Cynthia O’Murchu, who lead our investigation last year into how the European Union’s €347bn in regional development funds are spent, writes to Brussels Blog with an update:
Just in time for the Fifth Cohesion Forum, during which EU officials mulled the future of its policy towards developing the bloc’s poorer regions, the European Commission responded to a slew of parliamentary questions fielded by MEPs about last year’s FT’s investigation.
We have a live Twitter #hashtag chat with Cynthia O’Murchu, FT reporter, on our EU structural funds special investigation.
European structural funds investigation
UPDATE: see below for later reaction from the European Commission.
The Brussels press corps got a change from Ireland bail-outs on Tuesday, when the European Commission decided to make structural funds the topic of the day.
Pia Ahrenkilde-Hansen, Commission spokeswoman, spent the first 15 minutes of the daily midday briefing vocally defending cohesion funds, in direct response to day 1 of the FT’s expose.
“It is simply not true that cohesion funding lies idle under red tape,” she said, reprising our front-page headline. Her argument, which I expect will find its way onto the FT’s letters page, is that the money isn’t sitting on EU bank accounts – but rather has yet to be called up from member states.
How are European Union structural funds managed? That is – literally – the €347bn question.
That’s the amount the EU plans to spend between 2007 and 2013 on around 2m projects designed to boost development across the continent, particularly in its newer, poorer member states.