Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 14:50 GMT
Why they had to go
The report that shook the commission, was handed over on Monday
There has been nothing like it in the four decades of the European project.
The report concluded that it was difficult to find anyone with even the slightest sense of responsibility for what had happened.
No commissioner was accused of lining his or her own pockets, but they were collectively accused of having lost control of a bureaucracy that did enrich others.
As commissioners digested the full implications of the report late into the night, they knew that all political groups in the European Parliament had already decided to dismiss them.
In the end they decided to jump before they were pushed.
A number of prominent commissioners were named in the report, which details a culture of favouritism and mishandling of taxpayers' money. It is sprinkled with words like complacency, incompetence and arrogance.
How the fraud allegations surfaced
The official highlighted what he called "incompetence and unwillingness of the administration to deal efficiently with fraud and irregularities".
European Commission President Jacques Santer provoked the parliament into tabling a motion of censure after they refused to discharge the 1996 Commission budget. Mr Santer insisted the MEPs should "back us or sack us".
Mr van Buitenen - a member of the Green party himself - was suspended on half pay for four months for breaking staff rules. He is now campaigning to get his job back.
In the subsequent showdown between the European Parliament and the European Commission a compromise deal was worked out.
This involved a code of conduct, governing commissioners and their relationships with their personal staff.
An independent committee was also set up to investigate the fraud charges. It is the explosive report of this committee which has led to the resignation of the entire Commission.