EU budgetary irregularities: one and half times the economy of San Marino.
One and a half billion pounds of the EU budget was wrongly spent last year. £1,545,976,112, to be precise. Of this, just under three hundred and twenty million pounds is believed to have been afflicted by fraud. That's the verdict of a report released by OLAF, the European Union's own anti-fraud office.
It sounds like quite important news. The reason it didn't make front pages? Well, two things: one, the not-so-startling information that the EU costs each and every household in the country two hundred and fifty-five pounds a year was much more deserving of a headline, and, two, in the grand scheme of things, that money is almost inconsequential. According to the immortal title of the book by Olly Figg, the EU spends roughly that amount every single day.
Though this amount of money may be irrelevant compared to the weekly outpourings of various EU institutions, for whom fiscal incontinence is a virtue, it's still important to put things into perspective. The EU's population as a whole is almost ten times greater than that of Britain alone, yet the scale of suspected fraud alone in the EU - general irregularities put aside for the minute - is over two hundred times that of the Parliamentary expenses scandal which so rocked the political system here in 2009.
There are some mitigating factors: for one, there are considerably more officials involved. The EU itself is staffed by some sixty thousand people, and, as most of the irregularities occur when the money is passed (back) into national or private hands, the EU cannot be held directly responsible (even if its fiscal incontinence and general lack of auditing doesn't help). But, even if this suspected fraud is all discounted, the scale of it compared to that found in the UK is still immense. It could pay for both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, twelve thousand police constables, and almost twenty thousand Army privates.
These irregularities are not merely budgetary inconsistencies in some pointless beaurocratic arm that does not involve you: it all comes directly from your pocket. You've heard the claim 'the EU gives us money for projects and enterprises?' Well, it's true: only the money in question was not owned by the EU originally. Like governments, the EU has relatively little money of its own: it relies solely on the contributions of member states, paid for out of their public funds, which is, ultimately, drawn from your bank account and household budget through taxation. The EU isn't wasting its own money, the EU is wasting your money. And, as Britain is one of only a few member states that actually make a net contribution to the EU, which is rising by ever-increasing amounts every year, and gets considerably less back than even its fellow members of that small clique, the amount of your money that it's wasting as opposed to that of any other EU national is massively out of proportion.
So think about that next time you see the EU funding 'the smelly foot dance:' that's your money that it's taking. With the help of national governments, of course. The people put in command of these funds are unelected, unaccountable, and faceless: the number of people in the country that can name them could be counted on one hand. Can you name them? At no stage of proceedings, other than the state where elected national governments rifle through your pockets, does democracy or transparency enter the system. Is it any wonder that so much money is misplaced in such a bloated and unaccountable organisation?