Brexit: Expert reveals ‘fear in Brussels at the moment’
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EU countries moved to block the European Economic and Social Committee’s controversial spending plans amid growing consensus the little-known institution is a colossal waste of money. The EESC is a body of around 329 trade union representatives the bloc’s decision-makers are meant to go to for opinions on proposed legislation. Members of the committee would normally be handed £252 for physically attending summits in Brussels, to pay for hotels and restaurant bills.
This daily allowance was continued throughout the coronavirus pandemic, despite meetings being hosted on online video conferencing platforms.
The EESC promised to reform its spending habits in the wake of the pandemic, instead proposing to the European Council Budget Committee it hands delegates £174 for attending virtual meetings.
The proposal provoked a furious response and was rejected by EU diplomats at the meeting on Tuesday.
One source told Express.co.uk: “The EU’s ‘Zombie Committee’ asked the Council for €200 per delegate to attend virtual meetings. Have they lost the plot?
“They must be drunk sucking the milk of European taxpayers’ money.”
Critics have long claimed the EESC has had little impact in the EU’s decision-making processes since it was formed in 1957 as “the voice of organised civil society in Europe”.
As well as its controversial spending habits, the £121 million-a-year institution has been whacked by recent workplace bullying allegations.
Many insiders believe it is an outdated and expensive relic from a bygone era.
Last year Czech MEP Tomas Zdechovsky, of the European People’s Party, told the Politico website: “Very few lawmakers are reading the opinions of this committee. The impact is close to zero.
“It’s a zombie committee that lost its purpose but still lives on.”
Former Dutch MEP Derk Jan Eppink added: “The EESC has been living in the shadow of the other EU institutions, quite comfortably I have to say, because nobody has been really asking what they are doing and what they are good for.
“It’s an instrument for bringing members from all over the EU to Brussels, and they like to come here because they feel important. They get to meet other members, hold debates and have nice dinners.
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“But I cannot imagine any moment where they had real influence on decision-making.”
Last year the EESC became embroiled in a scandal when MEPs rejected the institution’s 2018 financial accounts.
The EU Parliament furiously rejected it over concerns that the institution hadn’t responded to an alleged bullying scandal.
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Polish member Jacek Krawczyk has been investigated by the EU’s anti-fraud squad OLAF and is also facing criminal prosecution by Belgian authorities.
He has always denied any wrongdoing.
Express.co.uk has contacted the EESC for comment.
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