Monday

5th Dec 2022

Opinion

Where is the transparency in the EU €2 trillion recovery?

  • Two trillion euros, in fact. Such huge financial injections into EU economies can come with well-documented risks of embezzlement, corruption and corporate capture of public money (Photo: Michal Jarmoluk)
Listen to article

At over two trillion euros, the long term EU budget and the NextGenerationEU recovery package comprise the single largest stimulus in the history of Europe and include laudable aims to transform a post-pandemic continent into a greener, more resilient and prosperous society for the next generation of Europeans.

But how are member states planning to spend this massive chunk of money, and will they deliver on the required minimum of 37-percent spending for climate action while committing to "do no significant harm" with the rest of the investments?

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

The problem is that very little information is known about how this money will flow, and without better public engagement, this glaring lack of details threatens to derail the Green Deal.

Earlier in the year alarm bells rang about this lack of transparency as states began to plan spending from the €723bn Recovery and Resilience Facility. A survey of 20 EU countries found that the national recovery plans had not been properly consulted and next to no information was made available to the public.

The consequence is that, as details emerge about the types of recovery investments planned, EU countries seem set on continuing with business-as-usual projects and programmes that do not address the massive changes to economies and society the European Green Deal was designed to address.

Now the same concerns appear as the programming begins for the budget's second largest slice, the €372bn Cohesion Policy. A month before the spending plans are supposed to be submitted for approval by the commission, stakeholders across the bloc have often been kept in the dark about the latest plans and how their opinions are being accounted for.

This is problematic because the EU is obliged by law to the 'partnership principle' for consulting stakeholders about cohesion spending, which provides a counterweight to the member states' claims and assertions about how money will be spent.

Moreover, such huge financial injections into EU economies can come with well-documented risks of embezzlement, corruption and corporate capture of public money if not properly safeguarded.

Money that is borrowed today will be repaid by future generations, so involving citizens in the spending will increase scrutiny over the funds and reduce the risks of financial mismanagement.

To avoid the pitfalls that come with spending in secrecy, the commission must take corrective action against member states that fail to remain open about their intentions.

Behind closed doors

Local and regional authorities and civil society groups alike complain about a lack of access to the necessary planning documents, as member states move ahead with the negotiations behind closed doors.

Yet, the solution to ensure public participation and consultation exists in the form of 'monitoring committees', which should be composed of equal parts national and regional authorities, social and economic partners, business, academia and civil society.

These committees are designed to play the safeguard role and provide transparency and integrity checks on the billions of euros that are spent to keep the EU on track towards implementing the European Green Deal objectives.

Unfortunately experience thus far shows that these committees are being fast-tracked, sidelined or ignored completely.

The EU should also disclose what investments member states are bringing to the table. In order for proper scrutiny and oversight, details documenting reforms and proposals need to be public, but as it stands, it is unknown whether information will be out in the open.

If the commission stands firm behind principles of the European Green Deal, it must do more to counterbalance the strong political incentive to agree on the plans as soon as possible and to support any investment that might stimulate the economy.

There can be no trade-off between the speed and quality of the recovery.

Hundreds of billions of euros are at stake for the clean energy transition. How we use these massive amounts of public funding will decide if the commission can meet the aims of the European Green Deal. The outcomes will determine the legacy of this generation and show whether we were indeed intent on steering a green and resilient recovery.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Cohesion funds alone won't fix EU 'brain drain'

Internal movement will cause a radical reshuffling of the EU population by 2060 unless trends moderate. Under current conditions, dramatic population reductions await Romania (-30 percent), Croatia (-30 percent), and Lithuania (-38 percent) among others.

Let's stick together - in defence of EU 'cohesion' policy

The upcoming negotiations of the EU budget for 2021-2028 will be very tough. The cohesion policy will be wrongly criticised as obsolete, belonging to the "past". If the EU is to survive, the meaningful cohesion policy is essential.

Von der Leyen slammed for not revealing Pfizer CEO texts

The European ombudsman has criticised the European Commission for its handling of a request for public access of text messages that were exchanged between president Ursula von der Leyen and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Hungary's funds showdown in focus This WEEK
  2. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  3. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  4. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  5. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  6. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  7. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  8. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us