Naive musings

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.

8 thoughts on “Naive musings

  1. Solidarity comes second to national interests in the EU as the French so brilliantly illustrate. Every member state engages in this to a greater or lesser degree.

    There has always been a conflict between the interests of member states and the European “community” interest. I see no prospect of this situation changing until there is agreement on what exactly the “European Project” really is. The latter expression is used extensively by the media, political leaders, and members of the European Commission but its definition remains nebulous.

  2. this subsidy fraud has cost EU taxpayers at least $3.15 billion between 1971 and 2002

    Bluntly put: peanuts

    like combatting fraud and corruption and making the EU budget more transparent

    I am sorry, this is trying to dodge the issues. You can execute a policy as well as you might, but that doesn’t tell you whether the policy is sensible in the first place. We now have to answer what the budget is for.

    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.

    The idea that the UK or France strictly speaking need any subsidies from Brussels is ridiculous. Western Europe holds highly developed rich countries, albeit in crisis.
    If you want an EU budget built on the basis of need, you’ll end up with a tiny budget paying for the staff and some regional funds for eastern europe. You’d cut the budget by 80% or so.
    The question of fairness however is meaningless without a prior answer to the question of purpose.

  3. Oliver, you are right, the 3.15 billion are peanuts. But those were never repaid. And that still leaves us with the one billion each year in my first example.

    “The question of fairness however is meaningless without a prior answer to the question of purpose.”

    Evidently. That is where transparency comes in, to determine what the funds are used for right now. And the question of purpose ties in with a consensus on what Europe is supposed to mean.

    In fact, I do agree with the gist of your post, yet I have no definitive answers. Right now we are in limbo, hence my confusion and naivety.

  4. This morning’s Wall Street Journal suggests that the reverse is true. The giant sucking sound coming from Brussels is the vacuum of money disappearing at huge rates through micro management and corruption.

    The elephant in this room would say “this is definitely not peanuts”.

  5. 1- Corruption is not really the problem is Europe.
    2 – The budget of Europe is ridiculous maybe 1% og PIB.
    The problem is what we are doing of this money.
    It would be better to spend this money in Research than Agriculture.

  6. The giant sucking sound coming from Brussels is the vacuum of money disappearing at huge rates through micro management and corruption.

    But then you don’t aim at execution but you are saying that the EU budget policy has been stupid and harmful for decades. That’s another ball game.

  7. Negotiating with terrorists should be considered corruption. Brussels is currently negotiating with Hamas. This is the group that appears to be in power now in Palestine. They are best known for their high power explosives that are used for terror acts both in Lebanon and Israel.

    Perhaps Brussels is looking at alternative methods to fix Europe’s non-existant defenses. Alternatively, Brussels may be considering going into the terrorist business themselves. Who would they blow up first? Chirac?

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