A Smell at the Heart of Europe

Article excerpt

NOTHING changes, in the rotten heart of Europe.

For years, this paper has been reporting on the sleaze, incompetence and downright corruption in the major institutions of the EU. And for years, Brussels has tried to brush all these things under the carpet.

When the public-spirited EU official Bernard Connolly blew the whistle on this scandal, he promptly lost his job. When that other senior Eurocrat Paul van Buitenen protested against sleaze, he was suspended. The message could not have been made more brutally clear: rock the boat and you're out.

Then three years ago came the most shaming moment of all. The entire Brussels Commission under the wretched Jacques Santer, was forced to resign in disgrace for sleaze, outrageous nepotism and mismanagement.

That should have been the moment for genuine change. What happened instead was the intervention of Neil Kinnock.

Though sharing in the collective failings of the Commission, Mr Kinnock was not personally implicated in the sleaze and mismanagement and so - controversially - he and three other members were reappointed to serve again.

Indeed, he he was given charge of the much-trumpeted 'reform' programme that would supposedly ensure honesty and efficiency in the EU.

How hollow those 'reforms' look now.

According to a devastating leak from the EU Court of Auditors, serious problems are continuing in the way Brussels does its accounts.

The leaked document warns that hopelessly inadequate controls leave Europe wide open to mismanagement and corruption. In robust language it concludes: 'Failures abound and are a waste of public funds (it is impossible to put a figure on the amount involved).' The indictment could hardly be more damning.

It seems the system is in such a shambles that it is anybody's guess how much of Europe's annual pound sterling65billion budget is being stolen or squandered. …