EU funds: "Bulgarian-style situation" disgrace to Netherlands

6 October 2006

EU funds: "Bulgarian-style situation" disgrace to Netherlands

According to SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel, it is "scandalous and disgraceful" that the Netherlands, according to a European Commission investigation, falls far short of the required standard in its management of EU regional funds. Van Bommel, the party's spokesman on European affairs, is demanding an immediate explanation of irregularities in the spending of European subsidies. “This is certainly a stain on the Netherlands' reputation as a moral crusader," Mr Van Bommel said.

The European Commission's investigation into the spending of EU regional funds in the Netherlands has uncovered "serious shortcomings of a systematic nature." Bookkeeping is in many cases incorrect, to the point where it is impossible to tell whether fraud has been committed. Rules governing tendering are not being adhered to, incorrect amounts of VAT are included in calculations and controls on spending are insufficient. “The Netherlands has always a great deal to say about countries where mismanagement is rife, recent examples being Romania and Bulgaria," said Van Bommel. "Now it appears that such a 'Bulgarian situation' has arisen right here in the Netherlands."

Harry van BommelMoneys from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), by far the largest of the EU's 'structural funds', are used in the Netherlands for such things as infrastructure projects and urban regeneration. More than €2m was spent, for example, on the construction of cycle paths in Drenthe, and half a million on a the renewal of shops in Spaarndammerstraat in Amsterdam “Given what they are used for I have strong doubts over the need for such funds, and as far as I'm concerned they could be wound up. But as long as the Netherlands can lay claim to this money then it must be properly managed.”

Van Bommel is demanding that the Minister for Foreign Affairs immediately make the letter from the European Commission relaying the results of the enquiry public. He intends to raise the matter on Tuesday during the scheduled debate on the State of the European Union.

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