Saturday, October 04, 2003

Prodi on Mutual Trust

Answering my own question over at Fisful of Euros, I don't think Prodi should resign, but I do think someone should accept responsibility. Prodi yesterday he saw "no reason" for members of the EU executive to resign over the "evil" Eurostat scandal, a scandal saw millions of euros of public disappear into secret slush funds. Faced of mounting calls from some backbench members of the European parliament for heads to roll over the affair, he insisted: "I have not made progress in my political career by walking on the bodies of others." Which is another way of not apportioning responsibility by accepting all of it. Like this our institutions will not progress. AG Leader over at Leaderblog has an interesting take on the situation:

the boil will be lanced and the evil rooted out

And there is another question I ask myself. Can one base a Commissioner's relationship with his Director-General on anything but mutual trust? That is what Mr Solbes did. To do otherwise would imply the power to conduct unofficial inquiries, and no one here would want that.
From Prodi's Speech

I wonder how much scoffing there was around the Parliament when he said this. It's a key issue however, because even though trusting trust is a difficult matter, Prodi is effectively noting that institutions cannot function without it. The Economist has also suggested that the Eurostat scandal grew out of the rigidity of EC procedures, i.e., a lack of trust created this 'off the books' attempt at greater autonomy. Unfortunately talking about trust when the confidence has obviously been misplaced may end up giving it a bad name.

While Abiola understandably wades in from his point of view:

There are two things worth noting here, the first being the shameful reluctance of EU bureaucrats to accept blame, or even to allow their colleagues to take the blame, for any wrongdoing that is discovered during their watch. It would be bad enough if Prodi were trying to simply pass the buck to an underling or a predecessor, but here he is, insisting that even Pedro Solbes should be let off the hook! The second thing that stands out is the manner in which Eurocrats never pass up an opportunity to plead for yet more powers, even when the issue at hand is the abuse of the powers they already have at their disposal. Always the solution to every difficulty is the same - "we lack sufficient authority!" One would be tempted to admire them for the insolence with which they reach out for ever greater authority, were one not enraged by the contempt for the listener's intellect betrayed by such transparently self-serving requests.

Finally a piece from the EU observer which appears in Abiola's own post, and which as he says, ain't half bad:

Eurostat is not an exception. Eurostat is an example; indeed a very small example of what is going on for many years inside the European Commission, especially in all 'spending DGs', with large amounts of money to spread around. Insiders know it. 'Wisemen' (such as the 'Wisemen Committee" set up after Santer's Commission resignation) know it. People closely working with the Commission know it. Brussels-based journalists know it. Citizens in Europe feel it. The situation essentially has nothing to do with the Commissioners, nor with the idea of a vastly corrupted EU bureaucracy (most EU civil servants are honest). But it has everything to do with the lack of only two controls - political control and judicial - which can prevent an administration, and more precisely its top hierarchy, of becoming, either entirely or partially, a bureaucracy with all its hanging processes of cronyism, corruption and privileges. No political control and no judicial control naturally lead to illegality. Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that the European Commission is lacking both of them:
Source EU Observer

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