Monday

24th Feb 2020

Britain, Sweden and Netherlands refuse to sign off EU accounts

  • Auditors have found too many errors in the EU books for 17 years in a row (Photo: Jorge Franganillo)

EU finance ministers on Tuesday (21 February) rubberstamped the bloc's accounts for 2010, but Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands opposed the move, noting that auditors found too many errors for the seventeenth year in a row.

"In these challenging times, member states should uphold the same high standards for the EU budget as they would for national budgets. We should remember that national taxpayers stand behind the EU budget, and that's why we are calling for important and urgent improvements to the quality of EU financial management," the British, Dutch and Swedish finance ministers said in a joint statement.

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Their no-vote is symbolic, since the accounts were approved by their colleagues by qualified majority. But it does stir up the debate ahead of the European Parliament's vote later this spring, when MEPs may choose not to sign off on some of the spending.

For the seventeenth year in a row, the European Court of Auditors earlier this year found errors above the two percent threshold required for a clean bill of health, mostly in the way structural funds are used in infrastructure projects. After a gradual decline in recent years, the error rate in the 2010 budget increased to 3.7 percent, up from 3.2 percent the previous year, which is why the three countries decided to vote no instead of abstaining as they usually do.

"Current scarcity of public resources across the EU increases the importance of sound financial management of EU funds and that the credibility of EU spending depends crucially on orderly accounting of EU expenditure," the three said in their common position.

They also call on the EU commission to follow up on recommendations by auditors to simplify rules and improve the management of programmes in the view of the next common budget for 2014-2020.

"Improving the quality of EU spending should be given a high priority, in order to attain significantly better results in the annual reports on the EU budget," they added.

Member states also have to take "full responsibility" for putting in place effective controls for the management of EU funds at national level and provide "full, transparent and accurate data" on how they spend these monies.

The three ministers sent their position to the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, saying they hoped their statement will be "taken into full account when deliberating" on the accounts.

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