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Tuesday, January 12, 1999 Published at 20:32 GMT


World: Europe

Pressure rises for Santer

Mr Santer (right) has been meeting with commissioners over the growing crisis

The largest group in the European Parliament has said Commission President Jacques Santer will have to resign if any of his team are singled out over fraud allegations.


BBC Brussels Correspondent David Eades: Mr Santer's credibility could be on the line
MEPs are concentrating their attacks on two commissioners at the centre of claims of fraud, corruption and mismanagement within the Commission - Edith Cresson and Manuel Marin.

The Liberal and Christian Democrat groups have tabled resolutions calling for the two commissioners to stand down.


BBC Europe Correspondent Angus Roxburgh reports on the intense pressure on Edith Cresson to resign
However, Mrs Cresson and Mr Marin are Socialists, and the Socialist group in parliament has said that if they go, then so must Mr Santer, a Christian Democrat.

Parliament is due to vote on a censure motion on Thursday. Under EU rules, it only has powers to sack the entire Commission, rather than single out individuals.


[ image:  ]
BBC Brussels Correspondent David Eades says while the threat of all 20 commissioners being ousted has been reduced, the stakes for Mr Santer are rising and the credibility of both parliament and Commission is now on the line.

On Tuesday, the Commission was locked in talks over how to defuse the situation. Mr Santer earlier proposed a code of conduct to ensure officials do not show favouritism.

One MEP said the Commission's position was increasingly like that of rats on a sinking ship.

Cresson denials


Edith Cresson: Waiting for proof of mistakes
For her part, Mrs Cresson has denied any wrongdoing. The former French prime minister, now in charge of EU research funding, has been targeted because of alleged serious financial irregularities in the Leonardo youth training programme - one of her present responsibilities.

She said: "I would resign if I had made some mistakes but I am waiting for the proof of those mistakes."


Eileen Whelan reports: The EU parliament is still baying for blood
Mrs Cresson said only a few MEPs were calling for her resignation, including a few members of the French extreme right, Greens and Liberal Democrats.

She said she was "quite ready to open all the books" to answer the accusations against her and would take responsibility for any mistakes she had made, but would first like to see the list of allegations against her.

She said she would then agree to answer all the accusations against her "point by point".


[ image:  ]
Asked whether she had made mistakes in office, Mrs Cresson replied: "I think everybody makes mistakes."

She also acknowledged that the growing workload of the Commission has meant work has been increasingly delegated to outside organisations, which are more difficult to control than internal bodies.

"It is difficult to work with different administrative cultures," she said.

"Sometimes there's a sort of misunderstanding of how is it working ... Things are never clear enough when it's an enormous organisation working a lot, doing a lot of things."



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