As UK’s jails suffer underfunding, Brussels spent millions on two new prisons in the western Balkans
Whilst the UK’s jails continue to spiral into a shocking state of decline and neglect due to chronic underfunding, Brussels has splurged millions building two shiny new detention facilities in the western Balkans.
Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are not even members of the bloc, have been lavished with astonishing amounts of European taxpayers’ cash as part of eurocrats’ long-term ambitions to expand the EU’s borders.
Brussels blew an eye-watering £4.3 billion on ‘pre-accession aid’ for seven western Balkans states between 2007 and 2014, landing struggling British taxpayers with a mammoth £516 million bill for their troubles.
And today a new audit report released by the EU authorities reveals exactly how the cash was spent, with the revelations that some of it went towards building two jails causing consternation amongst those concerned about the UK’s crumbling detention system.
Why is our money being spent abroad when demonstrably it is needed here?
Jane Collins – Ukip
Ukip’s home affairs spokeswoman Jane Collins MEP said the allocation of money to prisons in Albania and Bosnia "is a misuse of British tax payers' money particularly at a time when UK prisons are in a disastrous state”.
She added: “We have prisons which are secure facilities in name only, with cuts being made by the government which are putting prison officers' lives in danger and turning supposed correctional institutions into drug dens where lags rule the roost.
"So why is our money being spent abroad when demonstrably it is needed here? The Prisons Minister needs to explain just how the situation has reached this crisis point.”
EU spent £4.3 billion on ‘pre-accession aid’ for 7 western Balkans states from 2007 – 2014
The dossier, produced by the European Court of Auditors, chronicles how eurocrats diverted cash towards two jail-building projects as part of the fight against corruption in the region.
A photograph in the report proudly displays shiny white cells and a sparkling corridor at a brand new prison facility in Fier, southern Albania, which cost EU taxpayers £8.2m.
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The image is in stark contrast to those broadcast by the BBC’s investigative Panorama programme last night, which revealed widespread disorder and breached security fences at HMP Northumberland.
Ministers are currently in the process of cutting £500m from the prisons budget, with jail governors being ordered to slash spending by a staggering £149m a year.
According to the report eurocrats also spent a further £4.4m aiding the second phase of the construction of a “high security state prison” in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.
In total the project was expected to cost around £18m, with the Bosnian government stumping up just £1m and European taxpayers underwriting a further £8m through a loan from the European Central Bank.
Jane Collins Ukip MEP said money spent on prisons in Albania and Bosnia "is a misuse’ of tax payers'
A bank dossier, compiled in 2008 before the funds were approved, said that the jail would be used for the detention of war criminals and those accused of economic crimes like money laundering.
In total Bosnia received £487m in pre-accession aid, despite being described by a recent EU parliament report as a country where “corruption, including at the highest level, continues to be widespread”.
Much of the cash went towards strengthening the country’s institutions ahead of a membership application to the bloc, including £3m for “enhancing the capacity of its parliaments in the context of EU accession”.
Meanwhile Albania, which is closer to being ready for EU membership, received £450m to help its government overcome corruption and fight organised crime which is run by smuggling gangs.
But the biggest recipient of cash was Serbia, which is closest to joining the bloc and is in negotiations with Brussels. The country received £1.1bn over the seven year period.
However, an EU Commission spokesman confirmed that none of the western Balkans nations will be ready to join the bloc before Jean-Claude Juncker’s term as EU boss ends in 2019.
Secretary of State for Justice Liz Truss Birmingham Prison Riot Fri, December 16, 2016
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The six countries involved in the scheme – Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia, Albania and Montenegro – are scheduled to receive around £10bn as part of the second tranche of funding for 2014-2020.
In their report, the auditors concluded that EU funding had been “broadly effective and…partly strengthened administrative capacity in the region, despite considerable shortcomings inherent to the national authorities”.
They added that the £8.2m prison project in Fier, Albania, had been an example of successful spending, adding that it was “delivered on time and according to contract specifications”.
In its response to their report the EU Commission said: “The enlargement process is a strict but fair process built on established criteria and lessons learned from the past.
“Each country is assessed on the basis of its own merit. Conditionality has been applied, where appropriate, and at the appropriate level, to achieve the maximum possible impact of the enlargement policy objectives, in often difficult political contexts.”
It added: “Funding provided in the relevant sectors was appropriate, given the relatively limited amount of large-scale investments required and the limits posed by the existing absorption capacity.”
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