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20th Jan 2019

EU innovation institute under fire by MEPs

  • ITER's building work should be completed in 2019. Costs of the experimental nuclear reactor are soaring. (Photo: Iter)

MEPs have strongly criticised how EU money is spent by members states and agencies in two separate votes on Monday and Tuesday (23-24 March).

The EU parliament budgetary control committee looked at how the 2013 EU budget was spent generally and specifically how governments managed EU money for agriculture, regional development and employment.

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In 2013, only 47 percent of EU money given to member states for regional and social projects reached their final beneficiaries.

In another case, while €443,77 million were paid out to banks in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Lithuania for rural development plans, "not a single euro reached the final beneficiaries".

"Member states seem to be less scrupulous when spending EU funds compared to the way they spend their national budget", write MEPs in their report.

"High error rates in member states stem from ineffective checks and a 'use it or lose it' attitude, in which spending EU funds becomes the main objective," they note.

The MEPs focused on the use of money under shared management by the commission and member states because it represents 80 percent of EU budget.

"We are not naming and shaming," the chair of the budgetary control committee, German centre-right MEP Ingeborg Graessle, told EUobserver.

"25 member states out of 28 have problem with the use of money. What the report really shows is the weaknesses of the system," she said.

On Monday, MEPs singled out the EU innovation agency and several research programmes, including ITER, the giant experimental nuclear fusion reactor.

They voted against validating the 2013 budget for the international thermonuclear experimental reactor which is being built in southern France with a €6.6 billion budget for the 2014-2020 period.

MEPs criticised the growing costs of the project which is being funded by the EU, Switzerland and private companies.

"The joint undertaking has not yet implemented a system at contract level to regularly monitor the cost deviations and has not updated the evaluation of the joint undertaking to the ITER project beyond the finalisation of the construction phase," they observe.

MEPs also refused to endorse the European institute of innovation and technology (EIT) 2013 budget because of a lack of transparency in payments in contracted projects and because of the use of by-invitation-only public procurement procedures.

Created in 2010 and based in Budapest, the EIT has a €2.7 billion budget for the 2014-2020 period.

"The EIT is a long-standing administrative and financial problem," said Graessle, pointing out problems with public-private partnerships signed by the agency.

"We do not really know how the EIT contributes to industry. We urge them to be more thoughtful of taxpayers," she added.

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