17th Sep 2019

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.

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  • 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.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

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