September 28, 2003

HOW THEY TREAT WHISTLEBLOWERS AT THE E.U.:

Robert McCoy has brought to light fraud and corruption within the EU. Now, in a letter seen by David Wastell, he reveals how he was vilified by Brussels for his efforts

He has worked for the European Union for more than 30 years. His friends regard him as an upright and loyal bureaucrat, keen to uphold the EU’s name against its critics, whether in Brussels or back home in Britain.

Yet Robert McCoy must steel himself before he walks the corridors of his own EU institution. If he is lucky, senior colleagues at the glass and concrete headquarters of the Committee of the Regions – a Brussels talking-shop for local government representatives, set up under the Maastricht Treaty – merely ignore him, turning their heads ostentatiously as he passes.

If not, he may be on the receiving end of abuse. “Gestapo! Gestapo!” angry fellow workers once taunted him. One manager spat on the floor as he walked by, friends say. . . .

Mr McCoy’s offence – as it was apparently regarded by some EU staff and politicians – was to stumble upon, investigate and then seek to correct a series of financial irregularities within the Committee of the Regions (CoR), whose annual budget is €38 million (£27 million).

Last week the European Union was thrown into a frenzy when a trio of official reports confirmed the existence of secret bank accounts, bogus contracts and other accounting malpractices at Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, over the past five years.

Shocking treatment. You’d almost think that sort of corruption was regarded as acceptable, and even defensible.