Apology for half mast flags idea for EU indebted countries
Sep 28, 2011, 14:08 GMT
Brussels - EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has apologized for proposing that heavily indebted eurozone countries could be shamed into fixing their budgets by being forced to fly their flags at half mast.
Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the EU Commission, wrote a letter Wednesday to members of the European Parliament who had demanded Oettinger's resignation, announcing the apology by the German politician.
'He reassured me convincingly that he profoundly regrets the different impression that the interview has created and consequently the misunderstanding this produced,' read the letter from Barroso.
Barroso promised that Oettinger would soon send his own letter of apology.
Oettinger has been under fire since mid-September for the comments he made to German tabloid Bild.
'There is a proposal to fly the flags of debt sinners at half-mast outside EU buildings. That would only be a symbol, but would have a high deterrent effect,' he told the magazine.
He called it an 'unconventional' idea, compared to more widely discussed plans to increase EU oversight on national economic policies and schemes to help to the Greek government improve its bureaucracy.
Some 151 lawmakers from the European Parliament, led by Portuguese Green group member Rui Tavares, responded with a public letter to Barroso calling on Oettinger to 'retract and recant his words, or resign.'
The signatories said the European Union could never stand for 'the symbolic humiliation of European nations, regardless of the administrative, budgetary, or other sins that their respective governments may have committed.'
Oettinger's office had insisted that the commissioner merely mentioned the flag idea without endorsing it. The proposal was characterized as 'probably misleading.'
In his letter, Barroso said Oettinger had reassured him, 'that he does not personally adhere to the idea that the flags of countries with excessive deficits should fly at half mast in front of EU buildings.
Read more about Germany