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Tuesday, September 7, 1999 Published at 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK

World: Europe

Kinnock makes case for EC reform job

Neil Kinnock: Likely to be approved by MEPs

The former leader of the UK Labour party, Neil Kinnock, has insisted that he bears no personal blame for the failures of the last European Commission.

But Mr Kinnock, who is among four commissioners hoping to be re-appointed to the new EC team, did accept collective responsibility for the alleged mismanagement and cronyism that led to the resignation of the last commission.

The BBC's Angus Roxburgh: "Euro MP's have flexed their muscles"
His remarks came as he was quizzed by Euro MPs as part of the confirmation process which takes place before Mr Kinnock can take begin his second term as a commissioner.

Continuity needed

Mr Kinnock told the BBC that not to allow any of the members of the last EC to return in the new team headed by Commission President Romano Prodi would have damaging consequences.

He said: "I think that would have caused unnecessary damage on the commission and the reform process.

"I think there is a real value in having on the commission some of the former members, whether me or others, in giving some continuity."

Mr Kinnock was the last of the 19 commissioners to go through the confirmation process which involves three hours of questioning from MEPs as well as a lengthy questionnaire.

During the question session Mr Kinnock rejected suggestions that he is the wrong person to oversee reform of the EC.

'I did not feel stained'

Turning to the resignation of the last commission he said: "I felt we could do no other, and I counselled in the commission for resignation, which I intended to take in any event when I read the report.

"I could honestly say I accepted collective responsibility but I cannot honestly say I can accept individual guilt."

Mr Kinnock added: "In my conscience, in my heart and my own personal integrity, I did not feel stained. The whole series of events was a preventable tragedy."

'The lesson is learned'

He promised that if promoted to a new role as commission vice president in charge of reform, he would shake up the "management and mentality" of the commission.

[ image: Mr Prodi is expected to rebuff MEPs who are hostile to his nominees]
Mr Prodi is expected to rebuff MEPs who are hostile to his nominees
He said there were compelling reasons for radical change after the severe damage done to the commission and European Union as a whole by "recent events".

He said: "The lesson is learned. If the Prodi Commission is confirmed it will undertake thorough, wide and consistent reform as a basic purpose of its mandate.

"The main reform programme will be published in February 2000. The strategy will be continual and insistent emphasis on efficiency, transparency and accountability in the management and mentality of the commission as a whole."

Approval vote next week

The European Parliament will vote next week on whether to accept or reject the Prodi nominees.

Majority approval is now virtually certain - but centre-right members of the parliament are still seeking scalps in a display of muscle-flexing, which will continue until the vote on 15 September.

UK Tory MEPs have threatened not to support the nominations of Mr Kinnock and three other Prodi appointees because they were part of the last regime.

But Mr Prodi has already resisted pressure to allow MEPs to "cherry pick" commissioners, rejecting some and accepting others.

Shadow Foreign Secretary John Maples said: "Neil Kinnock, part of the disgraced Santer Commission, is not the right man for the vital task of cleaning up the European institutions."

But Mr Kinnock said he believed that determination of Conservative MEPs not to support him stemmed back beyond his previous term as a commissioner to his time as Labour leader.

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