This content is from: Home

Whistle-blower off to Brussels

How about "transparency power" as a political slogan?

How about "transparency power" as a political slogan? It may not be catchy, but the message seems to resonate with voters.

At any rate, Paul van Buitenen, the Dutch European Commission accountant whose 1999 revelations about lax spending controls at the EC led to the resignations of all 20 commission members, last month won a seat in the European Parliament by promising to make the EC more open about its affairs. "The commission still does not adequately trace where its E100 billion [$121 billion] budget goes," he contends.

Van Buitenen, 47, leads a single-issue Dutch political party that he founded only four months ago: Europa Transparant. His book In the Trenches of Brussels, which describes accounting shortcomings at the EC, serves as the manifesto for the 300-member party.

Boosted by its whistle-blowing founder's name recognition -- the Netherlands' Queen Beatrix has knighted van Buitenen -- Europa Transparant won slightly more than 7 percent of the Dutch vote, entitling it to two of the Netherlands' 27 seats in the 723-member European Parliament. The party's other victorious candidate, author Els de Groen, is an expert on corruption in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

Van Buitenen first made headlines in 1998 when as an assistant EC auditor he bypassed channels to take his shocking findings -- including the disappearance from an aid program of E60 million that has never been fully accounted for -- directly to the European Parliament. A parliamentary commission later stated that "it is becoming difficult to find anyone who has even the slightest sense of responsibility" at the EC.

"We want to end that situation by bringing real pressure to bear," says van Buitenen, who's on leave from the EC while serving his parliamentary term.