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25 March 1999 Edition

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Workers in struggle

The EU Commission must go

The mass resignation of the EU Commissioners was a victory for those who want to see more democracy and accountability in EU institutions. However it is only the first step
``It is becoming difficult to find anyone who has even the slightest sense of responsibility''. This was the judgement of the so called `High Committee' investigating the fraud, mismanagement and nepotism perpetrated by the EU Commission.
The conclusions of the committee merely rubber stamped the judgement made last November by the EU's Court of Audit and the EU Commission's own Internal Anti Fraud Unit. The judgement lead last week to the mass resignation of the EU's 20 Commissioners including the Irish commissioner Padraig Flynn.

Nothing though has really changed at the EU Commission. The commissioners themselves are continuing to work in a caretaker capacity while the governments of EU member states pick new commissioners.

The investigating committee's 144 page report found that fraud at the level of the commissioners themselves had been let pass unnoticed. The committee concluded that the claims by the commissioners that they were unaware of the fraud perpetrated meant that they had no real control over the administration they were paid to be in charge of.

They found that one of the French Commissioners Edith Cresson had been guilty of favouritism. The Portuguese commissioner Joao Pinheiro was found to have been guilty of nepotism. The Regional Policy Commissioner Monika Wulf-Mathies who accused the Dublin Government of subsidy shopping last year was found to have used inappropriate procedures to recruit staff to her office.

Now the race is on to see who will get the well paid jobs going at the Commission. Commissioners take home over £140,000 tax free as well as vast range of expenses, plush offices and staff at their disposal.

Already the media have outlined the front runners and the approach to appointing a new commission is being viewed as an interesting political horse race. Former Italian Prime minister Romano Prodi has been nominated as President of the Commission but that still leaves 19 other jobs up for grabs.

It is interesting to note that despite the huge evidence showing fraud and mismanagement at the Commission little effort has been made by the EU member states to think again about the role the commission plays within the EU.

The EU Commission is in reality the 16th state within the EU. It controls an annual budget that far exceeds the resources of many EU states. It is run by unelected bureaucrats who are formulating policy and implementing decisions without real democratic control over their work. The High Committee's report shows that when this work went wrong none of the commissioners were prepared to take responsibility for their actions.

The mass resignation of the EU Commissioners was a victory for those who want to see more democracy and accountability in EU institutions. However it is only the first step. Much more needs to be done to ensure that the Commission is reformed and it's powers transferred back to the EU Parliament and the EU member states. The next step must be to dismantle the Commission now.

`Tesco must pay money back' - Crowe

We need to know how Tesco plan to give back the money
``Are Tesco guilty of creative accounting or daylight robbery'' was the question asked by Sinn Féin's Dublin candidate for the EU elections Seán Crowe.

Seán Crowe was responding to the disclosures by the Retail Grocery Dairy and Allied Trades Association (RGDATA) that the Tesco supermarket chain had been overcharging customers in six Dublin and Wicklow stores. RGDATA's survey found that shoppers were being overcharged by an average of 3% of their shopping bill.

It amounts to £33.3 million of Tesco's annual turnover in Ireland and is costing each customer an average of £4.50 a week. Tesco have claimed that in normal circumstances the odds of being overcharged are 100,000 to 1. They claimed that the errors arose because of their transition to new checkout systems.

These new systems which are used in retail stores across Ireland put the customer at a disadvantage as the price of a good is no longer on the product. This makes it difficult for a consumer to check whether they have been overcharged or not.

Crowe said, ``The Gardai and the Director of Consumer Affairs should immediately begin investigating this latest consumer scandal. It is not good enough that Tesco undertake an in-house check of their pricing system.

``A number of months ago the customers of National Irish Bank also experienced this unique Irish consumer phenomena. The RGDATA survey has uncovered another mysterious black hole which leads directly to the profits of another multi-national company.

``Tesco's customers are quite rightly outraged at today's discovery. They have been systematically and fraudulently overcharged for their shopping. We need to know how Tesco plan to give back the money taken from their considerably poorer customers.''

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