Diarist withdraws 'embarrassing' tales of European politics

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The Independent Online


Ritt Bjerregaard, the Danish European Commissioner, admitted yesterday that it would be unfair and wrong to publish her controversial diaries, and announced that she would be withdrawing the book.

The decision will avert a major scandal within the Commission, which has been angered by the wilful behaviour of Ms Bjerregaard and by the deeply embarrassing nature of some of her revelations. The diaries include criticisms of many European leaders and chatter indiscreetly about the wearisome nature of EU politicking.

Jacques Santer, the Commission President, has no power to sack Ms Bjerregaard. Anxious that the revelations would trivialise the workings of the Commission and undermine its authority, he pressed her to scrap the book.

A spokesman for Mr Santer said yesterday: "The President of the Commission is very pleased ... He thinks it is a wise decision that will allow the Commission to really concentrate on its tasks at hand." The statement was a clear message to Ms Bjerregaard that she should get on with her job as environment commissioner, rather than spend the time undermining her colleagues. In Denmark, which takes a strong line on environment issues, there has been strong criticism of Ms Bjerregaard, who has been accused of damaging the country's reputation in Europe.

A contrite Ms Bjerregaard said yesterday: "Good friends have felt abused and deceived, and colleagues with whom I relate well in work have felt that I was overstepping some limits. This I regret very much." Just two days ago Ms Bjerregaard insisted that her revelations were meant to be "friendly" and were intended to inform the public about European political life. But publicity given to the book was so intense that it almost over- shadowed the debate in Strasbourg on Tuesday over French nuclear tests. The Commissioner, responsible for nuclear safety, was clearly taken aback by the publicity, and byspeculation on how much money she stood to earn from publishing the diaries.

The extracts published so far have caused a flurry of irritation in a number of high places. Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor, is accused of "not paying any attention at all" in meetings. President Jacques Chirac is described in dismissive terms by Ms Bjerregaard as a man who "gave a very bad impression ... I don't even think Mr Chirac will grow in stature with his post."