Blogging donkey panned as wasteful EU spending

November 12, 2009

By Neil Clarkson


Asino the blogging donkey.

A blogging donkey named Asino, part of a €7 million project, has been highlighted as a wasteful use of European Union money by an independent think tank.

Open Europe put the Donkeypedia project fourth in its list of top 10 projects which it said wasted money.

The organisation, with offices in London and Brussels, also provided details of what it considered to be 50 new examples of EU waste to illustrate its point.

It described Donkeypedia is an art education project, run as part of the EU's €7 million "Year of Intercultural Dialogue".

The donkey travels through the Netherlands, and primary school children meet and greet the donkey.

The stated aim of the project was to create "a reflection of all European identities. What are the similarities, what are the differences? What is it that makes Europe as unique as it is? Donkeypedia will try to make this feeling tangible by interacting and in dialogue with its surroundings while walking a European route through several countries and collecting data to support this image".

Asino maintained a blog throughout the walk.

One entry said: "We started really early today, Cristian slept in a bed in a house. It was a crazy morning waking up. I was under a chestnut tree sleeping in sand, when I opened my eyes there were animals all looking at me. I was embarrassed! Now I understand a little how people from different cultures may feel in the Netherlands."

Open Europe's release of the list conincided with the EU's accountants - the European Court of Auditors - refusing to give the EU's accounts a clean bill of health for the 15th year in a row, owing to fraud and mismanagement in the budget.

Like last year, the auditors did sign off the accounts of the European Commission (the executive of the EU), saying that they accurately represented how much money was raised and spent.

"However, the most important issue is the fact that the EU budget is hugely wasteful and irrational in terms of what the money is actually spent on, and where the money is spent," the group said.

It said its list of 50 projects is by no means comprehensive, but designed to show the types of peculiar projects on which EU money has been wasted in the past.

"They give a light-hearted illustration of what is wrong with the EU budget, and the need for fundamental reform," it said.

Open Europe research director Mats Persson said the commission tries to put the blame for fraud and waste on the member states, but the real problem is the EU budget itself.

"The EU's spending programmes are overly complex, irrational and hopelessly out of date. Until they are subject to root-and-branch reforms, or scrapped altogether, waste and fraud will continue.

"Too often, EU money is wasted on inefficient projects which are based on unrealistic expectations or for which there is no real demand.

"Because of the way the EU's spending schemes are set up, bizarre or wasteful projects can receive funding which never would have received money if subject only to national spending priorities. Unfortunately, the focus of the EU budget is to get the money out of the door, not to spend the money wisely."

"Surely, in a recession, we can think of better ways to spend £100 billon a year?"