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31st Mar 2020

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Fighting corruption and cutting red tape

  • Chairwoman Monika Hohlmeier (EPP, Germany) says all member states should be under scrutiny (Photo: European Parliament)

As EU countries debate the next long-term budget for the bloc, and how to link the respect for the rule of law and the fight against corruption to EU funds, the budget control committee (CONT) will continue to play a central part in defending the EU budget.

German MEP Monika Hohlmeier, chair of the committee knows this can be a touchy subject for member states.

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"I believe that one of the most sensitive, yet extremely important topics on our agenda in the committee will be the continued fight against corruption. In a small number of cases, national governments may be involved, which could make the debate highly political," Hohlmeier told Euobserver.

"Therefore, it is crucial to improve the strict enforcement of the rule of law in all member states," she added.

"Unfortunately, the existing rule of law mechanism in the Lisbon Treaty is not working properly. Thus, there is still a lot to be done to get ahead with creating an effective and transparent rule of law legislation," the politician from the Bavarian Christian Social Union party said.

"CONT must ensure that the rule of law mechanism becomes effective and is applied equally in all member states - without exception! I believe that we in CONT should focus on the big issues and point our finger to issues of systemic failures in a constructive approach to increase our impact," Hohlmeier added.

Hohlmeier expects that the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), which will start operating in 2020, makes "a strong contribution in combatting cross-border VAT-fraud, money laundering and crimes against the EU's financial interests".

Because of these activities, the EU is losing out an enormous amounts of revenue, according to some estimates around €95bn in VAT-fraud alone every year, the committee chair highlighted.

Hohlmeier said she is delighted that the parliament's candidate for the top prosecutor position, Laura Kovesi, was confirmed recently.

"For EPPO to become a success it is of utmost importance to ensure that it is adequately equipped for having a serious impact. Achieving this is an important goal for CONT," the MEP said.

As committee chair, Hohlmeier wants to avoid that EU citizens pay more taxes because "fraudsters and criminals keep cheating the EU" for their own purposes.

"EU money is taxpayers' money, and the budget control committee ensures that it is spent correctly, efficiently and in a purposeful way," she said.

One of the key points on the agenda for the committee for the next five years will be the simplification of rules and procedures and the reduction of 'gold-plating', the addition of national rules and requirements to an already quite complex EU legislation, Hohlmeier said.

"One of the issues that the European Court of Auditors repeatedly finds to cause errors in relation to the use of EU financial means is the complexity of rules and procedures, particularly in the areas of agriculture, cohesion, and research and innovation," she said.

Hohlmeier added that better and faster implementation of programmes should also be high on the committee's priorities.

Monitoring and helping to strengthen national audit authorities' technical competence and sustainability will also feature on the agenda.

This can be done for instance through "more or better technical assistance, or a system of knowledge sharing", or through the exchange of best practices between member states.

The chair is Monika Hohlmeier (EPP, Germany), with vice-chairs Isabel Garcia Munoz (S&D, Spain), Caterina Chinnici (S&D, Italy), Martina Dlabajova (Renew, Czech Republic), and Tamas Deutsch (EPP, Hungary).

Coordinators: Tomas Zdechovsky (EPP, Czech Republic), Claudiu Manda (S&D, Romania), Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR, Poland), Olivier Chastel (Renew, Belgium), Luke Ming Flanagan (GUE/NGL, Ireland), Mikulas Peksa (Greens/EFA, Czech Republic), Joachim Kuhs (ID, Germany).

This article first appeared in EUobserver's latest magazine, Who's Who in European Parliament Committees, which you can now read in full online.
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