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Committee of Independent Experts
First report on allegations regarding fraud, mismanagement
and nepotism in the European Commission
15 March 1999

· Introduction · Tourism · MED Programmes · ECHO · Leonardo da Vinci · Security Office ·
· Nuclear Safety · Allegations of Favouritism · Concluding Remarks · Annexes ·


8.1. Mrs Cresson
8.2. Mr Liikanen
8.3. Mr Marin
8.4. Mr Pinheiro
8.5. Mr Santer
8.6. Mrs Wulf-Mathies

The Committee of Experts has considered the situation of all the Commissioners against whom allegations have been made, particularly in the press, in order to ascertain, in accordance with its terms of reference, whether these allegations were well-founded and whether favouritism had occurred or whether the Commissioners had been libelled.

8.1. Mrs Cresson

Numerous allegations have been made against Mrs Cresson, both by the press and by Members of Parliament. The Committee has concentrated on the issue involving Mr Berthelot.


Links between Mrs Cresson and Mr Berthelot

8.1.1. Mrs Cresson wished to make use of Mr Berthelot's skills at the Commission. She has admitted several times that, at the time of the facts considered here, Mr Berthelot was a long-standing friend of hers.

8.1.2. For example, when she appeared before the European Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control on 28 October 1998, Mrs Cresson confirmed that she had known Mr Berthelot for many years. She had wished to draw on his advice in her capacity as a Member of the European Commission in connection with the preparation of the 5th Framework Programme of Research and Development. When she had explained to her staff that she wished to have an independent adviser to help her prepare the programme, that such an adviser should have a scientific background combined with practical experience and, above all, should enjoy her confidence, and that his role would be to state his views on the reforms undertaken, they had informed her that the appropriate status would be that of 'visiting scientist'. Accordingly, it had seemed to her perfectly legitimate, as a political decision-maker, to use external advisers, including some whom she knew well.

The contract with DG XII: 1 September 19995 - 28 February 1997

8.1.3. Before being appointed by the Commission, Mr Berthelot signed two contracts in 1995 alone: one with ANVAR (see below), the other with Parkington Enterprises Limited, which has registered offices in Ireland and would appear to be linked to the Perry Lux group.

8.1.4. The legal provisions applicable to the contract with DG XII - administrative directives applicable to visiting scientists in the context of research programmes run by DG XII/the Joint Research Centre - stipulate that the following may be accepted as visiting scientists:

(a) university professors or teaching staff from scientific higher education establishments

(b) scientific staff of high standing from other research organisations.

8.1.5. It is not apparent from Mr Berthelot's curriculum vitae, which was forwarded to DG XII, that he falls into either of the above categories. In the CV which Mr Berthelot submitted at the time of his appointment, he stated under the heading 'current posts' that he was a special adviser to ANVAR (National Research Exploitation Agency), which is based in Paris. In fact, it transpires that he had simply had a contract with that agency from 6 March to 30 June 1995 as an expert, the purpose of which was to define more clearly the Commission's approach to ANVAR, its image and user requirements.

More specifically, Articles 1 and 2 of this contract define its purpose as being a study to ascertain how ANVAR can become a natural partner of the Commission of the European Union and, with due regard for the subsidiarity principle, how it can participate effectively in the implementation of Community programmes.

8.1.6. The letter of appointment which DG XII sent to Mr Berthelot on 26 July 1995 quotes as its subject 'your unsolicited application'. The appointment was initially for 6 months, and the letter was signed by the Deputy Director-General of DG XII. No specific duties are set out in the letter, contrary to the requirements of the directives; Article 1(3) of the above-mentioned legal instrument stipulates that the subject on which the visitor is to work shall be determined in advance by the appropriate Director.

8.1.7. The Commission's Financial Control (DG XX) approved the appointment offer on 20 July 1995.

8.1.8. The contract was extended for the first time until 31 August 1996, retaining the same financial and administrative provisions. A second extension, subject to the same conditions, continued the contract until 28 February 1997. These two letters were likewise signed by the above-mentioned Deputy Director-General.

