11th Dec 2019

EU states overrule MEPs on Polish audit nominee

  • The Court of Auditors in Luxembourg (Photo: European Court of Auditors)

The European parliament is upset after member states ignored its recommendation to reject a conservative Polish candidate for the EU's spending watchdog, the Court of Auditors.

MEPs earlier this month endorsed four out of the five candidates but national governments at a justice and interior ministers' council last week appointed them all anyway.

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All five names were then published in the Official Journal, sparking outrage with the parliament's lead negotiator on the issue, Slovenian Green MEP Igor Soltes, who only found out on Tuesday (26 April).

The MEPs opposed appointing Janusz Wojciechowski of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party to the court after raising questions about his "independent judgement".

PiS, currently the ruling party in Poland, is engaged in a controversy with the EU and the Council of Europe over constitutional reforms introduced by the government.

The council, which is not bound by the parliament's opinion, went ahead with Wojciechowski, who is also a former judge and ex-president of the Supreme Audit Office in Poland.

Soltes said the decision was an affront to the European Parliament and its role in appointing people to the Luxembourg-based watchdog.

He also accused Wojciechowski of having a conflict of interest, given his current role as vice-chair of the parliament's agriculture committee.

"He was responsible for deciding on the very budgets he will now be expected to audit," said Soltes in a statement.

In an added twist, Wojciechowski had also promised to withdraw his candidacy should the Parliament reject him before the vote took place.

"If parliament's opinion is unfavourable I will ask the Polish government to consider withdrawing my candidacy," he said.

Wojciechowski has yet to respond to this website's request for a comment on how his name ended up in the official journal.

MEPs in the budgetary and control committee had also questioned him on the conduct of his party in government at his hearing in March.

But Wojciechowski deflected the questions and then promised to resign from PiS should he ever take up the new post.

"I'm going to resign from the membership of the party," he said.

An EU official said the council, representing member states, did not justify its appointments.

Meanwhile, Wojciechowski and his four other colleagues will start their new jobs in May.

Their portfolios are yet to be decided.

"This will be known in the coming weeks," said a source at the watchdog.

The body has four chambers - chamber one is natural resources, chamber two is cohesion policy, chamber three is foreign policy and chamber four deals with EU institutions.

Deja vu

It is not the first time the EU Council has ignored the parliament on nominations for the Court of Auditors.

In 2013, MEPs opposed the nomination of Neven Mates from Croatia.

He had also said he would not take the post if MEPs rejected him.

"In case of a negative opinion, it is quite likely that I would withdraw my candidacy, after careful consideration of all [the] objections," Mates told MEPs in the budgetary control committee.

However, he did not withdraw and went on to start his new job.

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