Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 11:15 GMT

World: Europe

Jacques Santer: Out of his depth?

By BBC News Online's Roger Hardy

[ image: Mr Santer: Seen by many as a compromise choice]
Mr Santer: Seen by many as a compromise choice
The resignation of all the EU commissioners is a heavy personal blow to the Commission President, Jacques Santer.

Often described as "genial" and "affable", Mr Santer is now being seen by many European commentators as a man who was simply out of his depth.

A Catholic and Francophile, the 61-year-old Santer is devoted to his native Luxembourg. He was a lawyer and civil servant before entering politics.

EU in crisis
Before his unexpected appointment to the EU Commission, he served as finance minister and later prime minister of Luxembourg, as well as holding posts at the IMF and the World Bank.

When the controversial Frenchman Jacques Delors left the EU's top job in 1994, Mr Santer was a compromise choice.

The British prime minister of the day, John Major, vetoed the appointment of Jean-Luc Dehaene of Belgium whom he saw as too much of a federalist. Mr Santer was viewed as a conciliator, and hence a welcome contrast to the pugnacious, tough-talking Mr Delors.

"I was not their first choice," Mr Santer remarked later in an interview. "To become president (of the Commission) was not my first choice either."

'Doing less but doing it better'

Many of those who had backed Mr Santer's candidacy came to regret their choice. At the very least, he has been uninspiring. His slogan - "Doing less but doing it better" - has been derided.

Now he stands accused of much worse. An independent panel of experts has - by implication - accused him of presiding over a corrupt and nepotistic regime.

In one of the most damning sentences in its report, the panel declares: "It is difficult to find anyone who has even the slightest sense of responsibility."

Santer's weak management has left the European Union in disarray at a crucial moment in its destiny - as it seeks to reform itself in readiness for enlargement and the launch of the single currency, the euro.

Now, as a discredited EU seeks to put its house in order, the issue of who should head the Commission - its top executive body - is high on the agenda.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

In this section

Violence greets Clinton visit

Russian forces pound Grozny

EU fraud: a billion dollar bill

Next steps for peace

Cardinal may face loan-shark charges

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

Trans-Turkish pipeline deal signed

French party seeks new leader

Jube tube debut

Athens riots for Clinton visit

UN envoy discusses Chechnya in Moscow

Solana new Western European Union chief

Moldova's PM-designate withdraws

Chechen government welcomes summit

In pictures: Clinton's violent welcome

Georgia protests over Russian 'attack'

UN chief: No Chechen 'catastrophe'

New arms control treaty for Europe

From Business
Mannesmann fights back

EU fraud -- a billion-dollar bill

New moves in Spain's terror scandal

EU allows labelling of British beef

UN seeks more security in Chechnya

Athens riots for Clinton visit

Russia's media war over Chechnya

Homeless suffer as quake toll rises

Analysis: East-West relations must shift