So, let me get this straight.
If you are a French politician guilty of graft, corruption, maybe murder--who knows? the French will simply say it didn't happen. Walter---somebody---explain this to me. It can't possibly be what it appears to be.
THE BARROT AFFAIR: STATEMENT BY ALDE GROUP LEADER GRAHAM WATSON MEP
22nd November 2004
"The revelation that one of the new team of European Commissioners has a criminal record could not have come at a worse time for Europeans. After a difficult gestation for the new EU Commission, we had all hoped to be able to get back to normal business.
"Jacques Barrot was convicted in February 2000 of corruption and given an eight month suspended prison sentence
. He is not guilty of personal enrichment. Under an amnesty law adopted five years earlier by a French parliament keen to protect its political leaders, the conviction was immediately amnestied, his criminal record cleansed and the press forbidden from reporting his conviction
. Last week the French press summoned up the courage to make it public, under the cover of a debate in the European Parliament during which the cat was let out of the bag.
(Excuse the interruption...PRESS FORBIDDEN TO REPORT HIS CONVICTION!!!!
...O.K., carry on.
"Strictly speaking, Mr Barrot has no criminal record and would not be disqualified from holding public office in France.( <--They've been reading the Bill Clinton How To Lie Right In Somebody's Face And Be Condescending At the Same Time Book.) He did not appeal against his conviction because he was absolved. In many other EU countries his conviction would disqualify him from office and such an amnesty would be unthinkable.
"What this affair reveals is the gulf between the political and legal cultures of the EU's member states. Acceptable practice in one is anathema to another. Mr Barrot is not uniquely culpable. He was convicted along with two accomplices for an offence for which many others have been condemned and which testifies to a systemic failure in French political and legal culture.
Mr Barrot's crime is to have worked within the system and accepted its practices, however wrong.
"Since the EU's member states are notoriously unwilling and often unable to keep each other in line through peer pressure, the European Parliament is the forum through which such pressure must be brought. Traditional diplomacy between independent States is realpolitik. Our task is moralpolitik.
"This is not a legal but a political affair. Mr Barrot was convicted of corruption. He did not see fit to inform the Presidents of either of the European Commissions to which he has been nominated, or the European Parliament, though he must have known that such a matter would be considered to be of material interest in other EU countries.
"The European Union forces us to confront weaknesses in our own societal systems and cultures. We need to exploit the creative tensions this causes to build a stronger, common culture inspired by the best from all approaches.
"The affair reveals weaknesses at EU level too. Before a Prime Minister appoints a government minister there is normally a security vetting involving the country's intelligence services. Jose Manuel Barroso has no European Commission intelligence service on which to call. If a member state fails to exercise a duty of care towards the Commission, the latter is left with the consequences. That is why I have called for a meeting of Parliament, Commission and Council to discuss the situation.
"I feel sorry for Jose Manuel Durao Barroso. His Commission nearly fell over problems with the Italian nominee, Mr Buttiglione. Yet Buttiglione's crime was his opinion; Mr Barrot's crime is real. If Mr Barrot refuses to resign and Mr Chirac refuses to withdraw him, the new Commission President must choose between sacking his Commissioner and risking a conflict with member states unwilling to give up the right to appoint who they choose, or backing his Commissioner and defying the European Parliament to challenge his decision.
Mr Barroso is placed in an invidious position. If I were in Mr Barrot's position I would recognise the situation and offer my resignation, thereby preventing further damage to the European Commission as a whole.
"Under pressure from the President of the Commission, Mr Barrot has written a letter to European parliamentarians defending himself. He has offered to come before MEPs and explain matters. We will listen to him politely and attentively. But there can be few explanations when the facts of the matter are clear: he was convicted of a criminal offence and did not reveal it."
Chirac is guilty of embezzlement or some similar crime of theft--and hasn't got to stand for it as long as he's President.