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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Here we go again

The European Court of Auditors has, for the 15th year in a row, today refused to sign off the EU's accounts.

EU anti-fraud Commissioner Siim Kallas anticipated this predicatable development in a piece on EUobserver yesterday in which he attempted to pin the blame for the mismanagement of EU funds on national governments and regional authorities.

(In classic Commission style, he also tried to ward off all critcism and shut down debate by getting in there first with the trademark 'anti-EU' jibe: "some quarters will yet again use the report to promote their own anti-EU agendas, which have little or nothing to do with the report's findings.")

But, as we argue today in a new briefing, the problem is with the EU budget itself. It is dominated by two failing policies which even the current UK Government is essentially opposed to: the Common Agricultural Policy, and the so-called Structural Funds. The sheer size and complexity of these two top-down spending programmes means the EU's budget is wide open to waste and mismanagement, regardless of whether the blame lays with the Commission or the member states. The budget therefore represents extremely bad value for taxpayers' money.

Also, while mismanagement of the accounts continues to be problematic, arguably the most important issue is the fact that the EU budget is hugely wasteful and irrational in terms of what the money is actually spent on, and where the money is spent.

To illustrate this, we have today published a light-hearted list of 50 new examples of EU waste, which may make you smile and despair in equal measure.


European Commission Representation in the UK said...

Indeed, here we go again. Open Europe's "research" of 50 examples of EU 'fraud and waste' is a compilation of excerpts from EU project descriptions published by the EU, but then presented out of their context by Open Europe in a populist manner. However, the list has nothing to do with the findings of the Court of Auditors (but has already been misinterpreted as such e.g. by Mail Online). The reader concerned about the state of EU finances after reading Open Europe's piece should rest assured: the 2008 EU accounts were signed off and the majority of EU payments were found to be correct. Why not check for yourself what the Court says at http://eca.europa.eu/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/3260294.PDF

Open Europe blog team said...

Thanks for that.

Firstly, in the press release linked to on the blog post, we repeated the Court's conclusions that the Commission's own accounts and the bulk of agriculture spending were given a 'qualified' opinion. However, rural development spending and the Structural Funds did not clear the hurdle. So you are wrong to claim that the EU's 2008 accounts were "signed off".

Secondly, are you saying that the 50 cases provided are not examples of EU waste?

Open Europe blog team said...

sorry - typo - that should read 'unqualified' opinion

European Commission in the UK said...

Hello again

We are in the process of checking out some of the cases you raise. Concerning the so-called "Donkeypedia", although this was labelled as part of the activities of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, it didn't receive any EU budget funding, but was funded entirely from sources within the Netherlands.

Regarding several of your other examples, you are of course entirely free to think that promoting young peoples' understanding of different European cultures is not relevant, but the fact is that many administrations across the continent seem to think otherwise, and are willing to put their money into it. Europe is about more than just the economy.

Anonymous said...

There is only one question and it should be asked of the public do we stay in Europe or do we get out

Thomas said...

that list of waste was ridiculous! I couldn't believe the one with the donkey... searched for it online, I wonder why it got funding from the EU budget.

Thomas said...

well, turns out (reading the comments) it actually wasn't funded by the EU. ^^

Pablo said...

Maybe you should mention that British taxpayers are only concerned by the spenditure (or waste) of european funds in the UK?

Indeed France is the bigger receiver of ACP funds... But France is still a net contributor of th EC Budget!

Anonymous said...

At the age of 73 I despair and am often near to tears at the way the EU has been given the freedom to spend money, seemingly without any thought of the individuals who have no option in saying how their contributions are used.
I'm glad that at my age I will not be around to witness the total collapse of England (and the UK as a whole) as an independent, once very proud country.

Anonymous said...

€198.000 for a puppet theatre in the Baltics? Why not just send the one from Westminster?

Open Europe blog team said...

A few important points:

Donkeypedia is listed among the 'projects' on the EU's Year of Intercultural Dialogue website, and Donkeypedia itself carries the logo on its own webpage. It is also showcased on the Year's website as representative of a 'reflection of European identities'. The Year of Intercultural Dialogue has a budget of 7 million euros from the European Commission. How is the taxpayer to know which of the projects listed on the website is funded by the budget, and which aren't? And if it has not received EU funds, why on earth is it listed as a project on the website?

Part of the very point we are making about the EU budget is the fact that the funding streams are so incredibly opaque. How can there be accountability if it's not clear where the funds are going?

According to a press release on the Year of Intercultural Dialogue initiative, more than 100 'cooperation' projects received funding. Why is there no list of these 100 projects on the website? Why can't we find out how much projects received, and which ones received the cash?

You say that Donkeypedia received no EU funds - can you say for sure that none of the 'partners' listed on its website have channelled any EU money into it?

In any case, taxpayers are paying for the Year of Intercultural Dialogue, for the people running the website and giving support to such ridiculous projects. It seems pretty dubious to showcase and support a project using EU money, and then turn around and try to dissociate the Commission from it altogether.

Open Europe blog team said...

The above comment is in response to the European Commission in the UK. :-)

George said...

We have had a NON-ELECTED person wasting all of our resources be it Pensions/Gold/Oil/Gas/Values, and he signed a piece of paper allowing another bunch of wasters to take control over all that we are, where is OUR view that we are an 'Island Country with an Island attitude', we have been known as "Great" but even that has NOW been eroded by an unelected man, why are we being dragged into this non sensible EU it does NOT suit the ways of any of us and as soon as we have a 'Proper' government we should strive to escape the lunacy that we have been signed up to.
Help us have our country back please, as soon as possible.