18th Jan 2020

Letter to deepen Eurostat scandal

The European Commission could have reacted much sooner to stop alleged corruption at its statistical arm in Luxembourg according to Stern, a German news magazine.

According to an article that appears today (28 August), the journal has proof that at least one Commissioner was knowledgeable of apparent wrongdoing at Eurostat, much earlier than first assumed, or admitted by Commissioners.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • NEIL KINNOCK - The administrative reform Commissioner was knowledgable about wrongdoings in Eurostat as early as January 2002, according to Stern (Photo: European Commission)

A letter dated 1 January 2002 and obtained by Stern apparently shows the Vice-President of the Commission Neil Kinnock referring to an investigation into the affairs of one of the sub-contractors involved in the alleged fraud at Eurostat.

The question is also, whether Commissioner Kinnock directly mislead the European Parliament Budget Control Committe, when he stated at a meeting with MEPs on 16 July: "I was not aware that there had been an internal auditors report into Eurogramme or indeed into anything about Eurostat".

No prior knowledge

The Commission claimed in July to have acted promptly after receiving two reports, (7 July) providing evidence that "serious wrong-doing on a much more widespread scale than previously thought may have taken place".

Two days later, (9 July) Mr Kinnock and his monetary affairs counterpart Pedro Solbes told the European Parliament that Eurostat offices had been raided the night before and all its files secured.

It is alleged that Eurostat officials put forward false contract cost estimates and then spend the leftover money as they pleased.

On the same day the Commission announced its decision to set up an "inquiry team" of 20 officials to look into the Eurostat case, with oversight from a group chaired by the Secretary General David O'Sullivan. He is to report on a monthly basis to the Commissioners responsible.

The Commission one week later, (16 July) came under fire from MEPs for not taking political responsibility for the fraud cases. Questions were also raised about the existence of other cases similar to the Eurostat case, which itself involves three top EU officials.

Admitting that Eurostat was his responsibility, Mr Solbes said he could not act on issues he was unaware of.

"I accept responsibility for everything I have done and for what I should have done but not for something I did not know about," Mr Solbes told the Committee in July.

The holidays are over

Now the holidays are over, the involved Commissioners can look forward to a difficult autumn.

German Christian Democrat MEP and chairman of the largest political group in the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering would like to see somebody take responsibility for the mistakes.

According to Stern the matter could mean things get a lot tougher, not least for Mr Kinnock.

Commission President Romano Prodi, who so far emerged unscathed over this affair, has been asked to appear before the European Parliament Budget Control Committee after the summer break.

After the mass resignation of the Santer Commission in 1999 on charges of nepotism and mismanagement, the current Prodi Commission had pledged 'zero-tolerance' of fraud and mismanagement.

Commission admits huge Eurostat fraud

The European Commission has come clean and admitted the huge extent of fraud in its statistical arm, Eurostat, whose offices were raided last night.

Commissioners pressed by Eurostat affair

An internal report by the Commission due by the end of September is expected to shed more light over the Eurostat fraud case - it is not likely to point fingers at any Commissioner but is expected to hit hard on officials.

Croatia's EU presidency optimism beset by problems

Croatia wants to focus on economic development, connectivity, internal and external security and a globally more assertive Europe over its six-month presidency - but Brexit and the next budget negotiations may put pay to that.

Spain poised for first coalition government since Franco

Spanish caretaker prime minister and Socialist Party (PSOE) leader, Pedro Sánchez, is expected to win the second investiture vote on Tuesday - after he lost the first attempt on Sunday in an extremely tight result.

Catalan support for Sanchez breaks Spanish deadlock

Catalonia's largest separatist party to abstain during the upcoming confidence vote in the Socialist-led government in exchange for promises of political dialogue. Meanwhile a Belgian judge has suspended an arrest warrant for Carles Puigdemont.

News in Brief

  1. 'No objection in principle' on Huawei cooperation, EU says
  2. French aircraft carrier goes to Middle East amid tensions
  3. EU suggests temporary ban on facial recognition
  4. EU industry cries foul on Chinese restrictions
  5. 'Devil in detail', EU warns on US-China trade deal
  6. Trump threatened EU-tariffs over Iran, Germany confirms
  7. EU trade commissioner warns UK of 'brinkmanship'
  8. Germany strikes coal phase-out deal

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us