Friday

21st Jul 2017

Member states blamed for EU budget errors

  • The EU budget in 2011 was €126.5 billion (Photo: snorski)

Member state authorities are to blame for the mismanagement of the EU budget, say euro-deputies who scrutinise EU funding.

“Better spending starts at home,” said German Social-Democrat MEP Jens Geier on Wednesday (20 February) at a press event in Brussels on EU funding oversight.

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.

Geier, who drafted the parliament’s position on the European Commission’s budget report for 2011, noted that the number of errors in the budget is on the rise.

In 2011 it was 3.9 percent, up from 3.7 in 2010. The commission interrupted 91 EU funded programmes totaling €2.6 billion in 2011 because of suspect spending practices by national authorities.

The euro-deputy attributes the increase to lax standards by some national control authorities and a pervasive culture of silence among member states on how they spend or misspend the EU budget.

“To blame the European Commission is simply not fair given that 80 percent of the monies is handled in shared management,” said Geier.

Violations are commonly found in the European agricultural fund for rural development (EAFRD), research funding (Seventh Framework Programme), and the European social fund (ESF), he added.

For its part, the European Court of Auditors recently found that almost two-thirds or 60 percent of the errors found should have been detected by the national or regional control systems.

The percentage is greater in some individual funds.

An ESF audit of 180 transactions revealed that member states’ add-on rules accounted for 86 percent of the detected errors. These errors, also known as "gold plating," are then passed off as EU-level errors, the ESF said.

For his part, Geier noted that the commission’s director general for regional policy is unable to guarantee the probity of funds spent by 18 out of 27 member states. The worst offenders are Romania, the Czech Republic and Italy.

An activity report published by the director general in 2011 notes they can rely on the national audit opinions on 65 percent of the programmes.

Other budget abuses stem from so-called retrospective projects, where member states apply for EU funding on projects initially funded from national coffers.

In some cases, the projects are already finished. The member state still applies for funding, receives it, and simply deducts it from its total expenses. Current regulation does not prohibit the practice.

“It is my aim, to have this stopped at least with the new regulation for EU funds for the new financing period after 2014,” Geier told this website in an email.

Conflict of interest at EU agencies

Despite the focus on member states, MEPs also pointed out that a handful of the more than 30 EU-based agencies - commission offshoots - are currently embroiled in conflict of interest issues.

Speaking alongside Geier at the event, Dutch Liberal MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy drafted the parliament’s position on agencies.

He said some are hiring questionable outside experts to draft reports.

“We simply cannot allow that experts who are also dealing with a certain company are saying whether a certain product of this company can enter the European market,” said Gerbrandy.

Conflict of interest standards in the agencies are based on guidelines established by the Paris-based economic club, the OECD. The standards apply to staff but rules governing external help like consultants are non-existent.

Gerbrandy said the management board at the German-based European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is composed of national authorities who compromise the agency’s independence.

The EASA is one of four agencies that came under the Court of Auditors' scrutiny in an October 2012 report on conflict of interest.

Dominique Fouda, an EASA spokesperson denies the charge. He told this website that everyone in the management board is working for the sake of aviation safety alone.

“The individual interest comes always after the interest of the public in safety. I don’t think anyone would position his own little interest first,” said Fouda.

Auditor: EU agencies may pose threat to safety

Conflicts of interest in four EU agencies authorising food, medicines, chemicals and aviation security standards might be putting people's safety at risk, an audit has shown.

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.

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. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

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

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary