Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

EU Fraud on a Massive Scale Could Be Just the Tip of a Very Dangerous Iceberg

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

EU Fraud on a Massive Scale Could Be Just the Tip of a Very Dangerous Iceberg

Article excerpt

Byline: DENISE ROBERTSON

EUROPHILES still tell us our future lies with Europe, but last week peers on the European Union Select Committee found fraud against the taxpayer could be up to 12 times worse than Brussels officials will admit.

This on top of the fact that auditors have refused to pass the commission's accounts for 18 years despite the EU's statement on this subject saying: "Another clean bill of health for EU accounts, auditors find improvements in many payment areas."

The select committee said it believes frauds, ranging from claiming for non-existent herds of sheep to bribery and corruption, "never see the light of day" because the EU has failed to grasp the scale of the problem.

The EU budget is at least PS4.3bn every year and, according to the committee, reported fraud of 404m euros is just a "glimpse" of the problem.

We contribute a reported one in 10 of every pound spent by the EU, which means our share of the fraud is over PS400m.

A spokesman for the European Commission said the vast majority of fraud and error "occurs at member state level, and the commission is constantly calling on member states to take their responsibilities more seriously".

Somehow, that doesn't make me feel any better.

The result of adopting the euro has been an implosion of the Greek, Irish, Spanish and Portuguese economies, with even relatively strong economies like Italy and France shaking.

I've already written here of my fear of the far right gaining followers in Greece because, when people are desperate, they turn to despots. That's how Hitler came to power in Germany. Only last month, the former president of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned that "the demons of nationalism and war are stirring in Europe". Angela Merkel's Germany is the biggest economy in Europe and reportedly the fourth biggest in the world. It is the world's second largest exporter, although a new study by the European Central Bank shows that some Germans live more frugally and own less than people in the nations Germany is bailing out.

The sensible thing would surely be for the affected countries to leave the euro and start again, but some experts say Germany can't afford to let this happen. If it allows smaller nations to leave the euro and devalue their old currencies, their exports would be cheaper. Germany would see the value of its currency, the euro, rise, making its exports much more expensive, hence competition.

You can't help admiring the Germans, who have worked hard to establish their present financial security, but I fear our being tied to them in the federal state I think they have in mind.

QUANDARY: IT'S not often I find myself unable to decide which side I'm on, but BBC versus LSE has me foxed.

The LSE demanded the BBC withdraw last week's Panorama because students had been used "as cover" for the trip to North Korea by investigative journalist John Sweeney. …

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