November 13 2008
Look, let’s get this straight. The European Court of Auditors has not approved the EU budget. What it has approved is the European Commission’s accounting procedures. The auditors made clear that there remained substantial irregularities and illegalities in the spending itself: they were able certify only eight per cent of the total budget. But they did agree, for the first time, that the EU’s figures were accurate.
In other words, if the EU says that it spent €100 on olive subsidies, the Court of Auditors accepts – in so far as accountants ever accept these things – that it did. What it cannot vouch for is that the recipient was actually growing olives.
Now I don’t want to be mean-minded about this. The European Commission has worked hard to bring its accounting methods into line with international norms. And there is no question that it is doing a better job today than when I was first elected. But the underlying problem of money being claimed under false pretences has not abated. Eurocrats protest, with some justice, that this is not their fault, since it is up to the national authorities to invigilate most of the spending. But here we reach the nub of the problem: as long as the various programmes are funded by EU money, state authorities have little incentive to police them.
The solution, of course, would to stop sloshing the cash through the various tubes and chambers of the Brussels machine, and simply spend it at national level in the first place. But this would put the EU out of business, since its chief role these days is as a massive redistributor of public money. If it has taken 14 years simply to come up with a proper accounting method, there seems little hope that the budget itself will ever be properly apportioned.
Not all is Roses in the Great Garden of the European Union
Well his isn’t alone in this View of the EU.