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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tillack clashes with his accusers

During our debate in Brussels on Tuesday, Stern journalist Hans-Martin Tillack made some very interesting comments worth flagging up here.

Mr Tillack was arrested a few years ago at the instigation of the EU authorities after investigating EU fraud, but was later cleared. At our meeting he described how the staff in the Commission's DG Communication were behind the rumours which first lead to his arrest. Joe Hennon, the DG Communication Commissioner’s spokesman who was also present at our debate, objected saying: “It wasn’t the Commission. It was the Belgian police”. This was followed by laughter from the audience. Mr Hennon asked: “how many journalists have had the police knocking on their doors?”

Mr Tillack also lamented the re-appointment of Franz-Hermann Bruener as head of OLAF - the EU anti-fraud office which was criticised by the EU ombudsman for its handling of the Tillack case Рby EU Communications Commissioner Margot Wallstr̦m, amongst others.

Commenting on Open Europe’s book, Mr Tillack said: “the PR of the Commission is not only biased, it is also simply wrong. One example is how often the Commission tries to diminish its importance and compares its number of employees to the typical medium-sized city council in Europe, while this is beside the point. The Commission has no nurses, no police. Actually you have to compare the Commission to, for example, the German federal government… the Commission has more employees than the German federal government.”

He continued: “it is highly questionable and unacceptable that the Commission is paying media outlets for reports. A friend of mine is an independent TV journalist who wanted to make a report on fraud in Brussels, but a German TV station did not want to go on with it, as they said they didn’t want to loose the funding they’re receiving from the Commission.”

He went to say that: “in the European Parliament, only eurosceptic groups question the Commission, and not the big traditional groups, so the whole EU system is a lot more vulnerable to corruption and waste as a lot goes unreported.”

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