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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK


Is the new European Commission fit to hold office?



"I think this team is the right one. There are some who are brilliant and some who are less brilliant; nevertheless we can and should invest the whole Commission."
Klaus Haensch of Germany's Social Democrats

Some of the members are right for the job and competent, and some of them have question marks over them... If we had the opportunity to express a view on individuals, then there wouldn't be such a big crisis about the overall Commission."
Giles Chichester, British Conservative MEP


Click here to listen to both sides of the debate
Listen to our debate hosted by Mark Reid. Do you agree with the views of our contributors?

Background ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say ¦ Listen to the debate

The Vote:
Is the new European Commission fit to hold office?
Yes No

Background ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say ¦ Listen to the debate

The Background:

This week, the European Parliament will officially decide whether or not to approve the Commission-designate of Romano Prodi.

Talking Point - Europewide
The lengthy parliamentary hearings into individual would-be commissioners preoccupied Brussels earlier this month and the whole issue of the suitability of not one but two commissions has dominated the European Union for most of this year - following allegations of corruption and malpractice.

But even after the hearings there are still misgivings in some quarters about whether the new commission should be approved.

Even though the past records of individuals and their degree of competence in their portfolios have been deemed more-or-less suitable for office, can any Commission really overcome the deep seated institutional problems identified by the committees of experts?

Is the Commission of Romano Prodi right for the job?

Joining Mark Reid for this week's Europewide debate are two MEPS, Klaus Haensch of Germany's Social Democrats and Giles Chichester, British Conservative MEP.

Background ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say ¦ Listen to the debate

Your Reaction:

They could hardly do worse than the last lot. This bunch may deliver the goods - but there are a few things that could make this more likely. Firstly, it would help if the members of the Commission were kept on their toes. A credible threat of dismissal in case of serious failure would be a good thing in this respect. Unfortunately, the European Parliament in failing to dismiss the Commission outright already in February has shown that it prefers compromise to decision and thereby undermined the credibility of any threat. Secondly, the civil service supporting the Commission needs to be reformed so as to become more professional. Until now, prospective candidates coming through the competitive examination have to drum up political support in order actually to be appointed. This makes for a climate fostering the type of events that led to the Commission's resignation. In the European Communities people such as Van Buytenen, the man of courage and integrity who opened the can of worms, are a comparative rarity. Thirdly, members of the Commission should be made individually accountable for their actions - not only to the European Parliament, but also before a criminal court. That will deter not only incompetence and professional failure but corruption as well. All the improvements suggested above are already features of the national systems of government of the continent's best-run countries, and even of some less well-run ones.
Peter, Netherlands

On reading some of the pro-EU responses to this issue I am struck by one phrase - that critics should not worry about the EU, but about their "own" country. To me, that mindset says as much about the EU as I need to know.
Jon Livesey, USA

This new Commission should have taken office when allegations about the last one came to public, if the former French commissioner or her government had any shame. The problem of the Commission and the EU is that of Mr. Kofi Annan and the UN: They lack power. Those who claim that the commission isn't democratically elected should perhaps worry more about real issues in their own national elections. After all the commissioners are named by their governments and those are elected aren't they? So please, instead of claiming " Oh, we didn't know!", worry about the real issues in politics and stop worrying about the sex lives of your politicians. The fact is that whoever slept with Mr. Portillo years ago is unlikely to be serving in this Commission.
Sérgio, Luxembourg

Don't worry - mind control will spend more of your money soon to persuade you that you're at fault by being so wrongly negative about these brave higly paid men and women that need not concern you except of course if you haven't paid your taxes.
ChrisB, UK

The EU is a complete waste of money. The individuals residing in their free properties and occationally in their offices are leaches on the rest of Europe. Placement is based on who you know and on how corrupt. Let's get back to being an European ecomonic community and forget being a union.
Tom, UK

The new European commission is fit to hold office. President Prodi's team, overall, is composed of individuals with longstanding experience in government and international relations. I would like to point out the fact that Commissioners, although unelected, are nominated by the (elected) national governments, not by a bunch of "faceless, useless eurocrats"
Alvaro, Belgium

I am seriously worried that this new commission will be as corrupt as the last one. Everybody knows the European Parliament makes it easier for people to make money out of being corrupt.
Sebastian Quitz, Portugal

Why do we need a commission? They are only civil servants, but with a lot more power. This power and responsibility should be in the hands of the elected MEPs. We should have a European government made up of the largest coalition. Who have an executive responsible for the commissions various areas. We must have democratic power, not a European quango. This is a level of bureaucracy that we do not need, and it continues the gravy train for all the has-beens and is a pay off for past political favours. How can people like that be trusted?
Stuart, UK

These politicians do not seem to grasp the fact that it is not only essential for justice to be done, it is just as important for it to be seen to be done. Despite unfinished investigations and suggestions of untruths, some of the new commissioners appear to be oblivious to the notion of integrity and accountability to the citizens they purport to represent.
Corruption and a "no-questions asked" attitude are common place in the domestic politics of certain countries of the EU. It is hardly surprising this gets carried through to the institutions in Brussels. I would like so much to see the EU thrive and overcome these problems but the fundamental differences between the Northern and Southern cultures are just too great. Both have their merits and advantages, but just cannot be joined together.
Mark Parish, USA

Am I the only one who finds it strange that after several decades of EU construction, in the middle of a long period of peace, with no outside interference, and with total freedom for European countries to construct the EU and EU institutions that they want, we still have what amounts to a democratic crisis in Europe. In British terms, the EU commission, and the way it is appointed, is nothing more than a giant Quango. They are not elected by the people, they are often either unknowns, or clapped-out career politicians, and sometimes they come with ongoing indictments attached. If we had inherited the EU from a collapsed Empire, or from a departed colonial power, we might have some excuse, but in fact this undemocratic, corrupt, and irresponsible mess is entirely our own voluntary creation. What are we doing? Are we actually trying to create a corrupt tyranny, or what?
Jon Livesey, USA

The question itself reveals the problem. Only to be able to pass judgement on the Commissioners as a whole is a huge restriction on the power of the legislature, and is therefore anti-democratic. Why on earth should someone suspected of corruption be defended by the better record of a colleague? There are question marks over some of the national political dealings of Prodi and of Loyola de Palacio. Surely these are of concern Why should they escape and investigation merely because the constitution would require the much larger step of questioning the commission as a whole? It's ludicrous. The U.K. is a country where the executive has too much, and increasing amounts of power. To see the Commission with more is mind-boggling.
Ben Broadbent, (English in) US

Who are these people anyway? I didn't vote them in and I'd like to know who did! Down with the Euro-Farce and up with some Euro-Sense!
Paul Charters, England

Absolutely everything about the EU is an extremely expensive waste of space. As far as I am concerned, the whole lot should be consigned to the garbage, commissioners and all. With some of the highest taxes in the universe, barriers to free international trade, an insane common agricultural policy and a laughably spineless response to crises on it's own doorstep (Bosnia, Kosovo, etc), the kindest thing for all us long-suffering residents of this vastly over-priced continent would be to scrap the lot of them now. Of course, it won't happen. The useless, faceless bureaucrats in Brussels and Strasbourg won't let it happen. I think I'll emigrate - got the telephone number of the nearest U.S. Embassy?
Bill S, UK

Background ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say ¦ Listen to the debate

Is the new European Commission fit to hold office?

Votes so far:

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Yes: 40% No: 60%

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