Index 
Texts adopted
Thursday, 27 April 2017 - BrusselsFinal edition
Request for waiver of the immunity of António Marinho e Pinto
 EU trade mark ***I
 Minamata Convention on Mercury ***
 Hybrid mismatches with third countries *
 Agreement on Operational and Strategic Cooperation between Denmark and Europol *
 Nomination of a member of the Court of Auditors
 Annual report on the control of the financial activities of the European Investment Bank for 2015
 Structural Reform Support Programme for 2017-2020 ***I
 European Year of Cultural Heritage ***I
 Union programme to support specific activities in the field of financial reporting and auditing ***I
 Union programme to enhance the involvement of consumers in financial services policy-making ***I
 Discharge 2015: EU general budget - European Commission and executive agencies
 Discharge 2015: Court of Auditors' special reports in the context of the 2015 Commission discharge
 Discharge 2015: EU general budget - 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th EDFs
 Discharge 2015: EU general budget - European Parliament
 Discharge 2015: EU general budget – European Council and Council
 Discharge 2015: EU general budget - Court of Justice
 Discharge 2015: EU general budget - Court of Auditors
 Discharge 2015: EU general budget - European Economic and Social Committee
 Discharge 2015: EU general budget - Committee of the Regions
 Discharge 2015: EU general budget - European External Action Service
 Discharge 2015: EU general budget - European Ombudsman
 Discharge 2015: EU general budget - European Data Protection Supervisor
 Discharge 2015: Performance, financial management and control of EU agencies
 Discharge 2015: Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER)
 Discharge 2015: Office of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC)
 Discharge 2015: Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union (CdT)
 Discharge 2015: European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop)
 Discharge 2015: European Police College (CEPOL)
 Discharge 2015: European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
 Discharge 2015: European Asylum Support Office (EASO)
 Discharge 2015: European Banking Authority (EBA)
 Discharge 2015: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
 Discharge 2015: European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)
 Discharge 2015: European Environment Agency (EEA)
 Discharge 2015: European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA)
 Discharge 2015: European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
 Discharge 2015: European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE)
 Discharge 2015: European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA)
 Discharge 2015: European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)
 Discharge 2015: European Medicines Agency (EMA)
 Discharge 2015: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)
 Discharge 2015: European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA)
 Discharge 2015: European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA)
 Discharge 2015: European Railway Agency (ERA)
 Discharge 2015: European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA)
 Discharge 2015: European Training Foundation (ETF)
 Discharge 2015: European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice (eu-LISA)
 Discharge 2015: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA)
 Discharge 2015: Euratom Supply Agency (ESA)
 Discharge 2015: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound)
 Discharge 2015: European Union's Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust)
 Discharge 2015: European Police Office (Europol)
 Discharge 2015: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)
 Discharge 2015: European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex)
 Discharge 2015: European GNSS Agency (GSA)
 Discharge 2015: Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI)
 Discharge 2015: Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking
 Discharge 2015: ECSEL Joint Undertaking
 Discharge 2015: Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking (FCH)
 Discharge 2015: Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (IMI)
 Discharge 2015: ITER Joint Undertaking
 Discharge 2015: SESAR Joint Undertaking
 Management of fishing fleets in the outermost regions
 EU flagship initiative on the garment sector
 State of play of farmland concentration in the EU: how to facilitate the access to land for farmers
 Annual report on the financial activities of the European Investment Bank
 Implementation of the Mining Waste Directive
 Situation in Venezuela

Request for waiver of the immunity of António Marinho e Pinto
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European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on the request for waiver of the immunity of António Marinho e Pinto (2016/2294(IMM))
P8_TA(2017)0132A8-0163/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the request for the waiver of the immunity of António Marinho e Pinto, forwarded on 23 September 2016 by Miguel Pereira da Rosa, judge at the Lisbon West (Oeiras) District Court, (ref. 4759/15.2TDLSB) in connection with criminal proceedings initiated against him, and announced in plenary on 24 October 2016,

–  having regard to the letter of 12 December 2016 from the Deputy Public Prosecutor responsible, containing a transcription of the remarks by António Marinho e Pinto,

–  having heard António Marinho e Pinto on 22 March 2017 in accordance with Rule 9(6) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to Articles 8 and 9 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union and to Article 6(2) of the Act of 20 September 1976 concerning the election of the Members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage,

–  having regard to the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 12 May 1964, 10 July 1986, 15 and 21 October 2008, 19 March 2010, 6 September 2011 and 17 January 2013(1),

–  having regard to Article 11(1), (2), (3) and (5) of Law No 7/93 of 1 March 1993 governing the statute of Members of the Portuguese Parliament and Circular No 3/2011 of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of 10 October 2011,

–  having regard to Rule 5(2), Rule 6(1) and Rule 9 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs (A8-0163/2017),

A.  whereas the judge of the Lisbon West (Oeiras) District Court has requested the waiver of the parliamentary immunity of António Marinho e Pinto, Member of the European Parliament, in connection with judicial proceedings concerning an alleged criminal offence;

B.  whereas the waiver of the immunity of António Marinho e Pinto concerns an alleged offence of aggravated defamation as defined in Articles 180(1) and 183(2) of the Portuguese Penal Code, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment, and an offence of undermining the reputation of an organisation, service or collective body as defined in Article 187(1) and (2)(a) of the Portuguese Penal Code, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment;

C.  whereas the charitable association Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Lisboa has lodged a complaint against António Marinho e Pinto;

D.  whereas the complaint relates to statements made by António Marinho e Pinto on 30 May 2015 during an interview on the TV programme ‘A Propósito’ on the Portuguese channel SIC Notícias, presented by António José Teixeira and broadcast at 21.00, during which he is alleged to have said: ‘As far as social security is concerned, what I can say is that the solidarity aspect should be split off; that’s a matter for the State, and shouldn’t be paid for at the expense of workers’ pensions, you see? It has to come from the State budget. Social solidarity must be provided through taxes and through that gigantic institution, Misericórdia de Lisboa, which handles millions and millions, and money is being wasted, more often than not for personal gain or out of personal interest.. [...] I think that Manuel Rebelo de Sousa would be better than Pedro Santana Lopes, given what we saw of Santana Lopes in government. It was actually good to see how the Superintendent of Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa worked in support of his candidacy and what means and resources he employed in order to do it.’

E.  whereas Article 8 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union stipulates that Members of the European Parliament may not be subject to any form of inquiry, detention or legal proceedings in respect of opinions expressed or votes cast by them in the performance of their duties;

F.  whereas the Court of Justice has held that, for a Member of the European Parliament to enjoy immunity, an opinion must be expressed by the Member in the performance of his duties, thus entailing the requirement of a link between the opinion expressed and the parliamentary duties; whereas such a link must be direct and obvious(2);

G.  whereas, in accordance with Article 9 of the same Protocol, Members enjoy, in the territory of their own State, the immunities accorded to members of their parliament;

H.  whereas, under the terms of Article 11(1), (2), (3) and (5) of Law No 7/93 of 1 March 1993 governing the statute of Members of the Portuguese Parliament and Circular No 3/2011 of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of 10 October 2011, António Marinho e Pinto may not be questioned or examined without the prior authorisation of the European Parliament;

I.  whereas the alleged acts have no obvious or direct connection with the performance of António Marinho e Pinto’s duties as a Member of the European Parliament; whereas they relate rather to activities of a purely national nature, given that his remarks were made on a TV programme in Portugal on a specifically Portuguese subject relating to the management of an association incorporated under national law;

J.  whereas, therefore, the alleged acts do not concern opinions expressed or votes cast in the performance of his duties as a Member of the European Parliament for the purposes of Article 8 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union;

K.  whereas the accusation made is clearly unrelated to the status of António Marinho e Pinto as a Member of the European Parliament;

L.  whereas there is no reason to suspect fumus persecutionis, that is to say, a sufficiently serious and precise suspicion that the case has been brought with the intention of causing political damage to the Member;

1.  Decides to waive the immunity of António Marinho e Pinto;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the report of its committee responsible immediately to the judge of the Lisbon West (Oeiras) District Court and to António Marinho e Pinto.

(1) Judgment of the Court of Justice of 12 May 1964, Wagner v Fohrmann and Krier, 101/63, ECLI:EU:C:1964:28; judgment of the Court of Justice of 10 July 1986, Wybot v Faure and others, 149/85, ECLI:EU:C:1986:310; judgment of the General Court of 15 October 2008, Mote v Parliament, T-345/05, ECLI:EU:T:2008:440; judgment of the Court of Justice of 21 October 2008, Marra v De Gregorio and Clemente, C 200/07 and C-201/07, ECLI:EU:C:2008:579; judgment of the General Court of 19 March 2010, Gollnisch v Parliament, T-42/06, ECLI:EU:T:2010:102; judgment of the Court of Justice of 6 September 2011, Patriciello, C 163/10, ECLI: EU:C:2011:543; judgment of the General Court of 17 January 2013, Gollnisch v Parliament, T-346/11 and T-347/11, ECLI:EU:T:2013:23.
(2) Joined Cases T-346/11 and T-347/11, Gollnisch v Parliament, judgment cited above.


EU trade mark ***I
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Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 27 April 2017 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union trade mark (codified text) (COM(2016)0702 – C8-0439/2016 – 2016/0345(COD))
P8_TA(2017)0133A8-0054/2017

(Ordinary legislative procedure – codification)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to the European Parliament and the Council (COM(2016)0702),

–  having regard to Article 294(2) and Article 118 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8‑0439/2016),

–  having regard to Article 294(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 20 December 1994 - Accelerated working method for official codification of legislative texts(1),

–  having regard to Rules 103 and 59 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs (A8-0054/2017),

A.  whereas, according to the Consultative Working Party of the legal services of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, the proposal in question contains a straightforward codification of the existing texts without any change in their substance;

1.  Adopts its position at first reading hereinafter set out;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 27 April 2017 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2017/... of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union trade mark (codification)

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EU) 2017/1001.)

(1) OJ C 102, 4.4.1996, p. 2.


Minamata Convention on Mercury ***
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 27 April 2017 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion on behalf of the European Union of the Minamata Convention on Mercury (05925/2017 – C8-0102/2017 – 2016/0021(NLE))
P8_TA(2017)0134A8-0067/2017

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (05925/2017),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 192(1) and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a), of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8‑0102/2017),

–  having regard to Rule 99(1) and (4) and Rule 108(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A8-0067/2017),

1.  Gives its consent to conclusion of the Minamata Convention on Mercury;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States, and to the United Nations.


Hybrid mismatches with third countries *
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 27 April 2017 on the proposal for a Council directive amending Directive (EU) 2016/1164 as regards hybrid mismatches with third countries (COM(2016)0687 – C8-0464/2016 – 2016/0339(CNS))
P8_TA(2017)0135A8-0134/2017

(Special legislative procedure – consultation)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to the Council (COM(2016)0687),

–  having regard to Article 115 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C8‑0464/2016),

–  having regard to the reasoned opinions submitted, within the framework of Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, by the Netherlands Senate, the Netherlands House of Representatives and the Swedish Parliament, asserting that the draft legislative act does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity,

–  having regard to the other contributions submitted by the Czech Senate, the German Bundesrat, the Spanish Parliament and the Portuguese Parliament on the draft legislative act,

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 November 2015 on tax rulings and other measures similar in nature or effect(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 December 2015 with recommendations to the Commission on bringing transparency, coordination and convergence to corporate tax policies in the Union(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 6 July 2016 on tax rulings and other measures similar in nature or effect(3),

–  having regard to the Commission’s decision of 30 August 2016 on State aid SA.38373 (2014/C) (ex 2014/NN) (ex 2014/CP) implemented by Ireland to Apple, and to the Commission’s open investigations into Luxembourg’s alleged aid to McDonald’s and Amazon,

–  having regard to the ongoing work of its Committee of Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion,

–  having regard to Rule 78c of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (A8-0134/2017),

1.  Approves the Commission proposal as amended;

2.  Calls on the Commission to alter its proposal accordingly, in accordance with Article 293(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;

3.  Calls on the Council to notify Parliament if it intends to depart from the text approved by Parliament;

4.  Asks the Council to consult Parliament again if it intends to substantially amend the Commission proposal;

5.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

Text proposed by the Commission   Amendment
Amendment 1
Proposal for a directive
Recital 4
(4)  Directive (EU) 2016/1164 provides for a framework to tackle hybrid mismatch arrangements.
(4)  Directive (EU) 2016/1164 provides for a first framework to tackle hybrid mismatch arrangements, which does not comprehensively and systematically eliminate hybrid mismatches and the scope of which is limited to the Union.
Amendment 2
Proposal for a directive
Recital 4 a (new)
(4a)  Underlying the BEPS initiative is also the declaration of G20 leaders at their meeting in Saint Petersburg on 5-6 September 2013, expressing their wish to ensure that profits are taxed where economic activities deriving the profits are performed and where value is created. In practice, that would have required the introduction of unitary taxation with formulary apportionment of tax revenues to states. That goal has not been achieved.
Amendment 3
Proposal for a directive
Recital 5
(5)  It is necessary to establish rules that neutralise hybrid mismatches in a comprehensive manner. Considering that Directive (EU) 2016/1164 only covers hybrid mismatch arrangements that arise in the interaction between the corporate tax systems of Member States, the ECOFIN Council issued a statement on 20 June 2016 requesting the Commission to put forward by October 2016 a proposal on hybrid mismatches involving third countries in order to provide for rules consistent with and no less effective than the rules recommended by the OECD BEPS report on Action 2, with a view to reaching an agreement by the end of 2016.
(5)  It is of great importance to establish rules that neutralise hybrid mismatches and branch mismatches in a comprehensive manner. Considering that Directive (EU) 2016/1164 only covers hybrid mismatch arrangements that arise in the interaction between the corporate tax systems of Member States, the ECOFIN Council issued a statement on 20 June 2016 requesting the Commission to put forward by October 2016 a proposal on hybrid mismatches involving third countries in order to provide for rules consistent with and no less effective than the rules recommended by the OECD BEPS report on Action 2, with a view to reaching an agreement by the end of 2016.
Amendment 4
Proposal for a directive
Recital 5 a (new)
(5a)  The effects of hybrid mismatch arrangements should also be considered from the viewpoint of developing countries, and the Union and its Member States should aim to support developing countries in tackling such effects.
Amendment 5
Proposal for a directive
Recital 6
(6)  Considering that[, amongst others, it is stated in Recital (13) of Directive (EU) 2016/1164 that] it is critical that further work is undertaken on other hybrid mismatches such as those involving permanent establishments, it is essential that hybrid permanent establishment mismatches are addressed in that Directive as well.
(6)  Considering that[, amongst others, it is stated in Recital (13) of Directive (EU) 2016/1164 that] it is critical that further work is undertaken on other hybrid mismatches such as those involving permanent establishments, including disregarded permanent establishments, it is essential that hybrid permanent establishment mismatches are addressed in Directive (EU) 2016/1164 as well. In addressing such mismatches, regard should be had to the recommended rules included in the OECD’s Public Discussion Draft of 22 August 2016 concerning BEPS Action 2 - Branch Mismatch Structures.
Amendment 6
Proposal for a directive
Recital 7
(7)  In order to provide for a comprehensive framework consistent with to OECD BEPS report on hybrid mismatch arrangements it is essential that Directive (EU) 2016/1164 would also include rules on hybrid transfers, imported mismatches and dual resident mismatches, in order to prevent taxpayers from exploiting remaining loopholes.
(7)  In order to provide for a framework that is consistent with, and no less effective than, the OECD BEPS report on hybrid mismatch arrangements, it is essential that Directive (EU) 2016/1164 would also include rules on hybrid transfers and imported mismatches and addresses the full range of double deduction outcomes, in order to prevent taxpayers from exploiting remaining loopholes. Those rules should be standardised and coordinated to the maximum extent possible between Member States. Member States should consider the introduction of penalties against taxpayers that exploit hybrid mismatches.
Amendment 7
Proposal for a directive
Recital 7 a (new)
(7a)   Rules need to be laid down in order to put a stop to the use of different tax accounting periods in individual jurisdictions, which results in mismatches in tax outcomes. Member States should ensure that taxpayers declare payments in all jurisdictions involved within a reasonable period of time. The national authorities should, furthermore, look into all the reasons behind hybrid mismatches and should close any loopholes and prevent aggressive tax planning, rather than focusing solely on collecting tax revenue.
Amendment 8
Proposal for a directive
Recital 8
(8)  Given that Directive (EU) 2016/1164 includes rules on hybrid mismatches between Member States, it is appropriate to include rules on hybrid mismatches with third countries in that Directive. Consequently, those rules should apply to all taxpayers that are subject to corporate tax in a Member State including permanent establishments of entities resident in third countries. It is necessary to cover all hybrid mismatch arrangements where at least one of the parties involved is a corporate taxpayer in a Member State.
(8)  Given that Directive (EU) 2016/1164 includes rules on hybrid mismatches between Member States, it is appropriate to include rules on hybrid mismatches with third countries in that Directive. Consequently, those rules should apply to all taxpayers that are subject to corporate tax in a Member State including permanent establishments of entities resident in third countries. It is necessary to cover all hybrid mismatches or related arrangements where at least one of the parties involved is a corporate taxpayer in a Member State.
Amendment 9
Proposal for a directive
Recital 9
(9)  Rules on hybrid mismatches should address mismatch situations which are the result of conflicting tax rules of two (or more) jurisdictions. However, those rules should not affect the general features of the tax system of a jurisdiction.
(9)  It is essential that rules on hybrid mismatches apply automatically whenever a payment comes across a border having been deducted at the paying end, without having to prove a tax avoidance motive, and address mismatch situations which result from double deductions, conflicts in the legal characterisation of financial instruments, payments and entities, or conflicts in the allocation of payments. As hybrid mismatches could lead to a double deduction or to a deduction without inclusion, it is necessary to lay down rules whereby the Member State concerned either denies the deduction of a payment, expenses or losses or requires the taxpayer to include the payment in its taxable income.
Amendment 10
Proposal for a directive
Recital 9 a (new)
(9a)  Permanent establishment mismatches occur where differences in the rules for allocating income and expenditure between different parts of the same entity in the permanent establishment jurisdiction and those in the residence jurisdiction give rise to a mismatch in tax outcomes, including cases where a mismatch outcome arises due to the fact that a permanent establishment is disregarded as a result of the application of the laws of the branch jurisdiction. Those mismatch outcomes could lead to non-taxation without inclusion, a double deduction or a deduction without inclusion, and should therefore be eliminated. In the case of disregarded permanent establishments, the Member State in which the taxpayer is resident should require the taxpayer to include in its taxable income the income that would otherwise be attributed to the permanent establishment.
Amendment 11
Proposal for a directive
Recital 10
(10)  In order to ensure proportionality it is necessary to address only the cases where there is a substantial risk of avoiding taxation through the use of hybrid mismatches. It is therefore appropriate to cover hybrid mismatch arrangements between the taxpayer and its associated enterprises and hybrid mismatches resulting from a structured arrangement involving a taxpayer.
deleted
Amendment 12
Proposal for a directive
Recital 11
(11)  In order to provide for a sufficiently comprehensive definition of 'associated enterprise' for the purposes of the rules on hybrid mismatches, that definition should also comprise an entity that is part of the same consolidated group for accounting purposes, an enterprise in which the taxpayer has a significant influence in the management and reversely, an enterprise that has a significant influence in the management of the taxpayer.
deleted
Amendment 13
Proposal for a directive
Recital 12
(12)  Mismatches that particularly pertain to the hybridity of entities should be addressed only where one of the associated enterprises has – at a minimum - effective control over the other associated enterprises. Consequently, in those cases, it should be required that an associated enterprise be held by, or hold, the taxpayer or another associated enterprise through a participation in terms of voting rights, capital ownership or entitlement to received profits of 50 percent or more.
deleted
Amendment 14
Proposal for a directive
Recital 15
(15)  As hybrid entity mismatches involving third countries may lead to a double deduction or to a deduction without inclusion, it is necessary to lay down rules whereby the Member State concerned either denies the deduction of a payment, expenses or losses or requires the taxpayer to include the payment in its taxable income, as the case may be.
(15)  As hybrid entity mismatches involving third countries in several cases lead to a double deduction or to a deduction without inclusion, it is necessary to lay down rules whereby the Member State concerned either denies the deduction of a payment, expenses or losses or requires the taxpayer to include the payment in its taxable income, as the case may be.
Amendment 15
Proposal for a directive
Recital 17
(17)  Hybrid transfers may give rise to a difference in tax treatment if, as a result of a transfer of a financial instrument under a structured arrangement, the underlying return on that instrument is treated as derived simultaneously by more than one of the parties to the arrangement. The underlying return is the income related to and derived from the transferred instrument. This difference in tax treatment may lead to a deduction without inclusion or to a tax credit in two different jurisdictions for the same tax withheld at source. Such mismatches should therefore be eliminated. In case of a deduction without inclusion the same rules should apply as for neutralising a hybrid financial instrument or hybrid entity mismatch leading to a deduction without inclusion. In case of a double tax credit, the Member State concerned should limit the benefit of the tax credit in proportion to the net taxable income with respect to the underlying return.
(17)  Hybrid transfers may give rise to a difference in tax treatment if, as a result of a transfer of a financial instrument, the underlying return on that instrument is treated as derived simultaneously by more than one of the parties to the arrangement. The underlying return is the income related to and derived from the transferred instrument. This difference in tax treatment may lead to a deduction without inclusion or to a tax credit in two different jurisdictions for the same tax withheld at source. Such mismatches should therefore be eliminated. In case of a deduction without inclusion the same rules should apply as for neutralising a hybrid financial instrument or hybrid entity mismatch leading to a deduction without inclusion. In case of a double tax credit, the Member State concerned should limit the benefit of the tax credit in proportion to the net taxable income with respect to the underlying return.
Amendment 16
Proposal for a directive
Recital 19
(19)  Imported mismatches shift the effect of a hybrid mismatch between parties in third countries into the jurisdiction of a Member State through the use of a non-hybrid instrument thereby undermining the effectiveness of the rules that neutralise hybrid mismatches. A deductible payment in a Member State can be used to fund expenditure under a structured arrangement involving a hybrid mismatch between third countries. To counter such imported mismatches, it is necessary to include rules that disallow the deduction of a payment if the corresponding income from that payment is set-off, directly or indirectly, against a deduction that arises under a hybrid mismatch arrangement giving rise to a double deduction or a deduction without inclusion between third countries.
(19)  Imported mismatches shift the effect of a hybrid mismatch between parties in third countries into the jurisdiction of a Member State through the use of a non-hybrid instrument thereby undermining the effectiveness of the rules that neutralise hybrid mismatches. A deductible payment in a Member State can be used to fund expenditure under a structured arrangement involving a hybrid mismatch between third countries. To counter such imported mismatches, it is necessary to include rules that disallow the deduction of a payment if the corresponding income from that payment is set off, directly or indirectly, against a deduction that arises under a hybrid mismatch or related arrangement giving rise to a double deduction or a deduction without inclusion between third countries.
Amendment 17
Proposal for a directive
Recital 21
(21)  The objective of this Directive is to improve the resilience of the internal market as a whole against hybrid mismatch arrangements. This cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States acting individually, given that national corporate tax systems are disparate and that independent action by Member States would only replicate the existing fragmentation of the internal market in direct taxation. It would thus allow inefficiencies and distortions to persist in the interaction of distinct national measures. This would thus result in a lack of coordination. That objective can rather, due to the cross-border nature of hybrid mismatch arrangements and the need to adopt solutions that function for the internal market as a whole, be better achieved at Union level. The Union may therefore adopt measures, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity as set out in Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union. In accordance with the principle of proportionality, as set out in that Article, this Directive does not go beyond what is necessary in order to achieve that objective. By setting the required level of protection for the internal market, this Directive only aims to achieve the essential degree of coordination within the Union that is necessary to achieve its objectives.
(21)  The objective of this Directive is to improve the resilience of the internal market as a whole against hybrid mismatches. This cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States acting individually, given that national corporate tax systems are disparate and that independent action by Member States would only replicate the existing fragmentation of the internal market in direct taxation. It would thus allow inefficiencies and distortions to persist in the interaction of distinct national measures. This would thus result in a lack of coordination. That objective can rather, due to the cross-border nature of hybrid mismatches and the need to adopt solutions that function for the internal market as a whole, be better achieved at Union level. The Union may therefore adopt measures, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity as set out in Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union, including moving from a separate entity approach to a unitary approach as regards the taxation of multinational enterprises. In accordance with the principle of proportionality, as set out in that Article, this Directive does not go beyond what is necessary in order to achieve that objective. By setting the required level of protection for the internal market, this Directive only aims to achieve the essential degree of coordination within the Union that is necessary to achieve its objectives.
Amendment 18
Proposal for a directive
Recital 21 a (new)
(21a)  In order to ensure clear and effective implementation, consistency with the recommendations included in the OECD publication entitled ‘Neutralising the Effects of Hybrid Mismatch Arrangements, Action 2 - 2015 Final Report’ should be highlighted.
Amendment 19
Proposal for a directive
Recital 23
(23)  The Commission should evaluate the implementation of this Directive four years after its entry into force and report to the Council thereon. Member States should communicate to the Commission all information necessary for this evaluation,
(23)  The Commission should evaluate the implementation of this Directive every three years after its entry into force and report to the European Parliament and to the Council thereon. Member States should communicate to the Commission all information necessary for this evaluation.
Amendment 20
Proposal for a directive
Recital 23 a (new)
(23a)   Member States should be required to share all relevant confidential information and best practices with a view to combating tax mismatches and ensuring that Directive (EU) 2016/1164 is implemented in a uniform manner.
Amendment 21
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point -1 (new)
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 1 – paragraph 1 a (new)
(-1)  In Article 1, the following paragraph is added:
‘Article -9a shall also apply to all entities that are treated as transparent for tax purposes by a Member State.’
Amendment 22
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point a
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 4 – subparagraph 3
(a)  in point (4), the third subparagraph, is replaced by the following:
deleted
"For the purposes of Article 9 an associated enterprise also means an entity that is part of the same consolidated group for financial accounting purposes as the taxpayer, an enterprise in which the taxpayer has a significant influence in the management or an enterprise that has a significant influence in the management of the taxpayer. Where the mismatch involves a hybrid entity, the definition of associated enterprise is modified so that the 25 percent requirement is replaced by a 50 percent requirement";
Amendment 23
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point a a (new)
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 4 – subparagraph 3
(aa)  in point 4, the third subparagraph is deleted;
Amendment 24
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point b
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 9 – subparagraph 1 – introductory part
'(9) hybrid mismatch' means a situation between a taxpayer and an associated enterprise or a structured arrangement between parties in different tax jurisdictions where any of the following outcomes is attributable to differences in the legal characterisation of a financial instrument or entity, or in the treatment of a commercial presence as a permanent establishment:
'(9) ‘hybrid mismatch' means a situation between a taxpayer and another entity where any of the following outcomes is attributable to differences in the legal characterisation of a financial instrument or a payment made under it, or is the result of differences in the recognition of payments made to, or payments, expenses or losses incurred by, a hybrid entity or permanent establishment, or is the result of differences in the recognition of a deemed payment made between two parts of the same taxpayer or in the recognition of a commercial presence as a permanent establishment:
Amendment 25
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point b
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 9 – subparagraph 1 – point b
(b)  a deduction of a payment from the taxable base in the jurisdiction in which the payment has its source without a corresponding inclusion for tax purposes of the same payment in the other jurisdiction ('deduction without inclusion');
(b)  a deduction of a payment from the taxable base in any jurisdiction in which the payment is treated as being made (‘payer jurisdiction’) without a corresponding inclusion for tax purposes of the same payment in any other jurisdiction where the payment is treated as being received (‘payee jurisdiction’) ('deduction without inclusion');
Amendment 26
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point b
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 9 – subparagraph 1 – point c
(c)  in case of differences in the treatment of a commercial presence as a permanent establishment, non-taxation of income which has its source in a jurisdiction without a corresponding inclusion for tax purposes of the same income in the other jurisdiction ('non-taxation without inclusion').
(c)  in case of differences in the recognition of a commercial presence as a permanent establishment, non-taxation of income which has its source in a jurisdiction without a corresponding inclusion for tax purposes of the same income in the other jurisdiction ('non-taxation without inclusion');
Amendment 27
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point b
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 9 – subparagraph 1 – point c a (new)
(ca)  a payment to a hybrid entity or permanent establishment giving rise to a deduction without inclusion where the mismatch is attributable to differences in the recognition of payments made to the permanent establishment or hybrid entity;
Amendment 28
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point b
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 9 – subparagraph 1 – point c b (new)
(cb)  a payment giving rise to a deduction without inclusion as a result of a payment to a disregarded permanent establishment.
Amendment 29
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point b
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 9 – subparagraph 2
A hybrid mismatch only arises to the extent that the same payment deducted, expenses incurred or losses suffered in two jurisdictions exceed the amount of income that is included in both jurisdictions and which can be attributed to the same source.
A hybrid mismatch that is the result of differences in the recognition of payments, expenses or losses incurred by a hybrid entity or permanent establishment or is the result of differences in the recognition of a deemed payment between two parts of the same taxpayer only arises to the extent that the resulting deduction in the jurisdiction of source is set off against an item that is not included in both jurisdictions where the mismatch has arisen. However, in the event that the payment giving rise to that hybrid mismatch also gives rise to a hybrid mismatch that is attributable to differences in the legal characterisation of a financial instrument or of a payment made under it, or is the result of differences in the recognition of payments made to a hybrid entity or to a permanent establishment, the hybrid mismatch only arises to the extent that the payment gives rise to a deduction without inclusion.
Amendment 30
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point b
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 9 – subparagraph 3 – introductory part
A hybrid mismatch also includes the transfer of a financial instrument under a structured arrangement involving a taxpayer where the underlying return on the transferred financial instrument is treated for tax purposes as derived simultaneously by more than one of the parties to the arrangement, who are resident for tax purposes in different jurisdictions, giving rise to any of the following outcomes:
A hybrid mismatch also includes the transfer of a financial instrument involving a taxpayer where the underlying return on the transferred financial instrument is treated for tax purposes as derived simultaneously by more than one of the parties to the arrangement, who are resident for tax purposes in different jurisdictions, giving rise to any of the following outcomes:
Amendment 31
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point b a (new)
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 9 a (new)
(ba)  the following point is added:
‘(9a) 'hybrid entity' means any entity or arrangement that is regarded as a person for tax purposes under the laws of one jurisdiction and the income or expenditure of which is treated as income or expenditure of one or more other persons under the laws of another jurisdiction;’
Amendment 32
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point b b (new)
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 9 b (new)
(bb)  the following point is added:
‘(9b) 'disregarded permanent establishment' means any arrangement that is treated as giving rise to a permanent establishment under the laws of the head office jurisdiction and is not treated as giving rise to a permanent establishment under the laws of the jurisdiction in which the permanent establishment is situated;’
Amendment 33
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point c
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 11
(11)  'structured arrangement' means an arrangement involving a hybrid mismatch where the mismatch is priced into the terms of the arrangement or an arrangement that has been designed to produce a hybrid mismatch outcome, unless the taxpayer or an associated enterprise could not reasonably have been expected to be aware of the hybrid mismatch and did not share in the value of the tax benefit resulting from the hybrid mismatch.
deleted
Amendment 34
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 1 – point c a (new)
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 2 – point 11 a (new)
(ca)  the following point is added:
‘(11a) ‘payer jurisdiction’ means the jurisdiction where a hybrid entity or a permanent establishment is established or where a payment is treated as made.’
Amendment 35
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 3
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 9 – paragraph 1
1.  To the extent that a hybrid mismatch between Member States results in a double deduction of the same payment, expenses or losses, the deduction shall be given only in the Member State where such payment has its source, the expenses are incurred or the losses are suffered.
1.  To the extent that a hybrid mismatch results in a double deduction of the same payment, expenses or losses, the deduction shall be denied in the Member State that is the investor jurisdiction.
To the extent that a hybrid mismatch involving a third country results in a double deduction of the same payment, expenses or losses, the Member State concerned shall deny the deduction of such payment, expenses or losses, unless the third country has already done so.
In the event that the deduction is not denied in the investor jurisdiction, the deduction shall be denied in the payer jurisdiction. To the extent that a third country is involved, the burden of proof of demonstrating that a deduction has been denied by that third country shall be on the taxpayer.
Amendment 36
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 3
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 9 – paragraph 2
2.  To the extent that a hybrid mismatch between Member States results in a deduction without inclusion, the Member State of the payer shall deny the deduction of such payment.
2.  To the extent that a hybrid mismatch results in a deduction without inclusion, the deduction shall be denied in the Member State that is the payer jurisdiction of such payment. Where the deduction is not denied in the payer jurisdiction, the Member State concerned shall require the taxpayer to include the amount of the payment that would otherwise give rise to a mismatch in the income in the payee jurisdiction.
To the extent that a hybrid mismatch involving a third country results in a deduction without inclusion:
(i)  if the payment has its source in a Member State, that Member State shall deny the deduction, or
(ii)  if the payment has its source in a third country, the Member State concerned shall require the taxpayer to include such payment in the taxable base, unless the third country has already denied the deduction or has required that payment to be included.
Amendment 37
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 3
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 9 – paragraph 3
3.  To the extent that a hybrid mismatch between Member States involving a permanent establishment results in non-taxation without inclusion, the Member State in which the taxpayer is resident for tax purposes shall require the taxpayer to include in the taxable base the income attributed to the permanent establishment.
3.  To the extent that a hybrid mismatch involves disregarded permanent establishment income which is not subject to tax in the Member State in which the taxpayer is resident for tax purposes, that Member State shall require the taxpayer to include in its taxable income the income that would otherwise be attributed to the disregarded permanent establishment.
To the extent that a hybrid mismatch involving a permanent establishment situated in a third country results in non-taxation without inclusion, the Member State concerned shall require the taxpayer to include in the taxable base the income attributed to the permanent establishment in the third country.
Amendment 38
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 3
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 9 – paragraph 3 a (new)
3a.  Member States shall deny a deduction for any payment by a taxpayer to the extent that such payment directly or indirectly funds deductible expenditure giving rise to a hybrid mismatch through a transaction or a series of transactions.
Amendment 39
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 3
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 9 – paragraph 4
4.  To the extent that a payment by a taxpayer to an associated enterprise in a third country is set off directly or indirectly against a payment, expenses or losses which due to a hybrid mismatch are deductible in two different jurisdictions outside the Union, the Member State of the taxpayer shall deny the deduction of the payment by the taxpayer to an associated enterprise in a third country from the taxable base, unless one of the third countries involved has already denied the deduction of the payment, expenses or losses that would be deductible in two different jurisdictions.
4.  To the extent that a payment by a taxpayer to an entity in a third country is set off directly or indirectly against a payment, expenses or losses which due to a hybrid mismatch are deductible in two different jurisdictions outside the Union, the Member State of the taxpayer shall deny the deduction of the payment by the taxpayer in a third country from the taxable base, unless one of the third countries involved has already denied the deduction of the payment, expenses or losses that would be deductible in two different jurisdictions.
Amendment 40
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 3
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 9 – paragraph 5
5.  To the extent that the corresponding inclusion of a deductible payment by a taxpayer to an associated enterprise in a third country is set off directly or indirectly against a payment which due to a hybrid mismatch is not included by the payee in its taxable base, the Member State of the taxpayer shall deny the deduction of the payment by the taxpayer to an associated enterprise in a third country from the taxable base, unless one of the third countries involved has already denied the deduction of the non-included payment.
5.  To the extent that the corresponding inclusion of a deductible payment by a taxpayer in a third country is set off directly or indirectly against a payment which due to a hybrid mismatch is not included by the payee in its taxable base, the Member State of the taxpayer shall deny the deduction of the payment by the taxpayer in a third country from the taxable base, unless one of the third countries involved has already denied the deduction of the non-included payment.
Amendment 41
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 3 a (new)
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article -9 a (new)
(3a)  The following Article is inserted:
‘Article -9a
Reverse hybrid mismatches
Where one or more associated non-resident entities, holding a share of profit in a hybrid entity that is incorporated or established in a Member State, is located in a jurisdiction or jurisdictions that regard the hybrid entity as a taxable person, the hybrid entity shall be regarded as a resident of that Member State and taxed on its income to the extent that the income is not otherwise taxed under the laws of that Member State or any other jurisdiction.’
Amendment 42
Proposal for a directive
Article 1 – paragraph 1 – point 4
Directive (EU) 2016/1164
Article 9a – paragraph 1
To the extent that a payment, expenses or losses of a taxpayer who is resident for tax purposes in both a Member State and a third country, in accordance with the laws of that Member State and that third country, are deductible from the taxable base in both jurisdictions and that payment, those expenses or losses can be set-off in the Member State of the taxpayer against taxable income that is not included in the third country, the Member State of the taxpayer shall deny the deduction of the payment, expenses or losses, unless the third country has already done so.
To the extent that a payment, expenses or losses of a taxpayer who is resident for tax purposes in both a Member State and a third country, in accordance with the laws of that Member State and that third country, are deductible from the taxable base in both jurisdictions and that payment, those expenses or losses can be set off in the Member State of the taxpayer against taxable income that is not included in the third country, the Member State of the taxpayer shall deny the deduction of the payment, expenses or losses, unless the third country has already done so. Such denial of deduction shall also apply to situations where a taxpayer is ‘stateless’ for tax purposes. The burden of proof of demonstrating that the third country has denied the deduction of the payment, expense or loss shall be on the taxpayer.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0408.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0457.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0310.


