Eurofile: MEPs start organising the new intake

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The Independent Online
THE TRICKY business of organising the new European Parliament begins this week. The president of the Parliament for the next two-and-a-half years is likely to be Klaus Hansch, a German Socialist, who follows Egon Klepsch, a German Christian Democrat. The Socialists are expected to make a deal with the Christian Democrats (the other main political bloc), allowing the CDs to take back the post for the second half of the Parliament's five-year term.

It could take several weeks before a deal is done. The Christian Democrat group - aka the European People's Party (EPP), with which the British Conservatives remain linked - has yet to elect a leader. It meets today to decide.

There are no candidates because the EPP's complex rulebook does not permit candidates. But the main contenders are expected to be Siegbert Alber, a German, and two former Belgian prime ministers - Leo Tindemans and Wilfried Martens. The European Socialists will be led by Pauline Green, a London Labour MEP.

WAS Hans-Dietrich Genscher a Nazi? German politicians have closed ranks to defend the perpetual foreign minister (now retired) from press charges that he enrolled in the party as a 17-year-old.

Klaus Kinkel, his successor as both Foreign Minister and leader of the centrist FDP, said: 'When somebody risked his life for his fatherland at age 15, 16 or 17, then it is absurd to make accusations decades after the fact based on small stuff like this . . . especially considering that it was an automatic registration that he never knew anything about until years later.'

Mr Genscher, who quit in April 1992 after nearly two decades as foreign minister, dismissed press reports quoting records found in the Berlin Document Centre.

Mr Genscher said he had been told in the early 1970s that he featured in the records. He said his name must have been included without his knowledge in a list of members of the Hitler Youth who had also joined the Nazi party.

SPAIN'S Socialist government has been tainted by yet another scandal. It seems the Spanish Red Cross - whose president is appointed by the government and which receives generous government subsidies - has an unconventional idea of charity.

The Spanish Red Cross president, Carmen Mestre, resigned last month after being unable to explain how the organisation had run up a debt of around pounds 75m. Newspapers reported that she had spent thousands of pounds a month on seafood meals on official expenses and had wined, dined and paid the travel expenses of foreign Red Cross representatives at Expo '92 in Seville.

Other senior Spanish Red Cross officials reportedly paid out around pounds 1.5m last year in commissions to marketing firms in connection with the organisation's popular 'Golden Lottery'. Onda Cero radio said that documents apparently showed the marketing firms were run by relatives of Red Cross officials involved.

ITALIAN corruption latest: a magistrate called yesterday for an international warrant for the arrest of the former prime minister, Bettino Craxi, on corruption charges. The former Socialist leader was refusing to return to Italy from Tunisia. The request was made during a preliminary hearing of a case in which Mr Craxi is charged with corruption in the building of Rome's underground railway.