8.1.9. Article 7(7) of the above-mentioned legal instrument stipulates that the visitor shall submit to the Director-General, within one month of the end of the visit, a report on the work for the purpose of which the visit was made. The documentation submitted to the Committee of Experts on this subject contains numerous notes, which are very diverse and in some cases technical and in others very vague and political, all addressed to Mrs Cresson, some written during the contract period and some after it had expired. But this documentation does not include any formal report in the sense of the above article concerning the work for the purpose of which the visit was made.

Moreover, these notes, of which there are ten, do not bear any entry stamp or registration number. These notes are as follows, starting with the most recent:

1. Scientific programme of IAVI (Rockefeller AIDS Initiative) (18.3.97);
2. Participation by Member States in life sciences programmes under the 3rd and 4th Framework Programmes of Research and Technological Development (17.12.96);
3. Comparison of the scientific performances of the EU, USA and Japan in life sciences and technologies (15.10.96);
4. Why should life sciences and technologies be assigned an important position in the 5th Framework Programme of R&TD? (16.7.96);
5. Research, innovation and economic development - Poitou-Charentes, a case study (8.7.96);
6. Signs of worrying trends in European investment in pharmaceutical R&D (11.6.96);
7. Beyond the myth of venture capital (19.3.96);
8. Structural differences in the development of biotechnology in the USA and Europe (30.1.96);
9. AIDS in Thailand (18.12.95);
10. Attenuated live vaccines (30.10.95).

All these notes, taken together and representing a year and a half's work, total barely 24 pages. Annex 1 to the note of 8 July 1996 contains a list of 13 'journeys to Châtellerault' (a town in Poitou-Charentes), stating the dates and places of the visits (between January and the end of May 1996). Annex 2 to the same note lists Community financing of research in Poitou-Charentes in 1996.

8.1.10. Altogether, during the period of this contract, Mr Berthelot apparently undertook 17 missions, including 13 to Châtellerault, one to Issoudun (in Poitou-Charentes) and the last one in Marseilles, it seems that two of them ultimately did not take place. In the box marked 'purpose' on the application forms for the mission orders, Mr Berthelot always entered exactly the same phrase: 'Performance of specific duties at the direct request of the Commissioner'. Altogether, Mr Berthelot spent at least 41 days on mission to Châtellerault, paid for out of the Community budget.

8.1.11. It was not until 2 October 1997 that, following an internal audit in DG XII, the Deputy Financial Controller took an interest in the candidacy, work performed and final report of the visitor in question and sent a letter to DG XII.

The latter did not reply, despite several reminders, until 27 April 1998: it then merely stated that the final report requested was not in the file and claimed that the person concerned had serious health problems; the Deputy Financial Controller recalled in a note dated 30 June 1998 that he would also like to receive the other information which he had requested concerning this case, particularly details of the places and nature of the missions undertaken by the person concerned, including those in respect of which payments were made on the following dates; DG XII replied on 30 July 1998.

The contract with the Joint Research Centre: 1 March 1997 - 31 December 1997

8.1.12. This contract was concluded for one year but terminated prematurely on grounds of illness. Unlike in the case of the previous contract, the provisions applicable to this second contract - Administrative Directives applicable to visiting scientists to the Joint Research Centre - include a third paragraph which reads:

(c) any other person of high scientific standing whose knowledge can be used to good advantage by the JRC in the scientific work the performance of which has been entrusted to it.

8.1.13. The Commission Administration confirmed in its letter of 24 March 1998, in reply to comments by the Financial Controller, that 'Mr Berthelot has been awarded visiting scientist status in accordance with Article 1(1)(c)...'.

