Thursday

23rd Nov 2017

Auditors refuse to sign off EU spending for 20th year in a row

  • €13 out of the €290 spent by the EU per head of its population each year goes to waste (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Almost €7 billion of the EU budget was illegally spent in 2013, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) revealed on Wednesday (5 November), as it declined to sign off EU spending for the 20th consecutive year.

Although the error rate of misspent funds fell fractionally to 4.7 percent from 4.8 percent in 2012, this is still well above the 2 percent threshold under which ECA could classify payments as error-free. Spending on administration was the only part of the budget to fall within the threshold, with an estimated 1 percent error rate.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

In total, EU spending in 2013 reached €148.5 billion.

Regional policy and funds for rural development had the highest error rate, with 6.9 percent and 6.7 percent of monies going astray respectively.

The most common errors included the over-declaration of land by farmers and payments being made to firms which had been classified as small businesses despite being owned by a large company.

In one example offered by the court, a Sardinian farmer was compensated for not using environmentally harmful plant protection products on artichokes but was found to have used the products repeatedly during an on-­the-­spot visit by the ECA.

While the figures are not surprising the Court of Auditors' report is a constant source of embarrassment for the EU institutions.

The European Commission is legally responsible for all EU spending, but it says its hands are tied since around 80 percent of spending is controlled and paid out locally by national governments and local authorities.

ECA president Vitor Caldeira laid most of the blame at the door of national governments. The error rate "would have been much lower in many areas" if governments "had done what they should have to prevent irregular reimbursement requests from being presented," he said.

He added that EU spending per citizen worked out at €290, of which €13 had been misspent.

However, Caldeira also called for a change in culture away from spending EU money for the sake of it. In a statement, the ECA said that "priority was given to spending the money - ‘use it or lose it’ - rather than to achieving good results".

"The choice of projects to receive EU funds focused first on disbursing the EU money available, secondly on complying with the rules," it added, which is a "fundamental flaw in the design of much of the EU budget".

"This is not peanuts", said Ingeborg Grassle, the German MEP who speaks for the centre-right EPP group on budgetary control. She added that a number of EU countries were continuing to "fleece the EU".

Ryszard Carnecki, a deputy in the conservative ECR group, commented that "European governments are largely to blame for these failures, but the commission is responsible for the budget and needs to get a grip."

For her part, Spanish centre-left MEP Ines Ayala Sender warned that the EU would face €26 billion of unpaid bills by the end of 2014 and needed to "find a solution to make sure that the EU does not commit itself above what it can pay".

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.

Auditor: EU agencies mismanaging their budgets

A report by the European Court of Auditors has found several problems in the way EU's 31 agencies manage their budgets. The findings are likely to fuel the debate about the usefulness of these bodies at times of austerity.

Berlin risks being 'culprit' for stalling EU, warns Green MEP

Reinhard Buetikofer, who participated in the failed coalition talks, put the blame squarely on FDP being 'afraid to govern', but hopes "there will be a lot of phone calls" to German politicians on the consequences of the deadlock in Berlin.

Opinion

Eastern partners, eastern problems

The EU must hold out the olive branch of possible membership in the distant future - but the current domestic problems in the ex-Soviet states, let alone their links to Russia make more than that difficult.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  4. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  5. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  6. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  7. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  8. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  10. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  11. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  12. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!

Latest News

  1. Berlin risks being 'culprit' for stalling EU, warns Green MEP
  2. Eastern partners, eastern problems
  3. Germany's Schulz under pressure to enter coalition talks
  4. LuxLeaks trial re-opens debate on whistleblowers' protection
  5. Wilders says Russia is 'no enemy' ahead of Moscow visit
  6. EU must put Sudan under microscope at Africa summit
  7. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya
  8. Orban stokes up his voters with anti-Soros 'consultation'