Commission drama costs Green her job

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The Independent Online
PAULINE GREEN yesterday lost her job as leader of Europe's Socialist MEPs, amid recriminations over her role in the fall of the European Commission and the left's disastrous performance in the European elections.

Ms Green, a main player in the drama which led to the mass resignation of the Commission, quit when the powerful bloc of German Socialist MEPs ditched her in favour of a Spanish candidate. Her departure ends a traumatic period for the Socialists whose actions inadvertently led to all 20 commissioners standing down in March, following allegations of fraud and nepotism.

The left failed to gain electorally in last month's poll when their centre- right rivals overtook them for the first time in 20 years as the biggest bloc in the parliament. The loss of 30 seats by British Labour MEPs effectively decided Ms Green's fate, depriving her of a bedrock of support - although 10 out of the 18 national groups backed her.

Ms Green resigned last night before a leadership vote today, and blamed her loss of support on her championship of a clean-up of the parliament's expenses regime - a move which is controversial among German parliamentarians.

Ms Green refused to apologise for her reform plans, arguing that the "self-inflicted wounds" under the present regime in Strasbourg were doing "more to damage the legitimacy and credibility of this parliament in the eyes of the electorate than anything else".

The Socialist group announced that Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, will take over as president of the Party of European Socialists whenRudolf Scharping steps down, but that may not be until 2001.

The new Socialist group leader will almost certainly be Enrique Baron Crespo, a former president of the European Parliament, who yesterday pledged to help reinforce a strong commission.

Ms Green was tipped as a potential candidate to be mayor of London. However, her reputation suffered when her tactics backfired as allegations of sleaze mismanagement and nepotism in the Commission snowballed. Initially Ms Green called a censure motion in an attempt to give the commissioners a vote of confidence when right-of-centre MEPs refused to sign off a set of EU accounts. But when the vote came in January, her Socialist group split and the parliament came closer than ever to voting the Commission out of office.

Ms Green changed course and became a leading advocate of reform, arguing for the committee which investigated the allegations of impropriety to be established and calling for the resignation of those criticised.

The outcome was the resignation of the Commission, the biggest constitutional crisis of its kind in the EU's history.

New commission, page 13