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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to win friends and influence people (with other people's money)

We've consistently questioned the logic of sending taxpayers' money from Paris to Berlin via Brussels in the form of the EU's regional (or structural) funds. It seemingly makes little sense for taxpayers in economically comparable countries to subsidise each other's regional policies, only minus the Brussels admin fee.

And it turns out that the search for a logical explanation was all in vain, as, according to German MEP Markus Pieper, the use of EU-channelled money to co-finance projects in relatively wealthy member states is completely justified because it contributes towards making the EU more visible to citizens.

"In countries like Germany, France and the Netherlands, Europe shows its face through local projects in the regions," he said.

This is the kind of argument you might expect to hear from the Commission or an MEP from one of the net recipient countries, but coming from a member of Chancellor Merkel's CDU party, which is making some pretty loud noises about fiscal prudence at the moment, makes it quite odd.

And it's not like the Commission doesn't already have a sizeable pot of money to spend on EU PR.


Gwilym Rhys-Jones said...

They could always come round and give me some money. My happy smiling face would be a great advert for the EU and the feelgood factor. I would even go through the motion of growing stuff in the garden and taking it to the rubbish tip in return for the money.

Daniel Antal said...

As a matter of fact, Pirker is next in line by the preferential votes cast by Austrian voters in the 2009 elections.

There is no quick-fix here: you have to alter conflict of interest and election rules to avoid such issues.

It would be also strange if he was forced to resign so that he can be replaced by the next-in-line, thus overruling voter decision, although probably it would be the least bad solution.

He could also go ahead with himself setting an example how to make his dealings and work more transparent than others.