Europe’s hidden billions: Tracking the EU’s Structural FundsThe Bureau, in collaboration with the Financial Times, has created the only comprehensive database tracking every penny distributed through the EU’s Structural Funds to date.
As Europeans face the uncertainty of swingeing government cuts, the European Union continues to spend. Its structural fund programme distributes €347bn of European taxpayers’ money across 271 regions in 27 countries.
Yet a web of bureaucracy has hidden this spending. Even MEPs have not had a truly transparent view of the organisations getting the funds.
Over eight months the Bureau and the FT have collected data relating to billions of euros to reveal, for the first time, the 646,000 recipients that have received the funds.
Our research reveals:
- How Italy’s most dangerous mafia, the ndrangheta, has become an expert at getting its hands on these funds
- A decentralised, cumbersome and weak system allows, and rarely punishes, fraud and misuse
- Millions of euros are going to multinational companies to help them move factories within the union despite guidelines discouraging this practice
- Funds have been used to finance a hotel building boom on protected nature reserves in Spain
- The lack of thorough checks means money is being wasted
- Some of the world’s largest companies are receiving funding despite the programme being aimed at small and medium-sized companies
No wonder that voters in most EU countries are getting more and more critical.
It is also good to remember that for more than 16 years in a row the Court of Auditors has been unable to give a clean bill of health to the ovarall EU budget. But nobody seems to care.
One German MEP at least showed some interest:
"We have to ask ourselves if we can continue to allocate more and more money to the EU commission, if year after year it is uncapable of managing the funds efficiently," said German Liberal MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, responsible with drafting the Parliament position on this report.