The fact that in last spring’s European elections, Euroscepticism did not hit the record levels many were afraid of, does not mean that the danger is over. On the contrary, the threat is there and bigger than ever. If the right attention is not given now, the future may not look that bright.
History shows close relations of the new President with the Brussels “system.” However, according to a quote (citato) of Vianta, one of the “seven wise men”, used by Sophocles in Antigone, “power unveils the character of the leader.” Ursula von der Leyen has now the power, and we shall see. Indeed, she may emerge as the new Margaret Thatcher of Europe, or be one of the many whose place in history will be all of two lines in a future book.
There are many reasons for the growing Euroscepticism, the first being the recessionary Euro policies of the last decade. It is encouraging that von der Leyen has already identified these policies and is seemingly already looking into the matter.
A second matter to address is the distribution of community funds to private enterprises. We are talking about billions every year, which are granted through “legitimate” looking procedures to a handful Brussels-based companies. And yet, how “legitimate” can be the process when in Europe there are hundreds of thousand companies that could potentially benefit from taking part, but they are intelligently left out? This is a question von der Leyen should look at.
The European Commission usually awards same contracts to the same companies or consortia ad infinitum…sometimes for decades. That has produced a situation where a handful of companies, out of the hundreds of thousands in the EU, acquire a de facto monopoly over EU business.
The secret is that these few companies have the best associates who specialise in writing, not implementing, proposals for reasons that are easy to understand.
This phenomenon is even more pronounced in specific areas like communications and PR, IT, consulting and EU programme monitoring, which include awards worth billions every year and are distributed, we repeat, to few Brussels-based companies.
A typical example is the LIFE Programme monitoring contract, routinely awarded for 16 years to the same people, a consortium of a few companies that was previously named “Astrale” and subsequently “Neemo”. The change of the name is a naive attempt to blur the picture and pretend that a different entity was chosen, when in reality they are exactly the same companies and people.
Even more striking is that the General Coordinator of the contract has been the same person since 2004. It seems that keeping the position for more than 15 years means that no other person among the 520 million Europeans has a better CV.
The method used for preventing other companies to win such contracts can be found in the tender specifications. The latter is written in such way that only companies which had previously owned the contract for years are able to write a decent tender proposal as these are the only ones to possess the exact information required for the proposal.
In this way, on the surface, all appears to be normal and legal, while in fact it is totally illegal and unethical.
A direct consequence of this situation is that very few companies dare to participate in these Commission tenders, or to commit people and resources, as they know in advance that their chances of success are practically null.
Is it normal that for simple tasks, such as LIFE projects monitoring, that only three companies from the entire EU, present a proposal for an €80-million tender? No answer was ever given to the question by the EASME/Commission, who blatantly awarded the tenders to their usual “clients” who have also over time become “friends”.
The Commission should review with attention the LIFE monitoring tender, and if it finds irregularities and anomalies, could refer the dossier as the first case of the EPPO, the new European institution that established the European Prosecutor’s Office. It will be a good start for the EPPO if von der Leyen intends to “clean” Europe, starting from her own backyard.