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Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 09:52 GMT

World: Europe

European press hails 'awakening of democracy'

Edith Cresson is singled out for hardest criticism

Click here for a review of the UK press.

News of the resignation of all 20 members of the European Commission came too late for many European first editions, but not all.

For France's Liberation, the European Commission had no choice but to resign, in what the paper calls "a rude awakening of democracy."

EU in crisis
Embattled former French Commissioner Edith Cresson is singled out for the harshest criticism. Liberation calls her "more ego than euro".

The paper's front page headline says "Cresson sinks the Commission".

The mass resignations are exactly the prescription spelled out in the lead editorial of Munich's Suddeutsche Zeitung.

"An investigation into corruption is good, but the consequences are better: the EU Commissioners should go," the paper writes.

'Report that killed the Commission'

Vienna's Der Standard and the Paris-based Le Figaro feature front page photos of Edith Cresson looking, respectively, dejected and defiant.

From Brussels, La Libre Belgique does not mince words in its editorial - entitled "The report that killed the European Commission".

"There are excellent commissioners and most bureaucrats are conscientious, but the institution itself had lost the minimum amount of credibility needed to continue," the paper writes.

In the UK, the Independent suggests that Europe is "institutionally corrupt".

The time has come, the paper says, for radical reform and it calls for a written constitution, and democratically accountable structures. It is not the personalities who are flawed, says the Independent, but the very nature of Europe's present institutions.

'Genius for gaffes'

The Daily Mail compares Edith Cresson to the Bourbon kings of France, of whom it was said that they had "learned nothing and forgotten nothing".

The paper says she has "a genius for gaffes and unpopularity" - reporting that she boasted of not caring what people think.

What the US thought

Across the Atlantic, the dramatic resignations make the front page of the New York Times which dubs the Commission "one of the world's most powerful unelected bodies".

The paper writes the "highly paid" commissioners were forced to resign because of "chronic cronyism and corruption".

The Washington Post says the 20 have "played a central role in the EU's ambitious drive to become a global rival to the United States," but were forced to resign for "tolerating widespread fraud, corruption, and mismanagement over a period of years."

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