The EU Commission is dead,

by Ian Davidson

LONDON: Europe’s core unifying institutions -- NATO and the European Union -- both find themselves simultaneously in uncharted waters. NATO’s mission is being redefined by deeds in the former Yugoslavia. The recent resignation en masse of Jacques Santer and the 19 other members of the European Commission in the wake of a damning report on fraud and mismanagement may unintentionally play the same role in the EU.

Many people assumed that the eviction of the Santer Commission would permanently weaken it as an institution. In the circumstances, this seemed a reasonable conclusion. Yet this reasonableness was mistaken, as was demonstrated by last week’s European summit in Berlin.

Governments of the member states have no desire to see a weakening of the Commission. Their choice of Romano Prodi as the President of the new Commission has been explained by some in cynical terms: Jacques Santer, the outgoing President, was a Christian Democrat from a small Northern member state (Luxembourg); the next President had to be a Left-of-Centre politician, from a large member state in the south of the EU. Romano Prodi fitted the bill and was available.