Saturday

19th Sep 2020

MEPs slam budgets of Council and EU police agency

  • Many MEPs could not make this week's plenary session (Photo: EUobserver)

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 (21 April).

The debate centered round a number of budgetary reports presented by members of parliament's budgetary control committee, with Green MEP Bart Staes accusing the chamber's centre-right grouping of obstructing his analysis of parliament's own expenditure.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Under the EU treaties, parliament is charged with signing off on EU budgetary expenditure, a process known as the budgetary discharge. With MEPs set to vote on the subject early next month (5-6 May), the author of the report on the council suggested MEPs postpone their vote on that institution until October.

"The Council leaves a lot to be desired when we talk about budgetary matters," said Conservative MEP Ryszard Czarnecki. "Certain aspects of the common foreign and security policy are still not clear, the budgetary measures and accounts are still not clear."

Irregularities in the council procurement procedure were also unsatisfactory, said the Polish politician, as was the fact that some of the documents handed to the parliament related to 2007 and not 2008. Council's budget in 2008 was €743 million.

As the debate started up, general disapproval was expressed around the almost empty chamber that no representative from the Council appeared to be present. However, the Spanish secretary of state for the EU, Diego Lopez Garrido showed up half an hour late. "You see how good this fantastic power is," said parliament's president Jerzy Buzek jokingly, referring to the EU's new Lisbon Treaty.

Agencies

The EU's many decentralised agencies were generally commended for their good work by parliament's rapporteur, centre-right MEP Véronique Mathieu, but she was highly critical of the European Police College (CEPOL).

The UK-based college brings together senior police officers across Europe with the aim of encouraging cross-border co-operation in the fight against crime. Its budget in 2008 was €8.7 million.

"The audit carried out shows there are irregularities, blatant ones, in terms of administration and finance, and that's why we would like to defer discharge," said Ms Mathieu.

The EU's anti-fraud body, OLAF, is currently investigating allegations that CEPOL employees used work mobile phones, transport options and furniture for private use.

The French MEP outlined how EU agencies have grown rapidly over the past decade due to the need for greater expertise in the face of new challenges and an enlarged EU.

Over the decade from 2000 to 2010, agency budgets have risen from €95 million to €569 million, while staff numbers have climbed from 1,219 to 4,794.

In a statement CEPOL said: "The problems experienced by the agency will be fully addressed and resolved so that CEPOL can concentrate on fulfilling its important operational mission." It also stressed that the 2008 management team has since been replaced.

Self-critical parliament?

Green MEP Bart Staes suggested to MEPs that they approve their own €1.4 billion expenditure for 2008, but said a number of problems remained, not least the issue of self-verification.

While improvements had been made in cutting the parliament's costs, Mr Staes said the legislature's secretary-general should seek a second opinion before giving his backing of parliament's expenditure.

The Belgian deputy indicated improvements needed to be made in the field of public procurements, adding that taxpayers should not be made to bail out the legislature's private pension fund which currently has a deficit of €120 million.

"My report is intended to make sure that when we go back to the polls in 2013, we have got rid of all the scandals, large and small, and we area not harassed by that kind of unsavory reporting in the press," he told the rows of empty seats.

Flight disruptions caused by ash spewing from one of Iceland's volcanos has prevented many deputies from making this week's plenary session, although MEPs are not famed for their great attendance record.

Mr Staes also accused certain elements of the parliament of obstructing his work. "I tried to co-operate with shadow rapporteurs ... but there were about 50 amendments from the [centre-right] European Peoples' Party to delete large parts of my report."

Commission

The large bulk of the EU budget, €129 billion in 2008, is administered by the European Commission, although most of this money is then spent by the member states, for example in helping to boost the economies of poorer regions, known as cohesion funding.

The report of centre-left MEP Bogusław Liberadzki draws attention to this area saying the committee: "Is concerned that errors in the area of cohesion funding indicate that at least 11 percent of the total amount reimbursed should not have been paid out."

The mis-spending in this area ranged from cases of fraud to officials simply ticking the wrong box, with the need to for greater member state co-operation stressed by centre-left MEP Jens Geier, standing in for Mr Liberadzki who was trapped in Poland.

Parliament's budgetary control committee played a role in toppling the former commission of Jacques Santer in 1999, but MEPs are likely to approve the executive's 2008 budget when they meet next month.

Analysis

The State of the Union speech - digested

The 61-year old former German defence minister, who only narrowly won the backing of MEPs last year, outlined not a vision, but an ambitious list of policies to tackle - including more health care competencies to the EU.

EU regions: pandemic should force decision-making rethink

EU regions say the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe is a "timely opportunity" to debate how to make local and regional authorities full- involved in the EU response to Covid-19 - even including possible EU treaty changes.

Exclusive

Far-right MEP resigns from EU Endowment for Democracy

French far-right MEP Thierry Mariani said he is resigning as a board member of the European Endowment for Democracy. His replacement may be Jerome Riviere - another far-right French MEP from the Identity and Democracy group.

Irish MEP picked as new finance commissioner

Mairead McGuinness's nomination will have to be signed off by the European Parliament, where the Irish MEP is a well-respected first vice-president of the assembly.

Study shows how authoritarian regimes gain EU leverage

Currently, only 20 percent of MEPs show tendencies to support authoritarian powers - but that could change after the pandemic, a new study warns. It also calls for an improved vetting of MEPs, tougher lobbying rules, and better cybersecurity.

News in Brief

  1. Belarus president puts army on EU borders
  2. US: Lebanese group hoarding explosives in EU states
  3. Russia loses EU sanctions appeal
  4. UK guidelines explain Brexit treaty-violation plan
  5. Over 10,000 corona cases a day in France
  6. Greek police move Moria refugees following fire
  7. WHO warns Europe not to cut 14-day quarantine period
  8. MEPs urge EU Council to 'finally' protect rights in Poland

Opinion

Why so few women in EU missions?

Angela Merkel is only the seventh woman to chair the Council of the European Union's meetings. And in 2020 there is no woman leading any of the current 11 European civilian missions (let alone the six military operations).

Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recorded a video in support of Croatia's ruling party, which the EU executive said was in her "personal capacity" - and admits it was a "mistake" that this was not made clear.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Commissioner: No one will like new EU migration pact
  2. Buying an EU passport 'no use for evading sanctions'
  3. MEPs call for first-ever EU law on Romani inclusion
  4. EU to help draft Libya's strategy on border security
  5. Spain to recognise Kosovo if it gets Serbia deal
  6. Ylva Johansson on Migration and Drama Queens
  7. Does Erdoğan's long arm now reach Belgian universities?
  8. Biden threatens UK trade deal over Brexit shambles

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us