Juristen Europees Parlement 'schonen' eurocommissaris Barrot (en)

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Parliament's legal service has found explanations given by French Commissioner Jacques Barrot satisfactory on why he did not reveal his past conviction.

European Parliament President Josep Borrell said on Wednesday (24 November) that "this opinion confirms that legally nothing can be held against Mr Barrot", according to Reuters.

Mr Barrot had sent the Parliament a 'letter of explanation' regarding an amnesty granted to him in 2000 for involvement in illegal party funding.

He argued that he was not obliged to mention the affair - which came to general attention just before MEPs were due to vote to approve the Commission last week - as the amnesty meant it was removed from all records.

The legal service's opinion means that the latest affair to mar the beginning of this new Commission is now likely to be closed.

Before the opinion was known, the second largest group in the European Parliament, the Socialists, said "if the legal service considers that the explanations given in this letter are satisfactory, then as far as the Socialist Group is concerned, the affair is over".

Despite coming out with stronger language at the beginning of the Barrot affair, several Socialists did not have the appetite for a political fight - particularly after Parliament got its way on the original Italian and Latvian Commissioners, who were withdrawn.

"We should have strong motivation and a strong case to reopen a new battle.

We found [the Barrot case] was simply not obvious enough", said the head of the European Socialists Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.

"The parliament came through in a very good manner, you have to be careful

as a politician not to try and squeeze too much juice out of the affair", said the Danish MEP referring to the power struggle between member states and MEPs over the new Commission.

Meanwhile, Mr Barrot can count on the support of the largest group in the Brussels assembly, the centre-right European People's Party - to which he belongs.

On Wednesday, European Commission President José Manuel Durao Barroso re-asserted his support for the French Commissioner saying that he and his colleagues expressed "solidarity" with Mr Barrot.

Mr Barroso also confirmed that he had received assurances from his Commissioners that they would resign if he is not happy with their performance.

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