8.1.14. Another difference from the previous contract was that, in the draft contract proposed by the Director-General to the Head of the Human Resources Unit of the JRC, it was proposed that in view of the level of competence and experience of Mr Berthelot, his remuneration should be increased by 25%. This corresponds to Article 2(3) of the above Administrative Directives, which lays down that on a proposal from the Director of the receiving institute, the Director-General of the JRC may, exceptionally, permit the remuneration to be increased by 25% for reasons based on the competence and experience of the visitor.

8.1.15. Again unlike in the case of the previous contract, this time the Administration specified a short description of the planned work: participating, in close contact with Mrs E. Cresson's private office and the Commissioner, in the preparation of the 5th Framework Programme and of specific programmes in the field of the life sciences. Liaising with certain national research circles, particularly in France... Work within the programme: exchanges of views with the Commissioner. Attending meetings at the Commission and elsewhere...; this Administration document also specifies that 'Mr Berthelot has been selected, in accordance with the approval procedure presently in force, for a visiting period...'; these terms, and the above-mentioned increase in remuneration, were confirmed in the letter of appointment sent to the person concerned on 29 January 1997 and approved by Financial Control (DG XX).

8.1.16. On 11 December 1997, Mr Berthelot forwarded to the acting Director-General 'a brief summary of my fields of work' and informed him of the state of his health (heart attack in April 1997) with a view to terminating the contract. The summary consists of three very vague and miscellaneous paragraphs which mention AIDS, the Second-Chance School and electric vehicles. On the same date, the recipient of this letter thanked Mr Berthelot for all the information provided and for all his efforts to promote European research.

The intervention of the Deputy Financial Controller

8.1.17. On 14 September 1998, the Deputy Financial Controller informed the Financial Controller of the steps he had taken vis-à-vis DG XII and the JRC, taking the view that it was difficult not to conclude that Mr Berthelot's visiting scientist duties in 1996 and 1997 had been - primarily at least - a way of remunerating Mrs Cresson's adviser in connection with Mrs Cresson's work as mayor of Châtellerault. Subject to proof to the contrary, this was an abuse of public funds, as appropriations from the Community budget may not be used to finance the remuneration or other expenses of an adviser to a mayor in a Member State of the Community.

8.1.18. By letter of 9 November 1998, the above-mentioned Deputy Financial Controller submitted to the Financial Controller the draft of a letter to the Directors-General of DG XII and the JRC seeking their comments on a number of points and asking them 'to consider whether a recovery order should be prepared for all or part of the payments shown in Annex III and Annex IV (amounts paid on the DG XII contracts and amounts paid on the JRC contracts)'. The Director-General for Financial Control does not seem to have sent this draft letter to the appropriate Directors-General.

8.1.19. It was only on 7 December 1998 that the Director-General of the JRC asked Mr Berthelot to send as soon as possible a copy of any information, opinion, report or background paper he had submitted either to Mrs Cresson or to her private office. A virtually identical letter containing the same request was sent to Mrs Cresson's Chef de cabinet.

8.1.20. This belated request for information was the outcome only of an exchange of correspondence which began with a letter of 1 December 1997 from the Deputy Financial Controller asking the above-mentioned Director-General for information about the case. This first letter was supplemented by another, dated 20 February 1998, in which the Deputy Financial Controller in particular asked for a statement of 'the particular qualifications and experience of the person concerned which fulfil the conditions of a scientific visitor... and whether his letter of 11.12.97 should be considered as the report...'. He added, 'Could I also ask you to explain why a 12 months contract was proposed by the JRC after the person concerned had already spent 18 months as a scientific visitor at DG XII since ... the Directive limits the duration of the visit to a maximum of 24 months'.

8.1.21. On 10 January 1999, Mr Berthelot's wife replied to the Director-General of the JRC, informing him that because of the lengthy period which her husband would have to spend in hospital, she could not comply with his requests. Her husband would be able to reply himself once his health improved.


