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Eurotrash - The latest from Brussels


Sarkozy calls for blank Czech

French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to be President of Europe. He is campaigning to extend his current role as “conductor of the European Union economic orchestra” until 2010. His stint as President of the European Council to expire in December with the end of the French Presidency of the EU and extending it would give Sarkozy powers beyond every EU treaty. The Czech Vice-Prime Minister, Alexandr Vondra, was miffed: “No one can cancel the Czech Presidency. You can’t change the official rules of the game without everyone’s agreement.”

Astral ambition

Brussels spin doctors will send a ballot box into space in a bid to raise turnout in next June’s Euro elections. The stunt is part of a £21 million PR contract to come up with a “campaign concept and visual identity” for the EU Parliament.

Hutton’s barmy army idea

John Hutton, the new UK defence secretary, has publicly supported the idea of a European army. That is a key ambition of the French EU presidency and a U-turn for British policy.

One rule for them

The UK government claims it will strengthen rules to deny entry to individuals who “preach hate”. The new rules could prevent UK nationals from returning to Britain after stints abroad – but they would breach EU rules requiring free movement of EU citizens … so hate preachers from the EU are welcome?

What’s “too much” illegality?

The annual report from the European Court of Auditors, published on 10 November, gave an “unqualified” opinion of the Commission’s internal account – but for the 14th straight year they could not say the EU accounts were clean for “most spending areas”.

The report showed that 92 per cent of EU budgets, worth £93 billion, were tainted by “too high levels of illegality and irregularity”. There were “material errors” in 54 per cent of Structural Funds projects and 31 per cent of agricultural transfers. The EU wrongly paid out €6 billion last year from Structural Funds alone – the highest cash total ever queried by the auditors.