Margrethe Vestager is the new Executive Vice-President for Competition, plus Digital, who was graciously nicknamed by Donald Trump as “tax lady” and who earned great praise for raising record multi-billion fines on American tech groups that included Google, Apple, Amazon, Qualcomm, and many others. But what about the monopolies in her own back yard?

Today we ask: Does the EU’s LIFE programme give equal opportunities to all?”

The reply is an emphatic “No”.

We note once again – for the record – that the monitoring of LIFE projects, which, for the FOURTH time, was awarded to the same consortium masqueraded under different names, but consisted of the same companies and under the same team leader. However, it is indeed perceivable that the LIFE monitoring tender might be one of the first dossiers to be investigated by the newly appointed European Prosecutor Laura Kovesi.

LIFE projects award a total of, not millions, but billions of euros.

Though there are 28 (or 27, as it makes no difference) countries in the bloc, there skew in the way the money is distributed – not at all in any proportion to the member states’ sizes.

But, instead, there are two countries that during the last decade that have been awarded roughly two-thirds of all LIFE projects.

The countries are Italy and Spain, and this is dishonest for the remaining Member States and a shame for the administrators of the LIFE Programme. Coincidentally, LIFE’s managing team at EASME has, for more than a decade, been run by an Italian, with most the key officers also being Italians. There is even a Commission joke, that to make a career in the LIFE unit you must be an Italian…or be married to one.

All this would be a funny joke – a barzelletta, as our friends in the LIFE Programme like to say – if it wasn’t for the European taxpayers’ money that is involved, and if the programme wasn’t about a key element of European life – environment and climate change.

Of course, if you ask the LIFE Unit or EASME officials about this ridiculous situation, they will tell you the standard narrative that they award so many projects to Italian beneficiaries because the latter are those who submit the best proposals.

This is, in fact, not accurate.

The truth is that submitting a proposal in order to get a LIFE subsidy is a very expensive procedure and the chances to win are about 10% as roughly one out of ten proposals is accepted. Thus, when a prospective beneficiary knows in advance that 2/3 of the projects are historically earmarked for Italy and Spain, plus many others for the usual clients, the chances of success for outsiders and newcomers become minimal and is not worth the time to even try.

If you think we are exaggerating, just ask the LIFE unit to publish the distribution per country of the successful proposals awards for the last decade (though there is a very informative graph on their website about the current period).