Summary and discussion of grounds for complaint

8.1.22. The objective grounds for complaint about Mr Berthelot's recruitment by the Commission are as follows:


8.1.23. In the case of his first contract with DG XII, his appointment was manifestly irregular, being contrary to the rules in force, in spite of the Commissioner's needs (apparently at the interface between science and administration). Moreover, it may be deduced a contrario that there was no basis for the contract with DG XII, since the contract at the JRC was based on subparagraph (c) of the internal directives and this subparagraph did not exist in the case of the first contract. In addition, his four-month contract with ANVAR could not under any circumstances justify his appointment by DG XII, as the statement of facts makes clear. Furthermore, the nature of his duties is not stated in the first contract.

8.1.24. Nor can the contract with ANVAR alter the unjustified nature of his employment by the JRC, as it does not qualify him as 'any other person of high scientific standing'. An examination of Mr Berthelot's professional career (between 1958 and 1992) does not reveal any trace of scientific work. Moreover, a comparison with the CVs of other 'visiting scientists' leads to the conclusion that their cases are hardly comparable to that of Mr Berthelot.

In sum, the two contracts are irregular because they lack a legal basis, so that Mr Berthelot's applications ought to have been declared inadmissible.

The duration of the appointments

8.1.25. The duration of the appointments at the Commission was excessive, since his contract with the JRC took the total length of his contracts with the Commission to 30 months (18 months at DG XII and 12 at the JRC), whereas Article 1(4) or (5) of the provisions applicable (Directives for DG XII and the JRC) restrict total contract periods to a maximum of 24 months.


8.1.26. Virtually all his missions were to Châtellerault. On this essential point in the case, we consider it highly unlikely that these missions could be justified in the interests of the Commission. That strongly suggests (despite the above-mentioned note of 8 July 1996) that the missions must have been mainly undertaken in the personal interest of Mrs Cresson when mayor of that town. Such a situation gives rise to a confusion of interests between Mrs Cresson's dual status as a Commissioner and as Mayor.

Failure to produce work

8.1.27. Finally, there is the failure to produce even a minimum quantity of work of interest to the Commission and, particularly, a final report. A comparison with the reports normally submitted by visiting scientists makes this very clear.

8.1.28. This failure to produce a minimum quantity of work raises the question of a possible recovery of the payments made on grounds of non-performance by Mr Berthelot at the required level. At all events, the payments made to him during his illness and in respect of absences seem to have been completely unjustified, as he was supposed to be covered by his social security scheme and his pension. The penultimate paragraph of the JRC's aforementioned letter of appointment of 29 January 1997 stated, 'concerning social cover, a document certifying your membership to a sickness insurance scheme is required throughout your visit. Insurance against the risk of accidents which may occur is also required during the same period', which corresponds to Article 6 of the administrative directives applicable.

Altogether, some BEF 5.5 million was paid directly to Mr Berthelot by the Commission (contracts with DG XII and the JRC), the recovery of which should be considered.

Inadequate compliance with administrative procedure

8.1.29. When appearing before the Committee on Budgetary Control on 28 October 1998, Mrs Cresson said that Mr Berthelot's appointment as a visiting scientist was approved by the Financial Controller. If they were qualified and the procedures were complied with, there is no reason why these recommendations should not be acted upon, on condition that the generally applicable rules were strictly respected, as regards both administrative procedure and qualifications.

8.1.30. It emerges from the file that the administrative procedure (letter of recruitment, offer of appointment, approval by the Financial Controller, etc.) proceeded unhindered within the Commission and that the decisions - for example concerning his appointment - giving rise to the case were taken, at least formally, directly by those responsible in DG XII and the JRC without any intervention by the Commissioner, which is apparent from the documents in the file. The violation of certain essential aspects of the internal administrative directives was raised only at the end of 1997 by Financial Control when performing its retrospective audits.

8.1.31. Under the circumstances, when the various administrative authorities fell into line, it is necessary to ascertain the share of responsibility attributable to the Commission Administration (DG XII, JRC and DG XX - Financial Control) and the share attributable to Mrs Cresson. Is it reasonable to suppose that the administrative procedure could have been completed if the person concerned had not been a member of Mrs Cresson's personal entourage?

