Budgetary control MEPs find “worrying accounts over irregularities” in a mission to Czechia 

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On Friday in Prague a delegation of six MEPs concluded a fact finding visit to Czechia, in a follow-up to reports on possible irregularities in distribution of EU funds.

After the conclusion of the fact-finding mission MEP Monika Hohlmeier (EPP, DE), speaking on behalf of the six-member strong delegation to Czech Republic, said:

“In this visit it has been crucial for us to hear all sides, in order to obtain an impartial view, as the European Parliament in its budgetary control authority cannot operate solely based on impressions and media reports.”

“During our mission, we have seen an outstanding example of how the EU money can be used well for top level research projects with European added value. On the other hand, we heard small-scale farmers who shared a different daily reality of using EU subsidies, with agricultural holdings obtaining multiple subsidies for a single company.”

“We also asked those who control the EU money distribution in the Czech Republic on how the EU's and Czech national legislation on conflict of interest is implemented and how final beneficiaries of EU funds are identified.”

“Last but not least, we heard worrying accounts from civil society over irregularities in the use of EU funds in the Czech Republic. Therefore the work of the Budgetary Control committee will not stop here. We will keep on gathering relevant inputs from all actors and make sure that the authorities are notified if this information indicates possible misuse of money - paid by the EU taxpayers, including those in the Czech Republic”, she concluded.

Members of the delegation

The delegation was accompanied by MEP Mikuláš Peksa (Greens/EFA, CZ) and Tony Murphy, Member of the European Court of Auditors.

Programme of the visit

During the fact finding mission to Czech Republic MEPs met with investigative journalists, NGO representatives, association of private farming, as well as the Draft Audit reports committee of the Czech Senate.

They also spoke to authorities responsible for management and distribution of the EU funds, including the Deputy Minister of Finance L. Dupáková, Deputy minister of Agriculture J. Šír and State agriculture intervention fund director-general M. Šebestyán, Deputy Minister of Regional Development D. Grabmüllerová.

They spoke to the State Secretary for EU Affairs M. Hrdinková and the President of the Supreme Audit Office M. Kala.

MEPs also visited the Laser ELI Beamlines project, co-funded by the EU.

Next steps

Following the fact-finding mission in Czechia, the delegation will draft a feedback report with recommendations that will be made public.

The findings of Budgetary Control MEPs will feed into the resolution of European Parliament to be adopted in March I (tbc) plenary session, to wind up the plenary debate on the possible conflict of interest of Czech Prime Minister. Video recording of the January 2020 debate.

In the March II plenary session the European Parliament will take decision on the discharge for the European Union budget. In the draft report, adopted by the Budgetary Control committee, MEPs expressed their concerns for the situation in Czech Republic.

Background

The Committee on Budgetary control (CONT) is the leading committee to exercise the European Parliament’s duty of monitoring the implementation of the EU budget. The fight against fraud, irregularities and conflict of interest in the distribution of EU funds has been a long-standing priority for CONT members. They have previously conducted missions to oversee the mechanisms of EU funds distribution or follow up reported irregularities in Slovakia, Albania, Greece and others.

The previous CONT mission to the Czech Republic took place on 26 ad 27 March 2014 and resulted in a significant number of recommendations, including on prevention of the conflict of interest (read the report).