EU In Crisis: Shadowy world of the `state within a state'

WHAT TOPPLED the Commission was not damning revelations of corruption but the shadowy world of former intelligence and army officers running Jacques Santer's "state within a state".

The report painted a sinister picture of the security services that the President controlled, staffed by a former French intelligence official, Claude Willeme, and a one-time Belgian police colonel.

Although they reported directly to the office of Mr Santer, the palace guards became a law unto themselves, apparently beyond the control of the Commission's most senior staff.

The report complains that "no supervision was exercised and a `state within a state' was allowed to develop". The security staff even put the Commission's own internal fraud-busting team under surveillance. The inquiry concluded that they were a clique, "a private club for former police officers from Brussels or the vicinity, for whom special recruitment `competitions' were arranged".

The scandal which led to the investigation revolved around the awarding of a contract for security work to the British security agency Group 4.

The report starts in 1992, highlighting the behaviour of 10 security guards who accompanied the then commissioner Jacques Delors to the Seville World Exhibition. "Their behaviour (feet on the table, heavy drinking etc) was considered intolerable," it said. However, when complaints were made, the director of the service simply "covered for his staff". The document sheds light on how key posts in the security service were allotted. "On the recommendation from the director of security in Belgium, the director of the security office recruited into the Commission Security Office an ex-colonel from the Belgian police [in December 1997]". The ex-colonel then had to be moved from his post, five days after a heightened state of alert during the Gulf war, when "no particular measures had been taken".

The report puts part of the blame for the state of the security service on Mr Santer and a lack of "meaningful interest'.

The text directly indicts Edith Cresson for favouritism. The charge centres on her decision to employ Rene Berthelot, a dentist from her home town of Chatellerault as a scientific visitor. It notes Mr Berthelot's frequent "missions" to Chatellerault and says: "It is hard to understand why Chatellerault... should be almost the sole centre of interest of a visiting scientist whose remit... covered very wide fields."

The report is on the website: http://www.europarl.eu.int/experts

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