8.1.32. In view of the numerous shortcomings of the administrative file which has been examined, it seems unlikely that the answer could be yes.

An aspect difficult to justify: the missions to Châtellerault

8.1.33. The missions to Châtellerault (virtually all the missions undertaken) are hard to justify purely from the Community's point of view, without considering the significance of that town and of its links with the Commissioner, who was its mayor until the end of 1997.

8.1.34. This is all the more pertinent in view of the fact that, as described in the section headed 'Facts', the purpose of the mission orders was simply 'Performance of specific duties at the request of the Commissioner'. It is hard to understand why Châtellerault and the surrounding region should be almost the sole centre of interest of a visiting scientist whose remit in theory covered very wide fields, as the above-mentioned notes sent to the Commissioner, at least, attest.

The above-mentioned note of 8 July 1996 (without entry stamp or any registration number) , which in theory constitutes the culmination of the work which he did during his missions to Châtellerault, comprises only seven pages (not counting the annexes), and they are extremely vague and schematic and contain no hard information. Its added value is not particularly obvious, therefore. In sum, it can hardly be regarded as the outcome of more than 40 days spent on mission in the region.

These missions may, therefore, be regarded as evidence of the fictitious nature of the 'scientific advice' which Mr Berthelot was in principle deemed to be giving, and demonstrate his failure to submit any work of interest to the Community in this capacity.

A case of favouritism

8.1.35. In conclusion, what we have here is a clear-cut case of favouritism. A person whose qualifications did not correspond to the various posts to which he was recruited was nonetheless employed. The work performed was manifestly deficient in terms of quantity, quality and relevance. The Community did not get value for money.

8.1.36. Moreover, the person recruited worked mainly as a personal staff member of the Commissioner, and there are very strong grounds for believing that he was often used in a manner which had little to do with the Commissioner's work on behalf of Europe.

8.1.37. The competent administrative authorities signed the contracts, and Financial Control approved them beforehand. Despite the lack of a legal basis, it seems that there were no hesitations on their part.

8.1.38. Compliance with formal requirements does not exonerate the beneficiaries of their responsibility, whether it be the employer (Mrs Cresson) or the employee (Mr Berthelot). Quite the opposite: as he was a friend of hers, Mrs Cresson, as a Commissioner, ought to have exercised heightened vigilance throughout this affair.

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8.2. Mr Liikanen

Two contracts signed by Mrs Liikanen

8.2.1. Two contracts concluded between Mrs Liikanen and the Commission (DG V) have been criticised in the press and have led Members of the European Parliament to table a number of written questions.

8.2.2. Mrs Liikanen, whose career began in 1973, has been an official of STAKES, the Finnish National Research and Development Centre for health and social affairs, since 1994. She has worked as a head of project, first in Finland and then, as from 1 September 1996, at STAKES' European Union liaison office in Brussels.

8.2.3. Mrs Liikanen signed or jointly signed two contracts with the Commission:

1st contract:

8.2.4. In 1994, the Commission granted a subsidy of ECU 6000 under the equal opportunities programme, on the basis of the estimated cost of the project, to the Finnish association Women 96 Network, chaired by Mrs Liikanen. This subsidy was for a programme to promote the equal opportunities dimension in the public debate about Europe in Finland. The project lasted 13 months, from September 1995 to October 1996; in view of the actual cost of the project, the Commission, despite having agreed to contribute ECU 6000, in the event paid ECU 4970 towards it.

