Eurofile: Brussels post for Cresson

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The Independent Online
WHILE Jacques Delors, out-going president of the European Commission, debates whether to run as the left-wing candidate in next spring's French presidential election, his socialist colleague, Edith Cresson, is preparing to replace him (numerically) in Brussels. Ms Cresson and Yves Thibault de Silguy, aide to the French Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, were named yesterday as candidates to fill the two French places on the European Commission.

Mrs Cresson is remembered abroad for two sweeping assertions: that Japanese workers are like ants and one in four British men is homosexual. She is better known at home as the country's first female prime minister (and, ultimately, one of its least popular). Her reign as premier was brief but she had earlier cabinet experience in agriculture, foreign trade and European affairs; she also has a formidable reputation as a fighter for French interests (especially to fend off trade competition from Asia and the United States).

Mr Thibault de Silguy, a close aide to Mr Balladur, also has a reputation in Brussels as a tough negotiator. He was one of France's principal spokesmen during the Gatt (world trade) negotiations. Despite a temperament that diplomats describe politely as 'mercurial', he is deemed to have master- minded this successful French display of global intransigence.

The new Commission, assuming a Yes vote in Nordic referendums this autumn, will be enlarged to include members from Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway. It takes office in January 1995. The British nominees are Sir Leon Brittan and Neil Kinnock. In Germany, the opposition Social Democrats have nominated Monika Wulf-Mathies, chairwoman of the OTV public employees' union, but the nomination must be approved by Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The European Parliament has served notice that its members - which include Glenys Kinnock, Neil's wife - intend to vet all the nominees.

MEMBERSHIP of the European Union is proving less popular with Finns who go to the polls on 16 October. Six weeks before the fateful date, supporters of the EU are running neck and neck with opponents. The lead of the 'yes' camp has narrowed some 20 percentage points since June, although the proportion of Don't Knows is still high enough to swing the poll either way. One of the most damaging additions to the No camp has been the MTK agriculture and forest owners' union which has complained that EU membership would lower farm incomes and 'lead to serious difficulties in rural areas'.

Finland will be the first of the Nordic applicants to vote on the issue of EU membership; some observers fear that a No vote there could fuel anti-European feeling in Sweden, where the Yes vote is only narrowly ahead, and Norway, which is, in any case, thought unlikely to vote for membership.

A GREEK investigating committee asked parliament yesterday to bring criminal charges against the former prime minister, Constantine Mitsotakis, over allegations that he accepted bribes in the sale of a state cement firm in 1992. 'We have handed the parliamentary president our findings,' said Antonis Dedithakis, the committee's vice-president. 'There is sufficient evidence against Mr Mitsotakis so that the case can go to court.' Mr Mitsotakis, prime minister from 1990 to 1993, is alleged to have violated his duties by accepting dollars 22.5m ( pounds 14.6m) in bribes to sell the state-run Heracles cement company to Italian cement group Calcestruzzi and Greece's National Bank for dollars 225m.

Mr Mitsotakis, 75, who was previously ordered by parliament to stand trial on separate charges of illegal eavesdropping, denies any wrongdoing in the Heracles case and says he is the victim of a political vendetta by the ruling Socialists. The parliament's President now must set a date for a debate and vote on whether to lift Mr Mitsotakis's immunity and send him for trial.

The all-party parliamentary committee, controlled by Socialist deputies, asked parliament to indict as accomplices in the cement scandal Mitsotakis's former finance minister, Ioannis Palaiokrassas and his former industry minister, Andreas Andrianopoulos. Mr Palaiokrassas is commissioner for the environment in the European Union's executive commission in Brussels.