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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
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: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines