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19th Oct 2019

Commission tells EU institutions to cut costs

  • Commission asks EU institutions to refrain from increasing expenditure budgets (Photo: Domiriel)

Without signalling out any one EU institution in particular, the European Commission has requested they all refrain from bloating 2013 expenditure budgets as a response to the austerity measures netted out upon the rest of Europe.

The EU budget commissioner Janusz Lewandowski sent a letter to all respective EU chiefs stating that they should “make all possible efforts towards limiting expenditure in preparing their own estimates for the draft budget 2013.”

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Among the letter's recipients was EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton of the European External Action Service (EEAS). When it was launched in December 2010, the diplomatic service quickly buckled under considerable budgetary constraints.

“The original budget of the EEAS in year one was insufficient to meet the running costs,” EEAS spokesperson Michael Mann wrote this website in an email. The EEAS had to increase its budget by €26.9 million for 2012 to help pay staff and run its daily operational activities.

For its part, the commission intends to reduce its staff by 1 percent in 2013 with an estimated saving of around €20 million.

“It is of the utmost importance to continue to demonstrate that the EU institutions are acting responsibly in the current climate of austerity,” the commissioner told reporters on Monday (23 January). Lewandowski had made a similar statement in February last year urging the EU institutions to cut IT, publication and travel among other costs.

The commission froze its expenditure increases in 2011 and aims to do same for the 2012, while other institutions either increased or even dropped their own expenditure budgets.

Indeed, the European Council went from €563 million in 2011 to €538 million for this year. The European Parliament, on the other hand, increased its budget expenditure from €1.68 billion to €1.72 billion due in part to translation costs and the addition of Croatia as a new member state.

The EEAS, however, represents a tiny fraction of the overall EU budget but is mandated to set EU foreign policy through joint-missions with non-EU states and its 136 over-sea delegations.

Understaffed and widely criticized for failing to achieve EU foreign policy coherence, the service even struggled to fill vacant positions amid reports that around 60 had quit only months into their contracts.

“I would not want to be dragged into extrapolating on the possible consequences of what possible measures some institutions might take. It is for each of them to decide how best to show the message to the EU taxpayers that the EU institutions do not act in a business as usual way, that they voluntarily show savings as is the case in many member states,” responded Lewandowski’s spokesperson in an email when asked if the announcement was a veiled slight at the increased expenditure budgets of the European Parliament and the EEAS.

In 2011, the EEAS pocketed €464 million and divided the budget between its headquarters in Brussels and its numerous delegations. The EEAS also managed € 253 million on behalf of the commission for administrative expenses linked to commission staff in delegations.

“We are aiming to make the EEAS as cost-efficient as possible. We have made efficiency gains from the merging of the services, and are currently doing a review of mission expenditure for our delegations," wrote the EEAS spokesperson adding that the service is making every effort to “maximise efficiency”.

Around six percent of the EU’s total €129 billion is spent on EU institutional administrative matters. The council, the commission, and the European parliament eat up the greatest share of the expenditure budgets.

The remaining 94 percent of the EU total budget is spent on EU citizens, farmers, businesses, regions and cities.

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