Tuesday

25th Jul 2017

EU agency under scrutiny for Caribbean trips

  • The agency said its Caribbean trips were 'to raise awareness of environmental issues and develop expertise in the areas of research using citizen science and biodiversity' (Photo: USFWS)

The head of the EU's environment agency has come under fire for using public funds for staff training in the Caribbean and Mediterranean and for spending some €300,000 to decorate its Copenhagen-based headquarters with plants.

Jacqueline McGlade - the British scientist who has headed the agency since 2003 - has raised eyebrows in the European Parliament for paying over €30,000 in EU funds for "staff training sessions" in Caribbean- and Mediteranean-based biodiversity projects managed by an NGO, EarthWatch, whose advisory board she was a member of at the time.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

MEPs dealing with EU spending on Tuesday (27 March) are set to propose that the agency's accounts for 2010 should not be signed off for now due to the alleged conflict of interests.

McGlade last year resigned from the advisory board of EarthWatch, after being warned by the EU court of auditors that there was a "potential risk for a conflict of interest," Katja Rosenbohm, the head of the agency's communications department told this website. She denied that the NGO had any direct benefits from her boss's position.

In an official document sent to the European Parliament, the agency admits that it paid EarthWatch "a total of €33,791.28 for 29 separate staff training sessions in different locations," however.

It notes that the "arrangements for staff attending training courses were initiated before the executive director became a member of the advisory board."

It adds that the projects in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean were "in line with a priority in the agency’s work programme to raise awareness of environmental issues and develop expertise in the areas of research using citizen science and biodiversity as part of plans for the International Year of Biodiversity."

A similar explanation was given when asked about a "green facade" project costing some €300,000 in 2010.

The project was flagged up in an email sent to select MEPs by anonymous agency staff.

"In 2010, Professor McGlade urged the senior management team to support her in the construction of a 'green facade' for the EEA headquarters in Copenhagen's Kongens Nytorv. Given that the 2010 budget had been already approved by the EEA management board, the only legal way to erect such a facade was to appropriate funds approved for other scientific purposes," the email says, adding that the agency's head of administration opposed the move and was subsequently put on sick leave.

Rosenbohm says the email source is "not associated with the EEA staff and as such is fictitious and deliberately misleading."

She admitted that the funding for the "living facade" was partly re-allocated from another budget line, however.

"The living facade was covered by the communications budget and from the facility management area. The reason was that we were doing a major public outreach activity during the year of biodiversity," she said.

"The living facade installation presented the flower-and-plants density of europe by annual flowering plants and it was on one hand made for public outreach purposes - we had 18,000 hits on our website. On the other hand we wanted to explore under the environmental management approach under which we run our own facilities to demonstrate what such a living facade brings to our own living space," she noted.

Asked if there was a budget increase as the anonymous email claims, Rosenbohm said: "Yes, but it was not €350,000, rather around €300,000. This was a very creative project and we had to do it in a very short term, so the budget evolved."

She said it was "quite a reasonable share" of the agency's activities, as it used just one third of its communications budget for the one-year long installation.

EU agencies rebuked over spending

An MEP tasked with looking at how EU money is spent in the bloc's 24 independent agencies has caused a stir with her preliminary findings on conflicts of interest and questions about whether the agencies are useful.

MEPs divided on whether to punish EU agencies

MEPs are getting ready to vote on whether to punish three EU agencies for using public money for questionable purposes and for tolerating conflicts of interest.

Investigation

Inside the Code of Conduct, the EU's most secretive group

The informal group of national officials that is in charge of checking EU countries' tax laws is now working on the first EU blacklist of tax havens, amid critiques over its lack of transparency and accountability.

Ombudsman asks for more details on Barroso case

Emily O'Reilly has asked the EU Commission to say what former commissioners should be allowed to do after they leave office and explain why it took no decision over its former president's controversial new job.

News in Brief

  1. Wallonia's Magnette leaves national politics
  2. Polish president vetoes justice reforms
  3. Turkey arrests protesters, as journalists go to trial
  4. Poll: Only 24% of Germans want 'strong leader'
  5. US envoy: 'hot war' not frozen conflict in Ukraine
  6. BMW denies Dieselgate cartel allegations
  7. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  8. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School