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High Noon in Brussels


Spain IT IS no secret that Germany is using the scandal to weaken the Commission in its attempts to reduce the German contribution to cohesion funds. It does not want to pay the costs of enlargement. Germany wants to reverse the principle of inter-regional solidarity underpinning the common economic policy. But this does not mean what it says is necessarily false. The important thing is to establish whether their accusations against the Commission are true. The new Europe cannot emerge under a leadership suspected of corruption. It is obvious that the Brussels management system is opaque and out of touch. u The Daily Telegraph UK BOTH THE European Commission and Parliament are now thoroughly discredited. They have shown themselves to be ready to tolerate serious malpractice rather than allow the unification of Europe to be impeded. The investigation announced yesterday might, if it led to sacking, begin to restore a fraction of the Parliament's credibility. But for now, the EU as a whole must be counted an enemy of clean administration. u Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Germany THE FEDERAL {German} government, which must take far-reaching decisions during EU presidency, needs a Commission that can support its Agenda 2000 plans with courage and competence. The government must therefore support Santer and his team. But it must also show consideration for the European Parliament and their anger with Brussels, and it has to think ahead of the coming European elections in June. u Financial Times UK THE CLEANING-UP operation promised by Mr Santer in response to parliamentary criticism is welcome, but it is not enough. The EU's member nations need to start the process of framing a new political constitution for the EU. It is already common ground that the launch of the euro and plans to enlarge the union require some important changes. A broader agenda is now needed, to make the Commission more accountable, to make EU decision making much more open, and to infuse the whole system with more political legitimacy. u El Mundo Spain EDITH CRESSON is accused of hiring a personal friend as an adviser, and Marin has been criticised for a lack of control over community funds that he manages. These do not seem sufficient motives to unleash a crisis of these proportions. The real reasons are different. It is the negotiation of the community budget that has poisoned things. The Germans and Dutch, instigators of the confrontation, are taking advantage of some minor irregularities to justify a drastic reduction of European social funds - to which Jacques Santer presents an obstacle. It is obvious that the Commission will be damaged by a dispute that is inopportune for the EU, and incomprehensible for the general public. u Die Welt Germany SANTER COMPLAINS that "we are the victim of our own transparency". If Santer becomes a victim in the next few days, then it is because he is not in control of his political business. Brussels now needs to be controlled - Santer must accept that. The 20 commissioners do not constitute a government, but they have long been more than an administration. What is lacking is a clear distribution of power; a Constitution for Europe. This will not be attained in the short term, however. The nepotism, the mess caused by the commissioners, does not, upon sober reflection, warrant the resignation of the complete Commission, but the most incompetent commissioners must go. u Le Soir Brussels CRESSON AND Marin have managed to avoid the political guillotine. The whole affair will be dealt with in the same way as the mad cow disease business in February 1997 - the Commission will simply be asked to instigate some internal reforms in order to sort out its workings. And it is clear that the majority of the state members don't want to modify their agendas and replace Santer's team prematurely. The Commission can count itself saved, for several weeks, or months anyway. …