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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Guru Careers: Sales Adviser / Sales Exec

£Competitive + Uncapped OTE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Engineer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for an excellent opport...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£18000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is looking for a d...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Coordinator

£18000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Reside...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue