Tuesday

30th May 2017

EU agencies rebuked over spending

An MEP tasked with looking at how EU money is spent in the bloc's 24 independent agencies has caused a stir with her preliminary findings on conflicts of interest and questions about whether the agencies are useful.

With a total budget of €1.5 billion, some of the 24 independent agencies have real powers such as certifying chemicals in use in the EU or establishing binding aviation standards, others a purely advisory role on issues ranging from gender studies to health at work.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Monica Macovei is questioning whether all these EU agencies are needed (Photo: European Parliament)

They were all established because member states decided so - most of them in the past ten years. Apart from checking how they manage their accounts, Romanian MEP Monica Macovei - a former justice minister and anti-corruption campaigner - says the very existence of some of these agencies should be questioned when they only produce reports.

"The main objective of this report is to have a clear picture of the usefulness of these agencies from a cost-efficiency point of view and to start the discussion if we really need all these agencies at a time of austerity and budget cuts," she told a press conference on Wednesday (29 February).

Four of the agencies - dealing with food safety, aviation safety, chemicals registration and medicines registration - are also on her radar due as they have staff recruited directly from industry.

With agencies claiming that experts outside the industry are hard to find, Macovei during a heated debate earlier on Wednesday insisted that this is no excuse for potentially endangering public health. If someone has worked for a company, they should not be allowed to certify the products of that company, says the deputy.

The European Court of Auditors is set to issue a report by the end of June on conflict of interests at these four agencies - the European Food Safety Authority based in Parma (Italy), the European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki (Finland), the European Aviation Safety Agency in Cologne (Germany) and the London-based European Medicines Agency.

The European Parliament may not sign off their accounts for 2010 - which would scarcely affect their day-to-day business, but would trigger increased scrutiny and possible resignations. This happened in 2010 with the UK-based police training agency (Cepol) where EU funding was used to buy personal phones and furniture. Following the management change, Cepol this year was the only agency with zero accountancy errors, the Court of Auditors found.

Fighting back

In response to Macovei's draft report - which can still be changed by next Monday and has to be approved by the entire Parliament mid-May - EU agencies have written a joint letter deploring the "unduly negative tone" of the paper.

"Even if some weaknesses have been detected in the financial and budgetary management by individual agencies the allegations that they are potentially linked to fraud and corruption are in our view unfounded as no additional information is given that would feed that suspicion," the letter reads.

During Wednesday's debate, one of the agency directors - Jacqueline McGlade from the Copenhagen-based European Environment Agency - said that if the reputation of her institution was tainted by the final form of the report, "it would have serious consequences for the EU reputation as a whole, just as it tries to establish itself as a world leader for the low carbon economy."

Macovei, however, seemed undeterred: "The reputation of the Union is not identical to the reputation of its agencies. Part of that reputation is also how we use the money. Maybe some agencies were created at a time when there was plenty of money. But we have to ask the question now if we need all these agencies with the same size and budget."

Auditor: EU agencies mismanaging their budgets

A report by the European Court of Auditors has found several problems in the way EU's 31 agencies manage their budgets. The findings are likely to fuel the debate about the usefulness of these bodies at times of austerity.

EU agency under scrutiny for Caribbean trips

MEPs have questioned why the EU environment agency held staff training in the Caribbean and Mediterranean and spent €300,000 on decorating its headquarters with plants.

EUobserved

Scramble for UK agencies paves way for Trumpian claims

The Spanish health minister this week bragged that Barcelona was “the best city”, had “the best building”, and “the best infrastructure” to host the EU's medicines agency post-Brexit.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhat's Going on in Catalonia? Join the Debate on 8 June
  2. Swedish EnterprisesDo We Need a More Social Europe? A Lively Debate Awaits You on 7 June
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersDiscover the Role of Feminism in the Peripheries of Europe on 9 June
  4. Malta EU 2017EU Group Launched to Focus on Priorities and Policies Concerning Children
  5. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  7. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  8. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  9. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  10. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  11. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  12. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade

Latest News

  1. Macron and Putin hold uneasy first talks
  2. From Greece to Scotland, we stand by Europe
  3. Juncker keen to build EU 'bridge' to Trump
  4. Ministers water down post-Dieselgate reform
  5. Club de combat: des espions russes recherchent des recrues européennes
  6. Judges refuse to 'let go' of Le Pen's fake jobs case
  7. Merkel: Europe cannot rely on its allies anymore
  8. Macron to tell Putin EU sanctions to stay