Monday, January 11, 1999 Published at 18:17 GMT
Schröder steps into fraud row
Gerhard Schröder offers President Santer a helping hand
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has intervened in the controversy over allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement in the European Commission.
Speaking before the European Parliament debate in Strasbourg, Mr Schröder - the new head of the rolling six-month EU presidency - proposed the creation of a new working group to examine the fraud allegations and tighten up the system of awarding contracts.
The group would include officials from the commission, the parliament and the member-states' own council.
Mr Schröder, Germany's new, left-wing president, said: "The federal government is interested in a stable and capable commission. By looking into these allegations the commission is on the right road."
Mr Schröder promised that Germany would strive during its six-month presidency to clear up the issue. "The commission will get a boost with the support of the German presidency," he said.
SDP MEPs free to vote
Mr Schröder said he had not instructed members of his Social Democratic Party in the European Parliament how to vote on censure motion.
Before he left for Strasbourg, where he will address Parliament, Mr Santer said: "The debate this evening in Strasbourg is important because it should help clear up relations between the Commission and the legislature. We have become victims of our own policy of transparency because we uncovered these issues."
In 1996 the Commission opened its own investigation into fraud in tourism projects and its humanitarian aid office.