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Brussels, 19 July 2004

Q&A on the Commission’s position in the case of Ms Cresson

What are the exact allegations against Ms Cresson?

The allegation is that Ms Cresson breached her obligations as a Commissioner under article 213 of the EC Treaty, which says that a Commissioner shall refrain from any action incompatible with their duties. The specific allegation is that she acted out of favouritism and/or gross negligence with regard to the offering and granting of contracts to two associates.

Why are you not dropping the charges, since the Belgian magistrates have decided that there is no case to answer?

The Belgian magistrates were responsible for determining whether Ms Cresson had breached Belgian criminal law in one of the two cases. The European Court of Justice will be asked to decide whether Ms Cresson respected her obligations as a Commissioner under article 213 of the EC Treaty. Clearly, no citizen should breach the penal code and this is what the Belgian case was about. However, Commissioners have specific obligations in terms of their conduct arising from their office and it is this issue that is being addressed in the referral of the the case to the ECJ under Article 213 of the EC Treaty.

The Belgian magistrates have decided that there was no case to pursue in relation to the charges offraud and forgery in one of the cases, whereas the Commission’s referral to the Court is based on allegations of “favouritism” and “gross negligence” in relation to two individuals. The Commission’s case, therefore, concerns different allegations, albeit in respect of some of the same incidents In fact, the closure of the Belgian case implies that the rule whereby “criminal proceedings have primacy over civil proceedings” is now devoid of purpose. There is, therefore, now no impediment to the Court, on a referral from the Commission under Article 213, giving its ruling.

In which cases are you claiming that Ms Cresson was either acting out of favouritism or gross negligence?

The Commission considers that Ms Cresson has a case to answer with regard to the offering and/or granting of contracts by the Commission to two of her associates. It reserves its comments on the substance for the European Court of Justice.

The facts have taken place more than five years ago. Why pursue this case now?

The Commission is drawing the legal consequences from the outcome of the thorough investigations which have taken place in the past five years in a novel and very complex case in which it decided to grant full rights of defence to Ms Cresson before referring the case to the ECJ. There has been no interruption, as the chronology proves.

Have any officials been disciplined in the context of the Cresson file?

Disciplinary procedures are pending against 10 members of staff. The Commission will wait for the outcome of the case referred to the European Court of Justice before deciding whether to pursue or close these procedures.

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