Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 16:51 GMT
Blair and Schröder urge reform
Blair and Schröder want EU reform to press on
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's calls for a swift solution to the EU commission resignation crisis have received strong backing from Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
He said: "We have to take that as a fact and now swiftly go in and nominate a new president for the commission."
The German chancellor also backed Mr Blair's calls for a further reform of the EU at the upcoming Berlin summit.
Earlier Mr Blair told the Commons a new "heavyweight" president of the European Commission is needed.
He told MPs current commission president Jacques Santer should stand down as soon as possible.
Mr Santer could not be blamed for all the failings in the report as some of them pre-dated his time in office, said Mr Blair.
"The president of the commission should leave as soon as it is reasonably and practically possible and a new president should take his place," the prime minister told MPs.
'Decide by merit
He said a "political heavyweight capable of bringing leadership and authority to the commission" was now necessary.
Fundamental reform of the commission and the way its leaders are picked should follow, Mr Blair said.
"The top jobs should go to the top people - merit and merit alone should be the deciding factor.
"We heads of government should make it clear the commission president operates under a mandate for reform and is a reformer."
Mr Blair admitted the scale of criticism contained in the report was devastating.
"Seen intelligently, this is in fact an opportunity to make changes that many of us have argued for a long time and are overdue."
Conservative leader William Hague said Mr Santer should be forced to leave office immediately and not permitted to return.
Tory Euro-sceptics took the opportunity to attack the commission with Lord Tebbit denouncing the mass resignation as "a cover-up stunt".
And he dismissed as an "absurdity" Mr Blair's suggestion that the two UK commissioners, Sir Leon Brittan and Neil Kinnock, were without blame and should be allowed to carry on in their posts.
"They were culpable, they were there," complained Lord Tebbit.
Veteran Euro-sceptic backbencher Bill Cash said the commission had "demonstrated a complete contempt for the people of Europe."
But Labour MP Giles Radice, director of the pro-Europe European Movement, said: "It is right that the commission should resign. Their action shows that the European Parliament can assert itself and deal with problems in the executive."
Former Labour Cabinet minister Tony Benn suggested MPs should approve the names of UK commissioners before their appointment.
And Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said: "The European Parliament has come of age. The days of arrogant commissioners, answerable to no one but themselves, have come to an end."
UK Politics Contents
A-Z of Parliament