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Thursday, July 1, 1999 Published at 08:45 GMT 09:45 UK

World: Europe

Job switch Euro chief barred from meeting

Martin Bangemann: Wants to start in Spain as soon as possible

A senior European Commissioner has been excluded from Thursday's commission meeting after taking up a new job with a private company.

Martin Bangemann was summoned to an "informal" meeting to explain his action and then told not to attend the formal routine session.

The industry commissioner has created a political storm by accepting a top job in the telecom industry that he had been responsible for policing.

The BBC's Peter Dobbie: "Finns pride themselves on being able to see the other point of view"
Mr Bangemann, who has resigned from his commission post, joins the board of the Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica on Thursday - having only told his colleagues of his decision on Tuesday.

The move has been attacked by MEPs and other commissioners because Mr Bangemann was responsible for telecommunications issues.

Jonathan Beale: "MEPs want a new code of conduct"
BBC Europe Correspondent Jonathan Beale says he could not have chosen a worse moment to change jobs.

The commission - which acts as the executive arm of the European Union - is still recovering from corruption allegations which led to its mass resignation in March.

Widespread anger

Socialist group leader Pauline Green said: "I hold nothing but contempt for this move.

"Commissioners should be barred from taking private sector appointments immediately after their term of office in policy areas with which they have been intimately involved."

Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock's spokeswoman said he was flabbergasted and furious.

She added that Mr Bangemann's new job seemed to be at least against the spirit of the EU Treaty.

EU in crisis
The treaty says commissioners should "behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance, after they have ceased to hold office, of certain appointments or benefits".

Mr Bangemann's spokesman, Jochen Kubosch, said the industry commissioner was no longer taking part in commission discussions if there could be a "problem of compatibility".

Short notice

A spokesman for the European Commission, Thierry Daman said outgoing Commission President Jacques Santer was "surprised by the short notice of the announcement".

Mr Daman said member nations may want to discuss whether to allow Mr Bangemann, a former German economy minister, to leave immediately.

He added that the EU Treaty says resigning commissioners must stay in their jobs until they have been replaced or until members unanimously decide not to replace them.

Bombarded by questions about possible conflicts of interest, the commission produced a list of nine cases involving Telefonica which it had dealt with recently.

These included two cases still under consideration - a complaint by Telefonica against the Spanish Government's refusal to allow it to raise local call rates, and a complaint by Gibraltar's mobile phone operator against Telefonica.

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