Richard North, 03/11/2004  

Some of our readers may remember the old limerick:
There was a young lady of Riga
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
They came back from the ride
With the lady inside
And the smile on the face of the tiger.
One cannot help recalling those words as one reads the sad tale of the previous Latvian Commission-designate, Ingrida Udre, usually described as a eurosceptic but, actually, a close associate of the now-resigned Latvian Prime Minister. We have already chronicled Ms Udre’s career and warned that her appointment might cause problems.

(Yes, thank you, I am aware that there is another version of that verse but this is a family-friendly blog.)

In fact, the real problem with Ms Udre is that she was appointed by the Prime Minister, Indulis Emsis, for no very good reason. Now that the government has resigned, as we have already reported, just as Mr Emsis was gearing himself up to go to Rome for the grand and somewhat unimpressive signing of the EU Constitution, her star also splutters.

The European Parliament committee that questioned her was rather excited by accusations of party funding irregularities, for which she is under investigation. It seems rather odd that MEPs should get worried about any kind of funding irregularities, given their own habits, but there we are. Had the government that sent her stayed in power, it might have done what the Hungarian and Dutch ones did and say no to suggestions that their nominee be withdrawn.

The Latvians came up with an immediate substitute: former Finance Minister and EU envoy Andris Piebalgs, who can be relied on to say the right things to the European Parliament and assembled hacks.

Needless to say, this development has been hailed as a great achievement for the European Union and its institutions. The egregious Josep Borrell, whose own presidency of the European Parliament was called into doubt at the time, made the following pompous but appropriate statement:
“We are now seeing a prompt and positive response to the genuine concerns raised by the European Parliament. It shows the system is capable of handling this kind of shock. There is clear evidence that the system is working and responding.”
Quite so. Responding to what, precisely?

As we look across the Atlantic and watch democratic forces at work, we have to wonder how is it that the Continent that prides itself on being the birthplace of democracy has come to this pass, where the system is all and the way it works and responds is through back-room deals for the most important positions and hysterical outbursts by members of a so-called parliament that represents nobody and is accountable to nobody.

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