I have been trying to write something informative on the current budgetary crisis in the EU. After reading countless articles I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing worthwhile I could add to the discussion. Confusion reigns supreme in this little European?s head and economics have never been my forte – certainly not when mixed with politics. Just check out some of the comments made by readers of BBC News. Anyhow, I deleted everything I had written so far and decided to bring your attention to this (from New Europe):
Each year, more than a billon Euro worth of funds transferred by the European Union to its 25 member states are either misspent or lost, according to a European Parliament (EP) report cited by INEP last week. (?) Asked which countries are the most prone to fraud and irregularities, Buttice failed to give a clear-cut answer. But based on number of cases of fraud and irregularity reported by EU member states for 1999-2003, big EU countries such as Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the United Kingdom are the prominent ones.
I know this is old news, June 8th, but this should be high on the agenda at the summit because this is exactly the kind of thing that makes European citizens vote against the European Constitution. Another example (from The Washington Times, September 27th, 2004):
According to a report released last week by the European Court of Auditors, this subsidy fraud has cost EU taxpayers at least $3.15 billion between 1971 and 2002. (…) During the 31-year period, 83 percent of all payments found to be irregular were never repaid.
Were never repaid… After the rejection of the constitutional treaty by both France and the Netherlands, politicians would do well to focus more on practical issues, like combatting fraud and corruption and making the EU budget more transparent, than on political manoeuvres to score points with their electorates.
Also, the debate on the EU budget should, in my naive opinion, be about fairness, who needs what, and not about defending acquired rights. For instance, let the UK demonstrate why it still needs the rebate and let France demonstrate why it still needs such a big share of the agricultural subsidies. I understand both positions, but what about their commitment to Europe?
Richer countries are helping poorer countries/regions to catch up economically and to adhere to EU quality standards. That is the concept of European solidarity that I have always been taught and that I support. Competition should be a thing of markets, not of government. If we, Europeans, lose sight of this concept of solidarity we may just as well abandon the whole European idea and go our separate ways.