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Alan Donnelly
"You have to make personal and professional compromises in order to compensate for this circus."
 real 28k

Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 18:33 GMT
Labour MEP leader quits

The Labour MEP quit in protest at the Parliament's two centres

The leader of Labour's Euro-MPs, Alan Donnelly, is to stand down from his post and leave the European Parliament.

Mr Donnelly announced the surprise decision in Strasbourg on Wednesday, citing the difficulties he has with travelling between the Parliament's two bases as the reason.

He told the BBC that he feared that the Parliament could not perform its duties effectively while based in Strasbourg and Brussels and hoped his resignation would highlight the "intolerable" position MEPs were in.

'Moving circus'

Mr Donnelly said: "I've been in the European Parliament for ten-and-half-years now making this journey three weeks to Brussels and then one week in exile to Strasbourg and I have to say as the Parliament has new powers and new influence we can't exercise these powers properly having a split site."

Mr Donnelly called for the Parliament to be housed in one building if it is to work effectively.

He continued: "Increasingly you have to make personal and professional compromises in order to compensate for this circus moving between Brussels and Strasbourg."

Alan Donnelly quit after 10 years as an MEP
The resignation follows increasing criticism over the so-called "travelling circus" between Strasbourg and Brussels.

Mr Donnelly said: "We had a perfectly adequate building, which cost a 1bn in Brussels, and we leave that, we leave some of our staff, all our files and all our documentation and we come and have one week here. It makes no sense now."

He added he hoped his action would draw "sufficient attention to this to demonstrate that someone who is top of his career in the European Parliament finds this situation intolerable".

The announcement came after a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair at Downing Street on Tuesday.

Mr Blair has praised Mr Donnelly's conduct as leader of the Labour group over the past couple of years, even though his time in office has coincided with a sharp drop in Labour's representation in the European Parliament after this year's elections.

Mr Blair said: "Alan has been an outstanding member of Labour's team in Europe since he was first elected as an MEP 10 years ago.

"In this time he has served the people of the North East well and has consistently excelled, gaining positions on key committees within the European Parliament as well as playing a full part in the Labour Party back home in the UK."

Mr Donnelly, 42, has been an MEP since 1989 and was elected to lead the UK Labour delegation two years ago.

A Conservative Party spokesman blamed Mr Blair for Mr Donnelly's decision to stand down.

The spokesman said: "Just a few weeks after their former leader, Pauline Green, quit Brussels, yet another leader has left the sinking ship of Labour in the European Parliament."

"Mr Donnelly was clearly sick of being Tony Blair's fall guy in Brussels, facing humiliation after humiliation over Labour's failure to get France to lift the beef ban, their determination to scrap the pound against the wishes of the British people, and their refusal to veto the damaging withholding tax," the spokesman said.

Labour MEPs will select a new leader in the new year.

Mr Donnelly is likely to be replaced by the next candidate on the party list in his region, Gordon Adam.

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See also:
14 Dec 99 |  Europe
Chirac snubbed by Euro-MPs

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