Thursday

27th Jul 2017

Opinion

Two EU bodies spending money like no tomorrow

  • Helle Thorning-Schmidt, now Danish prime minister, called for the abolition of both committees in 2003 (Photo: European Parliament)

In these times of austerity when the EU Council, European Commission and the European Parliament are making efforts to cut costs, there are two EU bodies operating under the radar whose budgets have been increasing in an unchallenged way: the Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR).

In May 2011 the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the EESC in particular to implement a "comprehensive spending review" and "identify possible savings" - but still their budgets rise.

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 budgetary control committee of the European Parliament challenged the secretaries general of the EESC and CoR - Martin Westlake and Gerhard Stahl - who once again failed to provide any concrete proposals on how savings might be made.

The figures speak for themselves.

Over the last eight years, the budgets of the EESC and CoR will have increased by some 50 percent, reaching €130 million and €86.5 million, respectively. There are around 50 officials at each committee with a minimum salary of €123.890 and six officials at each committee earning over €180,000 - more than the Dutch or UK prime minister.

Over half of the EESC's and the CoR's annual budgets are devoted to their members' expenses, travel costs and staff salaries and pensions.

In 2010, the 344 EESC members produced 181 opinions, which when divided with the annual budget means each opinion came at an average cost of €660,000, while no information is made available regarding how these opinions influenced legislation. If they did so at all.

Average travel expenses per member were €49,000, while a scheme whereby members receive 'lump sums' per meeting attended - without the need to prove they actually incurred the expenses - will still be in use until 2015. Why not now? The EESC remains elusive.

The main mandate of both committees is to "engage participation" from citizens. But there are many indications that neither committee is successful in this.

Many EU commentators over the last 20 years have questioned the impact of the EESC on the policy process. The CoR claims to provide "institutional representation" for all the EU's areas and regions. But the regional interests are already represented by the governments of the Member States, while many of Europe's regions have their own representations in Brussels.

And as far as outreach is concerned, the EESC and CoR websites account for 0.35 percent and 0.27 percent, respectively of total visitors to the europa.eu domain.

The EESC's own figures show an average of 31,472 unique users per month. By way of comparison, the website of London-based fundraising company JustGiving is accessed by over 2.5 million unique users per month.

The two EU committees do not fare any better on utilising social media, having fewer Facebook 'likes' or Twitter users than they do staff.

When challenged about these figures, Stahl simply responded that the CoR "cannot be there for direct contact with every citizen," while Westlake referred to the vice-president for communication of the EESC as being "extremely active" on Twitter.

I leave it to readers to decide for themselves whether having 556 Twitter followers qualifies as being "extremely active" in engaging participation from Europe's 500 million citizens.

There have already been calls for closer scrutiny of the EESC and CoR, and even their abolition, but so far to no avail.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the recently elected Danish leader and a former MEP, called for the abolition of both in 2003, stressing that they were "too costly" and were "not adding sufficient value".

Her recommendation was evidently ignored, given the enhanced roles (and budgets) the two committees received in the Lisbon Treaty.

In January 2011, an initial draft of a position paper by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (Alde) called for the abolition of both bodies. But then, following pressure from Alde members in the CoR, the published version of the paper recommended a restructuring instead.

The European Parliament has a duty to challenge the two committees on their budget increases and to provide scrutiny and transparency. Once the issue is out in the open, we may finally have to demand a merger of the EESC and CoR into a more cost-effective body, or indeed, as the current Prime Minister of Denmark and rotating president of the EU Council once proposed, their complete abolition.

The author is a Belgian MEP and vice president of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the EU parliament

Danes seek clarity on future EU budget

The EU's famed diversity was on show on Friday during first concrete discussions on the European Union's next longterm budget, a debate that threw up as many points of view as there are member states.

Democracy - what's the alternative?

Is it possible to quantify the return that citizens get from the money invested in democracy, Flo Clucas asks in this contribution to the debate about the European Union's regional and social committees.

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

Stronger EU-Egypt ties must not disregard human rights

The EU’s apparent willingness to water down its stance on human rights in Egypt could seriously compromise its credibility and have far-reaching consequences for its relations with other countries in the region.

Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive

Candidates from all political families should be presenting their vision on where the Union should be headed. European socialists want to keep the Spitzenkandidat procedure for future elections.

Stronger EU-Egypt ties must not disregard human rights

The EU’s apparent willingness to water down its stance on human rights in Egypt could seriously compromise its credibility and have far-reaching consequences for its relations with other countries in the region.

News in Brief

  1. Member states relocate 3,000 migrants in June
  2. Top EU jurist says Malta's finch-trapping against EU law
  3. EU judges rule to keep Hamas funds frozen
  4. EU court rejects passenger data deal with Canada
  5. US votes in favour of Nord Stream II sanctions
  6. Greece makes return to bond market
  7. Trump accuses the EU of protectionism
  8. EU parliament's Brexit group urges progress on talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  3. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  4. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  5. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  6. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  8. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  10. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  11. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  12. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way

Latest News

  1. EU defends airline data-sharing after court ruling
  2. Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis
  3. EU and US scrap on Russia sanctions gets worse
  4. Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles have one month to start taking migrants
  5. EU Commission sets red lines for Poland on Article 7
  6. Court told to 'dismiss' case against EU migrant quotas
  7. Russia's EU pipeline at 'risk' after US vote
  8. EU Commission to act on Poland

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  2. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  3. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  5. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy
  7. ILGA-EuropeGermany Finally Says Ja - Bundestag Votes for Marriage Equality!
  8. EPSUJapanese and European Public Sector Unions Slam JEFTA
  9. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  10. UNICEFNarrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Health of the Poorest Children
  11. EU2017EEEstonia to Surprise Europe With Unique Cultural Programme
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Vs. Critical Voices