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Last Updated:  Monday, 10 March, 2003, 22:08 GMT
Kinnock faces calls to quit
Neil Kinnock
Kinnock: Asked to give an "adequate" explanation
British Conservatives are calling for the resignation of European Commission Vice-President Neil Kinnock unless he can answer new revelations about his handling of a whistleblower controversy.

Mr Kinnock has already been forced once by the European Parliament to defend his suspension of former Commission chief accountant Marta Andreasan after she complained that the EU budget was open to fraud and abuse.

A leaked memorandum now shows that the head of the Commission's internal audit system told Mr Kinnock that Ms Andreasen's work for the commission was going "in the right direction" and her removal would be a "serious blow to reform".

European Parliament President Pat Cox urged the parliament's budgetary control committee to deal with the matter "as comprehensively as possible".

He said the European Commission should give the committee, which is meeting on Monday evening, "the fullest co-operation".

If he can't come to the Parliament next week and make an adequate explanation then he has only one option available to him - to go
UK Conservative MEP leader Jonathan Evans
However, a motion calling for an emergency debate on the issue in the parliament itself brought by the European People's Party - of which the UK Conservatives are members - was defeated by 134 votes to 113.

The memorandum, which also describes the EU Budget Commissioner's department as "haunted by a profound lack of qualified staff", was written just before Ms Andreasen was suspended in May 2002.

The leader of Britain's Conservative MEPs, Jonathan Evans, said this weekend that Mr Kinnock should confirm the memo's existence, publish it and explain why he did not inform other commissioners and the parliament about it.

Stamina and spine

"If these latest revelations are found to be true, then Mr Kinnock stands accused both of incompetence and misleading the European Parliament," the statement said.

"In such circumstances if he can't come to the parliament next week and make an adequate explanation then he has only one option available to him - to go."

Marta Andreasen
Andreasen said EU accounting was riddled with loopholes
Correspondents say the report could have an impact on the European Parliament's decision whether to approve the budget this month.

Mr Kinnock, a former leader of the UK Labour Party, has said that Ms Andreasen was suspended not for the act of whistleblowing itself but for failing to follow the EU's whistleblowing procedures.

He said her behaviour would not have been tolerated by any civil service in the democratic world.

"The decision [to suspend her]... was not at all based on that analysis, but rather... linked to the breakdown in her working relationship with her commissioner and hierarchy," a spokesman for the commission said.

The European Commission has said the memo by Jules Muis was just a "note" which did not address the issue of responsible whistleblowing.

The memo says Ms Andreasen's demise would "be a serious blow to reform, sending a signal that the old ways of keeping things from happening still work".

It also says the European Commission should only start reforming its accounting practices "if it has a commissioner... who has the stamina and spine to... see it through consistently".


SEE ALSO:
Kinnock ready to be nuisance
29 Jan 03 |  Politics
EU accounts 'open to fraud'
03 Oct 02 |  Hardtalk
EU hit by accounting allegations
01 Aug 02 |  Business


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