A pump station every 150 kilometers, where you can fill up with hydrogen. The European Commission hopes that this will encourage the use of the energy carrier. But with the hydrogen revolution nowhere in sight, the EU executive’s plans could well prove to be an expensive disappointment.
The EU Files
What is happening in the European Union, the European Commission and the European Council? What are their aims and ambitions, and where does he EU money go to?
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Emilia Korkea-aho investigates the 'revolving door': politicians and senior officials who become lobbyists, and vice versa. As a result of the revelations about former European Commissioner Neelie Kroes’ lobbying for Uber, the little-known Brussels committee that the Finnish professor investigates has suddenly drawn attention. This is not necessarily conducive to her research.
Now that Brussels is disbursing the first tens of billions from the covid Recovery and Resilience Facility, it appears that the Member States have made it virtually impossible to check how the money is spent and who benefits from it. Despite the risks of fraud and corruption with EU funds being above average, several countries are doing their utmost to avoid public scrutiny.
The European Commission is ‘mobilising’ hundreds of billions of euros, in order to tackle the enormous challenges facing the EU. But the staggering sums accompanying these plans can’t hide the fact that the commission has barely a dime to spend. So where is this cash coming from? Using three recent examples, Follow the Money analyses the modus operandi of ‘Brussels’.
The European Parliament and the European Commission no longer want to be targeted by lobbyists from Russian companies. For months now, the Council of the European Union, chaired by France, has ignored this cry for help.
Many ordinary citizens have been suffering from increased food prices since the war in Ukraine. Yet, investors are cashing in on (impending) shortages of food products and fuels. Courtesy of the politicians who, due to skilful lobbying by these investors, were persuaded to relax the rules for the financial sector during the pandemic.
Members of the European Parliament receive a monthly allowance of 4778 euros for office expenditure, but there is no supervision on how they spend this money. Since 2019, MEPs can use the Parliament’s website to publicly declare that they have spent their taxpayers’ money legitimately. Less than 4 percent of the 705 MEPs made use of that opportunity.
By means of a controversial tax scheme – and in defiance of European regulations – billions are flowing from the Hungarian treasury to sports associations. The corporate sector prospers, along with Orbán and his friends’ favorite clubs. The European Commission looks the other way. ‘Sports’ potential to unite citizens is enormous.’
'At the height of a crisis, it is up to EU leaders to come up with solutions.' These are the words of Jan Werts (82), seasoned Dutch journalist, publicist, and Europe expert. And, over the past fifteen years, one crisis has followed another in rapid succession. The financial crisis, the Euro crisis, the migration crisis, the Brexit crisis, the coronavirus crisis, and now Ukraine. Cause for Follow the Money to talk to Werts about leadership in Europe in times of trouble.
Documents show that civil servants in the European Commission have raised questions about its rules on preserving information, with some calling them ‘vague’ and others suggesting there should be a way to preserve instant messages. In the context of the Commission’s refusal to release text messages sent by its president to the CEO of Pfizer, the documents put the Commission’s official position on such messages in a different perspective.
European citizens can rest assured: the hundreds of billions of the European Recovery and Resilience Fund will be well spent. Céline Gauer, who spearheads this groundbreaking project, brushes off criticism about its lack of transparency, fraud risks or the hurdles in the involvement of stakeholders and national parliaments. She is confident about the new step that the EU is taking towards European integration.
The lobbies of the automotive and oil & gas industry declare that we are not ‘ready’ to go fully electric, but need ‘transition fuels’ for an unspecified period of time. Italgas planned to produce synthetic methane in Italy, but after months of promises and experimentation, they admit that technically the project is not yet feasible. The project has now been reduced to a ‘simple’ hydrogen factory, proving that the ‘transition fuels’ wanted by the fossil fuel industry are even less ready than electric itself.
European car manufacturers are some of the biggest beneficiaries of the European Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF). These Brussels billions have been earmarked to accelerate the green transition. Problem is, part of these automotive investments could actually extend fossil fuel use, and with it, the stifling dependence on Russian gas and oil.
EU member states and the European Commission negotiated behind closed doors on how to spend the Covid-19 recovery fund’s 723.8 billion euros. Journalists from across the bloc requested that the Commission provide insight into those discussions. But even though it pays lip service to the importance of transparency, the Commission is refusing to disclose hundreds of documents.
Finnish professor of European law Päivi Leino-Sandberg has written a book about the invisible players in the Brussels equation: the legal advisors of the EU institutions. They are indispensable in the legal underpinning of further steps in European integration. However, according to Leino-Sandberg, they do not serve the general interest but rather their employer’s: the EU institution.
The EU has set up a 723.8 billion euro recovery fund to help member states boost their post-pandemic economy. But there is a lack of democratic oversight on how those European billions will be spent. National parliaments have had limited involvement in the reform plans required to unlock the funds, a pan-European investigation reveals.