Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Here we go again

Yes, we probably have used that title before as well. But one does feel some sympathy for the groundhogs.

What brought this on? The news from the UK office of the European Parliament that tomorrow’s
“main debate is on the management of the EU budget in 2004 (it is the end of the so-called annual 'discharge' procedure whereby MEPs have to decide whether to sign off the accounts for that year)”.
Whoop-de-do! Attentive readers, who still find the saga of the European budget of interest, may remember that for the 11th year in a row the Court of Auditors has refused to sign it off, on the grounds that it could not assert that an adequate proportion of it is “free of irregularities”.

So, does that mean that the European Parliament, that voice of the European people, that guardian of democratic righteousness, that stern overseer of the unelected Commission will also balk at signing the budget off? Don’t be silly.
“The European Parliament's rapporteur (spokesman), Dutch Liberal MEP Jan Mulder, argues that the European Commission should not have to pay the price when the problem lies primarily in the Member States themselves. He has said: "Refusing the discharge to the Commission is a nuclear weapon and would mean that the Commission would have to resign...This Commission is cooperating well with the European Parliament to improve the EU's financial management, whereas the Council is resisting."”
Well, of course, it is true that the irregularities are created by the Commission and various member states jointly but to say that we must sign a clearly faulty budget off because the alternative will mean the Commission resigning is a somewhat curious assertion. It seems (shock, horror!) that the so-called democratic part of the EU is more concerned with saving the face of the undemocratic Commission than in guarding the people’s money. And I bet you didn’t know that.

The problem lies with the whole concept of the EU budget and it is once again a matter of no accountability. The Commission creates a budget, based on various “lines” of income and expenditure that are hard to understand. In any case, the budget is not presented to the European Parliament or to the real, national ones. There are no debates and the signing off happens (or not) a year or so after the budget has been spent.

The funds and projects the budget encompasses have no rigour or accountability. And we all know from Marta Andreasen about the abysmal standard of accounting used by the Commission.

Then, year after year the Court of Auditors refuses to sign the budget off and year after year, the Commission, backed by its acolyte the Toy Parliament, promises to reform its methods and blames the member states for any problems.

I say, groundhogs of the world unite!

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