German MEP Silvana Koch-Mehrin quits in plagiarism row

Image caption,
Silvana Koch-Mehrin was seen as a rising star in the Free Democrats (FDP)

Germany's Silvana Koch-Mehrin has resigned as a vice-president of the European Parliament, after claims that she plagiarised her university thesis.

Ms Koch-Mehrin, aged 40, also stepped down from the board of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).

The University of Heidelberg is re-examining Ms Koch-Mehrin's academic work on currency unions.

In March, German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was forced to quit over plagiarism charges.

Mr Guttenberg, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), was also stripped of his PhD by the University of Bayreuth.

'Fresh blow'

On Wednesday, Ms Koch-Mehrin said in a statement that she also resigned as chairwoman of the FDP in the European parliament.

"I hope to make it easier for my party to make a fresh start with a new leadership team," she said.

The move comes after an investigative website - VroniPlag Wiki - raised doubts about the liberal politician's 2001 thesis, called Historical Currency Unions between the Economy and Politics.

Ms Koch-Mehrin allegedly failed to source the 227-page document properly.

She has not publicly commented on the allegations.

The resignation is seen by some German analysts as a fresh blow to the FDP - the junior party in Mrs Merkel's coalition - which is trying to recover from plunging popularity ratings.

Last month, party leader Guido Westerwelle was forced to step aside. A new head is expected to be chosen later this week.

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