The Brief, powered by Eni – Pick the low-hanging fruit

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Corruption costs EU countries 1% of their combined GDP every year, according to a Commission report out today. This may not sound like much, but it equates to €120bn per year – not far short of the EU’s annual budget of €145bn and enough to fund the Common Agricultural Policy twice over.

While we often hear complaints about how much the EU costs its member states, we rarely hear those same countries complaining about the cost of corruption to their economies.

Perhaps they don’t want to acknowledge they have a problem, or they choose to keep quiet to avoid getting the EU involved in their legal affairs.

Time and again, the EU has dragged member states to a logical EU-wide solution, like horses to water, but struggled to make them drink.

Just glance at certain countries’ dismal records protecting (or jailing) whistleblowers, or their reluctance to join in with the bloc’s plans for a European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).

Whatever the reason, Brussels has clearly recognised that member states will not take action on their own. Its drive to establish the EPPO, set a legal framework for whistleblower protection and tackle illegal state aid shows it is ready to get tough on those who break the rules.

Member states should wake up to what they stand to gain from this. According to today’s study, tighter protection for whistleblowers in public procurement alone could save EU countries €5.3bn per year. That is more than double the annual budget of the EU’s universally popular Erasmus programme.

And a strong EPPO could save EU countries tens of billions of euros each year in lost VAT revenue while ensuring EU funds are not wasted. Where is the downside?

It is clear from Ireland’s refusal to recover €13bn in illegal state aid to Apple and Luxembourg’s famous tax rulings with multinationals like Amazon that some countries are not interested in picking the low-hanging fruit if it means doing what Brussels tells them.

But with Britain on its way out of the EU, taking 10-12% of the bloc’s budget with it, EU countries need to harvest all the low-hanging fruit they can get their hands on.

This Brief is powered by Eni – Following our passion, inspiration and driven by our scientific expertise, we are gearing up to turn waste – from the oil in which you cooked French fries to the leftovers of your salad – into high-tech fuels to power our transport. Eni’s biofuel initiatives are giving a tangible contribution to the circular economy. We look forward to an EU policy that supports innovative action.

The Roundup

The European Public Prosecutor was approved by the Parliament this week and Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova already wants to simplify EU rules to attract member states that have not yet opted into the new body.

Hungary, one of those reluctant EU countries, intends to defend its tough new laws on NGOs even at the Court of Justice after PM Viktor Orban called a recent Commission appraisal of the legislation “a laughing stock”.

Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker used the wind in the EU’s sails to voyage all the way to India with best pal Council leader Donald Tusk, where he said it’s time for a free trade deal with the Asian powerhouse.

The glyphosate debate just won’t go away. The EU’s health Commissioner told the member states to stop hiding behind the Commission and make progress.

MEPs weren’t impressed by the EU executive’s endocrine disruptor criteria and have sent it back to the drawing board. Bee-harming pesticides are reportedly in 75% of honey worldwide.

Have a read of our in-depth coverage of the biofuels debate in this Special Report that concluded today.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini missed out on the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons but was gracious in defeat.

Mogherini was up for the prize for her part in securing the Iran nuclear deal, which US President Donald Trump isn’t exactly a fan of.

Tweets of the Week is out! If you missed the teaser trailer for this week’s edition, check it out here too.

Catalonia and Spain dominated the headlines since Sunday’s referendum but we noticed that another, less obvious, issue is at play

Look out for…

Next week is #EURegionsWeek and Renovate Europe Day 2017 takes place on Tuesday, ahead of an important Parliament vote on Wednesday.

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