Barroso survives confidence debate over free holiday with Greek tycoon

Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, has survived an embarrassing no-confidence motion in the European Parliament as a row over his free holiday with a Greek shipping tycoon provoked deep ructions among Conservatives MEPs.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, has survived an embarrassing no-confidence motion in the European Parliament as a row over his free holiday with a Greek shipping tycoon provoked deep ructions among Conservatives MEPs.

The vast majority of MEPs rallied behind Mr Barroso, who came under fire just four days before France votes on a crucial referendum on the European constitution.

However, the debate provoked a bitter row within the European conservative group which opposed the no-confidence motion. Its leader, Hans Gert Pöttering, said that one British Tory MEP, Roger Helmer, had "excluded himself" from membership of the group by accusing its leadership of twisting the arms of Mr Barroso's critics.

Last night Mr Helmer's Conservative whip was suspended, and the threat of expulsion hangs over four other British Conservatives who defied their party line and signed the no-confidence motion tabled by the UK Independence Party MEP, Nigel Farage.

Despite his political escape, the debate symbolised the shaky start made by Mr Barroso since he took over as European Commission president after losing a power struggle with MEPs in October last year.

Asked to account for his holiday aboard Spiros Latsis's 51ft yacht last August, Mr Barroso described the motion as "unfair, unjustified, illegitimate and absurd". He added: "We never dealt with any commercial subjects at all. There was no link between the cruise and my work."

He went on the cruise shortly before a Latsis company received European Commission approval for state aid worth €10m (£6.8m). However, the cruise was also before Mr Barroso took up his post and the state aid decision was taken by the previous European Commission.

"As to the Commission's decision to authorise state aid in Greece, it was taken by the previous Commission at a time when I had no responsibility," Mr Barroso said.

All the parliament's big groups rallied round the Commission president, partly because the motion was seen as an attempt by British Eurosceptics to embarrass Mr Barroso on the eve of the French referendum. If a vote is called, Mr Barroso is certain to win.

Meanwhile, Mr Pöttering reacted furiously to claims by Mr Helmer that MEPs were threatened in an effort to force them to withdraw backing for the motion. "By his behaviour he has excluded himself from our group," said Mr Pöttering, who is also threatening to expel four other Tories who backed the no-confidence motion: Chris Heaton-Harris, Daniel Hannan, David Sumberg and Martin Callanan.

Though the factual case against Mr Barroso appeared to be weak, his reaction has raised a series of questions and may have strengthened the case for a new committee to oversee issues such as conflict of interest.

Initially, the Commission president refused to answer a parliamentary question on his holiday arrangements from Mr Farage but he later confirmed a German newspaper story about the holiday.

Peter Mandelson, the European trade commissioner, had also refused to answer a similar question about a trip, though details of a Caribbean holiday over the new year later emerged.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
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

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam