucratic body, and to discuss how the EU will operate when it takes in up to 12 new members from Southern and Eastern Europe.

Among the thorny issues to be examined are further restrictions on the use of national vetoes, the distribution of power between nation states and Brussels, and the difficulty of persuading young people to take an interest in the EU.

Mr Giscard d'Estaing's critics have argued that his lofty and arrogant style makes him an inappropriate choice of candidate to bridge the gap between the EU and its people.

The Convention will start work in Brussels on 28 February.

It is to report back to the EU heads of state and government with recommendations in 2003.

See also:

15 Dec 01 | Europe
EU plots future course
15 Dec 01 | Europe
Profile: Giscard d'Estaing
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