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Wednesday, March 17, 1999 Published at 17:49 GMT

World: Europe

The EU crisis in quotes

EU in crisis
In an unprecedented step, the whole of the European Union's executive body - some 20 European commissioners - resigned after the publication of a damning report into fraud, nepotism and mismanagement within the commission. BBC News Online looks back at some memorable reactions to the crisis.

The 144-page independent report from the Committee of Independent Experts found no evidence of fraud on the part of the commissioners themselves, but concluded: "It is difficult to find anyone who has even the slightest sense of responsibility."

[ image: Jacques Santer:
Jacques Santer: "Whiter than white"
The committee decided that the commission was being asked to do things "well beyond its capacity and its resources and therefore there were short cuts and blind eyes turned".

Commission President Jacques Santer was criticised over allegations of fraud in the commission's security office, for which he was responsible. The report said of him: "No supervision was exercised and a state within a state was allowed to develop."

But Mr Santer said: "I'm whiter than white." He protested: "I have no guilt whatsoever."

Member states began the search for a new president. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said Mr Santer's successor "has got to be a political heavyweight capable of providing leadership and authority."

[ image: Testing times for Edith Cresson, who admitted being
Testing times for Edith Cresson, who admitted being "a little careless"
French commissioner Edith Cresson was singled out in the report for favouritism and for failing to react to serious long-term irregularities in her training department.

She admitted: "Perhaps I have been a little careless."

Ms Cresson also protested that the report "no longer contains the expressions that I saw on Sunday [14 March] when reading the passages regarding me. The report was changed in an unfavourable and untruthful way" .

Commission vice-president Sir Leon Brittan branded the mass resignation "a disaster".

He said: "There's been a loss of control. We have resigned. The important thing now is to decide how to handle it."

The day after news of their resignation broke, the commissioners were anxious to discharge their duties, and urged their member states to appoint a replacement commission as soon as possible.

"We have resigned and have no desire or intention of remaining in office a moment longer than we have to."

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