Intransparency of EU funds spending is not only bad for democratic governance and public participation and control, but transparency is also crucial for the fight against corruption as the President of the Budget Control Committee, Luigi de Magistris, underlined this morning in the European Parliament.
In the public hearing on Transparency in Structural Funds in the EU (agenda as PDF), Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) seemed pretty impressed by the presentation of Recovery.gov by Earl E. Devaney, Chairman of the US government’s Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, and the subsequent discussions showed that many MEPs think very much in line with Transparency International’s position on this matter.
The US government website that allows anyone interested to track public spending of the recovery measures made available by the Obama government seemed to be a good example on how to make things better than they are currently in the EU.
There is no doubt that the present situation in which reporting on Structural Funds is on the EU member states – which results in incomparable, often not machine readable and in some countries almost unusable data in different EU languages and different currencies – needs to be reform, as it was also confirmed by a scientific study from 2009 presented by Julie Pellegrin (full report & executive summary) and also by the interventions of Morten Levysohn from the European Court of Auditors (his introductory speech)
During the discussion, MEPs like Ingeborg Grässle, Zigmantas Balcytis or Jorgo Chatzimarkakis intervened in line with the Transparency International position, very critical of the present EU system and also attacked Karina Mathernova, Deputy Director General for Development, Coordination and Communication of Cohesion Policy in the European Commission, for not doing enough. MEP Martin Ehrenhauser has already blogged about this on his blog.
They all demand a more active role of the EU Commission, pushing EU member states to provide meaningful and comparable data, beyond the present minimum standard and incohesive implementation throughout the EU. If you go to the present Commission websites – beneficiaries of Cohesion Policies and beneficiaries of the European Social Fund – you will quickly realise that there is a lot to do to achieve the goals of the European Transparency Initiative of 2005…!
In return, the Commission representative played the ball towards the EU Council and the member states (especially the old EU members) who were reluctant to agree to more transparency and would put forward data protection and business secrets as reasons not to make EU funds spending more transparent. But she promised that with the reform of the Structural Funds (for the next period from 2014) this would be brought up. However, she didn’t seem convinced that member states would follow along that path.
The answer given by MEPs was very simple: It is no human right to get money from the EU, so being transparent about how this public money is spent should be a basic principle. In line with the guests from the US, everybody seemed to agree that the public has the right to know!