How do you think to cut EU funds from those politicians who use it improperly?
Our goal is clear: don’t let illiberal-populist and corrupt politicians use EU funds to secure their control and power in any Member State. We want that the EU funds go directly to individual citizens and to SME’s in a proper way. For sure, the European Commission has the right to decide the frames of legal proposal on our initiative. The solutions could be different: to strengthen OLAF or to make membership of the European Prosecutors’s Office compulsory or any other solution. We think the best way is to strengthen controls - even before moneny is spent - where there is a risk. We will now have to make it happen together: give a signature for the STOP FRAUD with EU FUNDS initiative!
Why don’t you initiate rather that all member states should join the European Prosecutor’s Office?
The European Prosecutors’ Office is an enhanced cooperation where not all states participate because some refused to participate. They cited legal or political arguments. Due to the consensual way of working of the EU, there is only a slight chance to make joining compulsory. The only popular action to force joining could be a referendum but it is doubtful whether this could trigger an international action.
What control measures do you envisage?
Although the Commission is free to decide what proposals it make following a European Citizens’ Initiative, we have some proposals. There are red flags which point to fraud, for example when one group of operators wins most of the tenders as beneficiaries or as contractors, and these cases should be investigated more thoroughly. Ex ante controls (where the control is precondition of contracting or payment) could prevent moneys being sent improperly.
Is your proposal equivalent to joining the European Prosecutors’ Office?
It serves the same purpose. It can be more efficient as it can prevent or at least stopping in time the fraud as the EPO acts in most cases only after an OLAF investigation which takes time. Also, the EPO works with delegated national prosecutors who may be more biased while the Commission or other EU body is more distant from the country. On the other hand, it is only the EPO which can prosecute the fraudsters themselves. Therefore there is a difference.
Could the proposals be valid also for countries joining the EPO?
Yes, the proposals are generally applicable. We targeted the countries not joining the EPO because the risk fraudsters face is lower in these countries. The European Parliament could for example insist on these or similar measures when approving the budget or the next multiannual financial framework.
European Citizens' Initiative to stop fraud and abuse of EU funds