Today the Commission has welcomed the decision of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) to give the EU annual accounts a clean bill of health, for the 14th year in a row. The revenue part of the EU Budget also continues to be free from material error, in line with previous years' results while, as regards legality and regularity of expenditure, the ECA has decided to maintain its adverse opinion.
Despite the unprecedented challenges in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the overall estimated level of error for EU expenditure remains at last year's level (2.7%). In other words, 97.3% of the EU expenditure is estimated to be error free. And in any case, the risk remains below 1% (0.9%) as a result of ability to make corrections once errors are identified. Moreover, in 2020, for specific policy areas, such as cohesion and to a lesser extent competitiveness, the level of error reported by the ECA has decreased. For natural resources, results remain very close to last year's good results. The Commission also welcomes the Court's assessment that administrative expenditure continues to be well-managed and free from material error.
The aim of the Commission is to ensure that, once a programme is closed, and all controls are carried out, the remaining level of error remains below 2%. What really counts for taxpayers is the risk that may still remain after corrections and recoveries have been made. As already mentioned, for 2020, the Commission estimated this risk to less than 1% (0.9%).
Ensuring a sound financial management of the EU funds will remain a priority for the Commission in the future. The Commission will continue to work closely with the EU Member States and with the other EU institutions towards this objective, with a particular attention to the funds under the 2021-2027 EU budget and the NextGenerationEU recovery instrument. Every euro should go to where the needs are and create an added value for citizens and the Commission will spare no efforts to achieve this goal.
Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Budget and Administration, said:“In 2020, the EU budget played a key role in the rapid response to the coronavirus pandemic. It also continued to deliver on the EU's long-standing policy objectives, thus contributing to the EU's green and digital agendas. Against this backdrop, the EU budget remained well-protected, thanks to the Commission's robust and comprehensive safeguards. The Commission make sure that the EU budget continues to go to where the needs are, contributes to the EU policy objectives and is well-protected.”
In just three weeks from the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, the Commission put forward a coordinated and comprehensive response through the EU budget. The adopted measures quickly achieved impressive results. For example, the Commission set up the first common European stockpile of emergency medical equipment, which delivered some 3 million high-quality protective masks for first responders. Thanks to €2.3 billion from the EU's Emergency Support Instrument, the Commission secured 2.6 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, allowing for 70% of the EU's adult population to be fully vaccinated by end-August 2021. Between October-2020 and May 2021, 19 EU countries received €90 billion in back-to-back loans under the SURE instrument aimed to keep people in jobs. This supported some 31 million people in 2020, helped around 2.5 million firms, and enabled EU countries to save an estimated €8.2 billion in interest payments.
The publication of the Annual Report by the European Court of Auditors kicks off the annual 'discharge procedure' of the EU budget. When deciding whether to grant, postpone or refuse the discharge, the European Parliament takes into consideration the integrated financial and accountability reporting prepared by the Commission along with the European Court of Auditors' Annual Reports on how the budget has been spent and any relevant Special Reports.
The estimated level of error is not a measure of fraud, inefficiency or waste. It is an estimate of the money already paid from the EU budget despite non-compliance with certain rules.
As in previous years, the ECA continues to give a clean bill of health to the EU annual accounts, and to the revenue side of the EU budget.
The adverse opinion expressed by the Court this year concerns the legality and regularity of EU expenditure.
The European Commission works hand in hand with the EU Member States, and other partners, to ensure that the EU budget continues to be spent effectively, to the benefit of citizens, preserved from fraud and irregularities and helps achieve of policy results.
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