Thursday

30th Mar 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.

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.

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.

Transparency is key EU tactic in Brexit talks

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said his mandate and all EU commission working documents will be made public during the negotiations. Tactic or policy shift? This time, the EU is interested in transparency.

News in Brief

  1. UK publishes 'Great Repeal Bill' plan to replace EU laws
  2. Scots share May's vision for Brexit deal, survey says
  3. Coalition talks leader expects Dutch government by summer
  4. EU commission allows ex-member Hill to join law firm
  5. Reuters: Greece and lenders move closer to deal
  6. Italy: Le Pen win would mean 'permanent political risk'
  7. Danish parliament misinformed on Nord Stream 1
  8. UK delivered its Article 50 letter to the EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  2. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  3. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  4. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  5. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  6. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  7. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  9. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  10. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  11. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Latest News

  1. Hungary attempts to stifle Soros-founded university in Budapest
  2. European right shows divisions on EU values after Brexit
  3. Transparency is key EU tactic in Brexit talks
  4. Russia building 'arc of iron' around Europe
  5. Französische und deutsche Wahlen 'entscheidend' für Putin
  6. EU trying to salvage US deal on data privacy
  7. MEPs draw 'red lines' on Brexit deal
  8. MEPs call for reset in relations with Belarus