Friday 15 December 2017

EU chief orders auditors to 'tone down' the negativity

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels.
European Council president Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels.

Bruno Waterfield Brussels

THE European Council president was accused of talking nonsense after telling official auditors that they must tone down their criticism of Brussels's spending to avoid negative press coverage.

Herman Van Rompuy told Europe's Court of Auditors that he wanted it to ensure that its findings got positive headlines and preached the benefits of European spending of more than €131bn a year.

"Your reports are not released into a void but into the rough and tumble of political life and media reporting," he said.

"Every year, they generate headlines that 'yet again the EU's accounts have not been signed off', with deceptive allegations of fraud and mismanagement.

"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."

But a British government source in Downing Street accused him of talking nonsense.

REFORM

The source said: "The prime minister (David Cameron) is absolutely clear that the only way to clear up concerns about Brussels spending is to shine more of a light on it, not less.

"This kind of nonsense is exactly why the prime minister wants to reform the EU and then let the British people have their say on membership."

Since it started producing 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 British government to warn that the findings "seriously undermines the credibility of the EU's financial management" after the audit found that €103bn 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".

Mr Van Rompuy and the EU civil service are 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.

Earlier this summer, officials were alarmed when the EU's own opinion polling showed that trust in European institutions had fallen to an all-time low of 31pc following the eurozone crisis. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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