Monday, January 11, 1999 Published at 20:10 GMT
EU commissioners to discuss fraud charges
Gerhard Schröder offers President Santer a helping hand
The European Union's Commissioners are meeting on Tuesday, as parliamentarians decide whether to censure them over damaging allegations of fraud, corruption and mismanagement.
Members are due to vote on the censure motion on Thursday.
If it is passed by the necessary two-thirds majority, all 20 European Commissioners will have to resign. But the leader of the dominant Socialist group in the parliament, Pauline Green, has urged members not to dismiss the entire commission.
Addressing the assembled European Parliament on Monday, Mr Santer also promised more scrutiny of the EU budget.
He was was attempting to persuade the European Parliament not to sack the executive over the allegations, which concern multi-million dollar humanitarian aid projects that never existed and financial favours for friends.
But Ms Green acknowledged that among her own political group, there were differences in opinion.
Correspondents say the censure vote is unlikely to achieve a two-thirds majority, but the debate is a political embarrassment for Brussels and has severely undermined its credibility.
Santer proposes transparency
Mr Santer began his address by urging deputies not to vote to sack his team, promising that fraud would not go unpunished.
Mr Santer also announced an immediate freeze on the "parachuting" of staff from commissioners' private offices, or cabinets, into senior jobs.
He said confidence was essential at a time when the EU was working on a series of reforms intended to pave the way for eastward expansion.
The group would include officials from the Commission, the Parliament and the member states' own council.
Speaking before the debate in Strasbourg, Mr Schröder - the new head of the rolling six-month EU presidency - said he had not told members of his Social Democratic Party in the European Parliament how to vote on the censure motion.