MEPs win concessions in vote for Santer

Jacques Santer was approved as President of the European Commission yesterday by the European Parliament. The decision strengthens his hand in the Commission and gives the institution an extra element of credibility.

Despite earlier misgivings, the assembly delivered a landslide vote in favour of Mr Santer, with 416 out of the 578 MEPs present voting in favour. However, several British MEPs voted against, including the Conservative group's chief whip.

The appointment must now be confirmed by member states before the new Commission is sworn in by the European Court of Justice, in Luxembourg.

Mr Santer and his Commission have had to run the gauntlet as never before in the Parliament, because of the new right of the assembly to give or withhold its assent. The procedure was intended to underpin the democratic credentials of the Commission while increasing the power of the Parliament.

Mr Santer said there were two winners: the Commission, whose legitimacy had been increased; and the Parliament. "They have imposed their choice and won a number of concessions."

He did not disguise his relief that the proceedings were over. "It has been a lengthy debate and it has indeed been a painful process for some people.''

One hundred and three MEPs voted against Mr Santer, mainly the Communists, extreme right wing and the Greens. Winnie Ewing and Allan Macartney, of the Scottish National Party, were both amongst the nay-sayers, as were Giles Chichester, Graham Mather, James Provan and Edward Kellet-Bowman of the Conservatives and Alex Falconer, Carol Tongue and Bill Miller of the Labour Party.

Mr Provan is the Euro-Conservatives' chief whip, and the group had decided yesterday morning that it would vote for Mr Santer. Mr Mather and Mr Chichester are both Euro-sceptics. Mr Falconer was a leading member of the group of Labour MEPs who signed a petition protesting against the dropping of Clause IV. The motion thus put British MEPs of different persuasions voting together.

Fifty-nine MEPs abstained, amongst them Ken Collins, chairman of the environment committee, who had expressed severe doubts about Ritt Bjerrgaard, the new Danish environment commissioner. She had been alleged to have said that the assembly was "not a real Parliament", though Mr Santer and other witnesses said the quote was taken out of context.

Another with some egg on his face was Padraig Flynn, the commissioner for social policy, who had been accused of a lack of commitment to sex equality. However, Irish officials said that the affair had, if anything, improved Mr Flynn's position in Irelandsince he was felt to have been unfairly singled-out.

The vote was never really in doubt, though the leader of the Socialist party, Pauline Green, had said that her party would block the appointment of the Santer Commission without significant concessions.

In the event, Mr Santer massaged some of the portfolios, taking control of some key issues himself. He also committed himself to reconsidering a code of conduct that regulates the way the Parliament and Commission work together. This could give the Parliament some limited added weight, a useful concession in the run-up to 1996 when EU leaders meet to reconsider the Maastricht treaty.

Mr Santer has emerged rather ruffled from the event, but with his Commission intact. The Parliament can pat itself on the back for having achieved some concessions.

But leading parliamentarians had threatened to topple Mr Santer and then rowed back, helping to underpin the Parliament's reputation for marching up to the top of the hill and then going back down again. Last year, the Socialist group pledged itself to vote against Mr Santer but party indiscipline ensured the threat was hollow.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor