Wednesday

26th Apr 2017

EU freezes €4bn of Polish funds in fraud case

  • Warsaw - the money is not 'lost' the commission said (Photo: metaphox)

The European Commission has blocked over €4 billion of money for Polish roads, causing dismay in the run-up to an EU budget summit next week.

It took the decision after the Polish prosecutor accused 11 people - 10 of them CEOs of large construction firms and one of them a former director in Poland's road agency, the GDDKiA - of colluding to fix prices for tenders for EU-co-funded projects.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The frozen money concerns €4 billion of unspent Polish allocations from the EU's 2007 to 2013 budget in the "infrastructure & environment" programme.

The commission is also freezing €382 million of unspent Polish funds in its "development eastern Poland" programme.

It said in a statement to press on Wednesday (30 January) that in order to get the money flowing again, Poland must "undertake a wide-ranging control/audit to establish the scope of potential irregularities and risk of other projects having been affected."

It noted: "Where and if irregularities are detected, the Polish authorities should make financial corrections and withdraw the irregular expenditure from payment claims to the commission."

It added, using capital letters: "The commission has ZERO TOLERANCE when it comes to to fraud."

Its decision prompted stinging rebukes from the Polish side.

Poland's regional development ministry called it "absolutely unreasonable" in its statement on Wednesday.

The deputy minister for regional development, Adam Zdzieblo, called it "sudden and without justification." He added: "We believe the European Commission will withdraw it as quickly as possible."

The minister herself, Elzbieta Bienkowska, told Polish radio: "The Polish system of project selection, the choice of contractors, is absolutely just and it is Poland which is the injured party in this case [of alleged collusion]."

The furore comes ahead of next week's EU summit, where Polish leader Donald Tusk will try to persuade EU paymasters - Germany, the UK and the Netherlands - to give more money for eastern Europe in the 2014 to 2020 EU budget period.

Some Polish diplomats are quietly dismayed about the timing of the revelation.

But for her part, commission spokeswoman Shirin Wheeler, said the timing has nothing to do with Brussels.

She noted that Poland was initially notified in a letter on 21 December and that the problem hit the Polish headlines only today "probably because someone on the Polish side decided to speak to media."

She added that Poland is normally "a model of good spending," but the fact that one of the accused people is a GDDKiA director poses questions on how far the rot has spread.

"We would not be fulfilling our responsibility to Polish taxpayers and to other taxpayers if we did not seek reassurances," she told EUobserver.

Poorest regions get least out of EU funding

Countries with a poor public administration are "of course" absorbing less EU cohesion funds, meaning some of the poorest regions are getting the least out of the available money, the EU commission has said.

New anti-trust complaint looms over Microsoft

At least three security software companies “met several times” with the European Commission to complain about Microsoft’s alleged abuse of its market position. A formal case could follow.

Investigation

MEPs oppose EU agency to prevent Dieselgate II

The European Parliament said on Tuesday that there should be more EU oversight on how cars are approved, but stopped short of calling for an independent EU agency.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  2. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan
  3. Ivanka Trump to meet Merkel at Berlin women's conference
  4. Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in 20 years
  5. Nord Stream 2 to get €4.8bn from European energy firms
  6. Defeated Fillon retires from French politics
  7. Hollande: Vote Macron to avoid 'risk' for France
  8. Italy misses deadline on air quality warning

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children

Latest News

  1. Russische schwarze Kassen bedrohen EU Demokratie
  2. Libya commanders in Brussels for migration talks
  3. Mixed review for EU asylum spots in Greece and Italy
  4. France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win
  5. Free wifi plan backed by MEP committee
  6. Report: Germany blocks post-Dieselgate reform
  7. Russia suspected of Macron hack
  8. EU to exclude financial services from post-Brexit deal