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EU Balkans envoy accused of greed

THE EU'S Balkan co-ordinator, Bodo Hombach, was accused of greed yesterday after he reportedly demanded a 30 per cent pay rise and better fringe benefits.

According to the German daily Bild Zeitung, Mr Hombach is dissatisfied with his monthly salary of DM30,000 (pounds 9,600) and wants DM10,000 more. That would lift him on the pay scale above Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission.

Mr Hombach, who left German politics earlier this year after allegations of financial impropriety, is also claiming 210 business-class flights for the year and a 40 per cent increase in his budget. "This is going too far," said Elmar Brok, a German Christian Democrat MEP. "It would be wrong to throw away so much money."

As Chancellor Gerhard Schroder's former right-hand man, Mr Hombach had made many enemies in German politics, and has been castigated for his extravagant lifestyle in Brussels. EU officials have let it be known that they thought Mr Hombach should have set up his office in the Greek city of Salonika, where he would have been much closer to Kosovo, which would have kept airline bills down. He appears to have achieved little in his current job, though he has complained that his office is under- funded.

Mr Hombach has been compared with his friend Peter Mandelson. They share a talent for backstage intrigue, and Mr Hombach also stands accused of not paying for his house entirely out of his own pocket.