The European Commission is drafting an action plan to improve transparency in its infamously opaque accounting procedures, with resulting legislative reforms possibly leading to the recipients of European Union (EU) funds finally being publicly named.
At a speech in Nottingham before the European Foundation for Management Development, the EU’s new Commissioner for anti-fraud, Siim Kallas, noted with disapproval: ‘At the moment, in most member states, data on end beneficiaries (of Brussels’ agricultural spending) are not publicly available’.
He said was ‘amazed about this “information gap”,’ because in his home state, the former Soviet republic of Estonia, all such information is posted on an online government register.
National governments are jointly responsible with the Commission for ensuring EU-funded agricultural programmes are well spent, yet Denmark only launched such a site last June, and Britain has only just announced this data will be made available under the Freedom of Information Act.
However, Kallas will work with the British government’s oncoming EU presidency to release a detailed ‘Communication’ on a ‘European Transparency Initiative’ this autumn, following the publication of a Commission white paper this spring.
These will suggest formal legislation and guidelines. As well as improving financial information on farm spending, Brussels will also suggest reforms for ‘structural funds’ spent on poorer EU regions.
‘Information to the general public is often simply provided by erecting billboards on the sites of the projects,’ said Kallas. ‘There is no monitoring of the quality and efficiency of the information’.
This should change, he said, noting structural and agricultural spending account for 80% of the EU’s roughly euro 100bn budget.
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