gangster’s paradise

The Brief – Gangster’s paradise

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The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

In mafia circles all around Europe, the big news these days is that the EU has gone mad. It is going to disburse, in addition to the usual funds the mafia is familiar with, an additional €750 billion to member states.

Syphoning off EU funds is already a national sport in many countries. And it’s so easy. You can cheat Brussels in so many ways. Take agricultural subsidies, for example.

Seen from a satellite (as the EU does), there is no difference between harrowing and ploughing – the land just turns from green to brown. So it takes just a bit of harrowing to get agricultural subsidies for lands that are not at all cultivated (and as a side effect, destroying pastures and natural habitat). And it works. Land barons do it all the time, pocketing millions.

Just go to any village. Go to the local pub, hear the people. I sometimes do it in the country I know best, Bulgaria. Locals know everything. Everybody knows who the local gangster is and how he makes his money. But they will not say anything in public. It’s too dangerous.

The police know everything, of course, but do nothing, because they only follow instructions.

Land barons use banned pesticides (killing millions of bees in the process) just because it makes their life easier, and it matters little that the products we consume may have been poisoned. Cases like this have been reported in Bulgaria and Croatia recently.

And they don’t fear reprisal, because bribing the judiciary is cheap. In mafia countries, you don’t need to hire a lawyer because you can buy the court. The EU always says that it’s up to the national authorities to investigate. But the national authorities are so cosy with the mafia. And after all, it’s EU money. Who cares?

If you mention OLAF to local Mafiosi, they will have the laugh of their life. The EU anti-fraud office is a joke. A dozen investigative journalists do a better job than OLAF in exposing corruption. But then again, it doesn’t matter, because nothing changes.

Mafia is international by definition. And it is immortal: once it feels less secure in one country, it just exports the same schemes to another. The Italian mafia has been very successful in Eastern Europe lately. This could have gone completely unnoticed had Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak not been murdered in 2018, precisely because he was investigating this connection.

EU money should  – in theory – be the best-spent money because it should boost the added value of the single market and of EU policies, aimed at greening our planet and saving it from self-destruction.

It should not go into the pockets of those who attend EU summits as leaders of their countries. Why are they our leaders? Because they can buy elections, the media, impunity – probably also with EU money.

The Roundup

EU leaders held “constructive” discussions on Friday on the EU’s massive €750 billion recovery fund to overcome the coronavirus crisis, and pledged to reach an agreement next month, despite the enormous differences among the member states.

In the Council, EU leaders kicked off today the discussion on the recovery fund, and fiscal adjustment may be on the books for some member states, an EU official warned.

The Commission in the meantime has given its “seal of excellence” to a crowd monitoring facial technology to be used in the bloc’s fight against another potential outbreak of the coronavirus.

The European Parliament’s new tax subcommittee will be headed by the Socialists, group officials said.

Across the Channel, UK Environment secretary also offered support for gene editing, saying that the UK government disagrees with the EU stance on the matter.

To find out about an unprecedented move by a group of German Green MPs who also backed the use of gene editing technologies in a new paper, diverging from the party’s general position, check out EURACTIV’s agrifood newsletter.

Also in Germany, online hate speech reform is criticised for allowing ‘backdoor’ data collection, since social networks must now not only delete potentially criminal content but also report it to the Federal Criminal Police Office. However, some data will have to be forwarded to the authorities, even before they have established suspicion, EURACTIV Germany reports.

Across the Channel, UK lawmakers have urged Boris Johnson and Michel Barnier to broker a compromise to avoid an economically damaging ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario.

On Thursday, EU and Eastern Partnership (EaP) leaders met on Thursday (18 June) to discuss the COVID-19 crisis as well as reaffirm the strategic partnership and discuss its future.

Meanwhile, NATO is investigating an incident in the Eastern Mediterranean in which France says Turkish frigates were “extremely aggressive” towards a French navy vessel participating in a NATO mission in the area.

Look out for…

  • EU-China virtual summit on Monday.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Benjamin Fox/Zoran Radosavljevic]