Nudist beach trip with aide wrecks EU chief's job hopes

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The Independent Online

Photographs of the most senior German in the European Commission sunbathing naked with a senior female aide have dashed his hopes of becoming the EU's foreign policy chief.

Günther Verheugen, an EC vice-president, had been pressing for a new post amid rumours that the current foreign policy supremo, Javier Solana, may soon quit. But Mr Verheugen has been enmeshed in scandal after the German newspaper Bild threatened to publish pictures of him and Petra Erler, the head of his private office, unclothed on a Lithuanian beach.

A picture has already been published of the pair holding hands during the trip. Though Mr Verheugen promoted 48-year-old Ms Erler to her present post, he denied a relationship with her, and insisted his wife knew about the holiday arrangements. But accusations of favouritism, just as Germany prepares to take over the presidency of the EU, are almost certain to scupper his hopes of further advancement.

Ironically, Mr Verheugen, 62, was recognised on holiday after becoming prominent as the man who oversaw the accession of the 10 new member states, including Lithuania.