'Fluent and relaxed' McCreevy gets European thumbs up


The former minister for finance, Mr Charlie McCreevy, shows a "coherent grasp" of the single market dossier he is about to take over in the European Commission, his job interview report said today.

The assessment of him, authored by British Labour MEP Mr Phillip Whitehead, adopts a personal note, describing Mr McCreevy as "fluent and relaxed".

The report follows a three-hour grilling by MEPs, which all potential commissioners must endure. It says he convinced MEPs of his skills as a politician and articulate communicator, adding: "Mr McCreevy's answers were, for the most part, straightforward, and delivered with a refreshing and engaging sense of humour.

"Nonetheless, some members found him evasive and hesitant on a number of issues and looked for a more pro-active approach to the role and responsibilities expected from a future Commissioner".

In stark contrast, the assessment of Italian nominee Rocco Buttiglione is short and to the point.

The European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee simply notes that, in a secret ballot after his grilling, MEPs voted against him by 27 votes to 26 as suitable for the job of Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner. They then voted 28-25 in favour of rejecting him for any Commission portfolio.

His frank declaration that he believes homosexuality to be a sin, and that the primary role of women is "to have children and be protected by their husbands" was mostly to blame.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is now under immense pressure to ditch Mr Buttiglione, even though MEPs cannot legally require him to be dropped.

Instead, they only have the "nuclear option" of voting down the entire new Commission team.

After a two-hour meeting in Brussels to debate the "Buttiglione issue", a Liberal Democrat statement said: "Conscious that we (the Liberal Democrats) hold the balance of votes in the Parliament, and that we supported Barroso's nomination as Commission President, we nonetheless agreed that we will vote against the appointment of the entire Commission unless we get some movement from Barroso on this issue (Buttiglione)."