Appearing before a closed-door extraordinary meeting of the parliament’s Conference of Presidents, attended by budgetary affairs committee members, Prodi said he had ‘no reason to ask any commissioner to assume political responsibility and resign’ over the Eurostat affair.
Calls have been made for economic and monetary affairs commissioner Pedro Solbes to fall on his sword, as he is responsible for Eurostat.
The scandal allegedly involves cases of double accounting and fictitious contracts, allowing sums of around ? ¬1m to bypass normal budgetary controls.
Prodi however declared the most serious instances of malpractice uncovered at Eurostat ‘would have very little chance of occurring now’, following the introduction of recent accounting reforms.
However, he warned progress would take time, and while he had ‘left not a single stone unturned’, the commission was ‘not a little sailing boat that can tack on a pull of the tiller. It is a big ship that takes time and distance to come about’.
Acknowledging the embarrassment caused by the Eurostat scandal – Prodi was appointed to sweep away the corruption, fraud and mismanagement of the tenure of his predecessor Jacques Santer – he said: ‘I began my term of office with the slogan “Zero tolerance for fraud”. I stand by that pledge.’
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