In its 1993 annual report, the Court of Auditors lists alleged irregularities in the management and performance of PHARE and TACIS, the EU's assistance programmes to Central and Eastern Europe and the New Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union. The Commission has expressed its disappointment that the Court has not sufficiently emphasized the overwhelming evidence of the considerable improvements in the design and running of both programmes. The Commission considers that the majority of the Court's criticisms are either misleading or by now outdated, or reflect an insufficient understanding either of how the programmes work or of the specific circumstances on the ground in the recipient countries. In response to the charge that there is too little involvement of recipient countries, the Commission insists that this cannot be substantiated. Recipients are fully involved at every stage. Individual problems cited in the Court's report usually arose because recipient countries changed their national priorities midway through the project, not because of lack of dialogue with the Commission. They now have even more weight in decision-making, as they can help decide precisely how the final projects are designed and can help select the contractors for each project. In addition, PHARE and TACIS are making increasing use of local staff and expertise. The Commission also says that a number of the allegations are outdated, such as the one claiming that there is no monitoring or evaluation of the programmes. Internal and external monitoring and evaluation systems for both PHARE and TACIS were set up at the end of 1993 and beginning of 1994. It is no longer true that programmes get off to a very slow start every year. The Commission has now introduced multiannual programmes which allow it to set priorities at a much earlier stage and thus start designing projects which can be put out to tender within the same budget year. In addition, running complex programmes in a wide variety of countries inevitably requires administrations both to manage the programme and to ensure the appropriate accountability for the use of European taxpayers' money. In some countries, the Commission is criticized by the Court for using operational funds to finance local offices to administer its assistance programmes. This is done in countries where the Commission has no official presence through a delegation. In the countries referred to by the Court (Albania, Romania and Slovakia), delegations have been or will shortly be opened. However, the Commission's budget does not allow it to have an official presence in all countries. The Court claims that Commission food aid undercut food prices in the Baltic States, harming small traders. This is completely false. In fact, prices were already well below world levels, and so the Commission and the Baltic States agreed on a higher minimum price to prevent former State-owned enterprises from colluding to push prices down and drive the fledgling private sector out of business.
Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Belarus, Czechia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan