Friday

19th Jan 2018

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 for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

Taking full benefit of supercomputers in Europe

Newly-announced financial help for so-called 'supercomputers' can help both EU member states, and small and medium-sized companies to grow - in fields such as health diagnostics, driverless cars and even earthquake predicting.

Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

A series of missteps - from the faulty institutional infrastructure of the euro, to the migration crisis - have left the EU battered and in near crisis. Here are ten steps to re-democratise the union.

EU's 'old men' must pressure Poland on abortion rights

Despite fresh crackdowns on Poland's already restrictive abortion laws, EU commission president Juncker did not raise the issue with the new Polish PM Morawiecki - perhaps because it was an all-male event?

Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

A series of missteps - from the faulty institutional infrastructure of the euro, to the migration crisis - have left the EU battered and in near crisis. Here are ten steps to re-democratise the union.

EU's 'old men' must pressure Poland on abortion rights

Despite fresh crackdowns on Poland's already restrictive abortion laws, EU commission president Juncker did not raise the issue with the new Polish PM Morawiecki - perhaps because it was an all-male event?

News in Brief

  1. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  2. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems
  3. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook up hate speech deletion
  4. UK mulls bridge to France
  5. German far-right float anti-asylum bill
  6. EU Parliament to investigate glyphosate-decision process
  7. 'Mutagenesis' falls outside EU's GMO rules, says EU top lawyer
  8. Decision on Polish MEP's Nazi-era slur postponed

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  2. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  3. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  4. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  5. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  6. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  7. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week
  8. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap