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ECR-fractie wil Brit Kirkhope (Tory) tot mede-voorzitter naast Pool Kaminski kiezen (en)

Met dank overgenomen van EUobserver (EUOBSERVER), gepubliceerd op maandag 6 september 2010, 9:28.

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The anti-federalist European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the EU parliament is preparing to elect a British co-leader to share power with its Polish chief.

British Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope already does the co-chair job "informally," but his role is to be formalised under a proposal likely to be voted on by the group in late September, ECR spokesman James Hultum told EUobserver.

Mr Kirkhope is a 65-year-old lawyer from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northeast England. He has been in the EU parliament for the past 10 years and has led the Conservative delegation for most of the past five years.

He is a critic of the Lisbon Treaty, which he has called a "dramatic step towards the superstate feared by many." He is currently a member of the civil liberties committee, where he has worked on issues such as freedom of information in Italy and US access to EU citizens' bank data.

Mr Kaminski, from Poland's Law and Justice party, has had a hard time in his past year at the helm of the group.

He has battled allegations of anti-Semitism and homophobia in the British press. He has also cited family problems as a reason for his low participation in parliamentary activity - according to the votewatch.eu project, Mr Kaminski has an attendance record of just 65 percent, placing him in the bottom 30 out of 736 deputies.

The Law and Justice party was itself weakened when many of its top members died in the Smolensk air crash in April and when its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, later lost the presidential elections.

Some commentators have linked the change in the leadership structure to the change in fortune of the ECR parties. Pjotr Kaczynski, an analyst at the Brussels-based think-tank CEPS, told this website: "This is the price Law and Justice had to pay for the Tories' not leaving the ECR after [winning] the spring UK elections. The position of [British Conservative party leader] Cameron in Europe has improved and the incentive for the Tories to leave is stronger."

The ECR group spokesman, Mr Hultum, said there is "no truth" in the speculation.

Mr Kirkhope was to have to run the ECR group from its very inception last year. But a fellow Tory MEP, Edward McMillan-Scott, ran against Mr Kaminski for a parliament vice-president job in violation of a deal. The move saw the Tories expel Mr McMillan-Scott and give the group leader post to Mr Kaminski to make peace.

Mr Hultum noted that when the EU parliament President, Jerzy Buzek, steps down at the end of his mandate in 2011, Mr Kaminski will be the only MEP from the former Communist member states who will have access to the Conference of Presidents, the parliament's highest decision-making body.

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