[JURIST] The European Court of Justice [official website] Tuesday found former French prime minister Edith Cresson [BBC profile] breached the obligations of her office [press release, PDF] by indulging in favoritism and abuse of office when she served as a European Commissioner in the 1990s. The European Commission [official website] referred Cresson's case [JURIST report] to the court in 2004. The Court found that Cresson twice appointed a close friend as a visiting scientist because Commission rules barred him from serving as a member of Cresson's office based on his age. In his role as a visiting scientist, Rene Berthelot actually performed the functions of a personal advisor. In addition, Berthelot's two appointments as visiting scientist lasted over two years, while the Commission allows visiting scientists to serve for a maximum of one year. The full court ruled [opinion text] that:
Having regard to her personal involvement in that appointment, since it took place at her express request, after she had been informed that she could not recruit Mr Berthelot to her Cabinet, Mrs Cresson must be held responsible for that appointment and for the circumvention of the rules which it involved. She cannot extricate herself from her responsibility by taking refuge behind the authority to appoint granted by the administration since at no time did she express any concern that the responsible departments should observe the purpose of the applicable rules, even by questioning them on the matter or issuing recommendations to that effect.The Court, however, refused to cut Cresson's pension benefits as a penalty, sparking immediate criticism that the EU tolerates abuse of power and lawmakers defrauding European citizens. The Court instead held that the finding of the breach itself constituted an appropriate sanction. AFP has more.
Thus, in appointing a close acquaintance, Mr Berthelot, as a visiting scientist, when he was not going to be engaged in the activities associated with that position, in order to allow him to undertake the role of personal adviser in her Cabinet, even though the latter was fully-staffed and, moreover, Mr Berthelot had passed the permitted age-limit for performing that role, Mrs Cresson became liable for a breach of her obligations that is of a certain degree of gravity.