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Tag ‘EU funding’

Express seems to complain about EC protecting taxpayers’ money

Monday, July 15th, 2013
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Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)

The Sunday Express claims in its article “£270m EU cashback row“, 14 July 2013 that a political row has erupted over refunding of money for EU funded regional projects in the UK. Serious allegations are made in the article. The European Commission is therefore setting the facts straight here.

The  Commission has indeed interrupted interim payments for English regional programmes. It has done this because the UK’s own auditors – not “Eurocrats” –  have identified  serious deficiencies in the national management and control system for these payments.

When problems at national level are spotted, as they have been on this occasion – and others – in the UK, the Commission acts to protect taxpayers’ money by  interrupting payments until the issues are resolved. The Commission has done exactly the same when similar issues have arisen in other Member States.

The payments can resume as soon as the UK auditors’ concerns have been addressed.

What is more the article says: “For 18 years in a row, auditors have refused to sign off EU accounts amid allegations of fraud and waste.”

First, the European Court of Auditors has for years now given an overall green light on the Commission’s financial accounts for centralised spending, in simplified terms money spent directly by “Brussels”.

Its reservations persist in areas where – exactly as in this case – money is managed jointly with Member States and spent at national level.

Second, the Court of Auditors has clearly said every year that most of the problems are not a matter of “fraud and waste” but of errors, many of them technical and having little effect on the final outcome of spending.

In addition, the audit of EU spending is very stringent and accounts are viewed as a single entity, unlike most national accounts. Former UK Comptroller Sir John Bourn once said to the House of Lords that if he had had to operate a  similar system to the EU one: “I might have to qualify the whole of British central government expenditure.”

Nevertheless, the Commission agrees that performance needs to be further  improved and continues to work to get the error level below the target of 2%.

It  can only do that if all Member States, including the UK, also up their game.

It would seem perverse to insist on the need to improve financial control of EU spending, but to object when such control is exercised.

Genetics breakthrough on cancer risk makes the headlines but the EU doesn’t

Thursday, March 28th, 2013
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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Despite the extensive coverage in the British media on research into the study of genomes and the risks of developing cancer – funded by Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust – the absence of any reference to EU funding was striking, despite some referring to the pan-European element of the research project.

Only the Japan Times reported the research was also funded by the EU and the US National Institutes of Health with Channel 4 News acknowledging it was part of the Collaborative Oncological Gene-Environment Study (COGS).

The COGS study is a project financed under the 7th Framework Programme, attracting approximately €11.7 million of EU funding towards the total project cost of around €16.6m.

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Holiday season bumper Euromyths special

Friday, December 21st, 2012
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Rating: 5.0/5 (12 votes cast)

Seems it is the season to be jolly cavalier with the facts over EU stories, so we are posting this composite five-part myth-buster correcting misleading stories about films, cars, I-pods, insurance and pensions. There is perhaps merit in asking the question: how can there be a serious debate in the UK about EU issues amid this cacophony of misinformation?

First, the Sun claimed on Sunday 16 December that the EU was demanding £1.5 billion to subsidise “boring European films”. In fact, The King’s Speech, Tinker Tailor, Soldier Spy and The Woman in Black are just some of the non-boring and very British films supported with EU funding and – partly as a direct result of that – enjoyed by many film-goers around the world, thus bringing in cash to the UK.

The funding is mostly agreed before the film is released – when it’s far from clear that a particular film would have big box office potential. On the basis of the theme, no one could have predicted the global success of the Kings Speech, for instance. A very English film about a stuttering English king and his speech therapist – not an obvious hit on paper.

The idea that European audiovisual work is “boring” also may not be shared by Sun readers who are fans of The Killing, Untouchable and many more.

Second, the Telegraph claimed that only sterling work by Roads Minister Stephen Hammond had prevented “Brussels” introducing rules that would have “forced owners of classic cars to take them off the road if they had been modified in any way” and “forced more than a million caravans and trailers to undergo an MOT.”  But the Commission’s proposals on roadworthiness testing would not have forced any classic cars off the road, would not have made subject to testing any UK trailers or caravans not already subject to it….. and indeed would barely have affected the UK at all, as we already made clear here on this site in September.

Third, in a similar vein of trumpeting non-existent victories over a nefarious “Brussels” monster, a series of newspapers, led by the Evening Standard on 20 December, claimed the UK had “rebuffed plans to slap a £15 tax on i-Pods and other gadgets”. But there are no such plans to rebuff. And European officials were not “set to unveil plans for an EU-wide system of levies set by Brussels”.  Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier has indeed asked respected former Portuguese Commissioner and Minister Antonio Vitorino to make a report on the best way of achieving coherence in various rules across Europe on private copying of music, film, etc. But Mr Vitorino has not yet reported. When he does, it will then be for the  Commission to decide whether and how to make legislative proposals to act on what he suggests….and even if the Commission does make proposals, those rules would still only enter into force if a large majority of national Ministers – under the qualified majority voting system – and a majority of MEPs agreed. So no need to “go into battle against Europe” in the colourful but rather over-imaginative phrase used by the Standard. In fact what happens in Europe are discussions between partners, of which the UK is a very influential one, not least on single market issues like this.

Next, the new insurance rules based on the European Court of Justice verdict last year that gender discrimination in pricing was illegal. These rules enter into force today and many media reported this accurately. But many others did not, despite the Commission making a fact sheet available in advance of publication. The Daily Telegraph suggested wrongly that “Although young women tend to be safer drivers than men of the same age the new rules mean they will no longer be able to benefit from their care on the road.” The paper had the good grace to print our letter of correction – in full on this occasion: see earlier posts on this site for example of how they and other newspapers have edited our replies in order to soften them.

