Wednesday

23rd Oct 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs criticise Juncker over climate and tax policies
  2. Juncker defends commission record on Greek crisis
  3. Croatian MEP criticises EU parliament for trusting Šuica
  4. Brexit is waste of time and energy, says Juncker
  5. Abortion and same-sex marriage become legal in Northern Ireland
  6. Germany wants internationally controlled zone in Syria
  7. EU parliament refuses to debate Catalonia
  8. Four businessmen charged in Slovak journalist murder

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. EU commission backs Croatia's Schengen bid
  2. EU open to imminent Brexit extension, Tusk indicates
  3. EU centrists ally with far right on migrant rescues
  4. MPs vote on Johnson's latest push for Brexit deal
  5. Macron breaks Balkans promise in quest for EU dominance
  6. Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection
  7. UK opposition MPs attack new Brexit deal
  8. Deep divisions on display over post-Brexit EU budget

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us