Commission under pressure over Eurostat inquiry
On 25 September, Commission President Romano Prodi will report to the European Parliament about the results of the Commission's inquiry into alleged irregularities at the EU's statistical office, the Eurostat.
At a meeting with the Parliament's leaders, Mr Prodi will outline the findings of the inquiry into fraud allegations at Eurostat, conducted by OLAF, the EU's anti-fraud agency. For months, OLAF has been investigating claims that senior officials at Eurostat used a double accounting system to divert around 1 million euro in EU funds to secret accounts. Several top officials at Eurostat were suspended in July.
Amid speculation that one or two commissioners may have to resign should the inquiry confirm fraud allegations, External Relations Commissioner Chris Patter stated that no commissioner would have to step down. He said it was "absurd" to accuse the Commission of corruption and added that there was no sign of personal gain. Nevertheless, the practices at Eurostat were "indefensible", according to Mr Patten.
After the fall over the previous European Commission over allegations of fraud and mismanagement in 1999, Mr Prodi obtained new powers to dismiss members of the Commission should any irregularities occur in their areas of responsibility.
Several weeks ago, OLAF opened a new inquiry into the EU's Publications Office. Investigators are examining contractual relations between the Eurostat and the Publications Office to find possible irregularities.
French prosecutors have opened an investigation against Hervé Charlot, director of the French company Planistat, which worked for Eurostat and whose contracts with Eurostat were suspended by the Commission in July.