By Marta Andreasen MEP • In the Budget Committee this morning Commissioner Lewandowski was wheeled out to defend the indefensible – a rise in the European Commission’s budget. Using the 99p tactic beloved of supermarkets to mask a rise of almost 5 per cent, he didn’t even have the good grace to look embarrassed or sheepish.
There is to my mind something fundamentally wrong when an EU institution preaches the need for austerity to every member state and tries to strait jacket their budgets citing the financial crisis, yet asks for a rise for itself. It is as if the European Commission sees itself as detached from the real world and immune from the financial crisis.
I listened intently and with increasing concern as the Commissioner cited the Europe 2020 strategy as the basis for its projections.
By citing this ‘strategy’ the Commission conveniently ignores past programme efficiency across the various budget lines. Instead of sensibly looking at things in a retrospective manner and planning accordingly, it prefers to pin its hopes on castles in the sky. At this stage the 2020 Strategy is nothing more than utopian wish-list.
For proof of the abject failure of this approach, we need look no further than the failed Lisbon strategy. Let us remember that its aim was to make the EU “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”, by 2010. Enough said I think.
The Commission wants to grow cohesion funds by 8.4 per cent. Yet the rate of error (the EU´s word for misappropriation or fraud) in cohesion accounting identified by the European Court of Auditors is abnormally high. How anyone can envisage this as a sensible course of action is beyond me.
The Commission has tried to identify savings, presumably as a face-saving exercise. This is a case however of much too little, much too late. A reduction of 12.7% in the Galileo means nothing when its costs have already trebled. So much for projections!
Rather than seek savings, projects such as this should just be cut and abandoned. In the coming days I will be identifying and highlighting areas and lines that should just be given up altogether.
What is also clear from today’s presentation is that the triumphalist rhetoric employed by the British Prime Minister about how he secured decreases in EU spending was just spin. Make no mistake, today was a clear rebuke and a very public slap in the face to David Cameron.