On Friday a delegation of 6 MEPs concluded a fact-finding mission in Italy, gaining a first-hand insight into systems to protect the EU agricultural and recovery and resilience funds.

A delegation of the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee, led by Chair Monika Hohlmeier (EPP, Germany), visited Rome from 25 to 27 May, in order to look into alleged breaches of labour standards and the mafia’s involvement in disbursing the EU’s agricultural subsidies, and well as the control systems set up to protect the NextGenerationEU funds.

Governance of the EU recovery funds

During their visit, MEPs gained insight into governance systems and procedures set up to prevent fraud, conflict of interest and infiltration of organized crime while implementing the EU recovery and resilience funds. They met services in the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance responsible for implementation of the national recovery and resilience programme, as well as with the Inspectorate General for Financial Relations with the European Union, audit and anti-corruption officials at State Accounting Office as well as the specialized police group “Guardia di Finanza”.

They learned about efforts to counter the organized crime in meetings with the European Delegated Prosecutor in Rome, National Anti-Mafia Directorate and the police forces (Carabinieri, State Police and Department of Public Security).

They also listened to the presentation about the risk analysis developed within the Next GenerationEU Law Enforcement Forum from the Department of Public Security and Europol, with specific focus on the aggression of organized crime to national and community resources.

“The monitoring and control mechanisms of the EU funds appear to be very structured and comprehensive. In case of the national recovery and resilience programme, these are built on a solid basis of cooperation and coordination between authorities with a great variety of skills and professionalism. There are interesting indications of deployment of good practices in governance of the national recovery plan that still need to be tested in the course implementation,” said Monika Hohlmeier.

“When it comes to tackling organised crime, the mission has seen the excellent work of many Italian Authorities coordinating their efforts and setting a paradigm which is, so far and to a large extent, unique, and that Italy is available to share with other Member states and partners”, she added.

Irregularities in implementation of EU agricultural funds

The delegation also looked into alleged disbursement of EU agricultural funds to suspicious economic operators or farmers in close proximity to mafia-type criminal organizations. They met with members of state initiative “Table on the caporalato” at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and exchanged with the Italian agency for disbursements in agriculture on the actions carried out and on those still to be developed.

“There is the awareness that mafia infiltrations in the agri-food supply chain and in the management of the supply and demand of work (through the practice of “caporalato” – illegal hiring) move an illegal and underground economy. We received clarifications on the phenomenon of illegal hiring and illegal work fuelled by unregistered immigrants, social contribution irregularities and exploitation of vulnerable individuals who represent an underpaid and unskilled labour supply pool”, said Hohlmeier.

“The action carried out in the agricultural sector requires further analysis. We were not provided with the expected level of clarification and will request additional information, in particular about the role of the Italian agricultural paying agency”, she concluded.

Members of the delegation

Monika Hohlmeier (EPP, Germany) – Head of delegation, Isabel García Muñoz (S&D, Spain), Matteo Adinolfi (ID, Italy), Tomáš Zdechovský (EPP, Czech Republic), Caterina Chinnici (S&D, Italy), Sabrina Pignedoli (NI, Italy).