Richard North, 07/10/2004  

Inevitably, the events of the Conservative Party conference have overshadowed the oral hearings of the commissioners designate in the European parliament – although my colleague has promised to do a round up, once she has recovered from having to mix with so many Tories in Bournemouth.

In the interim, however, a Press Association report of the "interrogation" of the Irish commissioner designate, Charlie McCreevy, caught my notice – he who is to be in charge of running the Single Market.

According to McCreevy, the EU’s poor image, especially in relation to the Single Market that he will administer, is down to the member states, who are "failing to take enough responsibility for public indifference and hostility towards the EU". There was a "lack of ownership" in EU capitals of the challenges facing the Union – not least its image problems."

"If we are to overcome indifference or even hostility to the EU among our citizens," he told MEPs, "then not only does what we do here in Brussels have to be relevant, but also the political leaders in member states must take on a greater responsibility in explaining to their citizens what it is we are trying to achieve."

What McCreevy possibly does not realise (or perhaps he does – you never know with these people) it that "Brussels" is the perfect fall-guy for inept and lazy national politicians, who can hide behind the smokescreen of EU unpopularity in order to disguise their own lack of action. Expecting them to take responsibility for the poor image of the EU would rather give the game away.

But McCreevy might also have taken on the media, which also evades its responsibility. On Tuesday, Joe Borg, the Maltese commissioner who is to take charge of British fisheries, was interviewed for his job. For sure, the interview got loads of publicity – in the Malta Independent and other Maltese journals. The British papers? Forget it! Baldwin’s harlots come to mind – all power and no responsibility.

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