Monday, 9 August 2010

"Keep fighting - I am with you!" - interview with Marta Andreasen

“Keep fighting - I am with you!”

A controversial and outspoken MEP with a social conscience, Marta Andreasen is not afraid to tell it like it is. Going public about injustices inside and outside of the European Parliament – even when it cost the MEP her livelihood – and her determination not to be beaten when human rights are at stake makes her a force to be reckoned with in the ongoing war against the various land grab laws...

This week, the Costa Blanca News was given an exclusive interview with Marta Andreasen, MEP, who is one of the main driving forces behind the EU's campaign to eradicate abusive land laws that deprive expatriates and natives alike of their homes and life's savings. A staunch defender of human rights and no stranger to controversy after her public 'outing' of dubious fund management within the EU cost her her job, the head of the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) tells us why she has little faith in the European Court of Justice, why she thinks European funds should be withdrawn from some of Spain's autonomous regions, and why she will never give up the fight to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of property-owners who could face losing everything.

You were voted Personality of the Year by Accounting Age magazine in 2003. Can you tell us more about your history as a whistle blower, including back when she worked as an auditor in the EU Commission?

I was hired as the Chief Accountant of the European Commission back in January 2002. I was hopeful that by that time the administrative reform that was promised after the resignation of the Santer Commission on allegations of fraud, nepotism and financial mismanagement (1999) was very much a reality and I would contribute to its completion and implementation. What I found was that the most basic controls on the use of EU funds were missing and that the reform had not even started. I asked for support from the Commissioners but all I got was pressure to sign accounts that I did not consider reliable. Then Lord Kinnock announced his intention to remove my Chief Accountant responsibility and give me another – less visible – job. I rejected his offer on the basis that I was acting in line with my professional duty and in defence of European taxpayers. I was then suspended and finally sacked. I have not given up on the fight for transparency and accountability on the use of EU funds and that fight has convinced me that the EU is not sincere about its motives nor does it give adequate consideration to the interests of European people.

Since Spain, and in particular Valencia, have tried to bury any external criticism of their predatory laws and practices - most notably last year's Auken report - approved by the full EU Parliament - do you believe it will be possible to freeze some, or all, of the EU subventions to Spain, because of these violations of human rights and the environment because of land grabs, massive over-development, and so on?

Auken's report focused on the environmental matters and only dealt collaterally with the land grabs. While it is true that the report called for the suspension of EU funding, there was no resolution to implement this measure. The European Commission and the European Parliament have made efforts to avoid intervention on the argument that 'it is a domestic issue'. Now that the Lisbon Treaty has been ratified and the EU has embraced the Charter of fundamental rights, it is going to be very difficult for them to ignore a violation of human rights like the one happening in Spain in relation to the land grab. Fighting from this angle, and considering that Spain will most probably need financial rescue from the EU, I have pushed forward the argument that the EU should not help the Spanish government in as much as it does nothing to protect fundamental rights. I believe this will give the Commission and Parliament (a motive and justification) to act.

How much support do you have in this respect?

I am gaining support every day. It is not an easy task as many are prepared to speak strong words against this situation but few are ready to demand action, notably the suspension of funding. But I will get there.

Has there been a review of how Spain has accounted for past subventions amounting to many billions of euros over the past 15 years? If not, why not?

The review is made by the Court of Auditors for all the member states, Spain is identified as one of the countries where 'errors' ( new word for irregularities) happen more frequently.

But I am conducting my own review and have at present identified examples where these 'errors' are linked to land grab cases. I will make these public once I have gathered all the necessary evidence. I am sure that this will make it more urgent for the EU institutions to suspend funding to the regions where this is taking place.

Since Spain has been dragged before that court quite possibly more often than any other EU member, have these fines been paid?

As far as I am aware, there are many cases identified in the past decade where Spain is still failing to return the funds that have not been properly spent. It is the responsibility of the European Commission to take action on this but they have not proved to be very forceful, and maybe therein lies the fundamental problem. The European Commission has the power - granted by the treaties - to suspend further funding until the member state returns the money if proved to have been misappropriated, but it rarely, if ever, uses this alternative.

Would you - your UKIP reservations notwithstanding - support complaints going to the European Commission with a view to taking these issues to the European Court of Justice?

I do not trust the European Court of Justice and I am speaking out of my own experience. My reservations in regards the EU institutions were borne out of my experience and are the ones that caused me to become a Eurosceptic and join the UKIP. Consequently I could never recommend anybody to take their complaints to this court. In addition people should know that the ECJ does not handle complaints from individuals but only from organisations and member states. The only cases handled by the ECJ that relate to individuals are those that occur within the EU institutions. The court the people should complain to is the European Court of Human Rights which is not - for the time being - an EU institution but is related instead to the Council of Europe ( which is different to the European Council, an EU institution).

If the UKIP ever got into power and they withdrew from the European Union, as they state in their manifesto, where would that leave British citizens living in Spain? How can you claim to protect the rights of British citizens abroad, when the party you represent wants to take all those rights away at a stroke?

I will start by the last part of the question to explain where I stand and where UKIP stands. It is totally untrue to state that UKIP “wants to take away the rights of the British citizens abroad at a stroke.” The right to private property and reasonable compensation in case of forced expropriation is a human right that must be defended whether in or out of the EU. Therefore leaving the EU will not affect the defence of the British citizens' rights at all even if the violation takes place in a country different from the UK. This argument which is false can only come from Europhiles who look to confuse people about their true motives.

The fact that this matter is brought to the attention of the European Parliament does not mean the EU will grant any special attention to such violation, on the contrary they are looking to find a way to exclude it from its competence.

People have voted for me and for UKIP because they wanted us to fight for withdrawal. But in the meantime I will fight to defend the interests of my constituents by blocking EU legislation that is harmful or by taking action against any prejudice they should suffer. And that is why I have taken to fight for this cause and my fight is conducted precisely for the same arguments that we have for withdrawal: one of which is the waste of British taxpayers´ money. At the same time, the hypocrisy about the protection of human rights becomes evident in the lack of action of the EU in resolving the matter.

The Consulate's new service provided is only in Spanish and valenciano. Is this another facile trick to dodge the real bullet? What do you think of that?

Indeed this may be another "facile trick to dodge the real bullet,” and this does not surprise me at all.

Do you think there is any likelihood of a solution for the tens of thousands of property-owners out there who face losing everything?

I think there should be and that is why I have undertaken this fight so seriously and energetically. I trust the crisis we are all going through, which is affecting Spain in particular, will force the Spanish authorities to look for a solution that will help construction and tourism - two of the few industries left - to turn around and start growing again. This problem may be affecting half a million families of all nationalities and in as much as we keep up the pressure there is hope for a solution in the short term. So my message is: keep fighting, I am with you!

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