Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

The Austrian Commissioner-designate also with accusations about his declaration

euinside, January 16, 2010

During the hearing of the Austrian Commissioner nominee Johannes Hahn also doubts in his declaration against conflict of interest appeared. The Austrian influential daily "Die Presse" wrote the same day of the hearing an article, saying that during the time when Hahn was in the management of the Novomatic company that firm dealt with money laundering. According to the newspaper, the disclosure made the Austrian member of Parliament Peter Pilz and during the hearing the issue was brought up again by the Greens in the European Parliament.

As a candidate for a Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn was asked in detail on many issues including the absorption of EU funds as well as the effect they have on Europe. According to the Austrian candidate a major disadvantage of the regional policy was that people do not know much about the benefits it gave them. People need to know what was happening with their money and that was why in GD Regional Development in the European Commission there was a department working only on estimating the effectiveness of this policy, he added.

And with regard to the criticism by net payers in the European budget that there was no practical benefit of the EU funds, Mr. Hahn said that if a broad research was to be made the result would be that the big and net payers to the European budget had invested in regional policy and it was worth it. He gave as an example a vast majority of small French companies which had received totally different market conditions.

On the issue of many scandals with EU funds misuse and corruption, and MEP asked the Austrian candidate how would he approach a member state in which there was misuse of funds - whether he would disclose which the country was and whether he would put pressure on it or would back off as he did during the students' protests in Wien (Johannes Hahn is a minister of science of Austria where tens of thousands of students protested in the capital in October, asking for general reforms of the high education in the country). The Commissioner-designate explained that he would not back off and would pay serious attention to every information about misuse but only if there was evidence.

The Bulgarian MEP from the group of the socialists and democrats in the European Parliament Evgheni Kirilov asked the candidate what measures he would implement to simplify further the procedures so that EU funds absorption could turn into a continuous process. Hahn replied that yet during the mandate of his predecessor Danuta Hubner simplification of procedures had been initiated but the process was very complex. "The end consumer should rely on something, to have certainty that things will not change constantly". Johannes Hahn assured and added that there were already working groups established to work together with experts from member states to find the right approach, especially in the perspective of the next programme period which will start after 2013.

This is the first priority, in fact, Hahn has pointed out in his written answers to the Regional Development Committee in Parliament - the preparation of the new Cohesion Policy of the Eu.

A question also asked another Bulgarian MEP - from the group of the liberals Feliz Hyusmenova. She was interested to know how the candidate saw the inclusion of the regional policy within the framework of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs which is supposed to be replaced by the new Strategy 2020 of the EU. The Commissioner-designate said that he had to work together with his colleagues in the fields directly related to the economic development like Siim Kallas who is nominated for transport and Máire Geoghegan Quinn who will take the scientific research and innovations. He added that he had already met with them - "for me it is important the separate political sectors to exchange views, to express their interest so that we see what we can invest in the regional sector, transport, environment", Johannes Hahn stated.

As part of his first priority Mr. Hahn has written that he intends to establish direct coordination within the main strategic agenda of the Eu which aims to fulfill the visions of its development by 2020 as well as to increase transparency and improve control so as to guarantee the right and effective spending of EU funds.