Sunday

27th May 2018

Theft of EU funds greater than reported

  • Member states reported €600 million in stolen EU funds in 2010 (Photo: bundesbank.de)

EU funds fraud is considerably higher than the €600 million reported by member states in 2010.

“The extent of the illicit activities that lead to losses in the EU budget is really shocking […] we assume that the real figure is considerably higher,” EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding told euro deputies in the civil liberty committee on Thursday (20 September).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Last year’s EU budget amounted to €125.5 billion but a large amount is allegedly stolen primarily in the areas of EU agricultural and regional development programmes. Member states manage 80 percent of the EU budget with national authorities in charge of how it is spent and who and how to prosecute suspected fraudsters.

But patchy judicial systems and low recovery rates prompted the commission to table an anti-fraud directive in July that would provide for an EU response to the problem. Those who commit the crime, she noted, often simply go to member states where prosecution is extremely low or non-existent.

Reding told deputies that the EU needs a “federal law” to ensure the money is better spent and deter criminals from seeking refuge in certain member states.

“If we have a federal budget with money coming from EU-27 member states then we also need a federal law to protect this budget,” she said.

The commissioner wants an automatic minimum six-month sentence and up to 5-years for the most serious offences. Fines would top €100,000 for stealing EU funds and €30,000 for money laundering. Member states would also have to extend time limitations on investigations that in some cases “are too short” and allow suspects to slip away.

A European public prosecutor, a position that the Lisbon Treaty allows to be created, would coordinate national prosecutors in tracking down and jailing suspects. The position has yet to be created and his or her role would be limited to coordinating member states primarily in anti-fraud cases.

But Reding supported the view of eventually expanding the powers of the future prosecutor even if it entails re-writing the treaty.

“I am favourable to have a treaty change but we need a step-by-step approach and do solely what the treaty allows us to do,” said Reding.

Some MEPs voiced their reservations over the plans.

British Liberal MEP Sarah Ludford said the automatic minimum sentence “undermines the freedom of national justice systems.”

She called for judicial discretion and warned that a required minimum sentence could force a judge to impose a six-month sentence even in the most minor of offences.

Auditors reject EU spending 18th year in a row

EU's top auditing body has for the 18 year in a row said there are too many errors in how EU money is spent, particularly in subsidies going to farmers and fishers.

GDPR - a global 'gold standard'?

The new EU privacy rules are touted as a global 'gold standard' - but Mexico's former data commissioner warns some nations are far from ready.

New GDPR enforcer says complaints imminent

The European Data Protection Board is a new EU body tasked with enforcing the EU's privacy laws with powers to impose massive fines. Its head Andrea Jelinek told reporters complaints against companies are expected to be immediate.

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach