EU funds abuses must be investigated

Every other month there seems to be another abuse of EU funds. This time it relates to the Czech Prime Minister and his company Agrofert. A complaint by Transparency International Czech Republic on a possible conflict of interest is questioning subsidies received by this corporation. The European Commission has strict rules about which companies are allowed to draw (agricultural) subsidies. Politicians and members of government most certainly cannot.

Dennis de Jong, co-chair of the ITCO Intergroup is clear: “This is taxpayer money we’re talking about. Not everyone is as rich as Mr. Babis, but everybody dutifully contributes to taxes. A possible abuse of power by the country’s most rich and powerful man needs careful investigation by the Czech police force and by the Anti-Fraud Office of the EU (OLAF). That is why I have written a firm motion for a resolution.”

Mr. de Jong continues: “On the one hand, this is not new. Irregularities were already found in regard to the STORK nest case. And yet again there are clues that there is a case of a conflict of interest by the Czech Prime Minister profiting personally from EU funds. On the other hand, a man is innocent until proven guilty. Parliament and citizens have a right to be informed about the case.”

Tomas Zdechovský, Czech Bureau Member of ITCO believes that it is up to the European Commission to act: “The Commission should take this case as a precedent to build a strong fortification against violating the EU regulations and preventing damages to the EU financial interests.”

Benedek Jávor, Hungarian Bureau Member of ITCO views it in a broader perspective: “The Babis case shows that there is some courage in the Commission to step up against governments in order to protect the EU’s financial interest. Such cases happen in Hungary and Romania as well, therefore raising concerns about Prime Minister Babis is not enough to stop the tendency of misusing EU funds Central-Eastern Europe. We need structural reforms and proposals on preventing and sanctioning corruption, misuse of EU funds and endangering the rule of law.”

“The European Commission clearly needs to make a more thorough effort to report on anticorruption in both the Member States and at the EU institutions. I cannot accept that they decided to stop their regular specialised reporting on corruption in the Member States and the EU-institutions themselves after the first report in 2015. Parliament has requested this time and again, but so far the Juncker/Timmermans Commission flatly refused this by referring to other reports, e.g. in the context of the European economic semester. However, these reports are not comprehensive and are simply used as a fig leave for the Commission.”, concludes de Jong.

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