Europe in turmoil: Sleaze inquiry puts pressure on Cresson in to

EDITH CRESSON held discussions with the team investigating the sleaze allegations against her yesterday, one day before their report on European Union fraud is expected.

The meeting came as Socialist MEPs stepped up the pressure on Ms Cresson, threatening again to sack the entire European Commission if individuals criticised by the inquiry stay put.

Amid mounting tension in Brussels, Ms Cresson was one of eight top European officials given the opportunity to see the findings of the committee of "wise persons", whose report will be delivered at 5pm today.

The former French prime minister shows no sign of quitting her post as Commissioner for Education and Research, raising the prospect of a re-run of January's heated dispute between European Parliament and the Commission.

A spokesman for Ms Cresson said she was happy to study the report's findings, but would not comment until tonight.

The final draft of the report was being concluded last night before being handed to the presidents of the European Commission and Parliament today. The Commission will hold an emergency meeting on the findings at 9pm.

Pauline Green, leader of the European Parliament's largest group, the Socialists, said: "If the report shows wrongdoing by any individual then whoever they are, they must be rooted out." Ms Green warned that if the Commission President Jacques Santer "dithers or delays, it will be his own head that is on the block".

Her comments were ominous, as the Socialists helped avert a mass sacking of the Commission in January.

Alan Donnelly, leader of the 60 Labour MEPs, said: "The president of the Commission must act immediately on the recommendations of the report to ensure his personal credibility and the continued presidency."

Ms Cresson's fate depends on the tone of the report and whether it specifically identifies Commissioners as culprits, or simply makes general criticisms.

As the fraud saga reaches its final chapter, Ms Cresson and Mr Santer are locked in a bitter dispute. Ms Cresson believes that Mr Santer is conspiring to sacrifice her.

When the fraud allegations broke in January, Mr Santer said stuck to the collective line of defence, arguing that he would rather resign than see individual Commissioners censured. To Ms Cresson's anger, that line has changed. Mr Santer said last month that he would consider asking any Commissioner judged guilty of misdeeds to step down.

On Friday Mr Santer added: "The committee has worked in a professional and objective manner. The Commission will respond to its recommendations as they concern the general operations of the Commission or the conduct of individual members."

In fact, Mr Santer does not have the power to sack individual Commissioners. With the support of the Commission he can only refer their cases to the European Court of Justice. This is the only body that can sack a Commissioner. That could be the start of a complex judicial process.

Ms Cresson's tough line contrasts with a softer tone from Manuel Marin, a vice-president of the European Commission and another target of the MEPs. He may be ready to resign if criticised by the report of "wise persons".

The inquiry was triggered by allegations that as many as eight of the 20 Commissioners presided over fraud or serious irregularities in their departments, or handed contracts to friends or relatives.

Investigations into the "Leonardo da Vinci" youth programme, for which Ms Cresson is responsible, revealed a catalogue of mismanagement, dubious practice and suspected fraud. Ms Cresson is accused of nepotism after appointing a friend, Rene Berthelot, to the post of scientific visitor.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine