Europe’s official auditors must tone down their criticism of Brussels spending to avoid negative press coverage and to promote the European Union, Herman Van Rompuy has said.
By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels
1:51PM BST 13 Sep 2013
The EU president told the Europe’s Court of Auditors that he wants it to ensure that its findings get positive headlines and preach the benefits of European spending worth over £110 billion a year.
“Your reports are not released into a void but into the rough and tumble of political life and media reporting,” he said on Thursday night. “Every year, they generate headlines that ‘yet again the EU’s accounts have not been signed off’, with deceptive allegations of fraud and mismanagement. You and I know that such headlines can be misleading.
“Given this media handling of information, and its impact on public opinion in some countries, the court might want to give some further thought as to how it can encourage more nuanced reporting.
“It’s important that citizens can have the whole picture, with all its nuances.”
Ever since it started producing annual reports into European finances in 1994, the Court of Auditors has failed to sign off the EU’s accounts because of widespread irregularities, including fraud.
Last year, the auditors’ annual report prompted the Government to warn that the findings “seriously undermines the credibility of the EU’s financial management” after the audit found that £89 billion of European spending was “affected by material error”.
Mr Van Rompuy acknowledged that the auditors must make “results known” but insisted that they had “another responsibility: that of being as didactic as we possibly can” in order to help instruct the public about the benefits of EU membership.
“In the end we are all responsible for Europe and its image,” he said. “In times of crisis, it is more vital than ever to foster confidence. We should also be teaching, to convince Europeans and demonstrate clearly that Europe is not the source of problems, but the solution.”
Earlier this summer, officials were alarmed when the EU’s own opinion polling showed that trust in European institutions had plummeted to an all-time low of 31 per cent in the wake of eurozone crisis and collapsing living standards in many countries across Europe.
Mr Van Rompuy’s comments angered British politicians who have accused him of wanting to whitewash the EU’s accounts to mislead the public.
Nigel Farage MEP, the leader of Ukip, described the speech as an “incredible” attempt to muzzle the EU’s auditors.
“The Court of Auditors which has not signed off the EU accounts for 18 years, is asked to go easy and provide good PR only for the EU,” he said. In which other banana republic in the world would the president publicly call for less exposure of waste of taxpayers’ money?.”
Douglas Carswell, the Tory MP for Clacton, said: “Van Rompuy invokes euro idealism to try to get us to turn a blind eye to dodgy account keeping by his own Eurocrats. In doing so he discredits the very system he seeks to defend.”
Mr Van Rompuy and the EU civil service is concerned that it is going to be difficult to keep track of new funding projects, worth hundreds of billions in spending between 2014 to 2020.
“I understand that this will also translate into a spike of audits in areas where results are not easily measurable. We need to show how this money is making a difference for citizens across Europe,” the EU president said, concluding his speech with the words: “we continue to count on you.”
Categories: EU Erosion