|Vol.7, No.7, 22.2.01, p9 (editorial)
BY SHOWING they may be reluctant to approve the EU's 1999 budget, MEPs are poised this week to start a chain of events similar to the one that led to the mass resignation of the Santer Commission nearly two years ago.
Parliamentarians are right to insist on full and frank information in two outstanding cases involving abuses of EU funds from that year: the investigation into the Fléchard dairy firm and the fraudulent claims for flax subsidies in Spain. But they should not ignore how much has changed since 1999.
At that time, the committee of independent experts issued its damning report on the European Commission's performance, stating that it was impossible to find anyone with a "sense of responsibility" in the administration. With that condemnation ringing in their ears, the Commissioners had no choice but to fall on their swords.
But next week is a crucial point in time for anyone with a serious interest in improving the EU executive's performance and giving citizens the service they deserve. On Wednesday, Vice-President Neil Kinnock will table the most crucial elements of his massive reform programme designed to increase the efficiency of the Commission - and restore a sense of pride and responsibility in its staff. As the warnings from unions have already shown, getting even these long-overdue reforms to the pay and promotions systems approved will be difficult, as too many officials seem to prefer the status quo to having to earn their pay rises through achievement.
The Parliament should try to get to the bottom of the Fléchard and flax cases. But MEPs should devote as much of their political energy and commitment to backing Kinnock's reform proposals. If not, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to turn the Commission into a truly effective servant of the European public interest, with all the implications for careful spending of EU funds, will be lost.
By showing they may be reluctant to approve the EU's 1999 budget, MEPs are poised to start a chain of events similar to the one that led to the mass resignation of the Santer Commission in 1999.
|Economic and Financial Affairs, Politics and International Relations