EU chiefs fail at interview

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The Independent Online
Brussels (Reuter) - Five of the 20 new European Union commissioners are unfit for the job, the President of the European Parliament said yesterday.

Klaus Haensch said France's Yves-Thibault de Silguy, who is to have the crucial economic and finance portfolio, Denmark's Ritt Bjerregaard, Finland's Erkki Liikanen and Sweden's Anita Gradin had left much to be desired at confirmation hearings .A fifth commissioner, Ireland's Padraig Flynn, who holds the social affairs portfolio, was judged unfit to handle part of his task - equal opportunities for men and women. He apparently said during the last Irish presidential election that Mary Robinson should stay at home and make the dinner.

The rebuff sparked speculation among MEPs over whether the new Commission President, Jacques Santer, would make any changes to his team to persuade deputies to say "Yes" when they vote to approve the Commission next week.

Although the Parliament only has the power to accept or reject the Commission as a whole, and not individuals, Mr Haensch told a press conference the Commission could not take endorsement for granted. "I think it cannot be taken for granted that we are simply going to rubber stamp the Commission when it comes to the vote."