Tuesday

12th Dec 2017

Auditor praises EU accounts despite problems

The European Court of Auditors on Monday (10 November) gave for the fist time a "clean bill of health" to the EU's accounting books, while stressing that most of the irregularities with EU funds lie in the responsibility of national governments.

Due to the "improvements that have taken place" in technical accounting terms, the reservations expressed in the previous reports "are no longer necessary," allowing the court for the first time in 14 years to provide a "clean opinion" on the EU's annual accounts for 2007, Vitor Caldeira, the president of the European Court of Auditors, told MEPs on Monday.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Anti-fraud commissioner Siim Kallas warned governments he would cut payments if they do not clean up their act (Photo: European Commission)

But the report still finds a high number of irregularities in the actual spending of EU structural funds (€42 billion) - where it estimates that "at least 11 percent of the value of reimbursed cost claims should not have been paid out." According to the court's criteria, the acceptable irregularity threshold lies at 5 percent.

Another "red area" where the court found a high number of errors was agriculture and rural development (€51 billion euro).

On the EU's measures to reform the management of its budget, the court "identified further progress in the [European] Commission's supervisory and control systems, in particular in the area of monitoring and reporting."

Yet the "improved high level controls," including the commission's supervision of member state "cannot compensate for inadequate lower level controls, including on-the-spot-checks," actions which lie in the area of responsibility of national governments, Mr Caldeira stressed.

Tougher stance from the commission

EU commissioner for administration, audit and anti-fraud, Siim Kallas also underlined on Monday that the bloc's executive body "shall not hesitate to take a tough stance and suspend payments until all member states implement adequate corrective measures. And where errors have financial impact, we shall recover the money."

"I do hope the report will also mobilise member states to do their job better so that errors on the ground are prevented and corrected," he said.

Following last year's report from the Court of Auditors, the European Commission has toughened its stance on suspending payments and recovering money where irregularities were found. The "financial correction" imposed on member states in 2008 amounted to €843 million, almost double than in 2007. Another €1.5 billion is expected to be recovered by March 2009.

Among the countries hit by these "corrective measures" this year were Italy, UK, Bulgaria and Luxembourg.

Yet according to the court's president, "corrective actions currently cannot yet be considered to be effective in mitigating errors of legality and/or regularity."

"In some cases, especially agriculture, correction normally means making national tax payers pay for part of the costs of misapplied schemes, not recovering payments from those directly involved," Mr Caldeira said.

On this matter, commission spokesman Michael Mann explained to EUobserver that the national governments "are bound to recover the undue payments from the beneficiaries" and that "nobody would want an army of EU inspectors go across Europe to recover the money from the farmers."

'Name and shame' governments

German Socialist MEP Herbert Bosch, chairman of the budgetary control committee, told EUobserver that the report highlights the need for national governments to take action, as well as to redesign some of the budgetary policies, since they are marred by errors year by year.

"Member states need to take responsibility. We can't go on like this. One first step would be for member states to provide national declarations on the expenditures," he said.

In a similar move, British Conservative MEP James Elles called for national governments to be "named and shamed" by the European Commission.

"Those governments failing to take responsibility for EU funds should be named and shamed. Should this lack of importance in the Council of Ministers continue, we must get a grip and withhold monies they need such as for Common Foreign and Security Policy actions," Mr Elles said in a press release.

Commission wants more centralised eurozone by 2019

EU leaders will discuss at their summit next week the commission's proposals, which include a European Monetary Fund and an EU finance minister - but no eurozone budget, as proposed by French president Emmanuel Macron.

EU blacklists 17 tax havens, avoids sanctions

Finance ministers pointed out 'non-cooperative' entities and set up a second 'grey' list of more than 40 countries that have promised to improve their tax practices.

EU blacklists 17 tax havens, avoids sanctions

Finance ministers pointed out 'non-cooperative' entities and set up a second 'grey' list of more than 40 countries that have promised to improve their tax practices.

News in Brief

  1. EU to Israel: Don't expect us to move embassies
  2. EU Commission condemns anti-semitic 'Jerusalem' protests
  3. Ministers have 'lots of questions' on new CAP plans
  4. Commission: Brexit agreement is 'deal between gentlemen'
  5. 25 EU states sign defence cooperation pact
  6. Netanyahu wants 'hardy' talks with EU on Jerusalem
  7. French centre-right elects new leader
  8. Germany and UK increase arms sales

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Alignment with EU is 'last resort', May tells MPs
  2. Iceland: further from EU membership than ever
  3. Israel presses Jerusalem claim in EU capital
  4. From dark coal toward a brighter future
  5. UK casts doubt on EU deal in 'bizarre' twist
  6. Romania wants EU signal on Schengen membership
  7. Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants
  8. No chance of expanding EU warrant crime list

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  3. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  5. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  6. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  7. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  9. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  10. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level