Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

E.U. Audit Criticizes Foreign Aid Program ; Billions Sent to Egypt Yielded Little and Can't Be Traced, Report Says

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

E.U. Audit Criticizes Foreign Aid Program ; Billions Sent to Egypt Yielded Little and Can't Be Traced, Report Says

Article excerpt

The criticism will sting the bloc's authorities at a time when they and their colleagues are under intense pressure to justify their effectiveness amid rising disenchantment with the European Union.

The European Union has failed to get value for the EUR 1 billion it allocated for aiding Egypt during the past five years, the bloc's main audit authority said Monday.

Egypt is one of the largest recipients of E.U. aid under a program called the European Neighborhood Policy, which seeks to promote stability and democracy among 16 recipients, including the Palestinian territories and Belarus.

In the case of Egypt, up to EUR 600 million, or $800 million, of direct aid to support sectors like health and education could not be properly traced because of the lack of an adequate audit trail, according to the European Court of Auditors, an E.U. body that reviews major areas of spending by the bloc.

The audit agency's criticism will sting the E.U. authorities -- in particular Catherine Ashton, the bloc's foreign policy chief, and Stefan Fule, its commissioner for the neighborhood policy -- at a time when they and their colleagues are under unprecedented pressure to justify their effectiveness amid rising disenchantment with the European Union.

"The softly-softly approach has not worked, and the time has come for a more focused approach which will produce meaningful results and guarantee better value for the European taxpayers' money," Karel Pinxten, a member of the court, told reporters.

The report by the court will also call into question whether the European Union is keeping close enough tabs on spending for Egypt worth about EUR 5 billion that was agreed to in November 2012 during a meeting between Ms. Ashton and the Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi.

The court, which publishes up to 20 so-called special reports each year focusing on major areas of E.U. expenditure, said its criteria for success were whether aid had been effective in improving management of public finances, reducing corruption and promoting human rights and democracy.

But Ms. Ashton's and Mr. Fule's departments had failed to use their leverage to promote those goals, and they failed, even once the lack of progress had become apparent, to take "decisive action to ensure accountability for considerable E. …

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