8.2.5. Mrs Liikanen did not receive any remuneration in connection with this project.

2nd contract:

8.2.6. The second contract was concluded on the basis of a call for tenders issued in 1994, at a time when the current Commission had not yet taken office. The project was selected by DG V in 1995, but for reasons relating to the availability of budget funds, the contract was not signed until 1996, covering the period 1 February 1996 to 1 November 1997. Mrs Liikanen, in her capacity as head of project, signed it jointly with the Director-General of STAKES. The subject of the contract was the situation of elderly women (SEW), and a subsidy of ECU 243 100 was awarded for it. The project was developed in partnership with Greece, Ireland and Portugal and coordinated by Mrs Liikanen as a representative of the Brussels Liaison Office.

8.2.7. In view of the total cost of the project, the Commission actually paid ECU 207 779 towards it. The project was terminated and its results published.

8.2.8. Commissioner Liikanen also notified the payments connected with his wife's attendance at a meeting of experts, namely one payment of BEF 2600, representing a train journey to attend a two-day meeting organised by DG XII, and a payment of BEF 6000 made by DG IX in 1998 for her attendance at a conference organised by DG X in January 1998.

8.2.9. STAKES concluded several contracts with the Commission which did not involve Mrs Liikanen.

8.2.10. The Committee of Experts concluded that Mrs Liikanen's professional life was genuinely independent of that of her husband and that the allegations concerning both Mr and Mrs Liikanen were unfounded.

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8.3. Mr Marín

The appointment of Mr Marín's wife at the Commission

8.3.1. The criticisms levelled at Mr Marín concern his wife's appointment at a high grade in category B.

8.3.2. Mrs Ortiz Bru, Mr Marín's wife, is a Commission official in grade B2.

8.3.3. When the Community was enlarged to include Spain and Portugal, the Council adopted, on 12 December 1985, Regulation No 3517/85 laying down special and temporary measures applicable to the recruitment of Spanish and Portuguese officials. Article 1(2) provided for appointments to intermediate and higher grade posts in each category to be decided after a competition on the basis of qualifications. The Commission made use of this procedure to fill intermediate-grade posts in a number of categories and held competition COM/B/612 to establish a reserve list for recruitment of assistants of Spanish nationality leading to career bracket B3/B2.

8.3.4. The Committee of Experts has studied the notice of competition, the selection board's report and the reserve list. Its findings were as follows:

- 377 applications were registered, 99 people were called for interview, and the Selection Board placed 48 successful candidates on the reserve list. 29 were placed on list 1 (general administration), divided into two groups according to merit, the first comprising seven candidates, the second 22. Mrs Ortiz Bru was in the second merit group. All the candidates in the first group were recruited. Mrs Ortiz Bru was appointed on 1 October 1988.

8.3.5. Having examined the qualifications of Mrs Ortiz Bru, the Committee of Experts found that they complied with the conditions required by the notice of competition. Consequently, it took the view that the recruitment of this official to grade B3 did not involve any irregularity.

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8.4. Mr Pinheiro

Mrs Pinheiro

8.4.1. On 13 February 1993, the Permanent Representation of Portugal submitted to DG IX - Personnel and Administration - an application from Mrs Pinheiro, a professor at the University of Minho. In view of her qualifications and her scientific and technical research work, published in numerous scientific journals, Mrs Pinheiro was seconded to the Commission as a national expert from 5 May 1993 to 4 May 1994. Her secondment was twice extended for a year and terminated on 4 May 1996 in accordance with the internal rules applicable.

8.4.2. Her secondment did not entail any expense for the Commission. Mrs Pinheiro was paid by her Portuguese employer. The Community did not pay her any daily allowance, nor did it reimburse her travelling expenses although national experts on secondment are entitled to reimbursement provided that they demonstrate that they have incurred expenses which justify such reimbursement.

8.4.3. The Committee of Experts concluded that the allegations about Mrs Pinheiro's position at the Commission were unfounded.

Mr Pinheiro's brother-in-law

8.4.4. Mr Pinheiro spoke about the case of his brother-in-law, Mr Vieira Paisana, before the Committee of Experts.

8.4.5. Most of Mr Vieira Paisana 's professional experience was as a member or head of the private office of various Portuguese Junior Ministers, then, between 1986 and 1996, as an adviser to the Permanent Representation of Portugal to the European Union. Since April 1996, Mr Vieira Paisana has been a member of the private office of Commissioner Pinheiro responsible for external relations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific States and with South Africa.

