Outcry at pounds 700,000 job for EU chief switch of

A EUROPEAN commissioner was in effect suspended from his telecoms post in Brussels yesterday as a storm erupted over his decision to take a pounds 700,000-a-year position with a private telephone company.

The British Government said it "deplored" Martin Bangemann's behaviour and called for EU rules to be radically overhauled to ensure that no other commissioner could follow suit. Tony Blair is understood to be furious that the German commissioner's decision has tarnished the Commission with yet more allegations of sleaze.

Mr Bangemann triggered outrage among colleagues when he announced on Wednesday he was quitting his job, before the end of his term, for a senior post at the Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica.

As industry and telecoms commissioners, he has been in charge of regulating Europe's telecoms market since 1993 and had extensive dealings with Telefonica and other former state monopolies.

Mr Bangemann wanted to take up his new job yesterday, but he was told by Jacques Santer, the acting commission president, that EU rules barred commissioners from quitting until their post is filled.

However, there are no rules governing perceived conflicts of interest and Mr Blair led calls for a new system aimed at preventing officials from taking private sector appointments immediately after their term of office. In a strongly worded statement, Downing Street made clear the Prime Minister's anger at Mr Bangemann's decision. "The Government deplores what the commissioner has done. This is a time when confidence in European institutions is extremely low and this simply underlines the case for reform," a spokesman said.

The spokesman stressed that it wanted Romano Prodi, the Commission's incoming president, to introduce UK-style restrictions.

Mr Bangemann was left in a state of limbo yesterday after he was told that he could not attend a meeting of the commission executive. He was told he could not represent the Commission at a meeting of industry ministers in Finland today and faces legal action over his decision to quit early.

Most commissioners are expected to stand down on 17 September to make way for a newly formed executive, ordered after the fraud and mismanagement scandal that engulfed Brussels in March.

Telefonica announced that Mr Bangemann was beginning work yesterday but, as far as Brussels was concerned, he was still on its payroll and could not be released.

"He could have avoided all this if he had just waited until 17 September when this team of commissioners stands down," said one commission official. "Doing it this way has just added to the rumour-mill about sleaze and corruption."

Neil Kinnock, one of the UK's commissioners, said he was "flabbergasted" by the job switch, and Pauline Green, Labour MEP and leader of the Socialist group, said the move "reeks of impropriety".

Key decisions about Mr Bangemann's future will now be made by EU ambassadors next week before EU governments agree on an early replacement.

In a formal statement issued yesterday, the Commission expressed "surprise" at Mr Bangemann's job move. It will now be "clarifying" a Treaty of Rome provision, which obliges commissioners to act with "discretion" and "integrity" during and after their terms of office in Brussels.

Leading article, Review, page 3

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy