This is the story of my experience at the European Union, a
story that started in the Spring of 2001 and has not yet come
to an end.
In these eight years I have come across people of different
nationalities and cultural backgrounds, many of whom
showed astonishment and at the same time admiration for
my courage. Some would consider me a martyr* some a
heroine, and there were also those who appeared so
understanding that I guessed they had lived through a similar
fimf*!*! fin a*
But I did not set out to become a martyr or a heroine, nor did
I seek to become a public figure. It is because of the legal
constraints of my case for wrongful dismissal* and thanks to
my somewhat reserved personality, that it has taken me such
a long time to write this book.
I have often been asked about the principles which guided me
to adopt such a "courageous" attitude. 1 believe it can only be
the result of the education received from my family
and school: down to earth, common sense, realistic and
courageous woman, as from my point of view, I was "simply
doing my job". 1 was hired to reform a deficient accounting
and financial management system and that Is what I was
trying to do. Under the EU treaties 1 was legally responsible
for all the cash and assets of the EU. To fulfil that
responsibility, I looked for support from the EU's political
masters, but I did not get it.
When I joined the European Union I had almost 25 years of
professional experience in financial management, mostly in
the private sector, and a proven record of having done the
right thing even in extremely difficult business situations.
Should I give my reputation up for a well paid, theoretically
powerful and life long job, with a generous pension at the end
of it? It was a difficult decision.
I had many sleepless nights. I had to consider not only my
own future life but that of my family, who had supported
me all along. One night my husband gave me the crucial
answer: "However much you try to ignore your nature you
will never be able to sleep in peace if you bend to their
demands." He was right. I had to respect my nature, and go
wherever it led me.
Apart from the pressure to sign, and so authorize accounts
and payments which I couldn't trust at all, what amazed me
most was the arrogance which reigned in the institutions of
the EU. There was no effort to show there was any
commitment to transparency and accountability; no effort to
show they might allow me the independence to decide what
was the best way to reform the accounting system.
The other aspect that amazed me was how much all these
bureaucrats had departed from the real world. It did not
occur to them that somebody would challenge their long
sustained arguments; it did not fit into their minds that a
professional accountant would make her own evaluation
without adhering to the state of denial in which they wished
to live. They simply could not believe that anybody would
be prepared to risk their job - that of European
MARTA AND RE AS EN
Commission Chief Accountant, with the highest level of
responsibility for EU funds - their pension and their
professional career for the sake of defending integrity and
getting the truth into the open.
No other civil servant in the EU has ever been treated in the
way I was, with such disregard for human rights and cynical
willingness to silence the truth. Not even those who were
proved to have committed very serious offences were treated
in such a harsh and denigrating manner.
Indeed, possibly no other case than mine has shown better
how easily a bureaucracy - without any kind of external
constitutional mechanism to correct or qualify its procedures
- can become a tyranny.
And, crucially, the European Union's accounting systems
remain in as lamentable state as ever - absorbing many
billions of pounds of our money.
Yet this is the body in which European politicians appear
determined to invest even more power, as the heart of a
unified political entity.
I have written this book for those who cherish freedom,
honest government and the true interests of the nations and
peoples of Europe.
Note: A name marked with an asterisk at its first mention is
not the real name.
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
MARTA ANDREAS EN
How the EU Works
THE COMMISSION (unelected) has the monopoly of
proposing all EU legislation, which it does in secret. Can also
issue "Regulations", which are automatically binding in all
Member States. It is run by a College of 27 Commissioners,
currently one for each Member State, who are appointed for
5 years at a time. It has 37 branches, or "Directorates
General", each run by a Director General. The "DGs" are the
real bosses, and can rule for many years.
COREPER. The "Committee of Permanent Representatives",
or bureaucrats who represent the Member States. A shadowy
body, where the national horse-trading on the Commission's
legislative proposals takes place, still in secret. The agreed
versions of their proposals go to the Council of Ministers and
the European Parliament for approval.
THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS from Member States passes
EU legislation, often by majority voting, and again in secret.
The UK has 8.4% of the votes. Sometimes has to consult the
European Parliament. Has the final say on Commission
proposals, and could have supported Miss Andreasen.
THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT consists of 785 MEPs,
elected every 5 years. The UK has 78. The Parliament cannot
propose legislation but it can delay and even block it. In
practice the MEPs do not want to de-rail their famous gravy
train, so the 'project' proceeds. Can override the Commission
on employment matters, and also could have supported Miss
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
Andreasen. (There are informal agreements which say that
one EU institution should not interfere in the internal affairs
THE COMMISSION (again) becomes the sole enforcer of all
EU legislation and decisions, supported when necessary by:
THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE IN LUXEMBOURG
(ECJ or LCJ). This is not an independent court of law; it is the
engine of the "ever closer union of the peoples of Europe"
required by the EU Treaties. It is financed by the EU, and has the
final say on all EU matters, including employment cases. There
is no appeal against its verdicts.
THE EUROPEAN COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE, hears cases
before they reach the Luxembourg Court of Justice (above).
THE COURT OF AUDITORS, which is also financed out of
the EU budget, is supposed to guarantee the proper use of EU
funds to taxpayers. It has been unable to do this for the last 14
years. There are no external auditors.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch
By Lord Pearson of Rannoch
If you want to go on hoping that the EU can he
"reformed from within] dont read this hook.
To anyone used to the disciplines of running a company in
this country, the story which follows is very difficult to
believe. And yet it is true. Billions of pounds of our taxpayers'
money are being sent every year to the European
Commission in Brussels, where they are literally unaccounted
for. Double-entry bookkeeping and accrual accounting are
strangers in the land. The EU's internal auditors have refused
to sign off its accounts for the last 14 years. There is no
Yet this is the same EU which presumes to tell us how to run
so much of our lives, including our financial services and
accounting practices. 72% of the cost of UK regulations in
the last 10 years has been imposed by Brussels, for a total of
£106.6 billion, or more than £10 billion per annum. 1 When
you add in our share of EU spending, higher food costs and
our hard cash, our membership may be costing us around 8%
of GDP or £120 billion per annum, with no discernible
benefit. 2 How has this come about?
To understand the answer, we have to remember the big idea
which gave birth to the EU. That big idea was that the nation
states had been responsible for the carnage of two World
1 "Out of Contrql? Measuring a decade of EU regulations", by Openeurope.org.uk
2 "The Great European Rip-off", by The Taxpayersalliance.com.
Wars, and for the long history of conflict in Europe. Those
nation states, with their unreliable democracies, therefore
had to be emasculated, and diluted into a new form of
supranational government, run by technocrats. 3
From this genesis comes the EU's claim to have brought peace
to Europe since 1945, which was in fact secured by NATO,
heavily reliant on American force. The EU also pretends that
it is needed to preserve that peace in future, which is equally
untrue. Anyone who dares to challenge this propaganda is
quickly labelled a Little Englander, a dangerous nationalist, or
a xenophobic warmonger. The truth must not disturb the
That original idea also explains why the monopoly for
proposing all EU legislation still lies with the unelected
bureaucracy: the Commission. Its draft laws are negotiated in
Coreper (the Committee of Permanent Representatives), or
bureaucrats from the member states, and agreed in the
Council of Ministers, mostly by majority voting. The UK
Government has some 8 per cent of that vote, and must
accept whatever is decided. It still has a veto in some areas of
our national life, but does not want to appear "anti-
Communautaire" and so does not dare to use it. The whole
process takes place in secret, and now imposes a large
majority of our national law. The Commission then becomes
the sole enforcer of all EU law, supported when necessary by
the Luxembourg Court, against which there is no appeal.
The point is, of course, that this system is not accountable to
anyone except itself. The British people elect and dismiss
their Members of Parliament every five years or so, but our
Parliament has no influence on the process of EU law
making, or on what Brussels does with our money.
Westminster is powerless even to query the fraud and waste,
let alone to stop it.
3 "The Great Deception" by Christopher Booker and Richard North. Continuum
Europhiles pretend that the European Scrutiny Committees
in the Commons and Lords inject an element of democracy
into all this. But those Committees have no power, can look
at only a tiny fraction of EU laws, and their suggestions go
unheeded in Brussels. The Government has indeed promised
that it won't sign up to a proposed EU law if either
Committee is still considering it, but has broken that promise
435 times in the last 6 years. 4 No laws passed in Brussels have
ever been overturned by Parliament, because the Treaties
make sure that they can't be; that's the big idea, after all.
In theory, the European Parliament can block EU legislation,
refuse to sanction the budget, and even throw out the entire
Commission. But in reality the MEPs are far too dependent on
their gravy train to risk de-railing it. The more the EU controls,
the better for them; national accountability is their enemy.
Of course our political class doesn't want us to see that it has
brought us so low; it prefers not to talk about it. Our three
main parties refuse to support an official cost-benefit analysis
of our membership, glibly asserting that the benefits are so
obvious that it would be a waste of time. 5 The Government
even dares to claim that 3 million UK jobs would be lost if we
left the EU. But if we threw off the shackles of Brussels
regulations, and continued in free trade with our friends in
Europe, jobs would in fact be created. And there really isn't
any doubt that our free trade with the EU would indeed
continue, because they sell us more than we sell them. We are
their largest client.
Another killer point in the Eurosceptic locker is that only
some 9% of our gross domestic product goes in trade with
the EU, in deficit; around 11% goes to the rest of the world,
in surplus, and some 80% stays right here in our domestic
economy. But the dictats from Brussels hit the whole of our
HM GovernmentWritten Answer, House of Lords, 15/1/09, Col. WA166.
Debates in the-House of Lords 27/6/03, 11/2/04 and 8/6/07.
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
economy, meaning that our healthy 91% dog is being wagged
by its mangy 9% tail. 6
For good measure the share of UK exports going to the EU is
shrinking, while our exports to the rest of the world are
When pressed on these obvious disadvantages of our
membership, our politicians say it is justified because being
in the EU gives them greater influence on the world stage." So
the EU is remote, inevitable, boring.
Yet the EU is also a brilliant trap. It is illegal under the Treaties
which we have signed to repatriate even the smallest power to
this country without the unanimous agreement of all the
other 26 member states. So any "reform from within" is so
unrealistic as to be unobtainable, and is designed to be so.
The only way out is the door.
And the controlling bureaucracy in Brussels numbers only a
few tens of thousands of people. The trick is that their dictats
have to be executed by the millions of civil servants in the
X J. J. v^ JLJ. X l„/ %w X o L cL L t- vj y VVXILI.X XXv-F .IXXv^X X%^X \^XXv^t- XXVJXXX v.Xv^V^l.\^V.t
Parliaments, or the people they represent.
Nothing illustrates better the corruption which such absolute
power spawns than the story of Marta Andreasen.
House of Lords, July 2009
5 See Globalbritain.org Briefing Note no 22.
7 See Globalbritain.org Briefing Note no 52.
8 Debates in the House of Lords on the Lisbon Treaty 2008.
When I first read the ad it seemed like it could almost have
been specially written for someone of my background,
experience and aspirations. The European Commission was
advertising for a Budget Execution Director. Born in Buenos
Aires, in Argentina, and educated at an English school there,
the daughter of a Danish father and with a mother of French
origin, I had long been trilingual in Spanish, English and
X X. IwX X v-XX-j CXXXvJl X Xv-XL v-V^XXXXv/X Ld-I^Xv^ XXX XLCXXXCIXX*
In the early summer of 2001, T was 46 and had studied
accountancy and economics at universities in Argentina,
Spain and the United States. I had worked for some 20 years
for a variety of British and American multinationals, and
more recently with the OECD in Paris, My husband, Octavio,
also an economist, had to travel a great deal working in the
But between us we had organised it so that there was always
one of us at home with the children, if the other was
travelling. Martin, then 19, and 16-year-old Carolina had
always amply reciprocated our love and worked hard at their
studies. There was no question that we wouldn't keep our
home in one of Europe\most handsome and vibrant cities:
Barcelona. There were direct, two-hour flights to Brussels. So
what were the problems?
"What do you think, Octavio?" I asked passing him the copy
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
of The Financial Times. Octavio pondered the advertisement
for a while. "Interesting," he finally pronounced, "but possibly
Though we had met and married in Argentina, and been
Spanish citizens for only 15 years, it was long enough to see
the good side of the European Union. Massive EU subsidies
had helped transform Spain's primitive infrastructure with
new roads, bridges, rail links. Indeed, it was exhilarating to
be part of Spain's maturing democracy, moving steadily
forward from the dark days of Franco's heavy-handed,
My previous job, with the OECD, had not been easy. After
joining in 1998, as head of accounting, T had noticed serious
problems with its systems, and raised my concerns with
management. When I had suggested reforms, they disagreed
completely. Subsequently, they had hired Arthur Andersen
to do an independent report which criticized the OECD's
internal accounting systems as "outdated and inadequate"
and confirmed the soundness of my proposals. But by that
time I had been suspended from the job.
Not even that experience, however, had diminished my
ambition to work - and, as I then hoped, even do some good
- in the public sector.
oo it was that l applied tor tne jiuropean commission jod
and was delighted to be invited for an interview in mid-July,
2001, with Jean Maison*, Director General and thus the
most senior civil servant in the Budget Directorate. Then
60, of small build, with dark brown eyes and sallow hue, he
was neatly- dressed in a dark suit.
Somewhat formal, reserved, he seemed a typical 'Enarque' -
a product of France's highly-selective Ecole Nationale
d'Administration and a member of that formidable elite
which has probably served its country's interests better than
any other bureaucracy on earth.
Maison's deputy, Jens Mogen* a large, well-built, fair-haired
Swede, was also present for part of that first interview. But
Maison, who had already been in his current, virtually all-
powerful post of Budget Director General for 13 years,
clearly dominated his department.
I flew back to Barcelona with no great hopes. What was it?
Somehow, I felt that I had not done myself credit. My CV, by
any standards, had to seem interesting, impressive even -
certainly in terms of the job they were trying to fill. Yet I had
managed to find out little more about what that job entailed.
As Maison clearly struggled with. English, we had switched to
French half way through the interview. Had that been an
irritation, a humiliation for him? How comfortable would he
feel working with a woman in a senior position?
Somehow, I couldn't put my finger on what it was that was
niggling me. Maybe it was simply that I had got absolutely no
spark of warmth from him. He was correct - as one would
expect of an enarque and Frenchman of his stratospheric
level. But there was no real sense of him actually welcoming
Back home at our flat in Barcelona, Octavio was as warm and
supportive as ever. He was philosophical. "It can't be the end
of the world, Marta, if you don't get this job."
We were both aware of the recent turmoil within the
European Commission, when two years earlier Commission
President Jacques Santer and all his fellow Commissioners
had had to resign following revelations by a Dutch EC
official, Paul van Buitenen, of widespread wrongdoing.
The detail that thrilled news editors round Europe was the
fact that Commissioner Edith Cresson, a former French
lucrative research contract on XlDS - a subject for which he
had no qualifications. At the end of 18 months - and
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
payment of some 136,000 euros - he had produced 24 pages
of notes which were generally agreed to be of almost no
But as an accountant, I knew that if senior figures felt free to
casually disburse such largesse, there was clearly room to
improve the Commission's accounting systems.
After the meltdown of the Jacques Santer Commission in
1999, there had been an independent committee of five
"Wise Men" to examine how the Commission dealt with
cronyism, fraud and mismanagement. They had suggested
While scandals were still being exposed, I chose to believe
that there had been a change of culture. Further, I
rationalized that if they were recruiting a professional
accountant from outside the Commission, with a brief
to work on the reforms promised in response to the
"Wise Men's" report, then they must be serious about
For these reasons, I still felt buoyant when invited for a
second interview in Brussels on September 11, 2001. Straight
off a flight from Barcelona, I was for some while out of touch
with events unfolding 3,000 miles away across the Atlantic.
For at about the time my interview should have been starting
- at 3pm Brussels time - the World Trade Center was
crumbling horrifically in New York.
For half an hour, secretaries and assistants fluttered round me
on the 12th floor of the Breydel 1 building, as their bosses
deliberated on whether they should evacuate the building.
Maybe this gleaming glass and steel icon of European
solidarity might also be seen as a legitimate target.
Wryly, I considered the shambolic security arrangements that
I had just been through myself on the ground floor of the
building. After announcing myself as coming for an interview
with the Secretary General of the European Commission, I
was just nodded through. My name was on no list. There was
no ID check and, indeed, nothing to record visitors to the
building. When I turned towards the security equipment for
scanning bags and people, I was waved on. "Machine's not
working," a guard commented nonchalantly.
Finally, at 3.30pm I was ushered into a vast interview room -
and was immediately struck by the old-fashioned nature of
the arrangements. For in the private sector jobs I had applied
for, there might be many interviews - but never with more
than one or two people at a time, and usually seated on a sofa
and easy chairs.
On this occasion, rather like the defendant in some judicial
process, I found myself seated alone on one side of a long oval
table. Sitting opposite was the Commission Secretary General
John Castle*, a well-groomed, 48-year-old Irishman, Budget
Director General Jean Maison and some six others. Speaking
in English, once again we went through my qualifications for
the job and the experience I had had in handling large
numbers of staff.
As we concluded, Castle graciously asked if I had any
questions. I did. I asked for a fuller description of the job and
the expectations for the incumbent.
Immediately, Maison, who had until then been silent, jerked
forward and complained, in French, that I was turning round
the whole sense of the interview
Clearly discomforted by this intervention, Castle smoothed
things over as best he could. He told me that that sort of
information would be given to those short-listed for the job.
I had another question. "What happened to the last person
who was doing this job?" The answer - not terribly clear and
which later turned out to be wholly untrue - was that he had
been sick and had died. \
BRUSSELS LAID BAIIL
Once again, I returned to Barcelona without any great
expectations. Indeed, seven days later 1 received an e-mail
from the Commission's Administration Directorate
informing me that I had not been selected for the short-list.
A week after that I was rung up by one of those who had
interviewed me on September 11, to let me know that
Commissioner Michaele Schreyer - head of the Budget
Directorate and therefore Maison's political boss - wanted
me to continue the recruitment process, despite the fact that
Surprised, and somewhat bemused, I agreed on the basis that
further interviews took place in Barcelona. To this they
agreed - apart from the final interview with Commissioner
This took place at the end of October, with just Schreyer,
Maison and myself, in the Commissioner's office on the 15th
floor of the Breydel 2 building. A massively wide panoramic
view over the rooftops of Brussels offered some relief from
the Commissioner's chosen decor of chairs in chrome and
purple velvet, and an emerald green carpet.
x x <_» _i
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Development and Environmental Protection in the state
government of Berlin. Green-eyed and fair-haired, formal,
intense, she came across to me as not terribly sure of herself,
but a degree warmer than Maison.
As she had no French, and I had no German, she spoke in her
uncertain English. With a degree in economics and sociology,
she showed an intelligent interest in my experience in
managing large teams, my acquaintance with accrual
accounting and with a German financial software package
which she said was being introduced.
As at the previous meeting, Maison said nothing until
towards the end. "If offered the job, would you be prepared to
MARIA ANDREAS EN
accept a five-year contract as a temporary worker?"
Somewhat taken aback, 1 could only respond, "I would have
For three weeks I heard nothing more until rung at home in
Barcelona by Schreyer who wanted to know what I felt about
Maison's proposal of my working on a temporary basis. I told
her of my reservations. "Surely, this will put me at a
disadvantage in relation to the more than 130 people on my
staff all of whom have jobs for life - particularly in view of
there being a reform programme." I mentioned that I had had
difficulties with this at the OECD and told her about what led
to my suspension.
Schreyer sought to be reassuring and told me that at the
European Commission I would not have to go through the
same situation as at the OECD and that the management
would be supporting me a hundred per cent in all my efforts.
She added that I would certainly be given plenty of time to
get well acquainted with the job.
Following her call there was one from Maison who expressed
surprise that Schreyer had not yet made me a specific offer.
Bluntly, he informed me that I was her choice - but certainly
not his. He went on to offer me a three-year contract, with
one additional year on automatic renewal
Politely, I pointed out, "But this is even less than what was
mentioned at our last meeting," I told him that I would think
about it and get back to him as soon as possible.
Before I had had a chance to do so there was an e-mail from
one of Maison's staff. This pointed out that the Administration
Directorate had informed them that the contract could only be
for two years - plus the one for automatic renewal. At that
point, I rang Schreyer to tell her that under these conditions I
could not accept the offer. She was not in her office and so I left
my message with her cabinet assistant.
BRUSSELS LAID 8ARE
And that I thought was that.
Three weeks later - it was now early December 2001 - I
received an e-mail grandly informing me that the European
Commission had approved my nomination as Accounting
Officer and Budget Execution Director as a permanent
official. This was the first time that the Commission had
mentioned my recruitment using two different titles. They
went on to inform me that, in the course of discussions on
my appointment, they had discovered that the Accounting
Officer of the European Commission could not be a
temporary employee. Brilliant!
There was also the formality of my having to pass a medical
examination - which had to be done in Brussels - and had to
be done quickly as they now wanted me in post by January 1,
2002. So after five months of prevarication, confusion and
delay, it was now all systems go.
Mystery deepened when, before I had even received the letter
confirming the details of my appointment, I got an e-mail
from one Charles Cash*, head of the Treasury Unit - one of
the five unit heads who would be reporting to me in my new
post in the Budget Directorate. Would he be able to see me
when I came to Brussels for my medical? He knew the date.
Somewhat premature - and barely appropriate - I knew that
such a meeting would really not be convenient. I was making
only a flying visit to Brussels for the medical. I was in the
midst of organising a family Christmas in Barcelona and had
about a thousand other things to do before starting a new job.
Yet I didn't want to appear inflexible or unfriendly. Somewhat
reluctantly, 1 agreed to meet at my hotel the night before the
medical. With the flight delayed by an hour, it was already
11pm when I finally got to my hotel on the icy night of
In the almost deserted hotel lobby, a figure in immaculate
dark blue coat, and with Homburg hat, rose to greet me with
the most gracious of smiles. A 62-year-old Briton, with
thinning white hair and of impeccable dress, Charles Cash set
off on a rambling explanation of the security arrangements
being made in the 'European quarter' of Brussels for the
forthcoming Laeken council. This was being held to make the
So why did we have to go into all of this at that time of night?
I was bone tired. 1 just wanted to go to bed. But then
fumbling in his pockets for some document to do with my
recruitment, Cash suddenly switched the subject and referred
to the Budget Director General as a not at all easy man to
work with. Bright, very bright, but he could treat people quite
harshly. Cash was afraid I might find him rather discouraging
about any changes 1 might have in mind.
Speechless for a moment, I was now doubly on my guard.
Warily, I restricted myself to murmuring generalities about my
hopes **.. of having a good relationship with everyone,
particularly with the staff on whom I know I will have to rely."
In bed, I pondered the oddity of the meeting. Could this man
actually be an emissary from Maison himself - in a last
desperate effort to make me turn down the job?
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
My First Month
On January 3, 2002, still full of enthusiasm, I arrived to find
Euro-Brussels almost deserted. As instructed, I went to the
Administration Directorate to find that they had absolutely
no record of my recruitment. With my name not on their
database, they were unable to register me or even issue me
with a badge. "Your file should have been completed by the
office of the Budget Director General" (Maison again.)
"Why not call the Personnel Directorate?" I suggested. "They
were the people who issued the letter confirming my
employment " But that did nothing to sort out the problem.
They said the Budget Directorate should have completed my
file so that they could process my recruitment. But they had
failed to do this before my arrival and most of their staff were
now on holiday.
Finally, I made my way to the Budget Directorate building -
Breydel 2 - to ask Charles Cash, my late-night visitor of two
weeks earlier, if he could get me into the building. And so, for
my first two weeks, I had to go in as a Visitor.'
At least I had an office - and one with a fine view - on the
eighth floor of the building, with an outer office with desks
for two secretaries. The shelves in my office were already
MARTA AN ORE AS EN
stocked with a complete set of EU Treaties and accompanying
volumes of regulations. I had plenty to read.
Cash and the other senior staff I met seemed keen to impress
upon me the lack of resources and the small amount of
attention devoted by the Commission to the accounting and
treasury management of the EU budget. Some of this, I
dismissed as the usual grumbles of almost every organization
I had worked in - but I could see that there were some Issues
that had started long before my arrival.
Maison himself, in fact, did not appear until my second week.
Every Monday, he held a meeting in his 13th floor office with
the four Directors in his Budget Directorate and it was there
that I met my three Director colleagues, of equivalent grade 2
rank. Maison graciously welcomed me and then moved
briskly on to the first item for discussion: the role of the
v_jOmrnission s internal auq.ii uirectorate, wmcn nao. oeen
created after the debacle of the Jacques Santer Commission.
The post of Director General, in this new Directorate, was
held by a Dutchman, Jules Muis. Although I was still picking
myself during that meeting, I quickly sensed some sort of turf
war warming up.
There was some prim talk about what ".. the role of the new
post of Director General of Internal Audit should or should
not be .." from which I deduced that Maison did not
welcome Muis poking his nose too closely into the affairs of
the Budget Directorate.
During this, my second week in office, I met more of my five
heads of unit, and others on my staff, both individually and
in groups. I also heard more on the lack of appreciation from
the hierarchy on their work and financial responsibility.
Still in that hectic second week, Pierre Sachet*, a Director of
the Luxembourg-based Court of Auditors, had asked to come
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and meet me, together with a colleague. As this was still only
my seventh working day in office, I felt that it was far too
early for such a meeting - but I was then given to understand
that the meeting was to be something in the nature of a
Some courtesy visit! No sooner had they sat down in my
office than Sachet launched into the attack. Sternly, he
announced that they were expecting a lot from me. During
the many years they had been criticizing the accounting,
Maison had ignored all their requests for reform and all they
had received were promises of change. What they now
wanted from me was action.
His colleague, head of unit Wilfred Van Dyck* , next pitched
in with a blistering diatribe about the accounting, the
management of the budget, the lack of professional
knowledge. By that time the Court of Auditors had, for the
previous six years, refused to approve the EU's annual
accounts, so one could see they had a point. Nevertheless, I
was still startled at such a complete lack of discretion with
someone who had only just joined the organization. Maybe at
least I would have some valuable allies in any future battles.
But two weeks later I heard that, with a reorganization of the
Court of Auditors, those two officials would not be
responsible for the EU accounts much longer. So why the
rush to see me?
At Maison's next Directors' meeting, he referred to the 'draft
assurance report' from the Court of Auditors for the year
2000, and asked if I, as Commission Chief Accountant, could
go along to the Budget Committee of the Council of
Ministers that same day. Again, I was staggered that I was
being invited - barely two weeks into the job, and with so
little warning - to explain any deficiencies in the accounts for
an entire year when I was not in office. I was still trying to
find these out for myself.
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The experience - with some 25 of us seated round a large
rectangular table in the Council's Justus Lipsus building, was
nevertheless enlightening. The Budget Committee started by
extending to me their sincere wishes of success in a "terribly
difficult" job. These pleasantries out of the way, head of unit
Wilfred Van Dyck and other representatives from the Court
of Auditors, spoke at length about the deficiencies of the
accounts for 2000.
But the reaction of the Council's committee - made up of
political representatives from the governments of the
member states - was uniformly mild, verging on the
narcoleptic. I left the meeting with two key questions in my
mind. Why were the people there, who ought to know, so
keen to stress that my job was "terribly difficult?"
More important, why did those in the upper echelons of the
EU - both civil servants in the Commission and politicians in
the Council of Ministers - appear to be in such denial about
the magnitude of the EU's problems? Did they live in some
sort of bubble? Didn't they read the papers? Were they simply
not aware of the scandals being reported almost daily in the
One of the murkiest scandals had originated in my own
country of Spain, in the cultivation of high-grade flax. With
subsidies worth five times the support available for cereals,
farmers had responded by raising flax cultivation from 186
hectares to 91,000 hectares - an increase of nearly 50,000 per
cent - in five years. No matter that the flax was of such low-
grade that it had no conceivable market.
According to a report by Spain's anti-fraud office, much of
the crop for which grants were claimed was in any case
fictitious. Processing plants simply issued false certificates to
draw in extra subsidies. As Spanish investigators closed in on
what was happening, much of the evidence and crop went up
in smoke. Over the course of a nfbnth, there were seven
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separate fires at linen producers' premises.
Some of the scheme's beneficiaries - costing EU taxpayers up
to 75 million euros a year - were said to be working in the
office of the Spanish agriculture minister in the late 1990's:
Miss Loyola de Palacio. Well illustrating the prevailing EU
culture, one Spanish government spokesman, widely quoted in
the European press, sought to explain, "Don't blame Loyola de
Palacio - blame the Common Agricultural Policy. The EU gives
lots of subsidies for things that are never consumed, and even
for things that aren't planted. She was just looking after the
interests of the farmers, which was her job "
Two of her ministerial appointees did eventually resign. Miss
Loyola de Palacio, apparently unaware of flax profiteering by
her staff, had later moved on to her then current Brussels
post, controlling one of the EU's largest budgets, as
Commissioner for transport and energy. (Later still, she was
to become a Vice President of the Commission.)
Yet the more I probed into the affairs of my own department,
the more I could see how the lack of controls made such
scandals possible. There was little separation of duties - so
that directors running programmes were also often
authorising payments. Indeed, when I began going through
reports and acquainting myself with the computer
procedures, I could scarcely believe the haphazard way in
which much of the accounting was done.
Numbers in the computerized reports often changed from
day to day. Some of the accounts came in on spreadsheets on
which anyone could make changes - and thus, if these were
manipulated, leave no electronic trail. Some of the
accounting did not even incorporate double-entry book-
keeping - a system invented by the Italians in the 16th
century - in which the two effects of every financial
transaction are recorded: first, where the money comes from
or goes to and, secondly, what is the item or service that is
being paid for or received.
MARTA ANDREAS F.N
The computer systems were a mess - with sub-systems that
were not entirely compatible, so that some information was lost
or corrupted within the interface. Clearly, the people who had
designed or modified the system knew little about advanced
computer system capabilities, and even less about accounting.
Scarify, thousands of payments were being made out of the
budget every week - for serious sums of money - and I was
the one who would ultimately bear responsibility for them.
So, for a start, I asked for a list of all those who could -
electronically - authorize such payments. But this was not
forthcoming - ever.
One of the first things I found out was that the opening
balance for the EU accounts for 2001 didn't match the closing
balance for the 2000 accounts. There was a gap of almost 200
million euros. These accounts were actually published in the
official journal of the European Union, as all EU accounts
had been and still are. Had no one noticed?
When I asked my staff to explain the discrepancy, I was
informed that these were loans given to third parties and then
written off. Watching my manners and blood pressure as best
1 could, I strove to explain that if this had really been the case
the sums should have been written off in the prior year or the
new year as non-recoverable. "You can't just have these sums
disappearing between the two years. All this money was
provided by European taxpayers."
The contempt with which this money was being treated
caused me real alarm. "How could you just write this money
off?" I asked. "Who would have authorized it?" But I never got
answers to such questions. And indeed, it was not just one
specific case that concerned me, but the whole notion that the
system could operate in this way: that money, not approved
in the budget, could be advanced to anyone, be called a loan
and then be written off when the recipient failed to return it.
Over the next month, I spoke to soime of my staff who were
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not willing to admit to shortcomings in the system. Others,
however, were clearly embarrassed by the unprofessional way
in which many of the transactions were carried out and the
almost arbitrary manner in which financial information was
passed on from the Commissions various Directorates.
Soon, I came up against particular problems in the
"recoveries" section - one of the five units that reported to
me. As most of the EU budget is paid out in advance - that is
before the specific programme which has been proposed in
the budget is actually run - there was clearly ample
opportunity for loss of control.
In most private companies, the recovery section would claim
back money when there was no documentary evidence that
goods or services had been received. Similarly, in
organizations like the EU, which pay out subsidies, this
section would be in charge of recovering funds where there
was no proper documentation to confirm that the subsidy
had been used for its approved purpose. But I was amazed to
discover that in the Commission there was NO central
register of the recipients of all funds paid out - so the
recovery process was doomed to failure from the start.
In the absence of a central register, the information on
necessary repayments was provided by the Directors General of
the different Commission Directorates, who in turn had to rely
on those who had actually been given the money. This is like a
bank relying on its debtors to tell it how much money it is owed!
The only record kept centrally by the Accounting Services
referred to what was known as "direct payments" - that ten
per cent of the budget paid directly to the supplier of a service
or goods, which created so much of the controversy over
fraud and irregularities in the EU accounts.
Incredibly, nobody appeared to be worried about the control
of the other 90 per cent of "indirect payments" - where the
Commission paid funds to a local agency or ministry in one
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of the member states, who then passed on the money to the
I was staggered that the issue had been treated with such
neglect over the years. The Commission hierarchy could not be
ignorant of this failure when every year the Court of Auditors
repeated their same damning criticism of EU accounting. Yet
every year the stock response was that any gaps in the accounts
would be replenished by the recovery of overpaid funds - when
in fact such recovery simply wasn't feasible.
In the meantime, and as from my second week in office,
documents for my signature began piling up on the meeting
table in my office. These documents prompted me to ask for
more information before I felt able to sign. Most of this
further information either took a long time to come, or was
At a time when I should have been sorting out these and so
many other basic issues, I became involuntarily involved in
moving the accounting being done by ISPRA - a
Commission research centre in Italy - to Brussels. This was a
move that had been decided on by Maison long before my
arrival and, technically speaking, could well have been
handled by others.
But Maison was insistent - and Charles Cash was also exerting
ostensibly helpful efforts on this issue. Cash, in fact, had
already scheduled a meeting for us both to fly down to Varese,
in Italy, on January 17, the third week after my recruitment.
On the flight down, Cash assured me that Maison had been
there to tell staff that the accounting section would be closed
and that new jobs would be found for those not wanting or
able to move to Brussels. Only hazily briefed, I was under the
impression that I would just be part of a discussion that
involved some dozen senior staff.
In the event, neither their direct unit head, nor their
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Director General attended the meeting. Just before it
started, Cash evaporated, making noises about some "..
urgent telephone call "
So it was I - a Commission official for little more than two
weeks - who had to broach painful issues. As soon as I
opened my mouth I realized that I was speaking to people
who couldn't believe what they were hearing. "But Monsieur
Maison came here two months ago to tell us that there would
be no closure for at least two years and that everything would
stay the same," volunteered one. Another stood up to point
out, "We were specifically told that any rumors we might hear
about this were wrong "
In short, as far as I could establish, nothing had been done to
find these employees new jobs - and yet, as the inadvertent
bearer of bad news, my name was the one that would be mud
in that corner of the Commission!
On behalf of these ISPRA employees, I felt appalled. It stirred
uncomfortable memories of some of the allegations that had
been made before the 1999 collapse of the Santer Commission.
Before that, there had been the pungent comments of the
British economist Bernard Connolly, a Commission official
fired after writing his book, The Rotten Heart of Europe: The
Dirty War for Europe's Money. This targeted what he saw as the
Commission's "distortion and manipulation" of the facts of the
EU moving towards a single monetary union.
"The more blatantly obvious the falsehood, the more
insistently its perpetrators repeat it. My decision to write this
book ... was born first of incredulity at the hundreds of 'black
is white' statements made about the ERM (Exchange Rate
Mechanism), and then of anger at the treatment given to
anyone who tried to point out the lies."
I in l could things still really be that bad?
When Inter I mentioned to Maison the misunderstanding I
had had to deal with at ISPRA, the Director General simply
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looked at me, as if bemused that there could have been a
problem. Clearly, the labour directives that had been pouring
out of Brussels, instructing employers all round Europe on
how they should treat - and consult with - their staff, didn't
carry too much weight within the Commission itself.
The day after my bruising meeting at ISPRA there was
another scarcely happier meeting in Brussels. Maison had
called a meeting at which various matters were to be
discussed. One of them concerned ".. the annual programme
of work . " for my department.
This was in fact the first time that I had heard of this or been
shown any documentation. There, I saw it written down that
it was expected that the "accounting reform communication"
would be completed "within three months of the
incorporation of the new Accounting Officer."
Having seen what I already had of the then current system,
and knowing my need to find out a lot more, I had to tell
Maison, "I can t possibly commit to that date." Maison was
not happy. His anger simply increased when he asked who I
had in mind as project leader for the changes, and I told him,
"I believe that I should be project leader. Given my experience
of such reforms, I believe that they will need both a project
leader and a project manager."
Then Maison told me whom he had in mind as project
leader: Mara Villos*. She was a woman who reported to me,
and at that time was simply acting as head of the general
accounting unit in the absence of a sick colleague.
It was obvious that if she continued doing her current job,
she could not also act as effective project leader. It was like a
company building a new factory, which still needed a
competent leader to keep the old one running.
But as Mara Villos was also present at that meeting, there was
clearly a limit as to how far that discussion could be pursued.
As the meeting broke up, Maison's assistant, Theodor
Lemercier* approached to counsel me, "You must not go
against the Director General on his decision of project leader.
He has a very high opinion of Mara Villos and of the work she
has done." I explained that as Commission Accounting
Officer, it was only natural that I should lead the reform. But
clearly, I was having difficulty in picking up on the attitudes
that seemed to characterize so much of the Commission
Needless to say that meeting, like so many others, left me with
a mass of unanswered questions. Why was Maison getting
involved in an accounting reform for which I was responsible
as Chief Accountant? Why did he have to decide who would
lead the reform? If he was so convinced that his choice was up
to the job, why had they not started the reforms two years
earlier - rather than waiting for my arrival?
In a meeting with my staff a couple of days later we discussed
a draft commentary, prepared in June 2001, on the
"modernization of the accounting system." This had never
become final - nor had any of the actions listed in it, by then
long overdue, ever been brought into operation.
But what was even more worrying was that the document
didn't even begin to deal with the really radical changes
needed to the entire computer system - and for whose
unreliability I had already seen ample evidence.
At the next Directors* meeting with Maison, I felt it time for
me to start reporting on my serious concerns. I spoke at some
length of the growing list of questions I had asked on
authorizations and payments that had not been answered. I
talked of my concern at the apparent incompatibility of two
of the sub-systems of the computer system that processed
When I finished, no one uttered a word and Maison simply
moved on to another subject: the future of the EU budget and
MARTA ANDREAS EN
a new Financial Regulation (EU accounting law) on which I
would have to respond before the Budget Committee in the
This proposed eliminating the existing "Validity of discharge
for payment ." In a word, this meant that payments could be
processed directly to the bank by different Directorates -
without my staff checking the supporting documents to
establish that the payment was for the right amount, for the
approved purpose and was going to the right person.
I couldn't believe that an institution like the Commission
would want to operate in such a lax way, particularly after the
Santer Commission had had to resign over allegations of
financial mismanagement. When I shared my alarm with
some of my staff, one of them related, with a knowing smile,
that when he had mentioned this 'reform' to a friend working
for a big private corporation, his friend had suggested that it
But, I still wanted to believe that such a proposal was the
result of ignorance.
On January 22, 1 was able to share just a few of my concerns
with Jules Muis, first Director General of the newly-created
Internal Audit Directorate. He had rung my secretary to
suggest a meeting. A tall, white-haired, blue-eyed, fresh-faced,
affable Dutchman, then aged 57, he was a very different
had a sparkling career in various private corporations, but
also well knew the ways of the public sector. Head-hunted to
sort out a mess at the World Bank, he had served there for six
years, as Vice President and Controller.
Although I was naturally guarded in my response to
questions on how I was getting on with Maison, I spoke of my
main concerns about the computer system and the changes
proposed in the new Financial Regulation. He already clearly
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appreciated the enormity of problems facing the
He referred to an audit he had made on the accounting
system which revealed serious shortcomings. He had. asked
Budget Commissioner Michaele Schreyer to address them
and allow him to make a full audit - but had so far met with
massive resistance. This all fitted in with the comments I had
heard from Maison about Muis at my first Directors'
Despite the problems he himself faced, Muis still appeared to
enjoy life, and could joke about Commission staff being
adept " at steering you into trees and keeping you busy with
the unimportant things, while the big things are going on
behind the scenes." Recalling my own calamitous trip to
ISPRA in Italy, I already well knew what he meant. "If you
need any help in what you are doing," Muis concluded, "don't
hesitate to come and ask."
As money daily poured out of the Commission coffers, I was
amazed at being given signatory authority before I had
servant. Indeed, it wasn't until some four weeks after my
arrival that I was to receive this formal authority - known as
the nomination act.
In the event, I was eventually presented with two such
documents. One related to my role as Chief Accounting
Officer, the other as Budget Execution Director. Both were
signed by Romano Prodi, then President of the European
Commission. But whereas the first came to me directly from
Prodi's office, the other came from Mai son's office - to be
signed for by myself - a formality I later realized intended to
make it clear that I came within Maison's authority as Budget
Execution Director. But would this restrict my independence?
While the EU Treaties are clear about the Chief Accountant
reporting to the College of Commissioners, there was always
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an obscurity about my role as Budget Execution Director that
I never fully penetrated. Indeed, I was never given a clear, full
job description for either of the two jobs.
Lack of clarity bedevilled much of the work of the Commission,
and I soon found myself dragged into endless internal
squabbles. One concerned fellow Director Jacques Mon* - who
was head of the Directorate's central services, responsible,
among other things, for ensuring the good functioning of the
computer systems on which financial transactions were
processed. He wrote me a letter asking me to sort out the
'reconciliation' of figures - ensuring the consistency and
compatibility of data coming from different sources - that were
being fed into two of the computer's sub-systems.
Circulating this request among my staff, I was promptly told
that they had just lost - to Mon's team - the very people
doing the work that they were now being asked to do. I could
only back them up on that point.
Next, I was involved in a crisis meeting with the staff in
charge of Recoveries. They were responsible not only for
recovering overpaid funds but for collecting fines imposed by
the Commission. They wanted to discuss the case of a
company unable to pay a fine because of financial problems.
As Chief Accountant, I was the only one able to grant
extended payment terms - provided the company could
produce a bank guarantee. The meeting with the company's
representatives took place two hours later - and was also
attended by staff from the Competition Directorate who had
imposed the fine. They appeared happy to accept the
explanation they had been given of the company's financial
difficulties. I was not.
In fact, I was puzzled as to how they felt qualified to comment
on the fined company's financial affairs - and why they had
brought me to this meeting if they were making such
judgments for themselves.
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I asked to see the financial statements - and noticed that the
company was part of a group. I asked for the group statements
and found them almost identical - apart from the name of the
company being changed for that of the group. The
Competition staff seemed to me to be happy to overlook this
'detail' - and eager to bounce me into accepting the financial
paperwork as sufficient guarantee. I refused to do so.
The following day I was invited to attend a working group on
fines, chaired by the deputy Director General of the
Competition Directorate. He outlined the problem they had
when wanting to impose a fine on a company claiming
insolvency. In a further meeting, his staff drew attention to
the amount of time involved in analysing the financial
statements of fined companies.
"But that is not your job" I pointed out. "That is the job of the
accounting services - both because of the knowledge required
and also to avoid a conflict of interest" I went on to stress that
they should know better than me, given their time with the
Commission, that the rules were quite clear on not granting
any extended terms unless a bank guarantee was provided.
"Do you understand that there could be a conflict of interest
in your intervening in the negotiation of the payment of a
fine?" I asked. Heads were duly nodded as they agreed that
they did. Yet this was certainly not the last time I was hauled
in to face a stark choice: either agree to payment terms that
were clearly unacceptable under EC rules - or risk appearing
an ogre in front of third parties.
At the last Directors' meeting of that first month, discussion
would have to sign, for the first time, for the 2001 accounts. I
spoke again of my concern about the lack of compatibility
between the two sub-systems in which the transactions were
processed and the fact that the system did not cover all
financial transactions. The fundamental problem with the
MARIA AND RE AS EN
Directors General signing the Annual Declarations is that the
figures they have in their Directorates' systems do not add up
I said, "This means that the Accounting Services, that's us,
that do add up. The Directors General then refuse to take
responsibility for what they consider 'unreliable 5 accounts
putting into the system."
Maison then had a brainwave. Why doesn't the Chief
Accountant send the accounts to the various Directorates -
signed by him/her assuming responsibility for their reliability
and accuracy? Everyone - agreeing on the brilliance of this
solution - looked at me. By now I was far too wise in the ways
of the Commission - and mindful of my responsibilities as a
professional accountant - to fall for that one.
I stressed that we needed to focus on basic problems. "At the
moment the current system doesn't provide the Chief
Accountant with the necessary information to sign off such
Crucially, I also pointed out that it would eventually have to
be my predecessor who would have to sign off the 2001
accounts - as I had joined only in 2002. And I added, "I
haven't yet received the statement of account on handover
that is standard in any organization."
During that same meeting I was informed that 1 would have
to go to the Budget Committee of the Council of Ministers
for the presentation of the new Financial Regulation that was
being drafted. I replied that I had not yet been given the
chance of reviewing or commenting on the draft. "But I have
heard that they have eliminated certain important controls
and ttiat worries me.
Silence and a change of subject were the only immediate
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response to my point. But later Maison made it clear that not
only did he not want me interfering in any of his plans for
'reform' embodied in the new Financial Regulation, but that
he wanted me to be the one to present it to the Council of
Ministers. If there was any gunfire, I would be the one in the
In later meetings on this issue, I found out that while the new
regulation was promised for January 2003, the new
accounting system needed for its implementation was going
to be available only in 2005. At this point, I could only repeat
my earlier concerns that the Directors General would never
assume responsibility for their respective budgets unless we
provided them with a system that produced reliable figures. I
also repeated the dangers of weakening the traditional
controls the Chief Accountant had before authorizing
"The Chief Accountant remains the person ultimately
responsible for the assets and monies entrusted to the
European Union - and therefore has to check the supporting
documentation before releasing EU funds. I know of no other
organization in the world where the treasurer makes
payments without seeing the invoices "
My comments were not well received and I sensed a growing
general nervousness about my appearance before the Council
of Ministers' Budget Committee. The following day I was
called to a meeting with fellow Director Jacques Mon who
had clearly been deputed to coach me in what needed to be
said and not said at that meeting. He was the Director with
whom I had had most contact when being initiated into my
job and was in charge of drafting the new Financial
In our discussions, I still found it scarcely credible that, after
the debacle of the Santer Commission, more power over EU
funds was being given to the Directors General, at the same
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time as providing them with a perfect excuse for evading
responsibility: the unreliability of the accounting system. I
wondered how the Council of Ministers and the European
Parliament would react to this - particularly as some MEPs
appeared to have some notion of the seriousness of the
situation and they had the power to press for a solution.
At the Council meeting, Mon spoke at length. There was
some flak from those who could follow what he was saying
about the new Financial Regulation, to be introduced in
2003, being implemented on a new accounting system
promised for two years later.
For my part, being under strict instructions about what to
say, and still feeling new to the job, 1 restricted myself to some
fairly anodyne additional points about how the new rules
would affect financial reports - and the way in which they
managed these matters in the private sector. But I wondered
whether I would look back on this meeting as a great
opportunity missed - as a time when I should have at least
attempted to bring home to the EU's political masters just
how far short the new regulation was falling from the proper
management of EU funds.
Before my first month was up, I was involved in one more
area of conflict: the European Development Fund. The fund
was separate from the EU budget as not all member states
contributed to it and there was no pre-determined budget for
the year. Its operation had little in common with the EU
general budget, as it had a different accounting system - and
its staff felt happy and proud about its functioning.
When Maison proposed merging it into the EU general
budget, I thought it made little sense to merge something that
was working relatively well with something that quite clearly
wasn't. But as so often with the Commission, there was more
to this matter than first met the eye.
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Expressing my Views
From the beginning of February 2002, I came under
increasing pressure from Mon over the signing off of the 2001
accounts. Essentially, despite my misgivings expressed at
meetings with Maison, he wanted my signature on the 2001
accounts which were to be sent out to the Directors General
for them to sign their 'annual declarations.' Given the
impossibility of coming up with one coherent set of accounts
from the computer system, and as I had joined the
Commission only in the previous month, I had no intention
of providing my signature.
"The signature you need is that of my predecessor" I insisted.
When Mon suggested meetings in an effort to sort the matter
out, T pointed out that the person who really needed to be
there was my predecessor.
By now, I had established who this was - and he was not the
one, intimated at my September 1 1 interview, who had taken
sick and died. That was the predecessor of my predecessor.
My real predecessor - Paul Lematin* - was actually alive and
well and still working for the Commission's research centre,
TSPRA, in Italy. He was the one who, as director of resources
and a head of unit, should have been there at my first grim
meeting in Varese.
When I had first tackled Maison on the subject of my
predecessor, he had had a slightly different story, again vague,
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about Lematin going through "a messy divorce . ." and
wanting to get away from Brussels. But that didn't ring true
either. If he were a family man, surely he would want to stay
somewhere near his children. My own growing suspicion was
that he had wanted to get out of Brussels to get away from a
messy set of accounts.
When I spoke with Lematin at TSPRA I found him, over the
course of an hour, to be studiously vague. Every specific
question was met with sonorous declarations on the need to
trust your colleagues, the work they do and the figures that
Wearily, I reminded Mon, "I have not yet received a proper
statement of account on the official handover of the job." And
indeed, I never did.
In the weekly meetings with my staff, I realized that some of
them grasped these issues only too well. Some mentioned
that the precise role and independence of the Chief
Accountant had always been a matter of some uncertainty
and controversy within the Budget Directorate. They could
see that implementation of the new Financial Regulation -
sending out accounts signed by the Chief Accountant to the
Directors General - would make that role even less clear.
They appeared alarmed that my predecessor had still not
drawn up a statement of account on transferring his
responsibilities to me.
While I was still trying to resolve these issues, documents kept
on arriving in my office for signature while answers to my
questions kept on being more and more delayed. I worked
late into the night trying to sort out the mounds of
inadequate paperwork. Looking up the rules in my office, I
usually found them perfectly sound. Too often they were
simply not being followed.
I had a steady barrage of questions for staff in my Treasury
unit: Who is the beneficiary we are paying this money to? For
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what purpose? Do we have any proof that the work was done?
Where is this covered in the budget? Why does the EU
delegation in this country need three separate
As time went on, it was difficult not to see the European
to be robbed.
Meanwhile, the issue of the unsigned 2001 accounts refused
to go away. Calls from Mon were getting more frequent. In
one in which he pressed for my signature, I again offered to
attend a meeting on the issue as long as Lematin was
At this point Mon told me that I would not last long in the
European Commission if I did not comply with the
instructions of the Director General (Maison.) I reminded him
of my independence as Chief Accountant and he hung up.
This was the first open warning I had received - and I did not
feel happy at someone attempting to coerce me in my job.
At the next Directors' meeting, I got the impression that
Maison had been fully briefed by Mon about our recent
disagreement. Maison immediately started lecturing me
about what he saw as my responsibility in the annual
declarations. I asked to be given the opportunity to detail in
professional terms the situation we were facing.
Once again, 1 explained about the unreliability of the
accounting system, the importance of the institutions
accounts, and the responsibility of the Chief Accountant to
make sure they were correct. I stressed the accountability of
each person involved in drawing up the accounts - and the
difficulty of ensuring that accountability with such a
fundamentally flawed computer system. To myself, I
wondered how many more times we could keep on going
over the same old ground.
MARIA AN DRFASF.N
All listened in silence. At the end of my speech, Maison
commented that this was the first time that the Commission
had a Chief Accountant who was a qualified accountant. He
said he was beginning to learn, as would our colleagues.
Later, I was even congratulated by one of my fellow Directors
on the robustness of my stand. Could this be the beginning of
a new era .. a new dawn?
Alas, not. In the days which followed I realized that I might as
well have saved my breath. Though there were a series of
meetings, chaired by Deputy Director General Jens Mogen, to
consider my points, they never ended with any specific plan
of action. Any proposals I made for new computer systems -
even those needed on the grounds of direst necessity - were
waved away on account of "budget limitations."
When I again raised these issues at the next Directors'
meeting, I was told of a report from the Court of Auditors -
which I had not yet seen. Maison had and was reported to be
disgusted with its contents, I asked to have a copy - and was
told that it had already been sent to my office.
With Maison alone, I took the opportunity of mentioning,
again, the need for my predecessor to produce a proper
handover document, with a signed statement of account, and
was airily invited to sort the matter out with his assistant
Theodor Lemercier. He in turn informed me, point blank, that
the financial regulations did not provide for any such statement
to be presented on the change of accountant and that, if my
predecessor agreed to do so, it would only be "out of good will"
Later, reading up on the fine detail of the financial regulation
in my own office, I found that in fact they did. Back I
returned to Maison's office with the relevant volume - only to
be met with the Euro -equivalent of a Gallic shrug.
Increasingly, over the next few weeks I developed a sense of
not always being given the correct information, the necessary
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
documents - and of being kept slightly out of the loop. I also
got a feeling that more of my staff were sitting on the fence-
Some of my senior subordinates had clearly known that, from
the start, I was not Maison's choice for the job, and the more
sympathetic mentioned battles fought by Maison with the
predecessor who came before Lematin.
Others still clearly worshipped their Director General. One
even rhapsodized to me about the way in which Maison, at
one meeting of the Council of Ministers, had banged his fist
on the table to emphasize a point.
Some might have interpreted such behavior as either bad
manners or the sign of a person with a poor argument. But I
had already become aware that banging the table and yelling
was quite often part of the bag of tricks deployed to flex
muscles in the upper echelons of the Commission.
My own rule was never to raise my voice, to use arguments
based on facts and rational thought and, above all, seek the
advice of others. In my meetings with my staff, I couldn't
help being aware that growing numbers were becoming
more non-committal in their advice - and a touch less
warm and supportive,
In any forthcoming head-on collision between Maison and
myself, it was natural that people should start manoeuvering
to line up with the winner - and for growing numbers that
appeared not to be me.
In his 13 years in the job, Maison had certainly acquired
awesome savvy and awesome clout - as had his long-serving
Spanish counterpart, Pedro Laguna*, who was Director
General for Agriculture, In most organizations, it would have
been a basic, common-sense control to rotate people in such
critical positions. But they served on — a Frenchman and a
Spaniard who came from the two countries which enjoyed by
far and away the most generous portions of subsidies from
the 100-billion Euro budget.
MART A ANDREAS EN
through badly needed reforms? Each week, she held a
meeting with Maison and the Directors, where most of the
matters discussed were "political." But as political affairs often
have a financial aspect, I always tried to attend — even when
not specifically invited. At first, I made little or no comments.
Simply being there turned out to be highly revealing of what
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Each Commissioner had a half-a-dozen-strong cabinet
headed by an all-powerful Chef de Cabinet - a civil servant of
equivalent Grade 2 level to myself. In Schreyer's case this was
a tall, grey-haired fellow-German Hans Zimmer* - and he
appeared to have the traditional iron grip on information
going before his Commissioner boss.
To prepare myself for one meeting - where the outcome of
the budget for 2001 was going to be discussed - I decided to
pull out the final figures for the budget that was actually
spent. This was one area where I felt I had expertise and could
possibly contribute to the discussion.
But as the meeting itself progressed I was stunned to realize
that Schreyer's figures and mine simply didn't mesh.
According to my research, I could see that at the end of 2001
the under-expenditure was 15 billion euros - 10 billion euros
more than the 5 billion figure the Commissioner appeared to
be reading in her reports. This was an error of more than ten
per cent of the total annual budget at that time.
xnis sirrioiy oio.ii x icii vvito. ivjL3.ioori. & ocscfiulioii^ ixi ooiiic
meetings, of a Commissioner who was something of a
control freak and as a person who got rather too obsessed
with the details of issues. In point of fact, she had already
been in the job, and presumably followed the budget, for twro
years, and yet didn't appear to have noticed that some 10
billion euros had gone walkabout.
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
my staff when I got back to my office. They explained that
whereas in the past, financial reports would be distributed in
hard copy, Schreyer's cabinet had instructed the Accounting
Services to send reports directly to them via e-mail - so no
one could be sure that the Commissioner had got to see the
figures actually produced by our department,
To me, it was fairly obvious that the figures and reports were
pretty well cooked before they ever reached the
Commissioner's desk. The matter of over or under-
expenditure was clearly a matter of key importance in the
negotiation of the final budget for the new year in the
European Parliament and Council of Ministers, Why should
the Member States be endlessly asked to cough up even more
money? Yet it appeared that the Commissioner in charge of
the department was not being given the true figures.
On another occasion, one of my unit heads brought me a
question asked by a Member of the European Parliament,
who wanted to know how much money had been recovered
from the overpayment of agricultural funds over the previous
five years. Knowing that the Commission kept no central
record of such payments - nor did it do any follow-up
research - I could only truthfully answer that it was
But nobody appeared unduly worried at this revelation - or
what it said about the manifest lack of control of EU funds.
All they were really worried about was getting this particular
MEP off their backs so that they could move on. More of my
staff's time was thus wasted as the query circulated through
various sections until a barely honest answer had been honed
into a state or almost pertect ooscurity.
On this same issue, towards the end of February, the head of
my Recoveries unit, Helmut Herr* , contacted me to let me
know that Schreyer*s cabinet head Zimmer had asked him to
explain a report that he had produced. Herr was concerned
MARIA ANDREAS EN
that his report covered only ten per cent of the budget - that
part relating to direct payments made by the Commission to
beneficiaries or suppliers - and that the Commissioner's
office might want to use this methodology as a means of
explaining a recovery process for the whole budget.
Once again, I was surprised that a subordinate, and head of
unit, had been invited to get involved in all this without ray
being informed, and decided to go along with him. On my
advice, Herr explained to the Commissioner the truth about the
unreliability of the data we had produced and the fact that it
covered only "direct payments" - some ten per cent of budget
In fact, 1 saw this meeting with the Commissioner as the
perfect opportunity for bringing home to her not just this but
so many other glaring shortcomings in the system. I had not
yet had the chance of speaking with her on her own. When
my colleague had finished his explanations, I remained
seated. "Commissioner, 1 wonder whether I could have a
word with you alone/'
As this was entirely against the "culture" of the place, Zimmer
left the room with evident reluctance and ill grace. Clearly,
Commissioners were very rarely left on their own - without
the "guidance" of either their cabinets or all-powerful
But I was determined to take advantage of this opportunity.
"I am extremely worried about the computer system on
which the funds are managed " She admitted that she too had
received a lot of complaints - but that she was waiting for a
report from the Court of Auditors on an audit done in 2001.
a What do you suggest?" she asked. I told her of the possibility
of expanding the use of a well-known German software
package, with a customized version which had already been
bought by the Commission but was not being used. "That
would solve many of the biggest problems "
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
Further, I mentioned a report from the Court of Auditors
that had come in and that I had not yet had time to read. She
asked for a copy. She was keen on using the German software
- but wanted to see the auditors' report, presumably
confirming the failure of the existing system, to make it more
difficult for others to argue against her view.
Back in my office, I saw the Court of Auditors' report that I
had mentioned was in French - which Schreyer didn't speak.
I rang her to tell her that - and she asked me to get a
translation. The Court of Auditors informed me that
translating the whole 80-page report would take a. long time
- but they agreed to translate its main conclusions which
were later sent to the Commissioner.
I was tempted to believe that my meeting with Schreyer had
been a real breakthrough - that at last the basic problems of
her directorate would be tackled. But as more time went by, I
could see the difficulties and weakness of her position. A
political appointee, she clearly felt she had to fit in with
political decisions and go with the flow of the College of
Commissioners. Nobody had ever argued that the member
states were sending their finest and brightest to be senior
politicians in Brussels. Understandably, the smartest stayed at
home - and tried to become Prime Minister.
Most of these political appointees, who ended up as
Commissioners in Brussels, were there for just one five-year
term. Unless they were people of quite exceptional
intelligence and determination, they were no match for the
Directors General and cabinet heads who had often worked
in the Commission for years and knew, like no other
bureaucracy in the world, how to arrange agendas, sift
documents and stuff diaries with time-wasting nonsense.
For my own part, I was beginning to see that my own
independence as Chief Accountant - in theory directly
responsible to the College of Commissioners - could be
MARTA ANDREAS EN
something of a myth. Never again did Zimmer risk leaving
me alone with Commissioner Schreyer. Invariably, Maison or
someone else was conjured onto the scene.
More clearly than before, I could see that the very description
of my job as both Accounting Officer and Budget Execution
Director was something of an anomaly as both posts covered
pretty much the same responsibilities. But the nomination of
Budget Execution Director craftily enforced my reporting to
Budget Director General Maison. I now knew that I had a
battle on my hands.
Meanwhile, back in Varese, Lematin continued to drag his
feet. He simply refused to take responsibility for signing the
2001 accounts to be sent out to the Directors General for
their annual declaration. I could now see why he had moved
out of the Chief Accountant's job after less than one year on
the job. I was also beginning to realize that, while Maison
clearly did not want me for the job, he had possibly accepted
my nomination in the hope that a newcomer could be
bounced into signing the accounts - before knowing what
was really going on.
But that hadn't worked. The situation was now becoming
tense. Complaints were coming in daily from the various
Directorates about figures in the computer system not
matching those they had put in.
Finally, Maison announced to all the Directorates that the
Budget Directorate General would "underpin" the accounts
sent to them for their annual declarations. I wondered how
the Director General could support accounts that the Chief
Accountant refused to sign. But I argued no more - as I still
hoped to make the most necessary changes to improve the
situation in the shortest possible time.
At the next Directors' meeting Maison asked me to resolve the
issue of the reduction of my staff that he had promised for
that year's budget. I pointed out the existing lack of trained
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
personnel in the Accounting services. Ignoring my point, he
retorted that that was always the complaint of my staff -
which was particularly absurd when they hadn't even filled
the vacant posts.
At that same meeting, Maison mentioned the report on the
financial systems that had just been produced by the Court of
Auditors (the AMIS report: Audit of Management and
Information Systems). He strongly dismissed its criticisms
indicating that the language used was quite extraordinary -
intemperate. Others joined in with a chorus of disapproval
and disgust - apart from myself. I found I couldn't disagree
with the auditors' conclusions - but kept quiet, not wanting
to start yet another argument. Already, though, I could see the
report causing many headaches in the weeks to come.
By now I had been to countless meetings at which I had tried
to explain the failings of the system - and to propose
solutions. But most of these gatherings ended up with no
decisions being taken and much hand-wringing about
"budget limitations." Again and again, I tried to explain that
my proposals would not necessarily involve massive
investment - but mainly further and better use of the
computer software that was already to hand.
Increasingly, I felt myself to be in an Alice in Wonderland
world - with what was now being discussed as 'reform' simply
making the situation worse. In the future, the Directors
General would pretty much control the funds and if any
"irregularity" were found, the Commissioners would blame
the Directors General who would in turn blame an
inadequate accounting system - and so on, round and round
in an almost perfect circle of irresponsibility!
Already, both Commissioners and Directors General were
happy to heap much of the blame for "irregularities" onto
member states, where 75 per cent of the money is spent on
agricultural subsidies and structural funds. They were equally
MARIA ANDREAS EN
happy to overlook the fact that, even if the money is passed
on, it is still the responsibility of the Commission to insist on
the documentation from its eventual recipients to show that
the funds have been spent properly Indeed, the Treaties
emphasize that it is the European Commission which is
responsible for all the EU funds.
I couldn't help wondering why we, the European taxpayers,
should go on forever handing enormous sums to an
organization - the European Commission - which refused
(and still refuses) to take any responsibility for looking
Often I wondered whether much had changed at all since the
collapse of the Jacques Santer Commission when the "Wise
Men" had reported that it had been "particularly difficult to
find anyone who has the slightest sense of responsibility."
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
The Pressure to
At the start of March I was informed of a meeting, scheduled
for April 18, at which I would have to present a draft of my
proposals for the accounting reform. This meeting would be
with the President of the Court of Auditors - Juan Manuel
Fabra Valles - and two other directors responsible for the
But I pointed out, "To present a proper action plan, we have
got to sort out not only the accounting framework but also
the computer system we propose to use. In order to do that,
Mon and those in charge of the computer system will have to
present their proposals to me so that I can combine the two
bits of information."
At about that same time I received a call from Schreyer's office
asking if I could have my proposals on the accounting reform
ready for the end of May. At first sight this seemed a not
unreasonable request, until I was informed that, once my draft
was prepared, it would need 'inter- service' consultation within
the Commission's other Directorates, and translation into other
languages - a process that would take at least a month.
In effect, if the finished report had been scheduled (before my
arrival) for the end of March, they were giving me just two
months, since taking up my employment, in which to prepare
it. In view of all my other responsibilities, this presented me
with an impossible timetable, if anything of value was going
to be produced.
Also during March, the Court of Auditors' AMIS report - on
the Audit of Management and Information Systems - came
back for discussion. Maison wanted all four of his Directors
to respond to each point in the report. "From my own
experience," I pointed out, "I can confirm that all the essential
points raised by the Auditors are correct." Immediately, I was
contradicted by Maison, who was backed up by the other
Once again, I was on my own. I tried to explain that, "The
only way of starting reform is to recognize the existence and
size of a problem." As I spoke I was reminded of Jules Muis's
comment to me of the " Commission living within a culture
I also went on to point out that as my predecessor was the one
who was in charge when the audit was done - (and the report
had serious criticisms of him) - he should be the one to
respond to its points. But I offered to indicate the areas on
which I felt we should focus - and later sent an e-mail,
outlining them, to Maison.
Two days later, on March 6, when I was in Luxembourg, I was
called by Maison about my reluctance to contradict the
auditors and by his tone I realized that the criticisms
contained within the AMIS report had far more importance
for him than I had at first thought.
The reason that I was in Luxembourg was in itself significant.
A few days before that, on March 4, I had come back from
lunch in Brussels to be informed by my secretary that, just
five minutes earlier, Deputy DG Mogen had been in my office
with Mr Juan Barco*, who had taken over Pierre Sachet's job
as a director of the Court of Auditors in charge of the EU
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
budget. He would be the one with whom I was likely to have
most dealings in the future,
I was surprised. Mogen had made no mention of Barco's visit
when I had spoken with him a few days earlier - let alone
invited me to join him in a meeting.
When he got back to Luxembourg, Barco rang to express his
regrets that we had not met as there were important issues he
wanted to discuss with me. Embarrassed by all this, I offered
to travel to Luxembourg and meet with him in the next day
or so. It was difficult now to avoid the impression that
deliberate efforts were being made to hamper my contacts
with the Auditors. Though I apologized for some "crossing of
wires" I could tell that Barco also found it hard to believe that
such a misunderstanding had been accidental. He faxed me a
letter that eloquently summed up the Auditors* concerns, and
I was intrigued by the fact that they so clearly regarded me as
the principal player in sorting out the mess.
When I met him in Luxembourg, Barco continued his
onslaught on the Budget Directorate, and said 1 needed to do
something about the 2001 accounts. *Tm afraid its a bit late,
but 1*11 do my best" I replied.
Barco informed me that if the accounts did not show real
progress over those of the previous year the Court might
refuse clearance altogether. He said it was that bad. He
acknowledged that I had a difficult job, and I stressed that his
support as an auditor was crucial if 1 were to succeed in
reforming the accounting.
"My predecessor still hasn't handed over any statement of
account since my arrival ~~~ and though 1 have asked for it, he
has simply ignored my requests," 1 pointed out. "Better send
him a warning letter," Barco suggested. I did so that same day.
On my return from Luxembourg, I asked for a meeting with
Maison. First of all, I wanted to sort out the issues in the
MARTA ANDREAS EN
Auditors' AMIS report that had sparked his electric telephone
call. "As a professional accountant, I simply can t deny the
points that the Court of Auditors are making " I also wanted
to pass on the warning that the court might refuse clearance
of the 200 1 accounts altogether.
Although I was not technically responsible for the 2001
accounts, I repeated my offer to do what I could to help
improve them. The most urgent need was for a
'reconciliation* of the accounts - combining data from
different sources - which had never been done before.
Further, I tried to impress on him the desperate lack of
people in my team with a reasonable knowledge
To keep costs down, I offered to take on consultants on a
temporary basis. Maison was non-committal. Later that same
day, I met with Luc Montague*, the Directorate's head of
resources who immediately put a limit on my request for staff
- both for the urgent needs of the 2001 accounts and the
long-term demands of the accounting reforms. And, indeed,
I heard nothing more on the subject.
Still worried about the quality of the 2001 accounts, and the fact
that Schreyer would be adopting them on behalf of the whole
Commission by the end of April, I asked for a meeting with her
which her office confirmed for a week later: on March 18. Over
the weekend, I prepared a short note listing the points I wanted
to discuss which I sent to her before the meeting.
Around that time, I was contacted by one of Maison's staff
asking me to request the Auditors to delete paragraph 102 of
their AMIS report. But the paragraph was of fundamental
importance as it basically stated that, given the quality of the
accounting systems, it was impossible for the Accounting
Officer to present reliable accounts.
Clearly, Maison was infuriated by the implication that the
Court of Auditors would never be able to give a clean bill of
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
health to the accounts - unless the computer system was
changed. It seemed hardly fair to make this request of me
knowing that fact to be true and knowing my responsibility
for the current year accounts. I could only reply that, "As an
accounting professional I cannot properly make that request.
Only the Director General, using his political power, can
make such a request."
I was finding it difficult to understand why Maison and his
team were still making such efforts to resist such obvious
reforms. Evidence of the failure of the current system was
being revealed almost daily
Crucially, there was an investigation into Eurostat - a
Luxembourg-based agency which, among other things,
publishes statistics used for determining the contributions of
member states and the subsidies to be paid out. Some of the
work is done by outside companies, Eurostat also sells
statistics to private companies. In all this operation, there had
long been suspicions of fraudulent trading.
Indeed, an investigation that had been going on since 1997
seemed to illustrate perfectly the points I had been trying to
make about the Commission's lack of proper controls. It was
alleged that during the 1990s, Eurostat officials had used a
double accounting system to transfer large amounts of
money to secret bank accounts not monitored by auditors
and that the value of some contracts was being grossly
inflated. At the very least, it was suspected that between four
and six million euros had been "siphoned off" in this way.
It was only as the result of some very determined prodding by
some brave Commission officials and aggrieved contractors
that OLAF - the European Anti-Fraud Office - and the
Internal Audit Directorate were eventually galvanized into
action. But their difficulty in tracing the sums of money, and
the principals and possible beneficiaries involved, was
precisely because of the lack of an electronic audit trail that I
MARTA ANDRE AS F.N
had been warning about since my arrival in office. I had some
contact with OLAF in mid-March, 2002, on a different issue
- and received little assurance as to the speed and vigour with
which their investigations were likely to proceed.
That meeting - with Maison, the head of OLAF and the head
of the Legal service - was ostensibly to work out the varying
responsibilities of the different services on the recovery of
unaccounted funds. But as so often - with the EU's morass of
competing and contradictory laws - the meeting was a
complete mess, with each of the principals trying to load
responsibility onto somebody else.
My only contribution was to point out that, "Whatever is
decided, under the EU treaties the Chief Accountant remains
solely responsible for all assets and monies of the EU, and I
cannot shift this responsibility onto whomsoever else I find
suitable. That is the law. "
In the end, nothing was decided. The head of the Legal
service issued one minute of the meeting, Maison another.
Neither, as far as I know, was ever made official - and the
whole exercise was fairly typical of daily life in the
Next up, that same day, was a Budget Directorate meeting on
"Internal Control Standards," at which I was shocked to hear
that the Treasury function was not considered an area of risk. As
this is the department responsible for the safe collection and
disbursement of funds, I had to point out, "In my view, the
Treasury function is an area of fundamental risk throughout
the entire European Union and requires urgent attention."
But Maison insisted that the significance of the EU Treasury
function was minor. I could not help comparing the EU to a
bank that takes in and pays out money - adding no other
value beyond the proper control of those funds. Despite the
fact that this was the essential activity of the Commission, it
had been an area of almost total failure.
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
I took the opportunity to point out that during the ten weeks
i had been in the job I had been meeting regularly with the
head of my Treasury unit, Charles Cash, to discuss the
controls on payments and bank accounts, and for details on
specific transactions I was being asked to authorize.
I did not spell out that the delay in answering queries - and his
failure to produce a list of signatories authorized to approve
payments - could in no way be considered reasonable.
On the day I was to meet with Schreyer - March 18 - another
important meeting, with the Auditors to discuss their AMIS
report, had been scheduled for one hour earlier. While
Maison had announced the AMIS meeting that morning, he
had made no reference to any meeting with Schreyer. Neither
did I, still believing that my discussion would be with her
As the time for me to see Schreyer came close, I said I had to
leave the AMIS meeting - and so did Maison. And I next saw
him storming up the stairs ahead of me towards the
Commissioner's office. When I got there, I found him already
installed in Schreyer's office with cabinet head Hans Zimmer.
While this simply confirmed for me the extent to which
Commissioners could be manipulated and cocooned by the
Commission bureaucracy, I was nevertheless determined to
reveal the inadequacy of the 2001 accounts which Schreyer
was intending to adopt at the end of April.
But no sooner had I opened my mouth than the two men
interrupted to argue that all the points I was making related
to the accounting reform that I had to put in place. Patiently,
I countered that there were two separate issues. "First, there is
the problem of improving the 2001 accounts in the month
and a half that is left and being aware of their shortcomings.
Secondly, there are the deficiencies of the current accounting
system and judging the extent to which the suggested
proposals are likely to change them."
Once again, I spoke of the need for a fully integrated system
that would allow the processing of transactions to feed the
necessary ledgers so as to allow a permanent and continuous
reconciliation of the budget and of outgoing payments. There
was little interest in what I was saying. Eventually, Schreyer
asked me for a written description of the problem,
consequences and proposals for action, and, with that the
For me, the real significance of the meeting was that I was
beginning to realize that the Commissioner who had hired
me against enormous opposition - and probably with the
intention of bringing about real change - was about to throw
in the towel. Unwilling to rock the boat, she was now allowing
herself to be manipulated. I couldn't help but contrast the
whole tone of this meeting with the one I had had a month
earlier when I had spoken with her on her own.
After that meeting of March 18 I noticed a couple of my
senior subordinates beginning to adopt positions likely to
block my suggestions. Whereas earlier they had given the
impression of being open to new ideas, most discussions now
concluded with their suggesting that we stick to proposals
that had been drafted a year earlier - and with no variations.
And yet, they were able to give me no good reason as to why
they had already waited a year to implement reforms that
they believed to be so sound. By now it was pretty obvious
that they were falling in with Maison's strategy of imposing
his own reforms - under the signature of the new Chief
To me, however, Maison's proposed changes to what was
referred to as the new Financial Regulation - the relevant EU
law - were deeply flawed. While earlier, many of my
colleagues had privately admitted that they had long known
that the system lacked coherence, security and
comprehensiveness, I could see that what was now being
discussed as "reform'* would only make the situation worse.
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For in giving more power to the Directors General to approve
projects and order payments, I realized that there would be a
further weakening of the existing inadequate checks on
invoices and contracts and efforts to verify the amount,
purpose and beneficiary of a payment. For the Directors
General this would bring more power - but the responsibility
for error would remain mine.
Meanwhile, on March 20, the Court of Auditors had alerted
me to serious anomalies they had found in the Commission's
'SINCOM' computer system which, in their words, would "..
seriously impact on the accounts for 2001." Again, I was
intrigued that they had brought the problem directly to me -
clearly seeing me as having overall responsibility for the
computer systems on which financial transactions were
processed: the very area where Maison had been trying to
strip me of authority.
What particularly bothered the Court was the fact that
unauthorized people could get onto that computer system,
add, delete or change transactions and log off - leaving no
r copied their note to Maison to let him know what was going
on ~ and also forwarded the letter to Schreyer - in the hope
that she might still promote the use of the German software
package that we had discussed in our previous, private
meeting. Contrary to what its opponents claimed, it would
have required no extra investment, as it had been purchased
five years earlier, and had already been customized for the EU.
I had checked that we already had all the licenses needed for
its full operation.
Given the Auditors' concerns, and with the continuing lack of
response to so many of my questions to the Treasury unit,
and, crucially, their failure to produce a list of those with
signing authority, I finally felt I had no alternative but to
request an independent audit of the whole Treasury function.
One had not been done for ten years - and the unit clearly
played a crucial role with its gathering and handing out
I discussed the issue with Maison and we agreed (or so I
thought) that I would request such an audit from the Internal
Audit Directorate as soon as possible. No sooner had that
been done than I heard from Maison s office that they would
do the audit.
I stressed to Maison that, "The audit has to be done by a
Directorate completely separate from that to which our
Treasury unit is attached. The whole point of the audit is that
it should be seen to be independent."
To no avail. Maison's office duly dispatched a letter to Internal
Audit informing them that his team would do the audit. The
task, they claimed, was already in their programme of work
for 2002. (Later, I discovered that it had been added only
when 1 requested the audit.)
Gradually, I could see that my request for a Treasury audit
was causing massive unease. I saw it as something that any of
the big private international accounting firms could
accomplish in a couple of weeks. But I also knew, as they
knew, that such an audit might raise questions about the
Commission as the guardian of EU funds and about the
competence and actions of specific civil servants who had
held responsibility for 15 or 20 years.
My suspicions were simply strengthened when conversations
with Zimmer and other senior officials revealed a streak of
near-paranoia about my audit request. "Who is it that is
putting you up to this, Marta? What outside group are you
working for? Who sent you here?"
Their suspicions were clearly absurd. If I had been connected
with any outside political group this would surely have been
revealed in the pre -recruitment checks that I knew had been
BRJJSbbLS LAID BARfc
done on me. They had spoken to at least three people at
All in all, it was being made crystal clear that Director General
Maison had absolutely no long-term intention of respecting
my independence, or judgement, as Chief Accountant, With
the time that he and Treasury unit head, Charles Cash, had
spent in their jobs - more than 12 years each - and their
adamant refusal to supply me with crucial information, or
come to no other conclusion.
Tension in the office was becoming palpable. I decided to take
two days off to finalise my installation in Brussels. As I had
agreed to transfer to the city in just two weeks, 1 had still not
had time to really sort out my personal life. I had had to go
flat-hunting in my lunch time as the working days had been
going on for so long. 1 had had to research the possibility of
my daughter Carolina going to school in Brussels, and make
When I got back to the office, on March 25,1 discovered that
my participation in the visit to die Court of Auditors, in
Luxembourg, scheduled for April 18, had evidently been
cancelled - given the disappearance of my name from the
Maison had instructed my subordinates to finalise a
document that he could explain to the Auditors himself. This,
despite the fact that the Deputy DG Mogen had already
informed me that I would be needed on the trip to discuss the
1 e-mailed Maison expressing surprise at the cancellation, and
to make sure that I had got that right. Instantly, he was on the
phone telling me that he was not going to allow me to dictate
whom he should or should not take to a meeting. I pointed
out that it was obvious and natural that the Chief Accountant
should be the one to present accounting reforms. I also
reminded him that when I had discussed the draft June 2001
reforms with the Court of Auditors, they had taken the line
that as they had not been presented to them officially by the
then Accounting Officer (Lematin) they had seen no reason
for an official reaction. "Above all, the Auditors have indicated
that they are now far more interested in seeing action - rather
than draft projects."
Maison simply upped the pressure in making life difficult. He
instructed me to take on all the extra responsibilities of
accounting being transferred from ISPRA, in Italy, as well as
to find jobs for those losing theirs in Varese - but without any
By now, I realized that much of the power of the Budget
Director General - and his ability to frustrate reforms -
derived from his control over manpower. Before I had joined,
Maison had proposed substantial staff cuts for the
Accounting services in his budget for the year - but none for
his own area of responsibility.
As time went, on, I became aware of more of my subordinates
positioning themselves for any imminent battle for power.
The most explicit example of this came when, at the
beginning of April, Mara Villos, with whom I had been
working most closely on the reform proposals, suddenly
indicated that she would not be able to sign the final
document. It differed, she claimed, from the original version
that we had been proposing.
None of this had been mentioned in the preceding weeks, as
we had been grinding our way through succeeding versions.
In reality, there had not been any major changes. When I
invited her to put her complaint, and what she saw as the
discrepancies, in writing, she backed down. There had been a
"misunderstanding," she explained.
That same afternoon we presented the proposals to Maison,
who gave no immediate reaction. But when I informed him
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that I would be sending a more extensive document about the
accounting reforms to Schreyer, as she had requested in our
meeting with her of March 18, he objected.
He argued that, for that particular document, any computer
system changes should also be included, and that - in clear
contradiction of Treaty rules - it was his staff who had to be
responsible for such changes. He told me that Mon was also
working on proposals at that moment. But they never
Indeed, Mon himself didn't even bother to turn up when the
issue was again discussed at the next weeldy Directors'
meeting. All that emerged was continuing opposition to my
suggestion to expand the use of the German software which
the EU had already bought. Others claimed that it was the
Directors General who did not want to use the German
software as they found it "too complex"
I pointed out, again, that, "It is the Directors General who are
now regularly complaining about the existing system, as the
figures they put in do not correspond with the ones they get
out. Perfectly correctly, they are pointing out that the control
of funds is impossible." It seemed to be an argument that
could go on forever - even if it was in reality unarguable.
More to the point, I had by now established that Maisons
assertion that his staff should control the computer system
was flatly wrong. The ElTs Financial Regulation and Treaties
gave the Chief Accountant absolute power to approve the
financial systems " . on which the transactions that affect the
EU budget .." were processed. This meant that control over
the entire system, including the ones used in the different
Directorates, was in my hands.
Yet Maison's regard for the rules remained wholly elastic. I had
often been appalled when temporary consultants, fellow
enarques and proteges of Maison, were present when
confidential matters were discussed. On one occasion, when a
particularly delicate issue was to be broached, I had intimated
to Maison that the temporary consultant should leave.
Maison exploded saying that never in his career had he faced
a similar situation and who did I think I was to put such
request to him. But I stood firm. I told Maison, "This is an
issue that I believe that we should discuss only with
Directors," Eventually, the temporary official and Maison's
assistant left the room.
As we were now nearing mid- April - even though the reform
project was not finalized - 1 wrote to all the Directors General
announcing that I would be conducting an inventory of the
financial transactions in each Directorate to determine the
needs of the new accounting system.
The very next day, Maison called an urgent meeting to discuss
a letter from Martin Berry*, the Director General for
Enlargement of the EU. In it he announced that he was
considering putting reservations, in his annual declaration
"on those matters which are the responsibility of the Budget
Director General and therefore outside my control"
Translated into simple language, this said that he was refusing
to take responsibility for figures coming from an accounting
system that he did not think was reliable.
Panic. Maison had clearly been anxious about just such a
reaction - but had hoped to clear it by saying that the Chief
Accountant would sign the accounts sent to the Directorates.
Given my refusal to do so, he had a problem.
Maison took some time to react and finally informed Berry
that he would be "expressing reservations on the accounting
system and controls . ." in his own declaration.
This gave me the opportunity of repeating my own proposals
for urgent reforms - and remind Maison that I was still
waiting for Mon's suggestions on the computer systems to
send with my document to the Commissioner.
Later, I went to see Berry myself. Given the reservations he
had so clearly expressed about the workings of the new
Financial Regulation, I. saw him as someone who possibly
understood the weaknesses of the whole system and would be
prepared to support me in making the necessary changes -
and therefore was a possible future ally. Wrong.
In my meeting with him* it soon became clear that all he was
really interested in was in making sure that no responsibility
stuck to him for his participation in what was obviously an
unreliable system - and not to sign the annual declaration
required of him with Maison s proposed changes,
A workshop on risk assessment brought back the issue of the
Treasury audit, where Maison firmly spelt out that it would
be done by his staff and by no one outside his department. He
again stressed that he felt that the Treasury function at the EU
was minimal - and therefore not an area of risk. While all
others agreed with him, I insisted, "The Treasury function is
absolutely crucial in an organization such as the
That same day I received a copy of a letter sent by Maison to
Jules Muis> Director General of Internal Audit, in which he
firmly rebuffed Muis's concerns about the Commissions
Treasury accounting. The document was about the most
cynical and arrogant I was to read during my time at the
Commission. In plain language, Maison was basically saying
that he didn't really care about controls of the accounting
system, He cared only about the political consequences when
his directorate was criticized by the European Parliament - at
which point he would certainly fight his corner.
This was veteran Maison informing relative newcomer Muis
that the whole thing was really just a game of power - in
Maisons words an "inter- institutional game" between
Parliament and Commission. Given the supine way in which
the Parliament had, year after year - and despite the
reservations of the Court of Auditors - continued to approve
the accounts, it was possible to see how Maison could have
dared to commit such cynicism to paper. But where the EU
taxpayer fitted into any of this was of course omitted.
After the risk assessment workshop, a meeting was called by
Maison to discuss preparations for the April 18 visit to the
Court of Auditors. As I arrived in his office, I found thai he
had also invited Mara Villos, the person with whom I had
been working most closely on the reform project.
With almost studied rudeness, Maison ignored my presence
throughout the entire meeting and referred all his questions
to Villos. And still he failed to make it clear whether I would
be needed on the trip to Luxembourg to make the
presentation. Elis behavior, in fact, was becoming so uncouth
that I wondered whether he was trying to provoke me into
some kind of retaliatory insult or action. His manners
seemed to be reaching for some new low in human
But I forced myself to remain calm and stay to the end of the
meeting. If nothing else, it served to confirm that he was now
using my staff to block my proposals.
In the light of recent events - and Maison s apparent refusal
to take on board any of my warnings or suggestions about the
accounting system - I decided to write directly to
Commissioner Schreyer. First, I wanted to reiterate my
suggestion of an independent audit of my Treasury unit, and
secondly, to communicate my reform proposals on the
financial software and the computer system.
With just days to go, there was still no official communication
on w ho would be travelling to Luxembourg, So when auditor
Barco, who had replaced Sachet, rang to agree a list of matters
to be discussed at the meeting, I had to tell him, "I am still not
sure whether I am going to be allowed to go - or even what
the reasons are behind all this."
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Barco appeared extremely concerned and said that he would
alert others at the Court. But then - the day before departure
— I received a note on the transport arrangements from which
I assumed that I would be going. I wondered just how much
more petty and childish this could all get
Those making the two-hour mini-coach trip to Luxembourg
eventually included, as well as myself, Maison, his deputy
Mogen, and two other members of staff in charge of systems
and inter- institutional relations. The visit started with a short
meeting with the President of the Court of Auditors, Juan
Manuel Fabra Valles - a man who was still recovering from
serious illness - two other auditors, Victor Manuel da Silva
Caldeira and Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, and with Maison, his
deputy and myself.
Bluntly Maison was asked if there was going to be any
improvement in the 2001 accounts. He said he didn't know,
"But I am sure they are not going to be worse than the year
before" He added that as the Court of Auditors had always
declared the accounts "reliable," if they were not better or
worse, he was sure that the Court would not be able to change
Clearly riled, Miss Geoghegan-Quinn pointed out that the
court was not going to be inhibited from giving a very
negative opinion, or even withhold an opinion, by that kind
of argument. Also angered, Caldeira said he felt Maisoifs
response - in the Elfs bizarre vocabulary of near-English -
amounted to "a form of harassment.**
The President, Valles, now waded in in support of his two
colleagues, stating that he was giving them full power to
heavily qualify the accounts and even, if they believed it was
necessary, to advise the European Parliament not to discharge
them. Maison appeared surprisingly unruffled.
Following this meeting, there was a larger one where Maison
was again heavily criticized for the lack of action in
MARTA ANDREAS FN
improving the accounts. He attempted to argue that this was
the first time they had been able to get a qualified accountant
as Chief Accountant. "It has been incredibly difficult to get
people with the right background and qualifications for a lot
of these vacant posts in accounting. Nobody applies"
At this point he was stopped by one of the auditors on the
Court's staff, who exclaimed, "I cannot believe what I am
hearing, I am a qualified accountant, with many years'
experience of working in European institutions. 1 applied
when Miss Andreasen was selected, and I was not even called
for an initial interview"
In short, members of the Court clearly supported - or so I
thought - what I was doing and suggested that Maison took
account of the changes I was trying to bring about.
But back in Brussels nothing changed.
In my note to the Commissioner on the need for an
independent Treasury audit, I had warned her that I was so
concerned about the current state of affairs, and what it
represented for the exercise of my signatory powers that if the
situation didn't change I would feel obliged, as a professional
accountant, to withhold my signature from certain
documents such as payment notes, the authorization of bank
I got no response from Schreyer. But Maison called me into
his office and demanded that I changed the terms of the note
sent to her. He still refused to accept my request for an
independent Treasury audit. He was highly critical of my
proposal for expanding the use of the German computer
software arguing that this was not my responsibility. I
reminded him that it was.
I pointed out that while I was being pressured to produce my
report on the accounting reforms, I had held back waiting for
proposals from his computer systems team which seemed to
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
be suffering quite inexplicable delays. "It makes absolutely no
sense presenting accounting reforms which don't include
changes to the computer system."
Maison warned me that he would never accept my proposals
on the computer system. But then he qualified that it was of
course the Directors General who were opposed to the
German software, so I would get no support on that. This,
however, sounded unlikely as they were the ones who claimed
they couldn't manage their budgets on the existing system.
We had been over this ground so often before.
Next, it was the turn of cabinet head Zimmer to ring and try
to persuade me to rewrite my letter to the Commissioner -
accepting full responsibility for the accounts, without
reservations. He argued that I did not understand the real
meaning of the financial regulations.
"I have read them and understand them perfectly well" I
replied. I then tried to explain that the whole point of having
a Chief Accountant was to have an independent and qualified
voice to judge the probity of the accounts. "This is the duty I
owe to the College of Commissioners, under the Treaties of
But Zimmer was either not listening or not understanding.
He then suggested that if I did not agree with his
interpretation of the rules then I should write to the
Commissioner, relinquishing my responsibility. I pointed out
that this was not what I was saying. Though unspoken, his
attitude was clear: "Do what you are told or you are out."
I now realized that the time had come for me to face up to the
fullest responsibilities of my job. The issue of possible
computer changes had already been going on - round and
round - for far too long. Maison was blocking my attempts to
change a clearly vulnerable system. The Commissioner
refused to respond to my warnings.
In the light of Maison's comment on the Directorates'
reluctance to use the German software, I wrote to all the
Directors General requesting their support for its
implementation to help resolve the clear shortcomings of the
current system. I pointed out that I had asked the Budget
Commissioner for her authorization to implement these
At 8pm on the night of April 22 - yes, 1 often worked that late
- Schreyer summoned me to her office. She was furious,
distraught, almost out of control about the letter and she
accused me of trying to get her kicked out of her job or
forcing her to resign. I could not believe what I was hearing.
Calmly, I explained about all the discussions within her
Directorate, with the Court of Auditors and with herself
about the computer systems - and Maison's dogged
resistance not just to any significant change, but to any open,
meaningful discussion of reform.
"The system I am proposing has already been designed and
purchased by the Commission. We already have all the
licences we need for its wider use." She had told me of her
interest in developing it further. We had actually discussed it
during my interviewing process. So what was the real issue
The real issue, presumably, was that Maison - finally exposed
in a long-running saga of lies and obfuscation - had gone to
Schreyer in a fury, and she now felt threatened because it was
becoming obvious that although she had known about it for
so long, she had done nothing to correct a clearly inadequate
Schreyer threatened me with exposure of my suspension
from the OECD. I told her that 1 had nothing to be ashamed
of, quite the reverse, and that she was aware of this when she
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At one point In the meeting, she actually broke down in tears
as she reflected on the wretchedness of her position. I
comforted her as best I could. "Things can t be that bad. If we
can bring about change, you will be praised rather than
censored. We should look on this as a great opportunity"
In fact, I was aghast, dumb-founded, appalled at her reaction
to all this. I could almost have felt some sympathy for her - a
clearly weak commissioner in the grip of an all-powerful,
bullying bureaucracy - but I couldn't forget that the
taxpayers of Europe deserved something so much better than
what they were getting. This woman was earning some
200,000 euros a year, plus generous extras. Surely it was her
job to stand up to pressure? After 20 minutes I slipped away.
The next morning, April 23, 1 was again called to Schreyer's
office, where I found her accompanied by her cabinet head
Zimmer and her spokesman. They began another onslaught
on the letter sent to the Directors General asking me if I
did not realize the impact on public opinion if such a letter
I couldn't see that the public would be particularly interested
in the technical details of a software programme. "Every year
for the last six years, the Court of Auditors has been making
public far more damaging revelations about the state of the
EU's accounts. For anyone interested, there is nothing new
here." Darkly, Schreyer's spokesman mentioned a certain
German magazine journalist who was "always sniffing round
A couple of years later I read in a newspaper that this same
spokesman had made allegations against a German
magazine journalist, Mr. Tillack (remember that name),
which prompted OLAF to ask the Belgian police to raid the
latter's office and take all his documents. Nothing was ever
proved against Tillack and the European Court of Human
Rights has recently granted him damages.
That same day, Commission Secretary General John Castle,
who had never bothered to see me since my starting the job,
also rang. But I was out of the office. It appeared that he had
been very eager to see me before going into his weekly
meeting with all the Directors General - where he expected
reactions to my letter. I rang him back, now after his meeting,
to find him still in a state of some agitation and we arranged
to meet a week later on April 30.
Before then, I was called by cabinet head Zimmer to a
meeting to discuss my responsibilities as Chief Accountant. I
raised the issue of my independence as by this time the
interventions of Maison had become flagrant and the
Commissioner had not reacted to my notes. "As Chief
Accountant I am responsible for the EU Treasury and
accounts so it is clearly unacceptable for the Director General
to decide the reform of the accounting system - and the staff
needed for it."
At that point, Zimmer asked me to write a letter, transferring
my responsibilities as Chief Accountant to the Director
General. I refused - though at Zimmer's insistent demands I
agreed to send him a draft expressing my reluctance to sign
such a document.
Surprisingly, as soon as Zimmer received it his manner
changed. On the phone, he said he entirely understood my
concerns, that he would discuss the issues with the
Commissioner and destroy my draft note. (Later, I found out
that he had done no such thing.)
As the date drew near for the College of Commissioners to
"adopt" the 2001 accounts, before sending them to the Court
of Auditors, the Commissioner scheduled a meeting. When I
arrived I saw that Maison had also invited my subordinate
Villos - again without my being informed. But the one
person absent who should have been there - to sign the
accounts - was my predecessor Lematin.
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The situation was absurd. Maison was now not only ignoring
my responsibilities, my authority and independence - but he
was also openly proclaiming that attitude to the
Commissioner. 1 realized that I had been brought to the
crossroads. Quickly I had to decide what to do. Did I get up
and leave? Did I stand up and tell the Commissioner that, as
Chief Accountant, 1 was responsible for the accounts, and
that, as Maison as Budget Director General was politically
responsible for negotiating the annual budget with
Parliament, his interventions could only be seen as
representing a conflict of interest?
Or did I stay and say what I thought about the accounts? I
stayed. Maison intimated that the accounts were now greatly
improved - and Villos supported him. Wearily, 1 repeated the
concerns that I had expressed in my earlier meetings with
Schreyer. I explained that the last-minute reconciliation
exercise had dealt with only the most glaring errors, and I
indicated those areas where the accounts were still obviously
As ever, there was little reaction. Maison told Schreyer that he
would discuss his annual declaration with her privately.
When the meeting - lasting barely 20 minutes - ended,
Schreyer asked me to stay behind.
Immediately, both she and Maison demanded that I wrote a
letter accepting full responsibility for the accounting and
Treasury transactions, without any of the reservations I had
spelled out in my previous correspondence with her.
Once again, I explained the problems and consequences of
my doing that. The response from both was that I did not
understand the financial regulations. I tried to explain - but
they were not listening. Schreyer then threatened me by
saying that she would ask the Director General to remove me
from my job if I did not write the letter.
Later, Maison called me to his office to tell me that what
MARIA ANDREAS EN
Schreyer wanted was a letter simply saying that I was sorry for
having written to the Directors General to seek their support
in implementing the German software system. I told him that
I had not understood this.
But at that point, I felt that I had been caught in a trap, Either
1 signed some document they wanted - or 1 would have to go.
I felt 1 had been treated appallingly - totally betrayed. I
simply couldn't understand Schreyer's attitude. She knew
what was going on and had hired me to sort it out. But why
was she allowing Maison, who was responsible for the mess
for the past 13 years, to block my proposals?
The only answer could be that she had become afraid for her
own political future if she rocked the boat. She knew what
Maison was like long before I did. She must have known that
he could be quite unscrupulous when defending his own
power base. She must have known that he would block any
reforms and that, for me to succeed in such circumstances, I
would need her support.
This whole long drawn-out nonsense about the computer
systems could only have come about because Maison simply
did not want an accounting system that was efficient and
transparent - where people could actually see what was
From a professional point of view, I knew that it would go
against all of my principles to sign the sort of declaration
that I suspected they wanted. If I did, I would then have to
sign anything else they put in front of me. I would never be
able to express any criticism or reservations on anything
These people knew that things were wrong - and wanted me
to accept the responsibility for them. I felt like I was dealing
with the Mafia. One crime - one hit - one indiscretion made
by me on their behalf, and I would be theirs for life.
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The only person I could think of consulting was Jules Muis -
the Internal Audit Director General. But I found even him
less chipper than usual. He was clearly concerned on my
behalf - but, blocked in his own attempts at reform, he was
struggling with serious issues that, I was to find out later, he
couldn't yet talk about
Focussing on my problems, Muis called in his deputy and
together they helped me work out a form of words, and the
tone I should adopt, in expressing the extent, and limitations,
of my job for a letter I later sent to Schreyer.
In his turn, Maison wrote to all the Directors General asking
them to consider the letter that I had written, seeking their
support, void. My options were closing.
Soon after that I had an experience that very much increased
my worries. Living in a flat just half a mile from the Breydel
2 building, I often walked through a well-known park - the
< Cinquantenaire > - in the 'European* sector of the city.
One evening, as it was getting dark, I suddenly realized that I
was being followed. I accidentally glanced back to see a man
walking closely behind me. There was another one in front
looking back at me. Quickly I sat down on the nearest bench.
The two men also stopped their walk, and waited.
I was scared and called my husband in Spain. He told me to
calm down. "They are only trying to intimidate you. But you
should get out of the park straight away." This I did
immediately - and never went through that park again. But
from that date onwards, I was often followed when I left
I felt worried because I really didn't know what these people
were up to. Were they just trying to frighten me? I couldn't
understand their motives - but suspected there had to be a lot
more at stake for an institution to organize such
intimidation. I had read of how when the British official
Bernard Connolly was having his problems with the
Commission, five years earlier, his house in Brussels had often
been staked out by watchers at night when he was away. He
assumed that this was an attempt to terrify his wife.
The Dutch *whistleblower > Paul van Buitenen had also
written of people lurking round outside his home -
presumably to unnerve him and his family. How far were
these people prepared to go? How dirty could this game get?
This form of intimidation was not only nasty but clever. How
easy it must be to dismiss allegations ".. of being followed .."
as the <c .. ravings of a hysterical woman"
In fact, in this case it was easy enough to work out who was
orchestrating this nastiness. On more than one occasion, 1
would get my husband, in Barcelona, to ring - and then, in
Spanish, and in a voice slightly louder than usual, I would
pretend to arrange to meet him at a nearby cafe in, say, 15
Moments later I would notice that my secretary, also Spanish,
would slip away from her desk, and occasionally I would
follow to see her scampering up the stairs on some errand.
Sure enough, 15 minutes later, when I left the building there
would be someone loitering in the ground-floor lobby -
ready to follow me to my spurious meeting.
But what were they trying to do? Find out if I were talking to
the press - or simply trying to make me feel uneasy? They
were already doing that on my computer. When I logged on,
I could see that some files had been read at a time when I
could not have been in the office. Sometimes, I clicked onto a
file to find that it had already been opened - and was actually
There were also strange new sounds on the phone in my
Brussels flat. To test my suspicions, I went to a shop
specializing in bugging- detection equipment to rent some
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
simple device. "If your phone is being bugged, this green light
will come on ," the sales assistant explained. "Unfortunately, it
won't be able to tell you who is doing the bugging"
Back in my flat, 1 made several calls - and after several
seconds delay the green light flashed on, I was being bugged.
But could the equipment be faulty? Down in the flat of the
building's obliging concierge, I made several more calls. No
Meanwhile, back in the office, Maison continued to organize
meetings to which he invited my subordinates - but not
myself. Since my staff kept me informed, I often turned up as
well. It was while I was at one of these meetings that I got a.
summons from cabinet head Zimmer.
He wanted me to change the latest letter that I had sent to
Schreyer after consulting with Muis. He threatened me with
dismissal — but I left the office without signing the letter that
he had demanded. I couldn't believe that they would think
that I would accept full responsibility for a system that
everybody knew was so widely open to abuse.
Indeed, I couldn't understand how they could so misjudge
my personality as to believe that, by applying all this pressure,
they could get what they wanted. How did they imagine that
I would then be able to live with myself?
I had no doubt that Maison would do almost anything to
eliminate me from his area of influence - and that he had got
Commissioner Schreyer to fall in with his plans. What I
couldn't understand was how she had been bent quite so
easily to his will.
But then, in an organization run as erratically as the
European Commission, maybe she had at some point put her
name to something that Maison was able to intimate didn't
put her in a. fearfully good light. Wasn't this pretty much what
they had been trying to do to me over the past few weeks?
With Maison and Schreyer so clearly opposed to reform, I
now felt that the least I could do, as Chief Accountant, was to
alert others in the institution as to just how badly the
accounting system was failing - and the apparent efforts
being made to obscure that fact.
I had hoped that my meeting with Commission Secretary
General John Castle - scheduled for April 30 - might bring
some support But fairly soon after I entered his office, in the
Breydel 1 building, I realized that he was another high-up
determined to keep a quiet life.
He didn't routinely meet with recruits at my level, he
explained as I sat down, but recognizing my responsibility as
Chief Accountant he now conceded that in my case he should
probably have done so.
With well-oiled charm, he then set off on a gentle ramble
about the Commission's difficulties in dealing with so many
cultures and - a respectful glance across his desk here - issues
possibly to do with nationality and gender. He glided on to
touch on instances of ".. people who have not always been
treated well in the past."
In an effort to bring him back to planet earth, I told him
bluntly that the situation that I was going through related
very specifically to the lack of control of EU funds - for which
I had to bear responsibility. "This is what I feel you need to be
worried about and where I would appreciate your help."
There was a slightly pained smile, as he fell back on a mantra
that I was to hear so often at the Commission. "No one is
saying that we do not have some problems, but I feel sure that
over time they can be fixed."
As I did not share his optimism, I decided to seek an
interview with Commission President Romano Prodi - but
then ran into the usual brick wall of bureaucracy. Clearly,
direct interviews were out of the question. But while an
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assistant to Prodi's cabinet head assured me that my concerns
would be passed on to the President, I was now well aware of
the power that Commission officials had in filtering what
their bosses were actually told.
Next, I sought an interview with the Briton, Neil Kinnock.
Clearly, he was a key player as Vice-President of the
Commission - and one of the four Commissioners to have
survived the 1999 purge of the Santer Commission. As
Commissioner for Internal Audit, Administration and
Personnel, he had been appointed as the loudly-trumpeted
Reformer' to clear up the Commission's manifold problems.
Indeed, on appointment, he had explicitly promised to show
zero tolerance for anyone in the EU who was indulging in
fraud. The Commission, Kinnock declaimed, would be
"effectively and transparently managed" and would give
"value for money." The Commission itself was to become so
squeaky clean, that it would actually emerge as a model of
governance for other national governments round Europe
and that ".. Eurosceptics would have nothing to complain
about." Great stuff!
Kinnock had even allegedly set up a special charter for
whistleblowers. But was I technically a whistle-blower - or
someone just trying to do her job?
From Kinnock's office I again heard that no interview was
possible. But in a meeting with his cabinet head, Jan Hoop*,
he voiced his enormous concern and stated that my claims
would be certainly investigated. They would get to work on
that straight away. But I soon realized that absolutely nothing
was going to be done.
On May 7, 1 contacted Hoop to tell him that I wasn't satisfied
with the fact that I was asking for an interview with Kinnock
and that this wasn't being granted. "I am now going to put my
concerns to the Commissioner in writing " This cheered up
Hoop in absolutely no way at all. But that same day I wrote
MARTA ANDREAS EN
also to the Commission s other Vice-President, Miss Loyola
de Palacio, and to President Prodi.
I had been in the job for over four months now and had still
not received any reply to any of the notes written to Budget
Commissioner Schreyer. The only response to those letters
had been pressure behind closed doors to get me to sign a
letter _ accepting responsibilities without limitations - on
threat of dismissal.
It was only then, in early May, that I received a letter from
Schreyer - in which she finally acknowledged ".. all the notes
you have been sending." But rather than addressing any of the
issues raised, she waded in, along with some personal abuse,
with allegations that my staff had been complaining about
me and that I had disrupted the service. Not content with
this, Schreyer again summoned me to her office and repeated
her demand that I sign a letter accepting responsibility for
accounts for which I had not yet seen proper documentation.
I pointed out that I had already written her three letters on
this issue and saw no need to write more. "I will sign for what
I believe to be right - but not what I know is wrong or about
which there are serious doubts." Once more, Schreyer
threatened me with dismissal
Meanwhile, my predecessor Lematin, who had been keeping
his head down in Italy and resisting all invitations to
complete a proper transfer of his old job to me, had also
decided to weigh into the dispute. He wrote criticizing me for
the letter that I had sent to the Directors General and
accusing me of being ".. dismissive of the efforts of the
At first, I was surprised at seeing him getting involved in this
particular smear. But then, with his former close colleagues
having failed to bounce me into signing off the 2001
accounts, I could see that he was now part of a team effort
which was changing tack. Their new charge was the allegation
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
- virtually impossible either to prove or disprove - that 1 did
not get on with, or appreciate, my staff.
In my reply to him, I simply reminded him that he had not
yet carried out a proper handover and not answered any
of the specific points put to him in my letter of two
Without too much hope, but on the advice of a colleague, I
now asked for an interview with Gunther Gress*, Director
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since he had been part of an interview panel the previous
September 1 1, and 1 had heard him described as ".. a man who
will do what he is told to keep his career on track."
Indeed, my meeting with him, on May 13, only helped to
confirm the Commission s essentially bankrupt philosophy
and total disregard for justice, truth or equity. Gress chose to
official it is always the official who would lose.
Back in the Breydel 2 building, Maison's tricks were getting
even dirtier. He scheduled a meeting to finalise the
accounting reforms - without including any proposals on the
computer systems - which would be sent to Schreyer, with
whom we were convened to meet the following day. But just
20 minutes before the meeting it was cancelled.
That night I got a note from Schreyer informing me that I
had failed to accomplish my duties as I had not yet sent her a
draft of the communication on reform. Immediately, I
responded that I had got the communication ready, but was
supposed to get Maison's approval - as she had instructed -
in the meeting that had been cancelled that same morning.
Maison then informed me that he had cancelled that meeting
because I had not submitted my draft of the communication
to him the night before. I responded that he had not made it
clear that he had actually wanted it the night before - and
that he had in any case seen an earlier draft, with the
successive modifications made in response to his
observations, insofar as they could be incorporated within a
sound financial framework.
As our meeting with Schreyer to discuss all this had not been
cancelled, I turned up at her office at the designated time - to
be met by an apoplectic Zimmer who advanced on me
angrily announcing that the meeting had been cancelled
because of my failure to produce my draft communication on
time. I tried to explain the reality and complexity of what had
actually happened. But Zimmer was not to be deprived of his
tantrum and he strode off with spectacular ill grace.
Eerily, I could now see them carefully setting up - with all the
necessary histrionics - one ambush after another, in which
they desperately sought to nail me with some specific
dereliction of duty.
A few days later I got a call from Maire Geoghegan-QuinnV-
whom I had met at the Court of Auditors on April 18 -
cabinet head to let me know that copies of my letters to
President Prodi and Vice-President Kinnock had come into
their hands. "Did you mean to send them to us?" I said that
that had not been my intention.
He said he would tell Fabra Valles, President of the Court,
that I would write to them that that had not been my
intention and that I was ".. not requesting help from them." I
could only respond that, while I had not specifically intended
that the letters come their way, I had no reason to write
refusing their help.
I was puzzled by all this. In the past, the Auditors had so often
shown themselves to be on my side. Several times, they had
explicitly expressed the hope that I would finally fix the
problems with the EU budget. There had been the support
they had shown to me on my visit to them on April 18 - and
the mauling they had administered to Maison.
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
Though 1 wrote to them - officially seeking their help - 1
wondered whether they were in fact seeking a way of
"washing their hands" of me. I reflected that the Court of
Auditors was not in fact truly independent - but also in the
employ of the European Union. As well as its qualified
professionals, it also, like the Commission itself, had its quota
of political appointees. Had they also now been nobbled to
line up against me and block any real reforms?
as Chief Accountant
The following day, May 22, 1 was informed of a meeting to be
held with Kinnock the next day - but without any indication
of what it would be about. However, at 1 lam, an hour before
the meeting was scheduled to take place, a letter was hand-
delivered from Schreyer informing me that she was prepared
to relieve me of my responsibility as Chief Accountant.
I wrote back immediately that it had never been my intention
to be relieved of my job - and that I had always carried out
my duties with professional propriety.
With the meeting postponed by some 40 minutes, it was
12.40pm when I was finally called to Schreyer's office. There,
I found Neil Kinnock, Schreyer, Zimmer and Hoop already
assembled around the meeting table. Kinnock, a 60-year-old
Welshman, with his red hair now turning grey, was obviously
in command of the show - and from the start his tone was
"There has clearly been a breakdown in the relationship with
your Commissioner, Michaele Schreyer," he declared. The
trouble was with Maison, not Schreyer, I pointed out. "'The
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
Budget Director General has caused my relationship with the
Budget Commissioner to become tense. The breakdown was
not with her" Schreyer simply shook her head at this - but
Kinnock ploughed on that they were planning to move me to
another job in Financial Control. I pointed out that that
made no sense. "In that new job, I will still be reporting to the
same Commissioner. If you are saying that the problem is a
breakdown in relationship with Miss Schreyer, then that
problem is not going to go away*
Clearly irritated by any form of logic, Kinnock now reddened
and became more aggressive, and declared that they could
move me wherever they wanted to - with or without my
consent. Calmly, I asked, "So why have you called me to this
meeting, if you can move me without my consent?"
In fact, the reason now seemed pretty obvious. They wanted
to remove me from the post of Chief Accountant where I had
the authority and independence to argue for credible reforms
- and also to tell other Commissioners, the European
Parliament and Court of Auditors what was really going on
with the accounting system.
Presumably, the meeting had been set up either to provoke or
bully me into quitting my job and leaving the Commission in
disgust - or to slink away with some cosy, quiet, well-
rewarded deal. Prom the start of the meeting, Kinnock's
whole manner can have been intended only to anger,
intimidate or humiliate.
Unknown to me at that time, the day before this meeting
Jules Muis had sent a private briefing note to Kinnock, his
Commissioner, trying to warn him against any intemperate
action against me. Flatteringly, Muis credited me with having
".. grasped the key issues at hand very fast indeed"
Kinnock should be " . very wary of such a senior civil servant
who was asking all the right questions." My reform proposals
were "factually substantive and correct." Getting rid of me
". would be a serious blow to reform, sending a signal that the
old ways of keeping things from happening still work"
In fact, Muis's document - which became public only two
years later - must have been one of the most scathing ever
written on the Commission. In it, he described an ethos of
poor spending controls and where I had struggled against an
"intrinsically hostile work environment" beset by "a
profound lack of qualified staff, a host of vacancies and
absentees, an entrenched mindset."
He described the budget machinery as "vintage public sector
in the 1960s" run by a French Director- General who "did not
see the need for any accounting system at all." There was a
culture of "arm-twisting " where "might makes right whatever
one's professional convictions " The staff had a "top-down
managerial mono-culture" and were in "a deep state of denial
on the quality of the existing systems."
In a withering aside directed at Budget Commissioner
Michaele Schreyer, Muis concluded that reform was doomed
without a Commissioner "who has the stamina and spine to
take a lot of shit."
For reasons that were to become only too obvious later on,
Kinnock paid not the faintest regard to this document during
our meeting - and indeed I suspect he even kept its existence
secret from his fellow Commissioners in their deliberations
on my case.
We concluded our ill-tempered meeting on that Thursday, May
23, with an agreement that I would have until, the following
Monday to ponder the proposed job change - and that no one
would disclose what had been said to outside parties.
It was an agreement that had already been broken. As soon as
I got back to my office I got a call from the assistant of an
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
MEP to say that Schreyer and Kinnock had been to the
Parliament that morning - even before seeing me. They had
spoken with members of the MEPs* Budgetary Control
Committee - to tell them that they were preparing to dismiss
me on the grounds of my ".. incompetence and dishonesty
Later that evening, I was still in my office when there was
another call - long after my secretary had gone. Normally, I
wouldn't have picked up the phone, but I thought it might be
my husband Octavio ringing from Spain. "Could I speak with
Miss Andreasen? M Wary now, I told the caller that she was not
"Well, I am a journalist with the German magazine Stern. My
name is Hans Martin Tillack." (None other than the journalist
already mentioned on page 60). "I would like to speak with Miss
Andreasen to hear her opinion about her dismissal" Again, I
pointed out that she was not there. "Where can I get hold of her?
Because I have been told that the Budget Commissioner is right
now writing her letter of dismissal"
I was staggered to have confirmation of my dismissal from a
journalist. But that was by no means the only piece of
underhand dealing. For example, Shreyer's letter informing
me of the meeting that was to take place on May 23 had been
dated May 22 - but it was only hand-delivered to me at about
the last possible moment, at 1 lam, on May 23, just before my
meeting with hen This was presumably to enable someone to
falsely claim, at some later stage, that I had been given some
form of adequate notice of what was happening.
The following day, May 24, Maison sent out a staff memo
saying that on the Wednesday, May 22 - the day before I had
seen Kinnock - the College of Commissioners had decided to
relieve me of my responsibility as Chief Accountant.
Neither Schreyer, Kinnock nor anyone else at the meeting of
May 23 had mentioned that such a decision had already been
taken. On the internet, I saw that there was no reference to it
in the minutes of the Commissioners* May 22 meeting.
However the documents 1 obtained later in relation to my
disciplinary procedure, confirm that the decision had indeed
been taken on May 22 and before the meeting with Shreyer.
By taking such precipitate action, they had seriously breached
the staff regulations. These state that an official has a right to
be heard before any decision is taken that may affect him or
her. This initial and fundamental breach of procedure on
their side was systematically ignored both by the internal
disciplinary board and by the European Court of Justice. In
his staff memo, Maison added that he had asked his deputy
Mogen to take charge of the Budget Execution Director
function - another decision on which the Commissioners
had not yet made any public statement.
Of course, I was appalled at the callous and chaotic way in
which this whole affair was being handled. My staff were now
understandably concerned, making their way to my office to
ask what was going on. Since Schreyer had taken it upon
herself to inform MEPs of my dismissal before even telling
me, I realized that the least I could do was to let them have my
version of events.
To ten MEPs - representing a wide cross-section of different
political and national groups - I registered my objections to
being relieved of my Chief Accountant role and my surprise
at hearing this justified by a personal fall-out between
Schreyer and myself. Further, I detailed the real cause of the
controversy: my concern over key failings in the management
of Community funds.
Knowing that I had no witnesses on my side at the May 23
meeting with Kinnock and Schreyer, I sent my minutes of the
discussion to all the Commissioners.
This enraged Kinnock's cabinet head, Hoop. Shortly
afterwards he phoned in a rage to ask me why I had done that.
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
"Because you never issue minutes " I replied. "You were not
taking any minutes at this meeting and I thought it right that
people should have a true account of what was said." Indeed,
when Hoop later released his minutes they differed
substantially from mine - making no reference to the fact
that I had stressed that the breakdown in relationships was
essentially with Maison and not with Schreyer.
On boarding a flight to Barcelona that Friday night, May 24,
two airport employees approached to deliver a fax from the
Commission which I refused to take. It was clearly absurd
that, with my having been in the office the entire working day,
they should choose to deliver a communication to me
through airport personnel.
The next morning, a friend in the UK rang to tell me that the
Financial Times carried the story of my dismissal - which
explained the Commission's desperation to deliver a fax to
me at Brussels airport. The article itself could only have been
written with a high-level briefing from people at the
Back in Brussels on Monday morning, Schreyer called me to
her office to hand me a letter - dated Friday, May 24 - which
informed me that, in its May 22 meeting, the
Commissioners had decided to strip me of my job as Chief
Accountant. She enclosed a page that seemed to be an annex
to the minutes of the Commission meeting in which this
was mentioned - (notwithstanding its earlier absence from
the internet.) But the letter made no mention of the reasons
for my dismissal, nor of my role as Budget Execution
Director, nor where I would now be moved, nor any other
decision about my future.
While I sat in my office, waiting for more news on this,
Schreyer wrote to me - presumably in response to my May 24
letter to MEPs - alleging that I had accused Maison, herself,
the entire Commission, Parliament, the Court of Auditors
and Member States of promoting a new Financial Regulation
that would simply increase the risks of error and fraud. She
invited me to withdraw or substantiate such allegations.
She also said that she had always claimed in our meetings -
when I had commented on the draft of the new Financial
Regulation - that the regulation did not fall within my sphere
of competence as Budget Execution Director.
In reply, I pointed out that, "My comments on the regulation
were only on its draft - while it was still awaiting approval by
Parliament and Council - and that it was my duty to alert
people to its financial risks, as I have done on several
occasions with you, the Budget Director General and his
team." I offered to substantiate my concern over its financial
risks - but this time in a public hearing before Parliament or
the Council of Ministers.
Next came a letter from her - "answering on behalf of the
President and Vice-Presidents of the Commission" - in
response to my letters, written almost a month earlier, where
I sought their support in implementing reforms.
Basically, she claimed that my observations had revealed
nothing new and that it was in this context that the
Commission had appointed me Chief Accountant: to prepare
a draft communication on the modernization of the
accounting system - which had to be cleared by Maison. She
regretted that I had failed to do this - and intended to use this
as the reason for my dismissal.
But in this letter, Schreyer rather shot herself in the foot. By
claiming that the draft communication had to be cleared by
Maison, she was essentially denying the independence of
Chief Accountant. Indeed, in its various arguments to the
public, and even later to the European Court of Justice, the
Commission had always claimed that the communication of
the accounting reform, and the reform itself, had to be the
responsibility of the Budget Execution Director.
BRUSSELS LAID BARB
It was not until a week later that I heard from Kinnock that -
in the "interest of the service" - I was being transferred from
being Budget Execution Director to becoming a Principal
Adviser at the Administration and Personnel Directorate. The
Brussels equivalent of Siberia.
As that letter was being delivered, one of Maison's staff
arrived at my office to pick up all the documents on my
which I had never received answers to my queries. No list of
authorised signatories had yet been given to me either.
That same day I was moved to an office in the language centre
shaft, and had no other furniture than a cupboard, a desk and
one chair. There was no telephone or computer connection,
and my mobile phone was able to pick up no signal.
Soon after, I met with the Personnel Director General Gress
to discuss the new responsibilities he was "thinking" of giving
to me as a Principal Adviser. He referred to certain
administrative aspects relating to the Research Centre at
ISPRA - but without going into details. He said he would get
back to me within the month.
In that time, Lematin finally got round to sending me papers
that he chose to describe as a 'handover' document. "Here are
the accounts for the year 2001," he wrote, "which you have to
sign in approval." What was he trying to do: get my signature
in receipt, and then claim this as some form of agreement
with the accounts? As he had not signed them himself, from
an accountancy point of view, they were completely worthless
as a transfer of responsibility.
I still believed in the European Parliament, and that it
should be told about the real reasons for my dismissal, and
the seriousness of the Commission's lack of financial
controls. So I introduced a petition to the relevant
Parliamentary committee (Petitions Committee) asking to
MARTA AND RE AS EN
be heard by Parliament before the new Financial Regulation
had been approved.
On June 20, I received confirmation that the petition had
been declared admissible and that a letter had been sent to the
chairwoman of the Budgetary Control Committee, in the
European Parliament, asking them to hear me on my
complaints about the accounting system and the Financial
Regulation which had not yet been approved by themselves
and the Council of Ministers.
Further, T also wrote to all the Spanish MEPs conveying
my concerns and offering to explain them in greater detail
After the report of my 'axing' in the Financial Times, the press
started taking an interest in what was going on and how I was
being treated. I refused to talk to them.
For their part, the Commission, obviously aware of the
interest generated by their own abrupt and inexplicable firing
of the Chief Accountant, continued to speak to the press
freely - saying pretty much whatever suited them.
In a letter to European Voice, Kinnocks press spokesman
baldly asserted that w „ Andreasen did not discover any new
problems . " and in a bizarre travesty of the truth he claimed,
"the Commission launched a reform of its accounting
systems in 1999 .." reform that has ".. received approval from
the Court of Auditors and has been carefully scrutinized both
by Parliament and Council." Amazing.
Over the next few weeks, Commission officials variously
briefed journalists that I had been fired because J was
incompetent, couldn't get on with my staff; that my
recruitment had been a mistake; that Schreyer had hired me
only because she wanted another woman in the job.
Rather than recognizing that it might be fair to let me give my
version of what had actually happened, Personnel Director
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
General Gress, wrote saying that it had been brought to his
attention that I intended to meet with journalists - which was
not the case. Stuffily, he reminded me of my duty of
discretion "to preserve the relationship of trust which must
exist between the institution and its officials."
Given the continued press briefing and whispering campaign
against me by Commission officials, this sounded like a bad
joke. I wrote back to Gress - citing Article 24 of staff
regulations - asking for protection from the defamatory acts
and utterances being made by Commission press officials and
Budget Commissioner Schreyer. It was four months before he
replied to this letter. By that time I had already been
suspended for 2 months and Commission officials had
spoken out publicly as much as they could against me.
At the language centre, my office remained bare and
cheerless. Though the telephone was now working, I didn't
trust using it. I had no job and nothing to do and few people
to talk to. I found out that the building was being used pretty
much as a repository - a penalty box or limbo - for others
whom the Commission wanted to sideline or who had
allegedly disgraced themselves in some way.
On July 2, I found a letter about me on the internet to
Kinnock from the head of the Commission's legal service.
Kinnock had apparently been seeking their advice on how to
prevent me from appearing before the Parliament's
Budgetary Control Committee in relation to the petition that
I had introduced.
The head of the legal service advised against trying to
prevent me speaking to Parliament by launching a
disciplinary procedure against me. Indeed, he expressed
doubt about the suitability, on legal grounds, of any
disciplinary process being attempted, given that the issue "..
does not relate to concerns about actual wrongdoing, only
to an internal difference of opinion, in this case about how
to prevent possible fraud in future."
MARIA ANDREAS EN
That very same day, Kinnock wrote telling me that a
disciplinary procedure had been launched against me - and
that I would be contacted for a hearing. He stated that the
charges against me would be based on violations of staff
regulations - in contacting the Court of Auditors and the
European Parliament - and a failure to produce a
communication on the accounting reform.
I didn't believe that any disciplinary procedure could
progress on such absurd grounds. I felt encouraged that the
Commission's own legal service appeared to share that view.
It didn't seem possible that any court would uphold the claim
that the Chief Accountant should not have the freedom to
approach the Court of Auditors or even European Parliament
- which is after all the body that has to approve the way that
the Commission has managed taxpayers' money.
Jacques Mon - the person acting as temporary Chief
Accountant after my removal - now asked that I sign the
accounts for the period when I was in office: January to May
2002. This seemed like another bad joke as I had still not
received a proper hand-over statement from my predecessor.
I wrote to both Mon and Schreyer that I would sign when I
had been shown all the accounting records and books on
which the financial statements were based. Needless to say, I
never signed for my time in office. The records were never
sent and indeed even such basic documentation was not kept
by the Commission.
Advised by friends in the Commission, I now decided to take
my case to the European Court of First Instance. This is the
court that has the task of ensuring that the law is observed in
the interpretation and application of the Community Treaties
- and I appealed to it in December 2002, against my removal
as Chief Accountant, and, in June 2003, against my suspension,
I looked for lawyers but, in the EU-dominated world of
Brussels, found none willing to take my case on. So I decided
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
to launch my own internal complaint against my transfer
to the Personnel and Administration directorate as
This was the step I had to take if the court were to consider
my appeal admissible. The Commission then had up to three
months to respond, and if they did not, the complaint was
deemed to be rejected by them and could then proceed
On July 22, three weeks after Kinnock wrote to me about the
opening of disciplinary proceedings, he wrote again: this time
announcing his intention to suspend me. He told me that I
would be hearing from the same official, Colin Wall, whom
he had already appointed to investigate the earlier allegations
- but from whom I had not yet heard.
For me, this threat of suspension seemed like the apogee of
hypocrisy. I am not by nature a person who likes publicity,
but as the Commission's press campaign continued against
me, and I had had no response to my request for help on that
from Gress, and was now facing the threat of suspension, I
finally decided to speak to the press.
An invitation had come from Britain's Conservative MEPs to
speak at a press conference in Westminster, and on August I,
2002, I was at last able to explain publicly that the EU's
accounting system was "massively open to fraud" as nearly all
its transactions were impossible to trace.
"Even more serious, I was asked blatantly to contradict
financial regulations by signing off accounts, despite knowing
them to be untrue. I was not granted the freedom to address
these shortcomings and, worse, actively discouraged from
"Despite official press briefings against me and appearances
on this issue by Commissioner Kinnock and his staff, I have
been repeatedly reminded of my obligation to remain silent.
MARTA ANDREAS EN
Commissioner Kinnock has even tried to prevent me
from appearing before key parliamentary committees on
At that point, I decided to go on the holiday which I had
applied for over a month earlier - and to which I had heard
no objection. But as I was leaving on the afternoon of August
2, two officials approached me with a letter - which I
indicated that I would accept on my return.
When I got back, I found correspondence that indicated that
I had been called for a hearing on my suspension on August
7 - when officials knew that I would be away. There was also
documentation on the delivery of a document, by notary, to
a temporary concierge at my home in Barcelona - though
this never reached my hands.
This all seemed to be part of the same harassing procedures
that I had already seen on display when, having been in my
office all day on May 24, the Commission had decided to
wait, till the last possible moment, to deliver a fax by way of
airport officials at Brussels airport.
On the day of my return from holiday I also heard from Colin
Wall - the hearing official on the disciplinary procedures
launched against me - calling me for a meeting on my
suspension for the following day. I replied that I had no
lawyer, and had not yet been given any of the details of the
allegations made against me. I also notified Kinnock that,
given the circumstances, I could hardly be expected to appear
for any hearing.
Kinnock simply wrote back with more accusations: that I had
been absent from Brussels on August 1 - the day of the
London press conference - without permission, and that I
had spoken to the press.
The next day I received a letter from the Commission that it
had decided to suspend me. There was also a letter from the
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Personnel Director General Gress outlining my rights and
obligations as a suspended official. I would continue to
receive my full salary but was forbidden from entering any
Commission buildings; I would have to continue living in
Brussels and be available at any time.
But while Kinnock now seemed determined to pursue me
with every minuscule, pettifogging, hair-splitting infraction
of the rules on which he could scrape up evidence, it had
recently emerged that his own behavior had apparently been
less than squeaky clean.
Talcing advantage of an arrangement whereby Commission
officials were able to have their salaries adjusted according to
the cost of living of their own country, he had been able to
add another 20% to his annual pay. This concession had
originally been intended for those who had to work in
Brussels but, with young families or other problems, had to
maintain dependents in their home countries, and thus
might suffer unfairly by coming under the Belgian regime.
For a man whose two grown-up children had already left
home, and had no need to maintain any dependents in the
UK, the concession seemed unnecessary. Indeed, for someone
already enjoying a free, chauffeur- driven car, an
entertainment allowance of £7,000 a year, a £24,000-a-year
housekeeping allowance, and whose MEP wife - on £55,000
a year and up to £1 15,000 in expenses - was in any case living
with him in Brussels, this extra perk seemed, even to
Commission officials, a teensy bit greedy.
Questioned on the BBC about this undeclared windfall
offering - courtesy of European taxpayers - Kinnock simply
snarled that it was "an entirely personal matter" and refused
further discussion. In fact, he argued his entitlement to the
concession with the Court of Auditors for a further two years
before they finally saw things his way. Of course, they were
paid out or the European budget which was managed by the
Commission of which he was vice-president.
MARIA ANDRE AS EN
But for some, this hardly made him seem the whiter-than-
white 'reformer' that they were looking for to reform and lead
the great European project They saw him more as a nitpicking
martinet who was such a stickler for the rules as they applied
to the behavior of other people, but not to himself.
Indeed, with talk in the air of my dismissal, and with some in
the Commission apparently hell-bent on ending my career in
Brussels, it was difficult to avoid the impression that there
was some ambivalence in the application of EU rules.
So T was intrigued to read in the London Times, in September
2002, that over the previous five years the Commission had
sacked just one person ., although it refused to say for what. Yet
the list of almost 50 cases of proven misconduct which might
have persuaded most employers to part company with their
employees included rape, fraud, forgery, assault, harassment,
misuse of funds, theft, and possession of paedophile
pornography. In the majority of cases, the offenders were
given reprimands, written warnings or "admonitions." A total
of 15 were moved to other posts or demoted.
With this relaxed, laid-back attitude towards their own
employees' errant behaviour, it seemed odd that some
Commission officials were still going to such lengths to
prevent a former Chief Accountant speaking to the
Community's own parliamentarians about what was
happening to their taxpayers' money. But the fight over my
petition to address the Parliament's Budgetary Control
Committee rumbled on, with its MEP members finally
agreeing that I could do so - subject to the approval of the
Conference of Presidents.
This was composed of the heads of the Parliament's various
political groupings. But a month later, in October 2002, they
announced that they could not allow such a hearing as I was
".. under disciplinary procedure .." and the ".. inter-
institutional agreement signed does not allow them to hear a
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disciplined official." This wasn't actually true as, at that point,
the disciplinary procedure hadn't started, and was deemed
only as "possible."
Presumably, someone in the Commission had helpfully
provided them with a way out of hearing me - which had
been seized on with alacrity. Of all the various Parliamentary
groups only the EDD - the European Democracy and
Diversity Group - had been willing to hear me, but they had
been well outnumbered by the giant battalions of MEPs
representing liberals, socialists, conservatives, neo-fascists
As mentioned earlier, this was the same Parliament that year
after year - notwithstanding the Court of Auditors'
reservations - gave discharge to the Commission's annual
accounts. But maybe this simply represented the rules of what
Maison in his immortal words described as the "inter-
institutional game' between Commission and Parliament;
'you let me do what 1 want and I'll let you do what you want.'
A handful of MEPs were enormously helpful, energetic and
supportive on my behalf, but too many represented a poor
return on their salaries of some 80,000 euros a year and a
pathetic attitude towards their constituents' enlightenment,
wallets and the whole issue of free speech and open criticism
within the European Union.
Before the year was out, however, I had finally located - after
a four months' search - a lawyer, prepared to represent me in
my case against the Commission, and to work on a pro bono
basis. He was a man who appeared to be on my side.
Suspended for 18
Months and my
The disciplinary process unrolled against me continued at
glacial pace and with scant regard for natural justice. The
whole notion of suspension was that it should be an Interim
measure' to cover some emergency situation that had to be
dealt with quicldy.
In iy case, I did not get to see the official appointed to
investigate the allegations - Colin Wall*, Director General of
the EU's Publications Office - for nearly four months from
the date of Commissioner Kinnock's letter, of July 22 2002,
threatening me with suspension.
In the almost surrealistic, looking-glass world of the EU, I
then heard from the Dutch 'whistleblower' Paul van Buitenen
that Wall was himself under investigation, as his department
was named in a hefty 234-page dossier - backed up by 5,000
documents - that van Buitenen had passed on to OLAF.
Van Buitenen - not yet elected as an MEP, and describing
himself simply as an EU citizen - nevertheless took it upon
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himself to fire off a letter to Commissioner Kin nock,
protesting various features of the case thus far; the fact that
Kinnock had initiated disciplinary procedures against me -
despite the advice of the Commission's Legal Service and
Investigation and Disciplinary Office not to do so.
He pointed out that Kinnock had nominated the Director
General of the EU Publications Office, as president of an
inquiry into me, despite the fact that his department was
itself under investigation by OLAF.
While Colin Wall had recently written to me, calling me for a
hearing with a view to a "possible launch of a disciplinary
procedure/* Kinnock had communicated to the European
Parliament that I was already under disciplinary procedure.
This meant that the conference of presidents, at the European
Parliament, voted by a majority not to hear me in their
Budgetary Control Committee.
Despite the fact that Wall had interviewed other officials
about my case, he had refused to supply either me or my
lawyer with copies of the relevant Invitation letters' or
minutes of the hearings- claiming secrec,
This was in direct contravention to assurances made by
Kinnock to van Buitenen in 2001, when Kinnock had asserted
that an official under inquiry had the right to such
information for as long as the case was open.
In the event, OLAF never came up with anything on Wall that
they felt warranted prosecution, and after van Buitenen's
letter had received the usual dyspeptic brush-off from
Kinnock, the first hearing finally took place in Luxembourg,
where the EU Publications Office is located, on November 19,
2002. 1 was accompanied by my lawyer.
Wall, a 57-year-old man, gave the impression of making a
genuine and meticulous effort to elucidate how I had been
recruited and treated during my time with the Commission,
as some half dozen of us sat round a table in his office.
He didn't mention, however, that he was already in the
process of interviewing 15 witnesses - all of them
Commission employees and understandably, with regard to
their careers and pensions, unlikely to rush to the cause of a
person they could see being crucified. More to the point, he
didn't invite me to nominate any witnesses of my own.
At one point in the hearing, Wall raised the sexist issue - he
muttered that it must have been difficult for me to be
surrounded and up against so many men. Yet I had never seen
the problem as a sexist issue and 1 had no intention of letting
the investigation be diverted into that muddy backwater.
Although minutes of this meeting, and Wall's witness
interviews, were completed before the end of 2002, 1 was not
able to get hold of a copy of his full report until April 2004.
During that time I was honoured with the Frode Jacobsen
Award - for civic honesty and courage - in Denmark, and
voted Personality of the Year by the readers of Accountancy
Age magazine in Britain,
While waiting to hear from the Commission, I was invited to
speak at professional conferences on matters related to internal
controls, risk assessment and strategies to combat fraud among
other things. As 1 didn't receive any fees for these talks, and as
my presentation related to the importance of having a reliable
accounting system as the first step to preventing fraud, I saw no
reason for declining such invitations.
I made it clear that I spoke as the former Chief Accountant of
the European Commission and mentioned only those
matters already in the public domain - such as the Court of
Auditors" reports, Commission Accounts or the post-Santer
report of the 'Wise Men.'
It was only in September 2003, when Personnel Director
General Gunther Gress wrote to me, that I became aware that,
even as a suspended official, I needed permission to give such
BRUSSELS LAID BARF,
talks. In writing back, I assured him that everything I spoke
on nau already oeen made puDiic ano i duty asKeci tor
permission for those talks that I had not yet given. According
to my reading of staff regulations, I knew that such
authorization could not be denied ".. unless the activity is
contrary to the interests of any EU institution."
It was clear that not even the EU could withhold permission
without recognizing that the interests of the EU were not the
ones they proclaimed and that the lack of controls was in
their real interest.
Gress duly granted permission. Yet two months later, in
November 2003, Commissioner Kinnock - back in Archangel
Gabriel mode - wrote informing me that as I had spoken at
earlier conferences without permission there would have to
be another hearing into this.
It was difficult to avoid the suspicion, however, that this latest
flurry of activity on a matter of such mind-numbing triviality
was partly an effort on the Commission's part to show that
they had maintained some contact with me during those long
months when absolutely nothing was being done on the
disciplinary process. Further, the objection which Kinnock
now raised about my earlier unauthorized conference talks
could be interpreted as a somewhat desperate attempt to add
to a dossier of thus far very feeble complaints against me.
The hearing into the matter was held in Brussels, on February
19, 2004, and consisted of Colin Wall working his way
through the press coverage of the meetings and conferences
to which I had been invited in different parts of Europe. Had
I spoken about this aspect of the Commission's work? Had I
Eventually, 1 told Wall that I was unwilling to answer any
more of his questions. a If you have any specific allegations to
make against me, I will answer them. I can only repeat that
everything I said about the work and accounting of the
MARTA ANDREAS FN
Commission was already in the public domain. If you have
any evidence that I spoke otherwise, let's see it."
The following month, March 2004, I finally heard from
Personnel Director General Gress that a report had been sent
by the Appointing Authority to the Disciplinary Board - an
action that represented the formal start of disciplinary
But it was to be another month, April 7, before I finally got
hold of Wall's report. From the date stamp on its cover, it was
evident that it had been received by Kinnock's office on April
23, 2003, and had thus been sitting there for almost a whole
year. Yet, when my lawyer had inquired, at my behest, about
its progress the previous July (2003) Kinnock's staff flatly
denied having yet received it.
It was also fairly obvious that there had in fact been two
versions of the report. As well as having two separate cover
sheets, there were so many instances where its fairly harsh
conclusions - "serious Infringement of Staff Regulations" -
simply didn't fit with the facts that Wall had so meticulously
Could it have been that the first report concluded that there
was nu case for dismissal, and then the hapless Wall had been
informed that he had somehow missed the whole point of the
exercise - and that he had better to get back to work?
Some of the witness statements included in the report gave a
wildly skewed version of events. Maybe the memory of Pierre
Sachet, of the Court of Auditors, was playing tricks with him
when he asserted that it was I who insisted on a meeting with
him in January 2002 - (having been in the job for one week,
if you please) - and that it was I who had launched a verbal
assault on Maison and his colleagues and their working
methods. An exact reversal of the truth.
In fact, I had spent all of one hour, at just one meeting with
Sachet. Why were there no witness statements from others at
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
the Court of Auditors, with whom I had worked in frequent
and productive harmony over several months?
As if this documentation was not bad enough, the
composition of the Disciplinary Board itself was alarming.
Only its President, a Portuguese judge> who had retired from
the European Court of First Instance, could he seen as having
some mildly independent status.
All four others - senior civil servants of or above my grade -
were still serving members of the Commission. Since all four
were current, and apparently satisfied, participants in a
clearly vulnerable accounting system, they were hardly likely
to come down on my side.
Under staff rules, I could have rejected all who had been
proposed. Discussing this with my lawyer, he argued that if I
behaved well, and showed myself to be amenable, I was likely
to receive ".. a very light sanction .." from the board. But there
was one proposed board member - under investigation
himself, and allegedly up to his neck in trouble at Eurostat —
that I insisted had to go.
As well as Wall's report, the board now dumped on me and
my lawyer all the paperwork relating to the case - a file
amounting to some thousand pages. They then announced -
having refused us sight of any documents at all for the
previous 16 months - that the first meeting of the board
would be held in two weeks* time: April. 21, 2004.
I urged my lawyer not to accept this date as we would clearly
need more time to read and analyse all that we had been
given. But he was as sanguine as ever. He had been assured by
the President of the Board that the first meeting was simply
an 'organisational' one at which we would agree an agenda for
LK.lv!* XtlLUllv^ ilv<ii HXjib*
Essentially, the charges against me were that I had not gone
through the proper protocol in lodging my complaints about
the accounting system - (despite the fact that Maison had not
only attempted to block any reform but any discussion of
reform); that I had not gone through the correct hierarchy in
voicing my criticism to the Court of Auditors - (despite the
fact that the Court had approached me directly, making
almost similar complaints from the start of my time in office
as Chief Accountant); that I should not have aired my views
to Parliament - (despite the fact that Kinnock and Schreyer
had told MEPs of my planned dismissal, before informing
me); that I should not have spoken to the press without
permission - (despite the fact that Commission officials had
spent the entire summer of 2002 briefing against me); that I
had not told the Commission of my suspension from the
OECD - (despite the fact that Commissioner Schreyer had
herself raised the issue in our very first telephone
conversation); that I had spoken at conferences without
permission - (relating information that had in fact already
long been in the public domain).
It was difficult not to compare the strength of these charges
against me with the latitude extended to the wilful and
freewheeling ways of Monsieur Maison during the time we
had been together in office. For over a period of five months,
the Director General had comprehensively ignored Treaty
rules on my independence as Chief Accountant, and on my
overall authority over computer systems. He had put all kinds
of pressure on me to sign accounts for which there was no
proper documentation. He had done nothing to insist on a
proper handover process from my predecessor on my coming
into office; he had repeatedly failed to provide a
comprehensive job description of my appointments; and he
had often allowed temporary officials to sit in on highly
confidential Commission deliberations.
All in all, I felt the case against me was so weak that it was
something that any vigorous advocate should have been able
to blow out of the water at the first hearing.
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
Relations, on April 21, was both nightmare and disaster. My
lawyer, who was in any case involved in another big case at the
time, took it upon himself to start rewriting his introductory
statement for the court on the morning of the hearing itself.
Five minutes before we should have left his office, he was still
making changes that 1 did not get the chance to see. At one
point in this shambles, I discovered that he proposed telling
the court that I apologized and was prepared even to be
downgraded. I was not.
Eventually, we arrived at the court ten minutes late. Not a
good start. There were some eight of us sitting round a large
table. As soon as he opened the proceedings, Martin Berry,
the senior member of the Board, and Director General for
External Relations - demolished any notion that I was to get
a fair hearing. We had arrived late, and he informed us that he
had little time to waste on such matters. In other words, we
should say what we had to say so that he could be off.
My lawyer summarized my case - my attempts to rectify an
accounting system that was badly failing the taxpayers of
Europe, To this Berry replied that this was a political world
and those who did not agree with the policies of their
From there, things only got worse. For the next 20 minutes,
the four remaining board members - and with no judicial or
any other kind of formal procedure - bombarded me with
questions on statements I was alleged to have made, culled
from the European press from over the previous two years.
All were extremely hostile and aggressive about what one saw-
as my "disgusting behavior,"
And that was it.
As neither my lawyer nor I had been supplied with any of the
documentation of this latest catalogue of complaints, it was
clearly a lost cause.
MARTA ANDREAS EN
When the board set a date for the next hearing - for just two
weeks later - I pleaded with my lawyer to ask for a
postponement. I knew that we needed far more time. The
whole thing had become absurd; all this rush and mess when
the Commission had taken nearly two years to launch
Bluntly, I had to tell him, "I am not ready for this second
hearing and I don't believe you are either." We had a row
about it. Unfazed, he simply told me that he had spoken with
the secretary of the Board, who had told him that its
members were actually on my side. Given their conduct,
proceedings, views and manners at the first hearing, I found
this hard to believe. But then 1 could see no other pro bono
lawyer on the horizon, and I could not afford a proper one.
At my lawyer's insistence, we went ahead with the hearing
scheduled for May 7, at which Commission lawyer, Luc
Sanden*, did his best to downplay the responsibility,
independence and powers of the Commission's Chief
Accountant. In fact, the EU Treaties and staff rules were quite
clear that the Chief Accountant had both pecuniary and legal
responsibility for the accounts being correct. I badly needed a
lawyer who could pick his way through the legal thicket of
rules on these points and present the essentials of my case
with clarity and vigour. Sadly, that lawyer was not on display
on May 7.
My dissatisfaction with my lawyer came to an abrupt head a
few weeks later when he failed to pass on my requests for
documentation to the Board. Obviously, it would have been
legally risky to suggest that he had been out to sabotage my
case from the start. Well knowing the ways of the
Commission by then - and its amazing medley of tricks for
getting at' people - 1 was appalled.
So I decided to fight the case on my own. At that point, given
that T had not been allowed into any Commission building,
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
or had had access to their records for almost two years, I
asked for various documents crucial to my case - including
the annual declarations of the Directors General. I also
requested the minutes of the Disciplinary Boards meetings
on my case. These were refused and only part of the other
documentation arrived - a month after it had been requested.
By then the Board had at least conceded the right for me to
nominate my own witnesses - given that the rules laid down
that ".. if the sanction to be imposed is believed to be more
serious than a warning . ." then the person facing disciplinary
action could bring witnesses.
A hearing of these witnesses was initially set for before the
summer break. But as some of the officials involved had
requested holidays for that period, the Board scheduled the
hearing for September 9, 2004. This was a date on which they
had already been informed that neither I, for pressing family
reasons, nor one of my three witnesses would be able to
attend. I remonstrated with them - the hearing went ahead
anyway without us.
One of my witnesses did, however, submit a statement for this
hearing. This was the gallant and forthright Jules Muis,
former Director General of Internal Audit, who had lasted at
the Commission only until April 2004 - just three years into
his post. I then found out some of the pressures that he too
had been under at the Commission, and that he couldn't talk
about, when my own troubles were reaching crisis point.
Indeed, Muis went public in citing very much the same
difficulties as myself, in cutting down on fraud and waste,
and in his inability to conduct sweeping audit inquiries. "I
look forward to the Commission (defining) what it wants
with the Internal Audit Service (IAS), because that is not
clear even to me."
He pointed out that the Commission's financial report,
which he read on taking office had been "shockingly
primitive. 55 Since then, an improvement had been only
"gradual" He reckoned he had achieved only "40 per cent of
what I wanted to do, and all of it has been uphill."
He was to go into even more forceful detail on some of these
points in the eloquently blunt statement he made on my
behalf for the hearing on September 9, 2004. In it, he asserted
that he knew of no professional accountant having to start
their job with as vulnerable and undefined an opening
balance sheet as I had.
"I would for no money or professional reward wanted to have
been in Ms Andreasen's professional shoes when this all
played out, recognizing the unforgiving inclination of a
bureaucracy, once one is declared taboo by the powers that be
.. and .. considering the collective firepower it can marshal to
trash an individual it has singled out."
He suggested the Commission take heed of the signals the
case would send out to other accounting professionals, if it
were resolved on the basis of power politics alone.
seemed, by comparison, like a picnic given that he had no
responsibilities" Also, he did have Director General status,
though ".. This did not stop one Chef de Cabinet from telling
me once in private, 'We have ways of breaking people like you.*"
He insisted that I was very much the outsider in a sink or
swim situation in a very unfriendly pond - and in a
directorate with "an incestuous esprit de corps ... not
particularly taken by aliens imposed from a different world."
Though he felt that the accounting and auditing of the
Commission and Court of Auditors showed " , a major long-
standing compliance gap with standard practice," he believed
that of the five different Accountants he dealt with in his first
two years at the Commission, "Miss Andreasen is the one and
BRUSSELS LAID BARE
only who ... focused professionally .. on the integrity of the
Commission's accounts; and expected to be held accountable
and liable if proven wrong"
"With all the control mishaps of the Commission, I do not
recall any Commission Accountant (other than Miss
Andreasee) stepping up to the plate saying, 1 am the first
accountable; what are your questions?' - or being held
accountable for close to ten years' gross, substandard
He suggested that this could explain the attitude problem of
the Budget Directorate throughout those years, and why the
other four Chief Accountants in contrast !o myself, took the
traditional bureaucratic line of process responsibility only.
"One even said to me that he '.. does not sign the accounts; he
only sends the accounts.'"
That meant that ten years after the Commission first failed to
get normal audit approval on its accounts and controls, it still
didn't have a proper accountability system, and that the
Budget Directorate still only accepted ".. (open-ended)
process responsibility, with no end product responsibility,
hence the incentive to get it really right is not there." Z
Mms, this did much to explain the wretched position in
which the Commission now found itself.
But not even this powerful, detailed, considered, well-
informed critique appeared to do much to take up the time
or impact on the deliberations of the Disciplinary Board. The
very next day it issued its decision: dismissal
Did it bother members of the Board that the two most senior
officials on the accounting and auditing side of the
Commission - Muis and myself - had gone within the space
of two years, and both making very much the same
criticisms? Apparently not.
The Disciplinary Board's 14-page report did, however, reveal
MARTA ANDREAS EN
the real essence - the real motivation - the real poison - of
Lilt *^c3L*3\^ <4,£~£t-i A Ao* L l.l.lvf« JL I. .1.1*5 vlllvl n^*^ 111 Air 15 O b .I..I.|™' L't'JL. y iXtv^-lJlfc5M.A.Iv/ 1.1*5
of lack of loyalty and discretion.
On the one hand, the Board proclaimed that, "All
Commission officials enjoy the right of freedom of
expression" „ (even here) ". it extends to opinions which
dissent from or conflict with those held by the employing
On the other, the Board's report contended that the freedom
of expression ".. should be exercised by officials with due
respect to the principles of loyalty and discretion laid down
in Articles 11 and 12 .. of Staff Regulations ... The official
must not act in a way which jeopardizes the relationship of
trust with the institution concerned."
In other words, in simple language that people, at least in the
Anglo-Saxon world, can understand, the European
Commission doesn't really believe in the freedom of
expression at all. Whatever care 1 had taken in trying to
register my concern, whatever bureaucratic hoops and
procedures I had gone through, they would always have been
able to argue that, in their interpretation of clearly conflicting
laws, I had breached " the laws of loyalty and discretion" owed
to my superiors.
In fact, over several months, my superiors were urging me to
sign off accounts which, unsupported by proper
documentation, would have constituted not simply an illegal
but a criminal act. Yet somehow my refusal to do so was
showing disloyalty to these people, and my protests at such
attempted coercion had been "detrimental to the honour of
the persons" applying this pressure.
This sounded to me like the double-speak of the old Soviet
nomenklatura. Catch 22 and the 'Newspeak' of George
OrwelTs 1984 both also came to my mind.
BRUSSELS LAID BARB
This pretty well confirmed not simply the hopelessness of my
case, but the near- impossibility of anyone effecting real
change within an undemocratic and essentially lawless
institution; the European Union.
The whole process following my removal and suspension -
but particularly the Disciplinary Board proceedings -
appeared to me to be a travesty of natural justice. But what
struck me most of all was the arrogance with which they
didn't even bother to go through the motions of pretending
to provide a fair trial.
The staff regulations provided for an official in my position
to be heard by the Appointing Authority before the final
decision was taken. In my case this meant that it had to be a
hearing in front ot the whole College of Commissioners. I
was eventually granted this meeting on September 29, 2004 -
20 days after the Disciplinary Board had issued its statement.
Having gone through all the previous stages of the
disciplinary process, without anyone appearing to make the
least effort to engage with the issues I was trying to raise, I
wondered whether this meeting with the Commissioners
would be another meaningless charade.
Yet I was still determined to face them and make one more
attempt to impress upon them the negligence with which so
much of their taxpayers' money was being handled and to
reiterate, again, urgent solutions.
For this meeting I had got a friend, Chris Dickson, who was die
executive counsel of the UK Accountants' Joint Disciplinary
Scheme, and who had massively wide professional experience,
to make a statement on my behalf. At his own. expense, he had
flown over to Brussels the night before, to make sure that he
was there for the 9am start of the hearing.
But before the proceedings in the Breydel 1 building got
under way, Commission lawyer Luc Sanden directed Dickson
and myself into an anteroom next to the room where the
MARTA ANDREAS EN
hearing would be held. There he attempted to get us to sign a
confidentiality note, binding us to secrecy on
Dickson was outraged that such a request should even have
been made without a similar commitment being sought
from the Commissioners. Further, he pointed out that he
had no intention of being inhibited from saying whatever he
thought fit in my defence, either to the public or in any later
Knowing that Commissioners and Commission officials had
felt free to say whatever they wanted about me since my
departure from office, I had no intention of signing any note
of confidentiality either.
After that, we moved into the rather cramped hearing room,
taking our places at one end of a long oblong table, round
which sat 21 of the 24 Commissioners. At the far end,
Michaele Schreyer, sitting between two other female
Commissioners, struck a pose that might have been seen as
warm and supportive - but came across to me as simply
cowed and uncomfortable.
Also at our end, on our left, was Commission President
Romano Prodi. Several places away on our right, sat Kinnock,
whose behavior appeared to have regressed to that of a
schoolboy. He made exaggerated and dismissive gestures with
his arms, as if to register his disgust at what I was saying and
alert his colleagues that the lady in front of them was
Other Commissioners occupied themselves with reports or
paperwork that were clearly nothing at all to do with the
matter in hand. Some, who had not bothered to turn off their
mobile phones, would occasionally, when rung, wander off to
have telephone conversations in the corridor outside. Only
the Italian Competition Commissioner Mario Monti
appeared to take an interest in what was being said.
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None even seemed particularly interested when Dickson was
invited to speak and informed them that he believed that I
had brought to the job the professional qualities that all good
accountants have. "The first of these, and the most
important, is that of independence, both of thought and
of action "
He explained that as one who spent much of his time looking
at corporate disasters involving accountants, particularly
those who audited financial statements, he found that the
single biggest contributing factor was the auditor who was
not prepared to stand up to his or her corporate client.
"Too often defalcation has gone unpunished because of
willful blindness, whilst considerable thought, and chargeable
time, has been expended in devising means for corporate
clients to circumvent accounting standards."
He believed that the second crucial quality that I had
displayed had been the instinct to question - not just how
the organization in which I worked actually functioned, but
the financial implications of what was being done, and their
"You would be surprised by how many bad accountants 1
come across who either have not made the effort, or who have
not had the intellectual capacity, to understand the business
in which they are working, or which they are auditing. This
problem has been seen not only in sophisticated sectors such
as those involving complex financial instruments, but also in
the public sector where, in many western countries,
governments have sought to move expenditure off their own
balance sheets and onto those of the private sector. The
critical analysis by an accountant of what is actually
happening is crucial."
The third quality that he felt I had shown was that of
responsibility for what I did, and an understanding that
genuine assurance could come only through having separate
MARTA ANDREAS EN
responsibilities for different people. He instanced such key
procedures as having a small number of authorised cheque
signatories; two signatures on each cheque; no person to sign
a cheque which benefits him or her; insistence on original
documentation rattier ttum pnou.u.opies ot taxes; and asking
someone independent to review and audit the financial
Dickson betrayed his amazement at the way I had been
treated, when he remarked that, "Judging by some of the
papers I've seen, one might be forgiven for thinking Miss
Andreasen was being accused of fraud rather than trying to
But not even Dickson's lucid statement — like the testimony of
Muis - appeared to have the slightest effect on those gathered
there. As the proceedings concluded, Commission President
Prodi asked if anyone had any questions. To this, the answer
was a sepulchral silence.
It was clear that the decision had already been taken and that
most who had come there had done so mainly to register their
lack of interest, boredom or contempt. For a group of people,
ostensibly in charge of 100 billion euros of EU taxpayers*
money per annum, it was not an edifying performance.
In about a month - November 2004 - virtually all those
Commissioners there would be leaving at the end of their five-
year term, to make way for a new Commission. But before
gliding off for a well-rewarded retirement, they did manage to
squeeze in one more act of monumental discourtesy.
On October 13, 2004, 1 was driving through Barcelona, when
my mobile rang. It was a journalist asking for my comment
on the decision to dismiss me from my job at the
Commission - which had just been announced. I had to tell
him that I was not aware of this decision.
Back home, I found an e-mail that had been sent to me 15
minutes earlier, informing me of the Commission's decision.
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But obviously, no one had made any real effort to make sure
that 1 knew before my dismissal was made public. Pretty
much the same as day one.
As well as the studied contempt they had shown for me
throughout the proceedings, 1 was staggered by their
complacency For while this group of highly-paid public
servants was poring over such hair-splitting issues as to
whom, as Chief Accountant, 1 should or should not have been
able to speak, or whether 1 had got permission to speak at
some conference, huge sums were still leaching away from the
Just the year before, 2003, the Court of Auditors had
estimated that 50 per cent of suckling cows which were
claimed to be grazing in Portugal did not exist. Eighty-nine
per cent of farms in Luxembourg had submitted claims for
payments based on an inaccurate acreage which, if believed,
would have swollen the country way beyond its tiny borders.
In Greece, one enterprising farmer, who claimed to have lost
501 sheep to wolves between 2002 and 2004, continued to
claim subsidies for the 470 sheep he had started off with -
and without producing any evidence of restocking.
Even more expensive was the chicanery that had been going
on at Eurostat - the EU*s statistical branch. In September
2003, after four separate investigations had been grinding on
for some six years, this finally emerged into daylight.
A preliminary report exposed what it described as a "vast
enterprise of looting," including cases of fictitious accounts
and controls, inflation of contract prices, slush funds, double
accounting and serious breaches of the rules governing
tenders. Taxpayers' money had ostensibly been used to pay for
perks and freebies, including a riding club, a volleyball team,
extravagant dinners, and trips to New York and the Bahamas.
When the scandal first broke I regarded it almost as "help
MARTA ANDREAS EN
from heaven" as it illustrated so graphically and
comprehensively so many of the warnings that I had been
attempting to give since my arrival in office as Chief
Accountant. For the bottom line was that no real
investigation into Eurostat could be completed because the
audit trail - all the documentation - either didn't exist or had
by now disappeared. Further, the whole sordid business
emphasized the dangers of not knowing exactly who had
signatory authority on bank accounts.
Would these revelations at last stun the Commission into a
realization of the inadequacy of its controls and the depths of
its problems? Not a bit of it. When a special task force and
internal auditors produced interim reports in September
2003, the Commission did its utmost to keep their findings
The reports were certainly not to be published. In a shabby
deal between the Commission and European Parliament -
citing "legal" reasons - they were to be shown to only a select
group of MEPs. They were given just five hours to peruse
them in a sealed room, under the surveillance of security
guards, and without any access to photocopiers. They were
banned from taking in mobile phones, cameras, or notepads
and had to sign a declaration promising not to reveal the
contents of the reports.
When Commission President Prodi held a "hearing" on the
reports' findings in the European Parliament, it was in
camera, and with the leaders of the Parliament's political
groups - not with the more "awkward" MEP members of the
Budgetary Control Committee.
Many believed that this collusion between Pat Cox, the
President of the European Parliament, and the Commission,
to hide the full facts from public scrutiny, to be in itself a
separate scandal. As the London Times put it, "If the
Commission has nothing to hide, its secretiveness is
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incomprehensible. If it has, it is inexcusable. Signor Prodi has
.1.1.1 Ll.joiLJ.CIwi, LJ.J.V" JLjUIX vJ Ly Cdl .1 X Ci.I J.i.Ct 1.I.1.wlJ.Lj 1 Jl\^ l,J,imiv|*L iiv/L L'V' CXXxV^ VYvU- Lvx
hide the truth."
But this was an affair with so many separate scandals. As the
possible dimensions of the losses became clearer, Pedro
Solbes, the Spanish Commissioner for Economic and
Monetary Affairs, was invited to resign but refused. He
claimed to have had no knowledge of Eurostat problems until
he read about them in the press in May 2003. Yet his own
office had requested a report on one particularly
controversial contract almost a year earlier.
Solbes finally moved on only when a vacancy became
available for him as Minister of Economy in the new socialist
government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, which was
elected in March 2004.
Eurostat's Director General and two other senior officials -
who were closely connected with some of the outside firms
gaining Eurostat contracts, and at the very least should have
known what was going on - were discreetly transferred to
other jobs or allowed to slip away into full-pension-rights
retirement. Not one of them had to face any form of
Indeed, the only people who appeared to have suffered in this
sorry affair were those who had been attempting to expose
what was going on. Dorte Schmidt-Brown, a Danish
v^V/vJi iUlHlo L W J. J.v/ XXd-\Jr l%_ll.lJ,v- vL JLj U-JL \_Jo Id- L 1.1 J, & 2s\!s\J y vJ-I W IJLw.IL Iv/ly
properly and in 1999 alerted her managers to contracts which
seemed highly suspicious. One, she felt, had been awarded
unfairly to a company run by a former Commission
employee, which had never carried out much of the work for
which it had been paid highly-inflated fees.
An internal audit inquiry later supported her allegations. But
an interview with the Brussels-based weekly European Voice,
in October 2003, she revealed that she had suffered a nervous
breakdown after her disclosures. Eventually, after going on a
very long sick leave, she secured an invalidity pension from
Few people made more efforts to expose the rottenness of
Eurostat than the German journalist Hans-Martin Tillack. He
was the one who had rung me on the night of May 23, 2002,
to inform me that Commissioner Schreyer was at that
moment writing my letter of dismissal. Presumably, he must
have had good contacts with someone close to Schreyer's
office to know that.
But even the luck of this hard-digging, well-connected
journalist was to run out. At 6am on March 19, 2004, he was
woken by six Belgian policemen, who came into his flat, held
him prisoner for ten hours and then, after ransacking his
home and office, confiscated two computers, four mobile
telephones and 16 boxes of documents, archives, personal
papers and bank statements. He thus lost the notes that he
had carefully built up over five years. His sources were also
put at risk.
Refusing him access to any lawyer for ten hours, police asked
who his sources were. Tillack insisted that he would never
reveal his sources. "The police told me I was lucky I wasn't in
Burma or central Africa, where journalists get the real
It turned out that this raid had been done at the behest of
OLAF, on the allegation that Tillack had paid for evidence
used in articles exposing EU corruption in the German
At a meeting in the European ParKament building shortly
after he had been released from custody, Tillack was heckled
by MEPs angry that he had given " . ammunition to the
an ti- Europeans"
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Ironically, Tillack never had been against the EU. Describing
himself as a "pro-European Federalist/' he was simply
In an effort to prevent the Belgian police handing his papers
over to OLAF, Tillack went to the European Court of First
Instance. He was supported in this action by the International
Federation of Journalists. The evidence against him had by
then been clearly shown to have been fabricated.
