Political sources from London supplied HotNews.ro with an electronic letter sent to the European Commission President Manuel Barroso, where British MEP Gerard Batten challenges the suitability of Baroness Ashton for the EU Foreign minister role. In his letter, Batten presses to have British Baroness Catherine Ashton's past investigated for alleged Soviet connections during her time as Treasurer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the beginning of the '80. MEP Gerard Batten confirmed having sent the letter to Barroso for HotNews.ro correspondent in London. BaronessAshton denies any connection with the Soviets.
Gerard Batten is member of the European Parliament on the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) lists. UKIP is part of the euro-sceptic trend, requesting for Great Britain to leave the European Union.
In the letter sent to Barroso, Batten claims that Baroness Catherine Ashton is under suspicions of having had relations with USSR representatives during 1980 – 1982, in her role as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) Treasurer.
Gerard Batten's letter to Manuel Barroso:
Dear Mr Barroso,
I was unable able to ask you a question today in the chamber. I would therefore like to make you acquainted with certain facts and ask you three questions.
Baroness Ashton was Treasurer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), 1980-1982.
CND was notoriously secretive about its sources of funding and did not submit its accounts to independent audit; however, after public pressure they were audited for the first time in 1982-1983 (Godfrey Lord & Co). It was found that 38% of their annual income (£176,197) could not be traced back to the original donors.
The person responsible for this part of CND fund-raising, from anonymous donors, was Will Howard, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.
The Russian dissident and internationally respected figure Vladimir Bukovsky, has shown from his research that the nuclear disarmament campaigns across Europe were largely funded by the Soviet bloc. Mr Bukovsky has proven with hundreds of top secret documents from Soviet archives that the worldwide disarmament campaign in the 1980s was covertly orchestrated from Moscow. The money was channelled through communist parties or other pro-Soviet organisations and individuals.
If therefore seems very likely that the unidentified income came from the Soviet bloc.
If Baroness Ashton did not know where the unidentified income came from she was incompetent. If she did not ask where it came from she was negligent. If she did know that it came from the Soviet block then she knowingly accepted money from a hostile foreign power in order to undermine Britain's and NATO's defence policies.
Anyone who was compromised by the Soviet Union in the 1980s remains compromised by the Russian Federation.
In the light of these facts, my questions are:
1) Do you still believe that she is a fit and proper person to be in charge of the EU's (and Britain's) Foreign and Security Policy?
2) Do you intend to investigate these claims further? If not, why not?
3) The answer to the second question is 'Yes' would you like me to supply you with the contact details of Mr Bukovsky, and others, who can give you more detailed information about this matter?
Gerard Batten MEP
UK Independence Party
The same sources told HotNews.ro that Gerard Batten hopes to organise substantial resistance among MEPs to Ashton's candidature, and this is his first step.
Commission Spokesman Lutz Guellner statement for HotNews.ro:
- "Like many people in the 1970s and early 1980s, Catherine Ashton was involved in the big campaign issue of the time with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). She has never made a secret of that. This was more than 25 years ago - she left the CND in 1983 and has had no involvement in the organisation since then. During her time in the CND she never visited the Soviet Union, had no contacts with the Soviet Union and she never accepted any money from Soviet sources. In fact the first time she travelled to Russia was as Trade Commissioner. "
Catherine Ashton was the surprise-choice for the EU foreign affairs High Representative role, but she did match some important criteria: she is both a socialist and a women. A balance of sexes in EU's high roles is being exercised, plus an attempt to give the socialist what it has been promised to them: an important role.
The international press considered Catherine Ashton a politician with a fairly discreet profile. Some say that she is not only unknown at an international level, but also in Great Britain. This is a challenging assertion bearing in mind that she has been part of the administration in London for years. Part of the British press credits the profile she built in Brussels, the fact that she is Gordon Brown's protégée and that she used to enjoy the same privilege under Tony Blair's premiership for getting her newest role. Many regard her as a politician with a sharp realism, who knows what can be done and what cannot. She is married with Peter Kellner, ex-political journalist, now the president of the survey institute YouGov.
On the other hand, Ashton's contester is part of a strongly Euro-sceptic party. Its members in the European Parliament - currently 13 - has always had radical positions and addressed accusations to European officials. For example, in the spring of 2005, they requested president Barroso to have the members of the cabinet say where they spent their holidays because there were suspicions regarding Barroso's spending his holiday on the yacht of a Greek billionaire businessman - the Commission allegedly awarded the Greek's company a state help worth of 10.3 million euros.
It was also UKIP that revealed that the French Justice commissioner Jacques Barot was prevented for two years to run for a public role in France (in 2004) due to a conviction following the misappropriation of the equivalent of 2 million pounds from the public money to his party.
The accusation brought to Ashton is part of a trend featured in the international press. The MEPs would allegedly search for reasons to make life difficult for some members of the Barroso college. One of these reasons is the communist past or tight connections with it. There are already hints that Hungary and the Czech Republic's proposals for commissioner roles would be weakened by their communist past.