Committee guide 2020 | CONT: Command and control

Written by Monika Hohlmeier on 5 February 2020 in Feature
Feature

EU money is taxpayers’ money, and the CONT Committee ensures that it is spent correctly, efficiently and in a purposeful way, explains Monika Hohlmeier.

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The Committee on Budgetary Control’s (CONT) main focus over the next five years will focus on highlighting systemic issues regarding the rule of law, conflicts of interest, the misuse of EU funds by organised crime, the creation of oligarch systems through the misuse of EU money, land-grabbing and weaknesses in our customs and VAT-collection systems.

The CONT Committee wants to guarantee that EU money benefits the majority of citizens. Subsidies should reach those who need them most: small and medium-sized companies and family led small and medium-sized farms, innovative start-ups, researchers and family businesses - not oligarchs.

We do not accept that the political decisions on how taxpayers’ money is used and those receiving the benefit of these subsidies should be in the same hands.


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Despite these issues, CONT Committee members are well aware that most financial discrepancies are due to the complexity of the EU’s rules and procedures - particularly in areas such as agriculture, cohesion and research and innovation.

Therefore, simplifying our rules and procedures as well as reducing any unnecessary gold-plating - the addition of national rules and requirements to our already complex EU legislation - as well as non-transparent procedures will be another important issue on the Committee’s agenda for this legislative term.

As CONT Committee chair, I believe that simplifying procedures and improving transparency will result in better and speedier implementation of EU programmes.

“As CONT Committee chair, I believe that simplifying procedures and improving transparency will result in better and speedier implementation of EU programmes”

It is important that the CONT Committee continues to monitor and analyse the effectiveness of national management and audit authorities while asking how we can ensure more or better technical assistance, or more effective knowledge-sharing systems and exchange of excellence between Member States.

One of the most important, but extremely sensitive, topics on the Committee’s agenda is the continued fight against corruption.

In a small number of cases, national governments may be involved, which can make things highly political. Therefore, it is crucial that we improve ‘rule of law’ enforcement across the Member States.

Unfortunately, the existing rule of law mechanism in the Lisbon Treaty isn’t working properly and there is a lot to be done to move forward in creating an effective and transparent rule of law legislation.

We must ensure that the rule of law mechanism becomes effective and is applied equally, without exception, in all Member States.

I believe that we in the CONT Committee should focus on the big issues and point our finger at issues of systemic failure in a constructive way.

EU money is taxpayers’ money, and the CONT Committee ensures that it is spent correctly, efficiently and in a purposeful way. I want to avoid EU citizens having to pay more taxes because of fraudsters and criminals.

Therefore, the Committee keeps an eye on Member States’ collection of the EU’s own resources. In addition, CONT pushes on strengthening the rule of law, monitors that all Member States have efficient and effective mechanisms to avoid conflicts of interest, that EU subsidies reach the right beneficiaries, and that national management and control authorities can work independently.

“It is crucial that we improve ‘rule of law’ enforcement across the Member States”

I am delighted that the Parliament’s candidate, Laura Kövesi, was confirmed as European Chief Prosecutor.

I expect the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to make a strong contribution in combatting cross-border VAT fraud, money laundering and crimes against the EU’s financial interests, where the EU is losing out on enormous amounts of revenue - around €95bn in VAT fraud alone - every year.

For EPPO to become a success we must ensure that it is adequately equipped to have a serious impact. Therefore, I am happy that we could agree on five additional staff members for EPPO in the 2020 budget negotiations.

Though we are seeing improvements in the area of cohesion, there are still a lot of weaknesses. Going forward, we must do more to improve the support of SMEs and start-ups.

In the area of agriculture we are facing a problem due to the huge concentration of CAP subsidies delivered to a small number of recipients.

CONT would like to strengthen opportunities for small and medium-sized farms rather than subsidies for industrial conglomerates.

There is a clear need for reforms to improve fairness. In the multiannual financial framework (MFF) there will be new priorities that require fresh money.

The new European Green Deal will also need to be monitored to ensure its sustainability, effectiveness and added value.

The European Development Fund and the different trust funds should be included in the European budget to help streamline activities and ensure that its commitments help fulfil the policy and development goals outlined in its strategy.

The introduction of financial means currently being managed outside the EU Budget should not lead to cuts but should help align and increase the EU’s influence in the regions concerned.

Finally, we are facing challenges because of underfinanced programmes in the area of research and innovation. Additional means are necessary to ensure we have a fair distribution of grants.

About the author

Monika Hohlmeier (DE, EPP) is chair of Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control

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