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 Full text 
Wednesday, 4 July 2018 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union (debate)

  Richard Ashworth, Rapporteur. – Madam President, at the outset, all parties were aiming for simplification, particularly for end users, but it is important to understand that drawing up financial regulations is inevitably a balancing act. Firstly because it is important to remember this is public money and it’s important we do not compromise monitoring and control. Secondly, because performance budgeting brings a whole new dimension to financial regulations. It will usher in a new culture to EU spending: that we welcome, but we also need to understand and recognise the potential conflict between measuring performance and achieving simplification. Overall, I would have wished to have achieved more by way of simplification, but I am happy that we made good progress establishing a performance culture, and I hope the Commission will keep up that momentum.

I’d like to make a couple of points. On performance, we set requirements for internal auditors to help measure and monitor performance and we introduced concrete definitions of results and outcomes. On simplification, we streamlined the audit process, we introduced a number of procedures to make the audit burden more proportionate to the level of risk, and we also reduced the burden of multiple auditing. On modernisation, we introduced simpler regulations for blending structural funds and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), not only to bring greater clarification but also to ensure that there is no transfer between those systems.

As rapporteur for the Committee on Budgetary Control, I am acutely aware of the need to ensure proper control of EU funds so, first, we now have greater clarity and transparency in the reporting procedures. Secondly, we’ve accelerated the discharge procedure. All parties committed to achieving N+1 in the future, and that’s important because it will make audit processes more relevant and more instructive for future budgeting.

Overall, I am happy with the outcome but, with such a complex and time—consuming process, there are inevitably some regrets. One in particular was the timing of the introduction of regulations. This is an omnibus package and, bearing in mind the requirements of the different spend committees and the nature of their work, the new regulations will come into force on a number of different dates. That is not ideal. Firstly, not ideal because of the disruption and confusion arising from changing regulations part-way through the year; and, secondly, not ideal in terms of the coherence of the text. However, given the complexity of the exercise – there were 800 pages of text and 13 trilogues – and given the very tight timescale that the Commission required, we had no choice but to stagger the dates of introduction or there would have been no reform at all.

I want to finish by putting on record my thanks to the many people who have been involved in this reform right from the start. First, I would mention the Estonian Presidency. Secondly, the Commission, and I particularly want to thank Commissioner Oettinger for his generous help and support. I want to thank the staff. I want to thank the opinion committees. In particular, I want to thank our shadow rapporteurs, especially Mr Maňka and Ms Ayala Sender, and Jean Arthuis, Chair of the Committee on Budgets. But my biggest thanks go to my co-rapporteur, Ingeborg Gräßle. Without her limitless appetite for detail, her patient persistence and her tireless efforts, frankly, I don’t think we would have reached such a favourable result at all. My thanks to all of them, particularly my co-rapporteur.


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