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Wednesday, September 15, 1999 Published at 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK


World: Europe

Prodi's new commission approved

Romano Prodi introduces his team in the European Parliament

The European Parliament has overwhelmingly confirmed a new 20-member European Commission, headed by Romano Prodi, to replace the one swept out in a corruption scandal.

EU in crisis
The legislature backed the incoming president and his 19 Commissioners by 414 votes to 142, with 35 abstaining.

Before the vote, Mr Prodi had promised "very, very severe" measures against any Commissioners implicated in criminal activity.

The approval brings to an end six months of stagnation following a corruption scandal in which the entire Commission resigned, badly shaking confidence in European institutions.

"I am determined to transform the Commission into a modern, efficient administration which has learnt the lessons of recent experience and puts it house in order," Mr Prodi told MEPs on Tuesday. "It is time for some glasnost here."

Fair trial


The BBC's Angus Roxburgh in Strasburg: After six months in limbo the EU will have an administration
This is the first time Parliament has been able to exercise new powers to vote on the appointment of a new Commission. Deputies can vote to accept or reject the Commission as a whole, or grant it a probationary period until January.

Only the UK Conservatives and some German Christian Democrats, who form part of the 233-member European People's Party, the Parliament's largest voting block, said they would vote to reject Mr Prodi's team.


[ image: Busquin: Says opposition to his nominaton has
Busquin: Says opposition to his nominaton has "political reasons"
The right-wingers have questioned the nomination as research commissioner of Philippe Busquin, whose Belgian Socialist Party was accused of accepting illegal funds before he became party leader.

But Mr Prodi warned MEPs against hasty actions based on incomplete evidence.

"We should not forget the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial," he said in reference to last-minute attacks Mr Busquin.

An internal vote in the EPP came out in favour of backing Mr Prodi's commissioners by a margin of 3-1.

Challenges

The second-largest bloc, the Socialists, agreed to back him, pending the result of a Spanish parliamentary investigation into a farm subsidy fraud when the Commission's vice-president-designate, Loyola de Palacio, was Spanish farm minister.

The Liberals, the third largest group, also said they would vote in favour of the Commission.

Analysts say Mr Prodi's new team, whose job is to propose and enforce European Union laws, faces challenges on many fronts.

He must try to reform the Commission and win back the confidence of European voters who stayed away in large numbers from recent European Parliamentary elections.





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