Wednesday

23rd Aug 2017

MEPs block budget approval for three EU agencies, EU Council

  • MEPs say it is inadmissible for the foreign service and the council's spending to escape parliamentary scrutiny (Photo: Stephen John Bryde)

The European Parliament on Thursday (10 May) decided to withhold approval on the 2010 accounts of three EU agencies marred by conflicts of interests.

The council of ministers, which is refusing to disclose the way it spends money, also got a red light.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The votes come one day after Diana Banaty, a top official, resigned from the EU food safety authority (Efsa) in Italy to go and work for the same food lobby outfit she was criticised for having been a member of two years ago.

The European Commission said that while the move was "not illegal," it was "against the spirit of independence of Efsa" and pledged to work with member states and the European Parliament on new "cooling-off periods" for agency staff.

The Socialists and the majority centre-right EPP group advised its members to vote against the Efsa budget block, but a total of 321 MEPs voted in favour anyway, while 306 opposed and 14 abstained.

Similarly close votes were registered in the case of the European Enviroment Agency, whose director was also a member of an NGO which was paid EU money to organise "training sessions" for EEA staff in the Caribbean.

The EEA 2010 budget block was approved with 329 votes in favour, while 291 were against and 20 abstained.

The London-based European Medicines Agency - where one director defected to industry, while another one resigned over a drugs scandal in France - was shamed by 340 votes in favour, 268 against and 14 abstentions.

"I know specialists are hard to find outside industry, this is a reality. But we need to have a proper management of the situation, including cooling periods and ensuring decisions taken by these people truly represent the public interest, not some other interests," Romanian centre-right MEP Monica Macovei, who drafted the parliament's position paper, told press after the vote.

She said agencies would have a few months time to implement new rules on recruitment and to publish the CVs of all their staff, directors and scientific experts.

Meanwhile, the Council of ministers - the body which prepares the meetings of EU diplomats, ministers and leaders - continued to say it has no obligation to open its books to MEPs, prompting a near-unanimous backlash:

614 voted in favour of postponing the budget discharge.

"The council still does not answer our questions, this is unacceptable," said German Liberal MEP Michael Theurer, who chairs the budgetary control committee.

The council says that back in the 1970s there was a gentleman's agreement that the two institutions would not peer into each others' books.

Theurer argues that the deal is out of date in the new-model assembly, where members are directly elected and have sweeping budgetary control powers over almost every other aspect of EU spending.

In 2009, the Spanish EU presidency for the first time admitted the gentlemen's agreement is obsolete. The Swedish EU presidency later found an "informal" way to answer the MEP's questions by publishing replies on its presidency website.

This year, the Danish EU presidency gave the same standard reply as scores of presidencies before them, however: the matter is out of its hands.

MEPs are especially keen to find out if the council has overspent on its €240-million glass-egg-type new headquarters, currently under cosntruction in Brussels.

They also want to know how money was being used in the newly-born European External Action Service, which in 2010 eluded normal scrutiny because it was just being set up as a hybrid commission-council entity.

MEPs divided on whether to punish EU agencies

MEPs are getting ready to vote on whether to punish three EU agencies for using public money for questionable purposes and for tolerating conflicts of interest.

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.

MEPs slam budgets of Council and EU police agency

The Council of Ministers, the EU institution representing member states, and the European Police College attracted sharp criticism from MEPs debating the EU's 2008 budget in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

Auditor: EU agencies may pose threat to safety

Conflicts of interest in four EU agencies authorising food, medicines, chemicals and aviation security standards might be putting people's safety at risk, an audit has shown.

Europeans more optimistic about EU since Brexit vote

Perceptions of the EU have increased significantly in France, and Europeans generally feel more optimistic about the future of the bloc since last autumn - despite Brexit and a surge in populism.

Opinion

Macron goes east to test appetite for EU integration

The next few months will be decisive in selecting who stays in the core of the EU and who stays behind, writes Tomas Prouza, a former state secretary for European Affairs of the Czech Republic.

News in Brief

  1. Air Berlin insolvency talks begin amid 'stitch-up' accusation
  2. EU calls on Serbia and Macedonia to remain calm
  3. Schulz wants US to remove nuclear weapons from Germany
  4. Ukraine and Russia to announce another ceasefire
  5. EU to investigate Monsanto-Bayer merger
  6. US will ask Nato allies to send more troops into Afghanistan
  7. Greece to be absent at event on Communism and Nazism
  8. Czechs want observer status in Eurogroup meetings

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference