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German MEP Jens Geier has admitted he felt sympathy for Eoin O'Shea when he learned that the government was not putting him forward for a second stint on the European Court of Auditors.
Court of Auditors

German MEP 'felt sympathy' for O'Shea after reading email

German MEP Jens Geier also says it remains unclear as to whether the European Parliament can still seal Kevin Cardiff’s fate – due to confusions over voting procedures.

ONE OF THE two German MEPs on the European Parliament’s committee for Budgetary Control has said he felt “sympathy” for the current Irish member of the European Court of Auditors, Eoin O’Shea, after receiving an email from him.

Jens Geier, the convenor of the Socialist and Democrats grouping on the parliament, told he had enjoyed a “good and deep working relationship” with O’Shea since he joined the court in March 2010.

It yesterday emerged that Geier and his EPP counterpart Ingeborg Grässle – who, between them, convene 18 of the 29 votes on the committee – had received emails from O’Shea after the Irish government had indicated he would not be put forward for a second term.

In his email to Geier, read at an Oireachtas committee, O’Shea alerted MEPs to the “Irish prosecutorial interest in whether or not the State condoned the window dressing of the financial accounts of Irish financial instructions, in respect of €7bn” – referring to the ‘warehousing’ of loans between Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide, one of the major scandals at the beginning of the banking collapse.

“All of us felt a little bit of pity that the Irish state did not let him on in this job,” Geier said this evening. “But, of course, this is within the [prerogative] of the national State.

Personally I felt sympathy for him – but I was quite surprised when I got this email from him, where he hinted at Mr Cardiff [and his appointment].

O’Shea’s work on the court involved him in auditing the spending of the European Union’s many agencies – work he had carried out with great esteem, in the eyes of Geier and the rest of the committee.

Geier, 50, said O’Shea’s email had prompted him to look more closely at Cardiff’s candidacy, but that he had been satisfied by Cardiff’s performance during Wednesday’s meeting of the Budgetary Control Committee and that he had ultimately voted in favour of Cardiff’s appointment.

He had also spoken with the head of Ireland’s Socialist delegation, Labour MEP Prionsias de Rossa, and been assured that Cardiff was a worthy appointment.

Conflict of interest

While he could not say for certain that the other seven Socialist MEPs on the committee had also voted for Cardiff, the grouping was “supportive” of Cardiff immediately before the vote.

Geier said it was “an unusual step for a member of the Court of Auditors, that he gives hints on how to handle the person who is nominated as his successor”.

Geier also explained that Grässle - the convenor from the European People’s Party, Fine Gael’s grouping in the European Parliament – had voted against Cardiff because she had reservations about a conflict of interests on the Court.

She was worried that Cardiff, if appointed, would have to audit spending from the European Union’s bailout mechanism in the Irish state and banks – something he had helped to bring about in his role with the Department of Finance.

Grässle had sought a second meeting of the committee to try and clarify whether this would be an obstacle to Cardiff’s appointment – but other MEPs blocked this proposal, saying the Court of Auditors had internal ways of ensuring no such conflicts.

Uncharted waters

Geier also revealed that it is unclear whether the vote of the full European Parliament on Cardiff’s nomination, which has been pencilled in for December 13, will actually seal his fate.

The full body of 736 MEPs will be asked to vote on whether to endorse the committee’s finding – that it had a “negative” opinion of Cardiff’s nomination.

If the parliament votes Yes, Cardiff’s nomination is defeated – but if it votes No, overturning the committee’s motion, it is unclear whether he is automatically appointed or whether the government can make a new appointment.

It was so comparatively rare for the committee to turn down a nominee, he said, that officials and advisers were now trying to check whether a No vote by the parliament would result in the nomination process beginning again.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore have both insisted that Kevin Cardiff remains the government nominee, and that O’Shea would not be put forward for a second term.

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