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Europe’s hidden billions – tracking the EU’s structural funds

LONDON: The Financial Times, in collaboration with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, has for the first time traced how the European Union distributes billions through its structural funds, revealing a trail of undetected waste, missed opportunity and even fraud.

As Europeans face the uncertainty of swingeing government cuts, the European Union continues to spend. Its structural fund programme distributes a colossal €347bn of European tax payers’ money across 271 regions in 27 countries. Yet a web of bureaucracy makes it almost impossible to track how the EU’s second largest budget is being spent. Even MEPs have not had a truly transparent view of the data.

Over eight months the Financial Times, in collaboration with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, has created a unique database that traces every penny distributed under the EU’s structural funds programme to date.  The research collates information on 646,929 beneficiaries across all 27 member states, to provide a clear view of the EU’s second largest budget.

The research shows how big businesses are accessing grants, despite the fact that the structural funds are intended to provide a helping hand to Europe’s weakest members and smallest businesses. It also shows how EU funds have poured cash into the hands of the Italian mafia.

The key findings will be revealed in the Financial Times over five days from November 30 at www.ft.com/eu-funds and on the Bureau’s website www.thebureauinvestigates.com.

Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, said: “Our joint investigation raises serious questions about the way the EU allocates development funds in an age of austerity. The European Commission and the EU’s 27 member states need to ensure more transparency and greater accountability over how billions of euros of European taxpayers’ money are spent.”

Iain Overton, Editor at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, City University, explains the importance of the database: “In an age of austerity we need to ensure that every penny counts. The EU hands out nearly €350bn, and yet the distribution of these funds has remained opaque. Even MEPs haven’t had access to the detail. Our database shines new light on how the money is spent.”

For further information please contact:

Iain Overton
Editor at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism
E: iainoverton@tbij.com
M: 07773078905

Kristina Eriksson
Communications Manager
Financial Times
E: kristina.eriksson@ft.com
T: +44 20 7873 4961

Notes to editors:

About the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is a not-for-profit organisation run out of City University. It has received a £2 million grant from the Potter Foundation to help bolster original, investigative journalism.

About the Financial Times

The Financial Times, one of the world’s leading business news organisations, is recognised internationally for its authority, integrity and accuracy. Providing essential news, comment, data and analysis for the global business community, the FT has a combined paid print and digital circulation of 579,249 (Deloitte assured, September 2010) and a combined print and online average daily readership of 1.9 million people worldwide (PwC assured, May 2010). FT.com has three million registered users and the FT has 189,022 paying digital subscribers. The newspaper, printed at 24 print sites across the globe, has a daily circulation of 401,898 (ABC figures October 2010).

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