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Hans-Peter Martin, Austria's "Mr. Clean"

04 June 2004, 04:42 CET


Austria's Hans-Peter Martin, who is running for re-election to the European parliament on June 13, is campaigning as an anti-corruption "Mr. Clean."

He has accused fellow European parliamentarians of padding their expense budgets and committing other petty frauds to round out their salaries.

A former journalist for the German magazine Der Spiegel, Martin, 47, is leading a list of independent candidates whose slogan is "Let's clean up in Brussels," referring to the headquarters of the European Union.

Opinion surveys say his list, labeled by his initials HPM, will win 15 percent of the vote, and take one to two of Austria's 18 seats in the parliament, the EU legislature that sits in Strasbourg, France.

"Hans-Peter Martin has given a face to Euro-scepticism. He has become the symbol for those who criticize the European Union," political analyst Hubert Sickinger said.

Trained in law and political science, a member of the Club of Rome, and the head of Austria's socialists in the last European elections in 1999, Martin says he has evidence of more then 7,000 cases of European deputies, mainly Germans and Austrians, receiving daily stipends of 262 euros (320 dollars) for allegedly attending parliamentary sessions when in fact they were not present.

European deputies have replied angrily that the charges sully the reputation of legislators who often put in 70-hour work-weeks.

One deputy circulated a letter saying that Martin had himself abusively received such stipends.

Political analyst Anton Pelinka said that "two parties are afraid of Hans-Peter Martin taking away voters," namely Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), the junior partner in government, and Austria's opposition socialists (SPOe), who represent many Eurosceptics.

Martin has the support in his home country, however, of the tabloid press, the daily Kronenzeitung which is read by one out of two Austrians and the weekly News.

But the youth-oriented weekly Falter has criticized Martin for "fanning negative sentiments towards Brussels in order to win votes."

Sickinger said other critics see Martin as "a populist with a huge ego" and someone "who only takes action when a camera is on him."

The weekly magazine Profil said Martin has not done much of note since becoming a European deputy in 1999.

Fellow Austrian deputy in the European parliament Ursula Stenzel has criticized Martin for having a "dictatorial" style.

Martin, whose trademark dressing point is wearing a white jacket, has written several books on the environment and globalization. These have been translated into 27 languages.

In 1983, he published "Bitter Pills," a controversial critique of the pharmaceutical industry.

His most recent book, in 1997 on the dangers of globalization, sold over half a million copies.

Born in August 1957 in Bregenz in western Austria, Martin was a member of the environmental group Greenpeace's surveillance council from 1996-1999.

He won the Karl Renner journalism prize in 1980 and the Bruno Kreisky prize for political writing in 1997.

He is on the constitutional affairs committee in the European parliament.

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