The EU's money pit
A House of Lords Committee is today launching its new inquiry into combating fraud and irregularities against the EU's finances. The inquiry will be undertaken by the Justice, Institutions and Consumer Protection EU Sub-Committee.
In 2010, the European Commission estimated that a total of €2.3 billion was lost through fraud and irregularities. Through its many projects and specific funding programmes, EU finances are vulnerable to both fraud, such as criminal evasion of customs duties, and irregularities, such as mistaken claims for EU funding.
The Committee will be investigating questions such as:
- what statistics exist about how fraud affects the EU and how reliable is the data?
- what is the difference between ‘fraud' and ‘irregularity' and is the distinction real?
- is it the EU or individual Member States who are responsible for detecting frauds, enforcing the law and recovering misappropriated money?
- how vulnerable are EU programmes to fraud and irregularities, and what can be done to minimise the threat?
- what are the roles of the Commission, OLAF, Eurojust and the Member States?
Committee Chairman, Lord Bowness, said:
“In the last year, the European Commission has published a number of initiatives to help them battle the unacceptably high level of fraud that is committed across EU programmes.
“Many different organisations already exist in order to catch these criminals and bring them to justice—from OLAF to Eurojust—but lots of questions still remain about where the ultimate responsibility lies for detecting these crimes and, most importantly, recovering any lost money. We want to know whether the differences between EU countries' national legal frameworks in the definition of offences, as well as the penalties imposed on guilty parties, impede a coherent fight against fraud across the EU.
“At a time of economic crisis every penny counts and the Committee thinks that a more in-depth look at the issues surrounding EU fraud could help both to cut the amount of money lost and to recover stolen finances.
“We would encourage anyone with responses to our questions to reply to our call for evidence.”