Eurocrats forced to retake exams

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AN EXAMINATION taken by up to 30,000 would-be Eurocrats, including several thousand Britons, will have to be repeated because of widespread cheating and confusion.

The decision, which is a severe embarrassment to the European Commission, follows revelations that candidates conferred in examination halls, made calls on mobile phones from lavatories and were leaked questions in advance.

Announcing the cancellation of the exam yesterday, the Commission estimated that the cost of staging the open competition sat at 38 centres throughout the continent, including north London and Edinburgh, amounted to 1.2 million ecus (about pounds 900,000).

An investigation discovered that papers had been leaked in Italy, and confirmed reports of other problems at test centres including those at Heysel in Brussels and in Rome.

"The same people will have to start all over again," said the Commission's spokeswoman yesterday, "or at least those who aren't disgusted with the whole process."

The Belgian media said applicants in Brussels had visited the lavatory en masse during the examinations, exchanged knowledge and used mobile phones to ring out for answers.

Near-anarchy in Rome was caused by the failure of the examiners to provide enough papers. Candidates, some of whom had seen their test papers, conferred freely while more were photocopied. Candidates in Milan were sent to the wrong address.