Tuesday

17th Jul 2018

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

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.

Investigation

Commission accused of cherry picking job applicants

A pilot project scheme is giving preferential treatment for interns to land highly sought-after jobs at the European Commission - bypassing the lengthy open competition for everyone else seeking the same position.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. EU and Japan wave light in Trump's 'darkness'
  2. How Israel silences Palestine in EU circles
  3. Putin asks Trump to go after British activist
  4. May caves in to Brexiteer demands, risking 'no deal'
  5. EU and China agree on words, not yet on action
  6. EU is 'foe', as Trump seeks to make friends with Putin
  7. Let's not be 'naive' with Chinese partner, says senior MEP
  8. Trump, trade, and Brexit in EU headlines This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us