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Wednesday, May 5, 1999 Published at 22:08 GMT 23:08 UK

World: Europe

Prodi confirmed as EU president

Mr Prodi wants the EU to play a key role in th Balkans

Former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi has been approved by a large majority as the next president of the European Commission by the European Parliament.

Romano Prodi: I really didn't expect it
A total of 392 MEPs voted in favor of Mr Prodi's appointment, 72 against, and there were 41 abstentions. A total 505 members of the 626-member assembly voted.

Mr Prodi had addressed MEPs before Wednesday's critical vote on his nomination.

He promised to reform the Commission, push forward on further European integration and to put the crisis in the Balkans on the top of the EU's agenda.

He talked of the need to resolve all the conflicts of the former Yugoslavia within a single and broad framework, and proposed a major conference on the Balkans.

EU role unclear

Mr Prodi appeared to want the European Union to play a key role in the region, but avoided going in to specific detail on what the EU should offer the states involved, apart from the humanitarian aid and assistance already being given.

Reporting from Strasbourg, the BBC's Europe correspondent, Jonathan Beale said Mr Prodi may be about to take over at the Commission but he is still not in the driving seat of the EU's executive.

He first has to choose a new team to replace the 20 commissioners who resigned following the damning investigation into nepotism and corruption.

However, Mr Prodi made clear that he did not want a complete clear-out.

He told the BBC that if any caretaker commissioner had done a good job, then they could be reconsidered.

The German presidency has also suggested that in future the parliament and EU governments should have the power to call for the resignation of indidivual commissioners to avoid a repeat of the vacuum left by the resignation of the entire commission.

They were forced to take collective responsibility for individuals' wrongdoing.

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