Saturday

22nd Feb 2020

EU keen to see budget cheats in jail

The European Commission on Wednesday (11 July) proposed a directive to criminalise the fraudulent use of EU funds, with a minimum sentence of six months' jail for serious offenders.

"EU money must not be pocketed by criminals. It is crucial to put in place criminal law rules of the highest standard, in order to protect our taxpayers’ money," EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding told reporters in Brussels.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or join as a group

  • European Commission wants to criminalise fraud of EU funds (Photo: OLAF)

EU member states have different legal frameworks and definitions of fraud.

Some do not criminalise it or offer impunity to public officials, while others hand out 12-year jail sentences.

Police, prosecutors and judges decide on the basis of their own national laws on whether or not to intervene to protect EU funds. But even in countries where the legal framework exists, prosecution rates on EU-fraud-related crimes vary between 14 percent and 80 percent.

Some only prosecute cases when the fraud on EU funds has been exclusively committed in their country.

The commission proposal would create uniform legislation across the EU and aims to prevent criminals from carrying out their activities in member states which currently do not prosecute it.

"Fraudsters should not escape prosecution and sanctions simply because of their geographical location," said taxation commissioner Algirdas Semeta.

The directive also defines fraud as corruption, the misappropriation of funds, money laundering or obstruction of public procurement procedures to the detriment of the EU budget.

National and regional authorities manage some 90 percent of the EU budget without much oversight.

Olaf, the EU's anti-fraud office, told reporters on 3 July that the manner in which EU funds are managed by national and regional authorities is also where they find the most problems.

Olaf's investigations recovered €691 million to the EU budget in 2011, of which €524.7 million had been siphoned off from structural funds alone. Around €113.7 million was drawn from customs and another €34 million from EU agricultural subsidies.

The commission identified 600 suspected fraud cases involving EU expenditure and revenue in 2010.

Applicants for EU funds had provided false information to receive funding. In some case, national officials had accepted money in return for awarding a public contract.

"Our aim is clear: to ensure that EU budget fraud does not go unpunished, in turn saving taxpayers' money," said the justice commissioner.

Insight

How big is Germany's far-right problem?

The Hanau shooting was a national wake-up call to the scale of far-right extremism in Germany, from violent individuals to political hate speech.

Exclusive

Balkan spies 'feed' EU's police database via Czechs

Western Balkan secret services have handed over more the 250 alerts on suspected foreign terrorist fighters since last summer - fed into the EU's police database by the Czech Republic, according to a confidential document seen by EUobserver.

New EU public prosecutor has four staff for 3,000 cases

Laura Kovesi who heads the new European Public Prosecutor's Office, tasked to tackle fraud linked to VAT, money laundering, and corruption across the EU, warned she is dangerously understaffed and underfunded.

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not ok, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

News in Brief

  1. Bulgarian PM investigated over 'money laundering'
  2. Greenpeace breaks into French nuclear plant
  3. Germany increases police presence after shootings
  4. NGO: US and EU 'watering-down' tax reform prior to G20
  5. Iran: parliamentary elections, conservatives likely to win
  6. Belgian CEOs raise alarm on political crisis
  7. Germans voice anger on rise of far-right terrorism
  8. EU leaders' budget summit drags on overnight

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not ok, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. No breakthrough at EU budget summit
  2. EU leaders struggling to break budget deadlock
  3. German ex-commissioner Oettinger lands Orban job
  4. How big is Germany's far-right problem?
  5. Plastic and carbon proposals to help plug Brexit budget gap
  6. Sassoli repeats EU budget rejection warning
  7. Why Miroslav Lajčák is the wrong choice for EU envoy
  8. Unhappy EU leaders begin budget haggle

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us