Thursday, March 18, 1999 Published at 17:10 GMT
Anger at EU pay-offs
Commissioners will not be leaving their posts empty-handed
The ousted European commissioners are back in the spotlight, after calls from politicians that they should not receive substantial pay-offs - some of them worth up to £300,000 - when they leave office.
Under EU rules, even those commissioners whose conduct was singled out for criticism in the 144-page independent report will receive a handsome pay package.
Outgoing President Jacques Santer could be in line for a lump sum of around £240,000 and an attractive pension. French commissioner Edith Cresson, who bore the brunt of the report's criticism, is set to gain at least £27,000 a year.
Departing commissioners are entitled to a transitional allowance payable for three years, based on a percentage of their annual basic salary.
Commissioners will also get a pension when they reach the age of 65 based on their final annual salary and the number of years they have worked for the commission.
But there has been anger at the news that the commissioners will receive such generous packages. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said that anyone "forced to resign in disgrace" should not be eligible to receive the pay-outs.
However, Downing Street has admitted that it can do nothing to stop the pay-outs because no-one has been convicted of criminal charges. Under EU regulations, commissioners can be stripped of their benefits only if "relieved of their duties because of serious misconduct".
A commission spokesman in Brussels told BBC News Online that, since she had reached the age of 65, it would be unlikely that the French commissioner would be entitled to receive any part of her £130,000 salary in her pay-off.
But she will still receive an annual pension of about 20% of her salary, the spokesman said. This would give Ms Cresson approximately £27,000 each year for the rest of her life.
Manuel Marin, the EC vice-president and commissioner for relations with the southern Mediterranean, Latin America and the Middle East, managed to escape serious condemnation, but the report did uncover mismanagement in the Mediterranean programmes.
Mr Santer, who the report accused of presiding over mismanagement, will also not be leaving the commission empty-handed.
He is set to receive half of his annual £160,000 salary each year for three years - or £240,000. On top of that sum, Mr Santer will also be entitled to a pension of about £29,000.
'No gravy train'
However, the European Commission is rejecting accusations that the commissioners' pay-offs form part of any European Union "gravy train".
A spokesman in London said the rules about pay-offs were agreed by ministers. They were not a matter for negotiation.