8.4.6. Before the Committee of Experts, the Commissioner said that Mr Vieira Paisana's remuneration at the Portuguese Representation was slightly higher than the one which he received at the Commission.

8.4.7. The Committee of Experts decided that, given Mr Vieira Paisana's professional experience as Chef de cabinet and then over a period of ten years at the Portuguese Representation, he possessed the requisite qualifications to hold one of the six posts allocated to the Commissioner's private office.

8.4.8. The Committee concluded that the recruitment of Mr Vieira Paisana did not involve any irregularity. However, it felt that it would have been more prudent on the part of Mr Pinheiro if he had not appointed his own brother-in-law.

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8.5. Mr Santer

La Générale des Métaux Précieux and Off-Shore Ecologies Ltd

8.5.1. Allegations have been made about Mr Santer in the press, particularly in an article asserting that a preliminary inquiry had been instituted by the Luxembourg Public Prosecutor's Office concerning him. This inquiry concerned the regularity under Luxembourg law of the commercial operations of a company (la Générale des Métaux Précieux (GMP)) whose founders and shareholders were also said to have set up an off-shore company in Ireland, Off-Shore Ecologies Ltd. The latter allegedly wished to secure a favourable position with a view to the major projects to dismantle North Sea oil platforms, which would receive Community funding. The names of President Santer and his son are said to have appeared in a preparatory document relating to Off-Shore Ecologies Ltd identifying them as potential Honorary Chairman and legal adviser respectively.

8.5.2. Upon inquiry, the Public Prosecutor's Office at the Luxembourg District Court categorically denied these claims, which it described as pure fantasy. It also stated that no inquiry concerning Mr Santer or any member of his family was in progress and that there were no grounds for such a measure.

8.5.3. Mr Santer forwarded to the Committee a letter from the Public Prosecutor's Office at the Luxembourg District Court and the official records of the inquiry into GMP and Off-Shore Ecologies. A study of these documents shows that the claims reported in the press are without foundation.

8.5.4. Lastly, according to a journalist, the Luxembourg judicial authorities have been investigating the real estate interests of Mr Santer's wife, who, 'in one way or another', was said to have a holding in companies managing buildings used by the European Community. The Luxembourg Minister of Justice denied these claims in a communication dated 8 January 1999.

8.5.5. The Committee considers the allegations about Mr Santer to be unfounded.

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8.6. Mrs Wulf-Mathies

The appointment of Mr Vogel

8.6.1. Mr Vogel was appointed by DG XVI as a legal expert to work in the private office of Mrs Wulf-Mathies , who readily acknowledged that she had long been acquainted with Mrs Vogel. He signed a one-year contract as an auxiliary staff member assigned to DG XVI; the contract was signed by the Director-General of DG IX - Personnel and Administration.

8.6.2. Mr Vogel is a jurist. He first served as a judge on a labour tribunal; since 1994, he has taught labour law, environmental law and food law with a view to its integration with environmental policy.

8.6.3. At the Commission, Mr Vogel dealt with legal issues relating to the Structural Funds, with particular regard to environmental policy and the imposition of penalties for offences.

8.6.4. Before the Committee of Independent Experts, Mrs Wulf-Mathies explained that Mr Vogel had been appointed by DG XVI as her legal adviser because she needed and independent member of staff in order to explore new avenues in relations with the Member States, with a view to strengthening the Commission's role by making greater use of penalties. The Committee accepted this explanation but considered that, if Mrs Wulf-Mathies wished to recruit Mr Vogel, she should have appointed him to one of the posts in her private office. Mr Vogel's recruitment by DG XVI for Mrs Wulf-Mathies' private office, though admissible on its merits, could be regarded as bordering on an inappropriate procedure.

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