|Vol.7, No.20, 17.5.01, p1
Two of the European Commission's most senior officials have embarrassed Romano Prodi by accusing his administration of being timid and lacking strategic inspiration.
Energy and Transport Director-General François Lamoureux and Eneko Landaburu, his counterpart for enlargement, made their controversial remarks in a paper for former Commission President Jacques Delors' think-tank.
They said the administration is "overcautious, wrapped up in administrative reforms" and "not exercising sufficiently its fundamental task". Their views were published last week on the website of the Notre Europe think-tank, but it has since withdrawn the document.
Prodi has spoken to the pair, one of whom is said to have offered to resign, asking them to explain their actions after he returns from the EU-Russia summit in Moscow.
Commission insiders say the comments will reinforce the impression that Prodi is viewed as a weak president who does not command the respect of senior staff, who think they can run the institution better than him.
Lamoureux told European Voice that the document on the future of Europe was a private article intended for an association of which he is a member.
"This document was intended to feed into the association's reflections and was not meant to be published," Lamoureux said, adding that he regretted that extracts had been printed without the agreement of the authors.
Prodi's spokesman, Jonathan Faull, insisted that the Commission President was merely "surprised" by the paper and not angry, as some insiders are suggesting. The two officials were "very sorry at the embarrassment they have caused which they did not intend," he added.
Faull stated he was not aware that Lamoureux had offered to resign and stressed that Prodi highly valued the pair's work in handling two of the Commission's most important dossiers.
But other officials insist that Lamoureux, who used to work as an advisor to both Delors and disgraced former French Commissioner Edith Cresson, has offered to step down.
Faull rejected suggestions that the two directors-general had broken Commission rules by publishing papers without Prodi's permission. "Commission officials are entitled to express their views in private," he said. A former Commission official, Bernard Connolly, was sacked by the Commission in 1995 for publishing a book which attacked his colleagues without official permission.
The paper on the future of Europe warns that the EU needs a "political project bringing together the largest number of member states" to prevent the next enlargement "sound(ing) the death-knell of further integration" and the "Europe of power". They argue that the Commission is failing to its fulfil its role as the driving force in European integration, being "overcautious, wrapped up in administrative reforms which are necessary and management problems" and not acting as "the strategic inspiration and political impulse".
The paper also criticises the monthly general affairs meetings of foreign ministers as the "sick institution" of the EU which fails to prepare European summits properly.
It calls for the "engagement of the Franco-German alliance and other founding countries" to help "political Europe move forward" and an "area of solidarity" with harmonisation of tax, social and regional aid policies.
Commission insiders say the paper typifies the attitude of old-guard senior staff who believe they have an important role in deciding the direction of the Union instead of acting merely as neutral policy implementers. "Can you imagine what Tony Blair would do if two of his permanent secretaries were to write something criticising his government like this?" said one.
Two of the European Commission's most senior officials have embarrassed Romano Prodi by accusing his administration of being timid and lacking strategic inspiration. Energy and Tramsport Director-General, François Lamoureux and Eneko Landaburu, his counterpart for enlargement, made their controversial remarks in a paper for former Commission President, Jacques Delors' think-tank (Notre Europe).
|Politics and International Relations