No EU subsidies without accountability

10 November 2010

No EU subsidies without accountability

The Netherlands must put pressure on certain other member states to prove themselves accountable when it comes to the spending of EU subsidies which they have received. If necessary, Secretary of State Ben Knapen should veto the multi-annual EU budget. Negotiations begin shortly on the budget, which requires unanimous approval. The demand came from SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel in response to yesterday's publication of the annual report from the European Court of Auditors, an official EU body which monitors spending of EU monies. "We already pay too much to Europe," says Van Bommel, "and now we don't know whether this money is being spent well or not. The government must take a clear stand against these member states: improve your accountability, or the Netherlands won't agree to any future EU subsidies."

Harry van BommelExisting subsidies will remain fixed until 2013 and can be adjusted only if a majority of members states agree. The SP therefore, in a recent motion to the Dutch national parliament, proposed that in negotiations over the multi-annual EU budget, the Netherlands should demand greater accountability on relation to any matter over which individual member states retain a veto.

According to Van Bommel, while there are sections where such improvement is evident, the total picture is once again disturbing. The number of grave transgressions has indeed been reduced, but as far as agricultural spending goes, there has been a worsening of the situation. In some countries, up to 20% of EU subsidies may not have been distributed. "You have to applaud progress," Van Bommel concedes, "but things seem still very far from satisfactory. If 20 per cent of the payments were wrongly distributed, then it would appear that there remain structural attempts at fraud. That must be unequivocally condemned."

The SP wants to see the EU committing more resources to putting possible fraudulent use of EU subsidies in these countries under the microscope. Van Bommel will put his proposals forward during preparations for the EU's multi-annual budget.

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