But on October 15, 2004, the European Court of First
Instance threw out his claim - even though that judgement
was in clear breach of rulings by the European Court of
Human Rights that a journalist has the right to protect
Tillack's lawyers had argued that the protection of such
sources is a cornerstone of a free press, and of genuine
democracy. But in vain. The ruling effectively gave the
Commission the power to persecute any journalist who dared
delve into the murkier corners of the European Union. For
some it brought back uncomfortable memories of the sort of
totalitarianism that had darkened Europe in the 1930's
It took Tillack another four years, until 2008, to set his papers
back from the police - and it was only in November 2007 that
he got some redress in the Courts. In a landmark decision, the
European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Belgian
ponce nan vioiareu nis rigni to tnc irecoom oi expression ano
ordered the Belgian state to pay him 10,000 euros in moral
damages and 30,000 euros in costs.
Ironically - and in one of those bizarre twists that possibly
only the European Union could pull off - Tillack's award
worked out at about the same as that given to two other
European citizens in July, 2008, following a ruling by the
European Court of First Instance. For the court ruled that
when the law had eventually turned its gaze on Eurostafs
former Director General and director, both OLAF and the
Commission had broken procedural rules in an investigation
that never came to court.
OLAF had concluded that both men had committed illegal
irregularities regarding Eurostat financial procedures, and
handed files to the Luxembourg and French judicial
The European Court of First Instance, however, ruled that
OLAF had "infringed the rights of defence" of the two men by
"referring to them publicly - including through leaks to the
press - as guilty of criminal offences." This, said the court,
breached mandatory principles of the presumption of
innocence; the obligation of confidentiality in investigations;
and the principle of sound administration. These "wrongful
acts" entitled them to damages, from the EU, of 56,000 euros.
Wasn't that nice?
With the collapse of my case in front of the Disciplinary
Board in late 2004 it was to the European Court of First
Instance that I too was then headed.
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Appealing to the
European Court of
In November 2004, still without a lawyer, I launched an
internal complaint against my dismissal as Chief Accountant.
This was a prerequisite before taking a case to the European
Court of First Instance. But as this was a procedure on which
the Commission would be invited to give a reaction, they
were usually able to drag the process out for another three
At about that same time, I received a letter that a hearing had
finally been set for the cases of my transfer and suspension
that I had originally introduced at the European Court of
First Instance in December 2002 and June 2003 respectively.
I decided to ask the Court to withdraw both cases as the
appeals had been overtaken by events - given that I had now
been dismissed. I considered it useless pursuing them as, even
if I got a positive decision on either of them, it wouldn't affect
the decision to dismiss me that had already been taken by the
But even withdrawing those two cases proved difficult. The
European Court of First Instance wouldn't accept a letter
MA RTA ANDREAS EN
from me but insisted that my former lawyer, make the request
I asked him to write — but he prevaricated, then got his lawyer
colleagues who had been involved in the case to try and talk
me into continuing with the two cases.
In the end, he agreed to ask for a postponement of the
hearing. This was not what I wanted, but for the moment it
was my only way out of an absurd situation as by then he was
refusing point blank to ask for my cases to be removed from
the register. A lot of time was lost in this way - time that
would have been far better spent in my trying to get myself a
completely new lawyer who was enthusiastic about my cause
and whom I could trust.
By this time the new Commission of Jose Manuel Barroso
was in place and for some months in the autumn of 2004 I
had some hope that they might review the decision to dismiss
me and take a more favourable approach to reform of the
Commissions accounting systems.
In press interviews, Barroso had spoken of his eagerness to
sack any Commissioners suspected of poor or fraudulent
behavior. "There is a need for political leadership, for political
courage, and I will try to show that leadership."
He saw himself as a person who upheld the values of open
societies. "So my most important influences are the liberal
thinkers of Europe and America, such as de Tocqueville and
Karl Popper." Great stuff!
Even better, he appointed Siim Kallas of Estonia as
Commissioner for Administrative Affairs, Audit, and Anti-
Fraud - the first time a commissioner's title had formally
incorporated the word: Anti-Fraud.
My good and very supportive friend and Danish MEP Jens-
Peter Bonde even arranged for me to have a private talk with
Kallas. But the evening before the meeting should have taken
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place in early December 2004, it was cancelled. Kallas wrote
to Sonde telling him that, on the advice of the Commission's
legal service, he was to have no contact with me. Indeed, a few
days later, Kallas announced that my plea for a stay of
execution of my dismissal had been rejected by the new
But by then Barroso's credentials as the fearless opponent of
wrongdoing were beginning to look a bit shaky. For in
putting together his new Commission, he had proposed the
appointment of the Frenchman Jacques Barrot, who in 2000
had been convicted of electoral fraud - after diverting £2
million of French government money to his political party,
the Centre of Democratic Socialists. He had been given a
suspended prison sentence of eight months.
When his good friend Jacques Chirac, President of France,
granted Barrot an amnesty this meant that, technically, the
conviction was expunged. Legally, it had never happened.
And since the conviction never happened, the French press
were forbidden even from reporting that it had never
Barrot made no mention of it to Commission President
Barroso, nor to MEPs. When the news eventually leaked out
and MEPs discovered they were about to confirm as
commissioner a convicted fraudster there was a
Parliamentary storm. But Barroso continued to affirm his
"100 per cent" support for his nominee. MEPs swallowed
their objections and Barrot went on to become first,
Commissioner for Transport, and a Vice-President of the
Commission, and then in May 2008 he was appointed to his
current post of - wait for it - Commissioner for Justice,
Freedom and Security.
And these were pretty much the same people who had been
working themselves into such a lather over whether my
suspension from the OECD should or should not have been
included on my CV - despite the fact that the OECD*s
independent auditors had supported me, despite the fact that
I had mentioned it to Maison at our first meeting, despite the
fact that Maison had consulted with at least three different
people at the OECD before my recruitment, and despite the
fact that Commissioner Michaele Schreyer had raised the
issue in her first telephone conversation with me.
In my case, though the Commission had announced their
decision to refuse my request for a stay of execution on my
dismissal, this was not the complete answer to my claim as I
still had an appeal outstanding with the European Court of
First Instance, with regard to the dismissal decision itself.
But in the early months of 2005, 1 was still finding it difficult
to find a lawyer who was prepared to take on the Commission
in such a case, and to charge the sort of fees that I could
In the end, I decided to apply for the Legal Aid which is
provided by the European Court of Justice Regulation. They,
however, sent my request for "comments" from the
Commission who, being the defendant, refused my request
point blank. In natural justice, the Commission should
clearly have never been involved. But this was yet another
classic example of the lack of judicial independence - of the
essential separation of powers - with which the EU
In fact, by that time the whole legal process had become
even more weighted against those in dispute with the
Commission. For not only had the Commission started
sending its own lawyers to fight cases where before this had
not been deemed necessary, but the plaintiff had become
liable for the institution's legal expenses when losing a case.
This was a penalty that did not exist before and which
would allow only the richest or most foolhardy to bring an
action in future.
BRUSSELS [AID BARF
In finding myself a lawyer, I had to deal with further residual
problems posed by my relationship with my former lawyer.
For while it is common practice for a lawyer to hand over all
documentation to his successor if there is a change of
counsel, he refused to do this. He would only allow copies to
be made of certain documents in his office. It was difficult to
see this other than a ploy to make it extremely difficult for
another lawyer to take over the case-
Eventually, in May 2005, I found a young Belgian lawyer,
Julien Leclere*, based in Luxembourg, who was willing to act
for me. With him I began preparing an appeal, in French,
which we finally presented on June 5, 2005.
On his advice, I concentrated on those aspects of the case that
the European Court of First Instance were likely to declare
admissible for judgment. These basically had to do with the
legality of the procedure which led to my dismissal, and the
violation of the European Union's own laws and staff
There were of course plenty of breaches that could be cited. I
nao. a rigm. ro a lair trial cuaranreeci oy article o or tne
European Convention on Human Rights. Yet there had been
a clear lack of independence of members of the Disciplinary
Board - all of them Commission officials who had been
managing EU funds without proper controls for years.
In addition, the College of Commissioners who took the final
decision on my dismissal included Neil Kinnock and
Michaele Schreyer who had been my original accusers - and
thus judge and jury on the case.
been comprehensively ignored from the start of my time
With regard to my alleged violation of staff regulations,
Article 21 actually spelt out that while an official had a duty
MA RTA AND RE AS EN
to help his superiors, if asked to do something against the law,
he should raise the issue with his managers and, if still
instructed to do so, should proceed only if that request were
made in writing.
In fact, I had always discussed my concerns on legality with
Budget Director General Maison and Commissioner
Schreyer, and also put them in writing - but had never
received any written response.
On the contrary, my letters had led only to closed-door
meetings where I was subjected to verbal pressure to sign off
accounts, and assume authority for transactions which were
clearly against the rules, under threat of dismissal.
Another important aspect of my claim was the way in which
the Commission had ignored a staff regulation - (Article
10(96) of Annex IX ) - in considering the proportionality of
my dismissal For staff regulations state the sanction has to
take into account the level of responsibility of the official
concerned and the circumstances in which the alleged
misbehavior had taken place.
It was clear, for example, that communicating with the Court
of Auditors on matters related to EU accounting could not be
judged as misbehaviour when performed by the
Commission's Chief Accountant.
It was also clear that the negative annual reports from the
European Court of Auditors were an expression of how bad
things were and also of their level of concern about this. The
letters they wrote to me after my recruitment simply
confirmed that they were looking to me for urgent resolution
of these problems.
The actual legal procedure was long and tedious, as once I
introduced the claim, the European Court of First Instance
sent it for a response to the Commission. Though they had
two months in which to do so, they asked for an extension
and ended up taking four.
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What made it worse was that the Commission's response
went way beyond what many would have considered
reasonable in length and complexity - and would possibly
O x / XT /
serve only to tire and confuse the court. For while my original
C-LL/ L^wdJ. vUliOiOvvUi VJX •*/ X. iw^w-l-^wO V./X X-w*~CJh,1 ClJL iiv4.J,l.J,v^.iJI LC* ttXXXVJl X.XJJ i^i^jiLK.-hj
of annexes, they responded with 60 pages of legal arguments
and 400 pages of annexes. Rather than attempting to restrain
this legalistic overkill, the Court had simply granted them
In essence, the Commission insisted that the case had nothing
to do with the concerns that I had raised about the
accounting system, but related only to my "behaviour." They
thus treated themselves to 27 pages of legal argument, in an
interpretation of the letters that I had written to the senior
Commissioners, that had little to do with the actual spirit of
the law. Moreover, they insisted that I had no right to write to
the Commissioners themselves - despite my role as Chief
In the end, the two rounds of responses, and written
procedure alone - with the extensions allowed to the
Commission - spun the whole process out to March 2006.
By then it was too late for my case to proceed in the European
Court of First Instance. For in December 2005 an entirely
new body called the Civil Service Tribunal came into being.
This had been created to deal with staff" cases which had
formerly been handled by the European Court of First
Given the amount of extra time allowed to the Commission
to complete all their written procedures - and with their
failure to meet a deadline of December 15, 2005 - my case
was transferred to this new Civil Service Tribunal
This meant that there was another massive delay and it was
not until November 23, 2006, that we finally appeared before
the Civil Service Tribunal - eight months after the written
procedure had been completed, and a good two years after
my dismissal had been announced by the Commissioners.
As we filed into court, in the modern Allegro building in
Luxembourg, it was difficult not to note the contrast between
their team and ours. They had two lawyers, who swished in,
dressed in white cravats and black gowns, followed by two
legal assistants; whereas on our side, we had just one lawyer,
also in cravat and gown, but who hobbled in (his leg encased
in plaster from a sports injury), my husband and me.
As we arranged ourselves at the three sets of desks, facing the
three judges on their plinth, the Commission lawyers
proceeded to pile up no fewer than six boxes of legal
documents. We had just the one fairly slim file.
Apart from this grand entrance, there was nothing impressive
about the ensuing legal proceedings. The presiding judge, a
Belgian called Sean Van Raepenbusch, had worked for some
part of the Commission's legal services since 1984; the
reporting judge was a Finn, Heikki Kanninen, and the third
judge was a Polish woman, Irena Boruta.
The proceedings were in French but as the three judges spoke
so little it was difficult to know how well all three really
comprehended the language.
The Finnish judge, Kanninen, asked most of the questions -
starting with the application of the new and old staff rules.
This clearly caused some unease among the Commissions
lawyers as my lawyer, Julien Leclere, was able to show that
they had applied them in a random, indiscriminate way that
had best suited their case.
The key point in the hearing came when Kanninen asked
about my responsibilities as Chief Accountant and my lawyer
asked the tribunal if I could answer that question myself. At
this point, the presiding judge, Van Raepenbusch, managed to
change his expression from one of boredom to annoyance.
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objection to my speaking. Reluctantly, they agreed as long as
I was not allowed to start telling my full story - a limitation
to which Van Raepenbusch enthusiastically agreed. "Yes, Miss
Andresen, (sic) please keep it short/'
Briefly, I explained my responsibilities on the accounting and
treasury aspects of the EU budget, which was worth more
than 100 billion euros at that time. I also pointed out that
while no job description had ever been given to me, the EU
Treaties and Financial Regulation were quite explicit on the
extent of my authority.
At this point, the Commission lawyers intervened to attempt
to argue that the Treasury function at the Commission was of
little significance. But this still seemed an extraordinary view,
given that the Commission's main reason for existence was to
pay out subsidies from the funds contributed by its Member
States. I couldn't believe that the judges could possibly accept
such a specious argument.
In fact, it was difficult to work out whether any of the points
made during the 45-minute hearing had impacted on the
judges in any way at all. The Polish woman judge opened her
mouth only once: to ask why the disciplinary procedure had
taken so long.
The Commission lawyers argued that this was because I
".. went on committing so many new offences" — (as if I were
some naughty girl in a boarding school). But then I didn't
really feel that the woman judge's question had been
prompted by any particular warmth or sympathy on
Indeed, before the hearing had even ended it was difficult to
avoid the impression that the whole procedure was just
another empty formality - a ritual that the Commission felt
that it had to go through so that it could later claim to have
provided some form of fair trial.
At its conclusion, I was given to understand that the Tribunal
would announce their decision within the next six months -
by April 2007 at the latest. In fact, it was almost a year later -
on November 8, 2007 - that they finally handed down their
judgement. In it, they dismissed all nine breaches of the
Treaties and due process that I had presented against the
Indeed, it was a judgement that didn't appear to have had any
recourse to case law and could have been virtually dictated by,
and for the convenience of, the Commission. All the points
made about the lack of independence of the Disciplinary
Board members, and those Commissioners who had laid the
allegations against me, were simply ignored.
Further, they appeared to disregard all documentary evidence
- including that provided by the Commission's own lawyers
- on my right, as Chief Accountant, to have direct contact
with the Court of Auditors and European Parliament. For
example, the advertisement for my job explicitly stated that
its holder ".. will be also in charge of the contacts with the
the framework of the (declaration of assurance) and the
In other parts of the judgement, it appeared to rely solely on
the opinion of the Disciplinary Board members who, as
previously pointed out, were those who had been happy to
manage funds on a system that was clearly vulnerable
So after waiting more than five years after my departure from
office for a verdict that would recognize that I had acted in
line with my professional duty, I simply got a confirmation of
the absolute contempt in which the Commission appeared to
hold my responsibility as Chief Accountant.
All in all, it seemed almost unbelievable to me that the judges
would find it admissible that the Chief Accountant of the
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Commission should be sacked merely for stating clearly what
the Court of Auditors had said every year for the previous 13
years. Indeed, within ten days of the Tribunal's judgement
being made public, the Court of Auditors refused, yet again,
to sign off the EU's accounts, complaining of "fraud, neglect
(Further, in September 2008, Commissioner Kallas,
Kinnock's successor in charge of reform, admitted that he did
not expect the Court of Auditors to give the Commission's
accounts a clean bill of health until 20201)
Clearly, 1 will not give up - and I still have the right to
challenge the Civil Service Tribunal's judgement in the
European Court of First Instance,
Before that judgement was made public in November 2007,
my lawyer had already alerted me that if the case went against
me, he would not be able to act for me in an appeal as he had
been recruited to head up the legal department of a private
company where that sort of work would not be possible.
He did, however, manage to find me a third lawyer, also based
in Luxembourg, whom I travelled to see and brief extensively
on my case. But the next day, after my return to Barcelona,
there was an e-mail from the third lawyer informing me that
he would not be able to represent me after all because of" .. a
conflict of interest."
I managed to find out what this "conflict of interest" was all
about. In one of those quite amazing coincidences that
appear to govern so much of life in the European Union - in
the less than 24 hours between my last conversation with the
third lawyer, and my flying home to Spain, he had been
offered a job by the Commission to train officials in its legal
service. So there I was, back to square one.
The helpful Leclere did, however, manage to locate yet
another lawyer: Benjamin Marthoz. As I had only two
months in which to appeal, the Civil Service Tribunal's
judgement, I had to work flat out with him in early 2008 to
register my appeal with the European Court of First Instance.
This was where I had started off almost three years earlier -
before being diverted on to the Civil Service Tribunal - for a
legal merry-go-round that might best be written up by
Charles Dickens or Franz Kafka.
Why do I go on? Partly because I know of the discomfort of
the Commission when every single one of its decisions is
challenged in any hearing, court or tribunal and lets even the
tiniest chink of daylight into a judicial process that is not
independent - but simply part of the political development
of the European Union.
Indeed, the main reason that I continue to fight is that I don't
want my children - and possibly their children - to live in
thrall to the EU: a layer of government that, in my view, is not
only unnecessary, but lawless, corrupt, mistaken,
undemocratic, bureaucratic, over- regulated and, ultimately,
Even if the EU does not develop into a full, single political
entity, what has happened so far is quite bad enough. Its
parliament - without powers to propose legislation - is
hardly in any real sense a Parliament. Its executive (the
Commission) - headed by political appointees - is barely
accountable to anyone, apart from the very blunt instrument
of its entire dismissal by Parliament, as happened with the
Santer Commission in 1999.
Is it possible for the EU to change, to reform? Having worked
in it, and seen it from the inside, I see no chance of that. I see
the institution as not only corrupt but corrupting. For it is
not just the individual cases of money going to Madame
Cresson's dentist, or for non-existent olive groves, that is so
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It is the whole lax, insulated, isolated culture in which
officials work, knowing they can ignore the rules with
impunity which should give thinking people cause
During my entire time at the Commission I met. few who
seemed concerned about this - and even fewer who felt they
should exercise responsibility and try to change what was
Possibly some expected that 1 too - as the beneficiary of a nice
salary, nice office, nice allowances, nice perks, and with the
prospects of a nice pension - would have played the EU game
of endlessly passing responsibility onto someone else.
When the very few who do stand up and protest, or even
quietly inform their managers of what is going on, are so
consistently and so easily 'trashed,' can any European of
sound mind actually believe in the possibility of reform?
The British MEP Daniel Han nan once eloquently lamented
the state of affairs in which, "We are so blase about Brussels
fraud that we no longer notice it. It doesn't even make the
newspapers any more: that's the shocking thing. While the
auditors are happy to vouch for the money raised by the EU,
they cannot say where it goes.
"What makes the EU behave like this? Its employees are not
inherently wickeder than anyone else. All organisations have
their share of shysters. The difference is that there is no link
in Brussels between taxation, representation and
expenditure. The EU expects bouquets when it spends, but
not brickbats when it taxes, because its revenue is handed
over by national treasuries.
"The truth is that EU fraud is, in the correct sense of the
word, structural: a product of how the Brussels institutions
are set up ... and I have (now) reached the view that the
system is beyond reform. When (Eurocrats) disparage their
MARIA AN ORE AS EN
critics, they confuse cause and effect. We are not banging on
about corruption because we dislike the EU; we dislike the
EU because we see it for what it is: a racket, whose chief
function is to look after its own.
"Finally, let us deal with the assertion that, since much of the
EU's spending is disbursed by national and regional
authorities, Brussels ought not to be blamed for their failings.
It is certainly true that the money trickles down through
many levels, like champagne through a pyramid of crystal
"But this is the problem: in such a system, no one has an
incentive to behave properly. The applicants, knowing the
cash is there to be claimed, arrange their affairs so as to
qualify for it. National authorities have no interest in policing
the system, since it is all EU money. And Eurocrats are happy
to sign the cheques in the belief that they are buying
Hannan went on to define what he sees as ".. the worst aspect
of Euro-corruption. In my own constituency, I have seen how
the people most directly ruled by EU law - fishermen - have
been forced to alter their behaviour to comply with the
Brussels way of doing things.
"I have seen honest men turned, against their will, into liars
and cheats by the Common Fisheries Policy.
"The disease is not confined to Brussels: it is contaminating
our own body politic, carried by cash handouts through our
veins and arteries. After years of looking vainly for a cure, it is
time to consider amputation."
Will this little book help to bring about early reform of the
EU and its accounting practices? I fear not; turkeys do not
vote for Christmas.
But I hope that it lays bare what really goes on in Brussels. I
also hope that it will make more people aware of what really
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goes on behind the gloss and the tinsel and the avalanche of
publications telling us how wonderful and indispensable the
EU is. There are already those who believe that the whole
thing will collapse from within, under its own incompetence
and corruption. I do not share this view. Only if enough
ordinary citizens in Europe become sufficiently angry with
their Governments for going along with it all, might change
Of course European nations should work together to meet
such challenges as terrorism, border control, financial crises
and climate change; but this can be done by
intergovernmental collaboration between consenting
democracies. Democracy is the guarantor of peace, not
Europeans do not need to go on surrendering their
sovereignty, their integrity and their future to a corrupt and
incompetent mega-state. When will they see this?
MARTA ANDREAS EN
I have no doubt that the European Commission will dismiss
my story by claiming that "it was all a long time ago", and that
its accounting and control systems have since been made
altogether wonderful. However, its failure to get a clean bill of
health from the European Court of Auditors for the last 14
years is proof that nothing much has, in fact, changed and
that the European Union remains an open till waiting to be
robbed. The only real change since my dismissal is that the
Commission has shifted the blame onto the Member States.
That's where the billions go walkabout; it's entirely their fault
now (which isn't true, of course).
In one thing they have succeeded. No employee has dared to
'blow the whistle' since they got rid of me. I suppose they
have all seen what has happened to me and they know that I
couldn't get another job at my professional level anywhere in
Europe; no other employee has been prepared to irritate the
beast in Brussels.
But I have not given up my fight. I did not give up a powerful
and well paid job just to see this bureaucracy, the integrity of
which I experienced from the inside, continue to roll over us.
Back in 2002 I raised my concerns with Mrs. Diemut Theato,
the Chairwoman of the Budgetary Control Committee of the
European Parliament. In real life she was a translator. I had
the incredible experience of trying to make Mrs. Theato
understand what the problems were in the management of
the EU's budget. She happily acknowledged to me that she
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had no knowledge of finance or accounting, and therefore
couldn't understand what I was talking about. Imagine my
frustration! How could this worthy lady, with her
background, be in a position to challenge what the European
Commission was telling us about its accounting and control
systems? How could she exercise any influence over European
taxpayers' money if she had not the faintest idea about the
With this experience in mind I decided to stand in the South
East Region of the UK as a UK Independence Party candidate
for the European Parliament in the June 2009 elections, and
am very grateful to have been elected. With this new
responsibility I therefore propose to join the Budgetary
Control Committee and challenge each and every one of the
numbers in the EU accounts. In effect, my mission is now to
go to Brussels and find out how the British people's money is
being spent, and then come back to tell them the truth,
I know where the bodies are buried.
Marta Andreasen, MEP
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