Letter: How the EU can get serious

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leader today "The pounds 2bn question" (15 November) on fraud and waste in the EU correctly concludes "It is time the member states got serious about the problem". But you are short on prescriptions for making them do just that. The Court of Auditors, equally, makes no recommendations on what Europe can do to stir the member states into action, but there is no shortage of suggestions from other sources.

In the Liberal Democrat group, we have been pressing for a few simple changes that could quickly bring results. First, the European Commission needs a bigger stick to wave at the member states if it is to persuade them to act. In some areas it can withhold funding if it thinks fraud is going unchecked. Extend that to all EU-funded schemes, and you would soon see action.

Second, we need to make transparent a process that is all too opaque. Reports on fraud drawn up by the member states are prepared in secret, which leaves us all in the dark and suggests that they have something to hide. The reports must now be published.

Third, the European Parliament should be allowed to set up committees of inquiry. As a body independent of both the commission and the member states, it is well placed to arbitrate where culpability is in dispute.

These ideas are not the whole answer, but they are part of it, and they have growing support. In an aside yesterday, one member of the court suggested that, were it able to make such recommendations, similar ideas would be among them. For the sake of efficiency, accountability and, not least, lower taxes all round, it is, as you say, time to get serious.

Yours faithfully,

Robin Teverson

MEP for Cornwall and Plymouth West (Lib Dem)

European Parliament

Strasbourg

15 November

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