The letter reads: “The European Court verdict outlawing gender discrimination in insurance will not stop women drivers benefiting from “their care on the road” (report, December 20). The new rules are about fairer pricing. Male drivers will no longer pay more just because they are men. Instead, all safe drivers will pay less than drivers who are less safe, and the costs and benefits of a private pension will depend on individual circumstances and not just gender. The European Commission is insisting that price cuts be passed on to policy-holders as fairly as increases. Innovative and competitive insurance companies have every incentive to apply fairer pricing cost-effectively. Some are already doing so.”

Finally, and sticking with the insurance industry, several media including the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express followed up previous inaccurate stories on this issue by claiming that “new EU pension rules” would cost 180 000 jobs and cost British business £350 billion. This was based on a press release from the CBI and an initial report from the Press Association (later corrected), neither of which made clear one very important fact – not only are there no new rules but the European Commission has not even put on the table any proposals for new legislation.

What is more, the Commissioner responsible, Michel Barnier, has given repeated assurances – some of which have featured on this site, see here – that many of the fears being expressed are based on misunderstandings.

The reports quoted a range of sources fulminating against the “reckless” – but as yet non-existent – plans. Only the Telegraph, to its credit, came to the Commission for a comment – but it then put it right at the end of its article.

The truth of the situation is that the Commission asked the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) – an EU advisory and implementing body with no power to make or even propose EU law – to perform an initial study on the issue. When that was submitted in February 2012, the Commission requested that EIOPA follow up with a full quantitative impact study, which is now in progress, based on a wide consultation.  The CBI report will be valuable input to the study and to the wider consultation process.

Only once that impact study is complete – and once the Commission is in a position to take full account of all of the evidence and of the views of all stakeholders  – will the Commission come forward with a proposal.  Even then, such a proposal would only become EU law if agreed by MEPs and Ministers.

The aim of reviewing the relevant EU laws is to make sure that pension schemes are sustainable and that members are not left high and dry with no pay out – as has happened in some cases in the past.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all
The EC in London team

Letter to Daily Express on EU funding, 20 january 2011

Thursday, January 20th, 2011
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Dear Sirs,

Your coverage of the National Comptroller’s report on EU spending in the UK has me stumped. Given your paper’s frequent criticism of the way that the EU manages its accounts, I would have expected your support when we make efforts to get our house in order. As 80% of EU spending is done through its Member States, any control system has to concern their management of funds as well. And if mistakes are found, they must be rectified.

Yours faithfully
Jonathan Scheele
Head of European Commission Representation in the UK

Dennis Abbott writes to Daily Telegraph about EU Culture Programme

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
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Your report on recent beneficiaries of EU funding (26 July 2010) was misleading in a number of important respects. The article refers to “a secretive fund of £400million to pay for projects that include promoting a ‘smelly-foot’ dance and producing postcards about the causes of ‘social exclusion’.”

The examples cited in the article were not confidential. The projects, supported through the EU Culture and Europe for Citizens’ programmes, were subject to an open and rigorous selection procedure by independent experts following calls for proposals. 

The EU Culture Programme has a budget of 400 million euros – not quite the same as the £400 million figure mentioned. This sum, agreed by national governments (including the UK), covers a seven-year period and is shared between 35 European countries.

The article highlights a £145,000 grant to print 736 postcards “at a cost nearly £200 per card”. However it omits to mention that this grant, from the Europe for Citizens’ programme, also covers the organisation of workshops in six countries, as well as an exhibition, book and website, aimed at identifying new ways to address social exclusion. So the £200 per card claim is completely false.

The London-based Flying Gorillas troupe, whose act includes the “brilliant smelly foot dance”, performs for young children in the UK, Italy and Romania. It specialises in unconventional performance techniques because the children speak different languages. Their publicity for the smelly foot dance is supposed to be humorous, bearing in mind the age of their audience. The grant also enables the group to provide professional training and work experience for young people aged 16-24.

The EU is committed to supporting the cultural and creative sector, which contributes billions of pounds to the European economy (2.6% of European GDP, according to our data) and provides jobs for millions of people. Without the EU’s support, some of those jobs could disappear.

Dennis Abbott
Spokesman

Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
European Commission

Funding culture during a recession

Friday, March 19th, 2010
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In an article on 19 March the Daily Telegraph challenges the European Commission for funding projects in the culture and creative industries during a recession.

The article misrepresents the funding available under the EU Culture programme in two important respects:

 

 First, it suggests the EU has earmarked 366 million pounds for culture projects in 2010. In fact this figure relates to the whole seven-year budget period (2007-2013) and covers the 34 countries participating in the Culture programme (EU27 + Croatia, FYROM, Iceland, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Turkey).

 

Secondly, the biggest grant mentioned in the article – £900,000 for the European laboratory for hip-hop dance – is totally incorrect. The actual sum was 95% less than this amount or £45 000.

 

We fundamentally do not agree with the argument that culture and creative industries should be excluded from EU funding during a recession. This funding is creating thousands of jobs, especially for small businesses. The sector employs five million people across Europe. According to UK government figures, it generates revenues of around £112.5 billion for the UK and employs 1.3 million people here. By supporting the sector the EU is nurturing growth and is in fact helping Europeans to cope with the difficult economic situation.

EC in the UK

Check the EC Representation in the UK website

Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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