Whistle-blower set to tangle with Kinnock

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The Independent Online
THE MAN who blew the whistle on European Commission corruption has been elected to a post in one of the bureaucracy's powerful staff unions, ensuring he will remain a thorn in the organisation's side.

Paul van Buitenen's disclosures a year ago lost him his job as an internal auditor but earned him a footnote in history for bringing down the 20 commission members, provoking an unprecedented crisis for the 15-nation bloc.

Now he will represent staff when they confront Neil Kinnock, the commission vice- president, who wants to purge the lower and middle ranks of the EU civil service. Mr Kinnock was one of a handful of the disgraced team to survive when a new commission was installed under Romano Prodi in October.

The former Labour leader is pushing to reform staff structures in the hope of ending the jobs-for-life reputation which still dogs Brussels and which fuelled the crisis triggered by the Van Buitenen disclosures.

But he will have to take on the powerful staff unions, the most radical of which was co- founded by Mr Van Buitenen. Yesterday 15,000 staffers voted for him to represent them in the negotiations.

The Dutch-born accountant was suspended from his job after he leaked internal documents to the European Parliament incriminating high- ranking officials in cases of nepotism and corruption.

The suspension ensured his political martyrdom - particularly among Eurosceptics - but he was nevertheless reinstated at a lower grade and suffered the indignity of an official reprimand for flouting confidentiality rules.