Edith Cresson's jibes come back to haunt her

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The Independent Online
Brussels (Reuter) - Edith Cresson, the former French Prime Minister, seemed to forget yesterday what her new job as a European Commissioner entails.

In something of a baptism of fire, a member of the European Parliament inferred she had been "put out to grass", and comments she once made about British men being homosexuals and comparing Japanese to ants came back to haunt her.

Ms Cresson, one of France's two nominees to the new European Union executive to be formally appointed on 23 January, is supposed to take charge of science and research along with human resources, education, training and youth. But she said during a European Parliament hearing that the Irish Commissioner Padraig Flynn was responsible for education policy. After she was corrected, she said she meant she shared responsibility with Mr Flynn, who is in charge of social affairs and employment, because their portfolios were related.

Roy Perry, spokesman for the British Conservatives, said: "I do not think the Commission is really the right place for ex-prime ministers to be put out to grass. If we're stuck with such a system, at least they should try to remember what job it is they're supposed to be doing."

A spokesman for Ms Cresson said she had been confused because she thought the question was about the social aspects of education.

Ms Cresson was reminded of her assertions about Britain and Japan by German Christian Democrat MEP Doris Pack, who asked whether she would fight against "prejudice of a national nature or against British and Japanese men". It was a question she chose to ignore.