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EU Vice President Verheugen Bares It All
Married German official allegedly caught with chief-of-staff
Robert Neff (neff)     Print Article 
Published 2006-12-09 07:11 (KST)   
Gunter Verheugen, the German Vice-president of the EU has aroused the media's interest in him in the past with his fiery tirades against fellow EU bureaucrats whom he accused of having too much power, but this time the media's interest is not in what he said, but in what he bared.

A German magazine has issued a statement that it has pictures of Verheugen on vacation in August with his chief-of-staff, Petra Erler, sunbathing and playing in the water at a nudist beach in Lithuania. His wife of 19 years was no where to be seen.

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Although the alleged pictures of Verheugen wearing nothing more than a white cap have not yet been published, other photos have been published of him holding hands with his chief-of-staff during their vacation. These photographs and the allegations made by some of his peers, such as German conservative MEP Markus Ferber who accused Verheugen in April of "nepotism" when he promoted Erler to his chief-of-staff have raised some questions as to how innocent their relationship is.

"In appointing Frau Erler it was apparently not only the professional qualifications which played a role," Ferber insisted.

When asked about his vacation Verheugen replied defensively: "I believe the question of with whom and where I spent my holiday in August is a purely private affair, which does not concern anyone other than my wife, who was informed about it." His boss, Jose Manuel Barroso, seems to support his views when he stated that "people's private spheres" should be respected.

Verheugen, who is 62, denies that there is anything romantic going on between him and Ms. Erler, who is 48 and single. He insists that he has done nothing wrong.

Has Verheugen violated any rules? According to the EU Commission spokesman, Johannes Laitenberger, he has not. "The private holidays of Vice President Verheugen in Lithuania this summer did not violate the rules applicable to members of the commission." Furthermore he questioned the "concern of dignity" of someone who would use such pictures.

However a quick scan through the internet is quite revealing about others' opinions about using cameras at a nudist beach.

One nudist, who identified himself as 'The Bead Man' wrote: "One unintended positive consequence of high camera availability and ease of photograph distribution is that any politician who has ever visited a nude beach or resort, or even just skinny dipped at home, knows that if they ever support closing down nude facilities, pictures of them may turn up. True nudists would never 'expose' a politician just to catch him out, but are quite likely to do so to expose hypocrisy."

No one is accusing Verheugen of hypocrisy or trying to close down nude beaches, but he has left himself and his superior surprisingly vulnerable to criticism from his peers by his lack of foresight. Herbert Reul, a conservative German European parliamentarian indignantly stated: "I find it unacceptable that an EU commissioner is running around a beach nude with a high-ranking colleague." But his objection seems not against the nudity, but of him doing so with his aide.

In fact Germany, as well as many other countries in Europe, is extremely tolerant of nudity, and has nudist beaches often right next to normal beaches -- often separated by only a low hedge or fence.

Of course Verheugen is not the only politician to have earned the media's arousal for revealing too much.

In late 2003, British Labor MP Chris Bryant, 41, had a profile on a popular U.K.-based gay personals site. Not only was his personal filled with sexual language, but he had posted a picture of himself wearing nothing more that his little white underwear.

Will Doherty, executive director of QueerNet/Online Policy Group had this bit of advice for people who elected to place ads on the internet. Don't expect any privacy "and don't lie in your profile if you're a public official, because it's too easy to check."

An editorial by John-Henry Westen illuminates some of the activities of several members of the Canadian government who have chosen to bare it all.

Liberal MP Scott Brison, posed naked for a calendar and later remarked to the press: "I'm just trying to be a good member. I understand I'm not the only politician in the calendar, but they're up for some stiff competition."

Bob Rae, the former Premier of Ontario and the potential Prime Minister of Canada did a nude comedy gag with a gay comedian that can be found on the internet.

Even one of the Canadian Supreme Court Justices is alleged to have gone on a nude cruise. Despite Supreme Court Chief Justice McLachlin's half-hearted attempt at revealing the justice, she was "rebuffed on a claim of journalistic privilege" and failed to disclose the bold justice. She jokingly sent a memo to her fellow justices in which she wrote "our secret is safe."

Of course it is no surprise that the United States has its share of unabashed politicians. In 2003, when New Jersey columnist Alfred Doblin discovered that Jim Morrison, a Democratic candidate for the state senate, had posed in the nude during law school, he had this to say: "As a rule, I don't want to think of my elected leaders naked."

But not all voters felt that way. Mary Carey, a porn actress ran for California governor this year with the slogan: "Finally, a politician you really want to get screwed by." She didn't win a seat, but she did receive an invitation to this year's National Republican Congressional Committee's dinner. In her own words: "Watch out Mr. President!"
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Robert Neff

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