I would begin by emphasising some of the remarks made in this Chamber today regarding our concern about EU accounting. That concern is more widespread than I can recall on any previous occasion.
Looking at Annex 3 of the Communication from the Commission, I am particularly concerned to see that the Prodi Commission is claiming great success in this area. Its commitment to achieve a broad programme of internal reform includes agreeing a new financial regulation for the management of Community funds. However, there is nothing new about the Eurostat crisis or the background to it, while the Court of Auditors have been unable to sign off the accounts for nine successive years.
Let us not say that Parliament is suddenly completely in the clear over this. Parliament has, notwithstanding the approach taken by the Court of Auditors, passed those accounts year-in year-out, so there is no doubt whatsoever that the Commission has been led to the view that these were not matters of sufficiently high concern to Parliament. If that has changed I welcome it. Why do I welcome it? Because at this moment EU citizens regard the Commission as synonymous with negatives as regards fraud, maladministration and shoddy accounting.
I very much regret that and take the view that the European Union's image should be improved. We look to the Commission to address that issue. How can it do this? Very simply by addressing the concerns that have been raised, by not disregarding those concerns and by taking action in relation to the position of the whistleblowers who have drawn them to public attention. There are currently three such persons who have been suspended from their duties.
I call on the Commissioner to take action to ensure that those people who have drawn attention to the scandals relating to EU accounting, and whose current suspension is completely misunderstood by the people of Europe, are restored to the role of clearing up the EU's accounts.