Sunday

16th May 2021

MEPs want to 'blackmail' commission candidates over EU budget

Budget control committee MEPs want future commissioners to take a tougher line on how member states spend EU funds.

They say they will make this a key part of their assessment of new commissioners, due to start work in autumn.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

German centre-right Markus Pieper, in charge of assessing how the European Commission spent its money in 2012, told this website on Thursday (30 January) that candidates will face a hostile job interview if they don’t make a commitment to cut wasted expenses by a group of eight ‘black sheep’ member states.

“If the commission doesn’t fulfil our conditions, then we need stronger political pressure on the commission,” he said.

The countries in the spotlight are: the Czech Republic, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Poland, and Romania.

With the five-year terms of the 28 EU commissioners soon coming to an end, member states are set to select a new team.

But first, each candidate must be cross-examined by MEPs.

Pieper said his candidate ‘black mail’ strategy has already received support among all the shadow rapporteurs.

The circle of MEPs working on the report is set to lobby their colleagues to reject any candidate who does not meet their criteria.

Pieper is unhappy with how the commission attempts to reduce member state error rates on EU-funded projects and programmes and wants the Brussels-executive to directly monitor the way EU funds are being spent.

The error rates have increased for a third year in a row, according to the EU’s budget watchdog, the European Court of Auditors, with some 80 percent committed by the eight member states alone.

Most of those mistakes should have been uncovered by the national authorities, according to the Court.

But Pieper says there is little incentive to improve the rate because it is “EU money.”

If a project is identified as having errors, making it ineligible for EU funding, then the money can be used by the member state for another project.

“Up until now it is possible to replace projects and this is from our point of view, not very efficient,” he said.

Any misspent money should instead trigger an automatic procedure that would deduct a sum from the national coffers, he says.

The commission formulates its risk analysis on error rates by relying, in part, on national audit reports provided by the member states.

“From our point of view, they [the commission] trust them too much, which is one of the reasons for our reservations for the next period,” said Pieper.

Pieper wants the commission to bypass the eight member states’ national auditing authorities altogether and deal directly with those who receive the funds.

If the upcoming commissioner candidates disagree, then they stand to lose the backing of the assembly, he says.

For its part, the commission says it is working on ways to extend its oversight powers.

MEPs are set to give their assessment of how the commission spent the 2012 budget in mid-April.

EU wants stronger police agency

The Union's joint police agency, Europol, is to see its powers expand and its performance put under stronger oversight under new EU commission proposals.

MEPs set scene for EU top jobs battle

With 100 days to go until the EU elections, MEPs have agreed a wishlist on how the next European Commission and its President should be chosen.

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

Future of Europe: Nearly half of citizens want reforms

European Parliament president David Sassoli called for the Conference on the Future of Europe "to start as soon as possible". Meanwhile, nearly half of EU citizens would like to see reforms to the bloc.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us