by RAY FLEMING l THE new European Commission should have been able to begin work this week knowing that it could concentrate on the substantial agenda ahead of it.
Having settled the embarrassing matter of the views of his Italian justice commissioner on homosexuality and womens' role in life, the new President, Jose Manuel Barroso, was entitled to think that his energies would not be further diverted by personal problems. However, he reckoned without the terrier-like persistence of Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party who has now revealed to the European Parliament that Mr Borroso's French Commissioner for Transport, Jacques Barrot, had failed to disclose a 2000 conviction over illegal party financing which earned him a suspended jail sentence.

When M. Barrot appeared before the European Parliament two months ago he should have come clean about this matter which, in fact, did not involve any personal corruption. He chose not to, and presumably he did not either say anything to President Barrosso when he appointed him as a Commissioner. His defence, apparently, is that he was cleared in a general amnesty by President Chirac and therefore had no need to reveal the conviction. Different countries have different rules and different attitudes to this kind of thing; in Britain it is still not uncommon for MPs to “forget” to include all their activities and benefits in the declaration of interests they are required to make. Nonetheless, a common understanding on disclosure is required throughout the European Union and Mr Farage's initiative will help to bring it closer, even though that was probably not his only intention. In the meantime, Mr Barrot will either have to make an acceptable apology to the European Parliament or President Barrosso will have to ask the French government to nominate an alternative name.