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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
EU reformer likened to Louis XIV
Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1993
Giscard d'Estaing: Demand for high salary was rejected
Members of the European Union's Convention - the body spearheading the EU reform drive - have accused its president Valery Giscard d'Estaing of flouting democracy.

The 75-year-old former French president handpicked members of the Convention's presidium, according to a letter signed by 12 Convention members.

It seems grotesque that the president is the one to appoint the chairpersons. This is another contribution to Mr Giscard d'Estaing's reputation as 'Sun King'

Peter Skaarup
Danish MP
The criticism of Mr d'Estaing was reported by the Danish newspaper Politiken on Friday.

One of the signatories, Peter Skaarup of the Danish People's Party, accused him of using "grotesque" methods, and compared him to Louis XIV of France, an absolute monarch.

"This is another contribution to Mr Giscard d'Estaing's reputation as 'Sun King'," he said.


The letter was signed by Convention members from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Luxembourg.

They demanded that at least three of the heads of the Convention's six working groups be chosen from Convention members not represented on the presidium.

Louis XIV
Louis XIV: The "Sun King" symbolised absolute monarchy
The countries not represented on the presidium are: the Netherlands, Finland, Austria, Sweden and Luxembourg.

The signatories said Mr d'Estaing's methods contradicted the Convention's aim of creating more democracy in the EU.

The Convention's 105 members are parliamentarians and government representatives from the 28 EU member states and applicant countries.

Danish member Henrik Dam Kristensen, also quoted by Politiken, said "it is important that the leadership of the important working groups represent the whole spectrum".

"We must ensure that the countries that are not represented in the presidium will also be considered."

Row over appointment

Another Convention member, Kimmo Kiljunen of the Finnish Social Democratic Party, said the letter's signatories were "concerned that the president has taken upon himself a too prominent part in the Convention".

Danish anti-euro demonstrator
Danish voters rejected the euro
"Broad participation in the leadership of the Convention is crucial for popular confidence in the final result," he said.

Mr d'Estaing was appointed to head the Convention at the Laeken summit in December, 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.

Mr d'Estaing is reported to have demanded a salary in excess of 20,000 euros ($17,671) per month, plus expenses for his new post.

EU officials say he will not receive a salary for the job, but will have his expenses reimbursed.

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.

The Convention's task is to examine how to "reconnect" the EU with citizens who perceive it as a distant and over-bureaucratic body.

It will also discuss how the EU will operate when it takes in up to 12 new members from Southern and Eastern Europe.

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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