Uproar in Parliament over Strauss-Kahn ‘scandal show’

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MEPs across party lines and the gender divide have mobilised against the planned participation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn – the embattled former head of the International Monetary Fund – in a talk-show to be hosted by young MEPs in the European Parliament.

Strauss-Kahn was invited to participate in a debate on the financial crisis on 27 March in one of the largest hemicycles of the European Parliament's Brussels complex.

The debate is organised by the 'EU40',  a networking circle of MEPs under the age of 40. Also invited are former European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet and Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, who chairs the Eurogroup meetings of finance ministers.

The organisers had anticipated a record attendance, as the e-mail invitations guarantee no seating and promise priority to MEPs.

What is certain is that the invitation triggered a flurry of angry statements.

Spanish MEP Esther Herranz García (European Peoples Party) bluntly presented her resignation from the 'EU40' circle to its president, Alexander Alvaro (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Germany). In a letter seen by EURACTIV, she writes that she decided to resign because she doesn't accept "attitudes that can be perceived as degrading with regard to women" (see background).

Hungarian Socialist MEP Zita Gurmaï and Belgium's Isabelle Durant, European Parliament vice president (Green/EFA group), wrote to Parliament President Martin Schulz denouncing "a show based on scandal".

"In the name of our struggle for the dignity of women, we are opposing ourselves to this invitation and ask of you, Mister President, to ensure that this Parliament remains a place of legislative work, where the sensitivities of each and every one are considered and that it does not become a media arena where one must make a show, create stunts and spectacles of ourselves," they wrote.

Referring to court cases over Strauss-Kahn's alleged sexual misconduct as head of the IMF and earlier, they called "clearly indecent" his invitation to address Parliament.

Belgian MEP Derk Jan Eppink (European Conservatives and Reformists) also wrote to Schulz, urging him to relocate the event outside the European Parliament.

"I am amazed that the event will take place within the premises of the European Parliament because Mr Strauss Kahn is currently under criminal investigation and the investigative magistrate is due to decide the day after the event whether to press charges against him," writes Eppink.

In the meantime, the name of Strauss-Kahn disappeared from the EU40 website, which now flags a "Juncker and Trichet debate".

Alvaro has since announced on his Twitter account that Strauss-Kahn had canceled his visit. And at 11.00 hrs this morning MEP Véronique De Keyser (S&D, Belgium), sent around an email, informing that Dominique Strauss-Kahn had decided to cancel the European Parliament event.

"I am happy about it. This closes the incident," she stated.

This is not the first time that Strauss-Kahn is facing an uphill battle to participate in conferences. On 9 March, the former IMF chief was bundled into the back of a police car to escape protesters after a speaking engagement at Britain's Cambridge University.

Until 14 May 2011, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was the world's leading financial diplomat and a confidant of presidents rescuing debt-ridden nations. In his home country of France, the IMF chief was seen as natural international heavyweight who could lead the Socialists in taking on incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 elections.

His downfall was shocking. Pulled from a first-class Air France seat by police, he was thrown into New York City's Rikers Island jail on charges of attempted rape.

New York prosecutors dismissed charges of attempted rape and sexual assault against him last August, based on concerns about the credibility of his alleged victim. However, the former IMF chief is now under investigation in France, where investigators questioned him about allegations that a prostitution ring organised by his business acquaintances provided women for clients of Lille's Carlton Hotel.

He also faces a civil lawsuit in New York brought by his alleged victim, a hotel maid.

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