Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 15:30 GMT
Euro chief defiant
Jacques Santer at a packed news conference in Brussels
The President of the European Commission, Jacques Santer, has criticised the damning report which provoked the dramatic resignation of all 20 members of his commission.
Speaking the morning after the resignations, which have plunged the European Union into the worst crisis in its 42-year history, he said: "I have no guilt whatsoever."
The outgoing commission members have been told by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the EU's current chairman, to continue in a caretaker capacity until European heads of government decide on a procedure to replace them.
Correspondents say European member governments will want to appoint a new body swiftly but divisions are emerging.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said Mr Santer, should leave office "as soon as it is reasonably and practically psossible and a new president should take his place". possible.
In a statement to parliament on the crisis, Mr Blair said his replacement should be a "political heavyweight" and that the heads of government should give the new commission a clear statement setting out its mandate for reform.
Some other leading figures in the European Parliament have expressed the hope that popular commissioners not implicated directly in the scandal will be allowed back onto the new commission.
However, the Spanish government want the commission to serve out its term until the end of 1999 so as not to disrupt the negotiations on how to pay for an ambitious expansion into eastern Europe.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said he would press for the immediate reappointment of the two British representatives, Sir Leon Brittan and Neil Kinnock, as there was no evidence they had done anything wrong.
First resignations in commission history
The 140-page report by independent experts looked at charges of widespread fraud, nepotism and corruption in the commission.
It accused the EU executive body of losing political control, and picked out commissioners Edith Cresson and Manuel Marin for particular blame.
It discovered no evidence of fraud on the part of commissioners themselves.
But it found cases where "commissioners or the commission as a whole bear responsibility for instances of fraud, irregularities or mismanagement".
The commission, responsible for proposing and implementing EU legislation, only avoided being toppled in a European Parliament censure vote in January by agreeing to order the independent investigation.