Successful negotiations in EU-Parliament: these rules in the Financial Regulation will help us to fight corruption and autocracy
The responsible committees in the European Parliament have adopted their position on the revision of the Financial Regulation. Behind this bulky title, however, lies much more than just the regulation of EU spending. The draft law in its current form would be a key instrument for protecting European values and fighting autocracy and corruption on EU level.
In the course of the negotiations in the Committee, we were able to push through effective changes. The most important ones at a glance:
- No fundamental rights → no EU funds: In the future, the European Commission shall be able to suspend payments of all EU funds if a Member State does not comply with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. This means that we will be able to not only suspend payments of the Cohesion Fund but also the agriculture subsidies worth billions of Euros if a Member State does not sufficiently protect the fundamental rights of its citizens.
- Expansion of the EU ‘Blacklist’: Those who have cheated with EU funds in the past, should not be able to receive them in the future. That sounds obvious – but so far recipients of only 20 percent of EU-funds could be blacklisted if they committed corruption, fraud, money laundering, child labour, or the circumvention of workers’ rights or similar. The Commission and the Parliament want that in future all recipients of EU funds may be blacklisted. We Greens have advocated that individuals and companies who have committed the most serious offences (corruption, child labour, financing terrorist organisations, etc.) shall not banned from receiving EU funds for only five years, but permanently. In the end, we were not able to push through this demand, but we managed to negotiate the increase of the blocking period to ten years.
- Broadening the definition of conflict of interests: Currently, the Financial Regulation stipulates that only employees of national and EU authorities can have a conflict of interest and thus the proper disbursement of EU funds can no longer be guaranteed. Due to special pressure from us Greens, office holders are now also included in the definition. This would give the EU more leverage in the future to take action against cases like the one of former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis. As owner of the company Agrofert, Babis received EU subsidies worth hundreds of millions of euros over the years, while negotiating the EU budget as Prime Minister.
- Public database on recipients of EU funds: Due to the chaotic data situation, it is not yet possible to get an overview of the biggest recipients of EU funds. In principle, the EU does not know who receives the money. With the revision of the Financial Regulation, the Commission and the Parliament want to create a uniform database of EU money recipients. Parts of the database should also be made available to the public. The Parliament urges that not only the names of the companies receiving EU funds need be published, but also their owners. This would make it easier to identify conflicts of interests. However, the names of the company owners will only be published if they receive more than half a billion euros. Unfortunately, our demand to halve this very high threshold did not find a majority among the other political groups.
- Improved data on the gender of the recipients of EU funds: To this date, the EU has not collected any data on the gender of recipients of EU funds. The Parliament intends to collect this data in the future so that a fair distribution of EU funds with regards to gender can also be guaranteed. Above all, this is the success of my colleague Alexandra Geese who negotiated the Financial Regulation in the Budget Committee.
What happens next?
The position of the Parliament still has to be confirmed in the plenary session in May. As soon as the Member States have also adopted their general approach in the Council, the Commission, the Parliament and the Council will have to reach an agreement in the so-called trilogue negotiations. These are expected to start in fall this year.
The draft law in its current form would be a key instrument for protecting European values and fighting autocracy and corruption on EU level.