“Today the European Court of Auditors published a report on how Member States have been fighting fraud with Cohesion Policy funds. It highlights that while some progress was made as regards risk assessment and prevention, fraud detection and response can be further improved. The Commission has zero tolerance to fraud with the EU budget and expects the same level of commitment from Member States, who are mainly responsible for the sound management of Cohesion Policy funding.
We are here to remind them of their obligations and help them with continuous guidance and a set of tools which usefulness has been recognised by the Court. We are also here to alert OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, when we have suspicions and to claw back the EU funding if fraud is proven.
Since 2014, we have stepped up our efforts to protect the EU budget. For the current budget period, under Cohesion Policy rules, we have required Member States to have solid anti-fraud systems in place and have performed upfront checks of the authorities in charge of implementing EU funds programmes to make sure they have the capacity to do so.
We revised our own financial rules, making them tougher against conflicts of interest with EU funds, and upgraded our overall anti-fraud strategy just last week, for better prevention, detection and sanctioning of fraud and more coordination among all the Commission departments.
We will not stop there. The European Public Prosecutor’s Office will be up and running in 2020, with 22 Member States on board. It will have the power to investigate, prosecute and bring to judgment crimes against the EU budget. In addition, our proposals for the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027 also includes provisions aiming to protect the EU budget against generalised deficiencies as regards the Rule of Law. After all, such deficiencies could affect the ability of a Member States to prevent and sanction fraud.
Each euro from the EU budget must benefit the citizens. The Commission and the Member States will continue to work together in the next long-term EU budget to protect the EU taxpayers’ money and to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters.