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EU: European Commission Defends Prodi

The EU's executive body was forced on the defensive yesterday over reports that its president, Romano Prodi, is coming under increasing criticism from fellow commission members and European leaders. Brussels correspondent Ahto Lobjakas reports.

Brussels, 5 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Recent reports in European media attacking the leadership of Romani Prodi yesterday have captured the attention of the EU's European Commission. Addressing journalists at noon yesterday, Prodi's spokesman, Ricardo Levi, announced that the commissioners discussed the press reports at a closed session.

"They had a long political discussion on the achievements of the commission, on the results of the work of the commission from September until now, [and] obviously on what was written in the press in these days."

A spate of criticism of Prodi was sparked by the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 4 April. The German newspaper reported that many commissioners were unhappy with Prodi's leadership, which they called weak and undynamic. Prodi, his critics say, is a poor communicator and prone to gaffes.

Since taking charge of the commission last September, Prodi has come under criticism for what is seen as his excessive ambition. He has been accused in European papers of trying to force on the EU a date for enlargement and trying to excessively broaden the scope of EU internal reforms. In what was widely seen as a faux pas last January, he invited Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi to Brussels without adequately consulting European governments.

At last month's EU summit in Lisbon, observers noted that EU heads of government appeared keen to assert authority over the union's decision-making process. That, along with a newly energized European Parliament, could undermine the commissions role.

Yet the commission denied today that Prodi's position is under any threat. Spokesman Levi said Prodi had had talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French President Jacques Chirac, and the holder of the current EU presidency, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres. All three, the spokesman said, affirmed their full confidence in Prodi.