Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Out on a limb

Hardly noticed by the press, there appears to be a ECOFIN council today, where the Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos has pledged that the Netherlands will vote against approving the annual financial statement of the European Union for 2007.

Last year, too Bos voted against the budget, for the first time, "thereby annoying the European Commission". It may only be a symbolic gesture, but it's something.

The European Court of Auditors has already said that the spending of billions of euros has not been properly accounted for in the EU's 2007 books, and this is the 14th year in a row that the accounts have been criticised. On a Dutch radio show last night Wouter Bos said: "In the Netherlands a Finance Minister would never approve this".

You would have thought that in no country would it be deemed acceptable to have billions of euros being squandered, with for example 54% of the Structural Funds projects and 31% of agricultural transfers being subject to "material errors" in 2007.

But it seems the Netherlands will be the only country making a stand. According to Bos, "an increasing number of countries agree with the Netherlands, but fear being punished financially should they vote against the statement."

This is despite the pledge by Ian Pearson, the Treasury’s Economic Secretary, who recently said about the mismanagement of the EU budget: "I want to be clear from the outset that the Government considers the situation to be entirely unacceptable.”

Empty words, of course.

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