Agreement on Operational and Strategic Cooperation between Denmark and Europol *
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 27 April 2017 on the draft Council implementing decision approving the conclusion by the European Police Office (Europol) of the Agreement on Operational and Strategic Cooperation between the Kingdom of Denmark and Europol (07281/2017 – C8-0120/2017 – 2017/0803(CNS))
P8_TA(2017)0136A8-0164/2017

(Consultation)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Council draft (07281/2017),

–  having regard to Article 39(1) of the Treaty on European Union, as amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam, and Article 9 of Protocol No 36 on transitional provisions, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C8‑0120/2017),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2009/371/JHA of 6 April 2009 establishing the European Police Office (Europol)(1), and in particular Article 23(2) thereof,

–  having regard to Council Decision 2009/935/JHA of 30 November 2009 determining the list of third States and organisations with which Europol shall conclude agreements(2), as amended by Council Implementing Decision (EU) 2017/290(3),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2009/934/JHA of 30 November 2009 adopting the implementing rules governing Europol’s relations with partners, including the exchange of personal data and classified information(4), and in particular Articles 5 and 6 thereof,

–  having regard to the Declaration by the President of the European Council, the President of the Commission and the Prime Minister of Denmark of 15 December 2016, which stressed the operational needs, but also the exceptional and transitional nature, of the foreseen arrangement between Europol and Denmark,

–  having regard to the aforementioned Declaration, which stressed that the foreseen arrangement is conditional on Denmark’s continued membership of the Union and of the Schengen area, Denmark’s obligation to fully implement in Danish law Directive (EU) 2016/680(5) on data protection in police matters by 1 May 2017 and Denmark’s agreement to the application of the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the competence of the European Data Protection Supervisor,

–  having regard to Protocol No 22 to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the outcome of the Danish referendum of 3 December 2015 in relation to Protocol No 22 to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to its legislative resolution of 14 February 2017 on the draft Council implementing decision amending Decision 2009/935/JHA as regards the list of third States and organisations with which Europol shall conclude agreements(6), and in particular the request in paragraph 4 thereof calling for the future arrangement between Europol and Denmark to have an expiry date of five years, in order to ensure its transitional nature with a view to a more permanent arrangement,

–  having regard to Rule 78c of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0164/2017),

1.  Approves the Council draft;

2.  Calls on the Council to notify Parliament if it intends to depart from the text approved by Parliament;

3.  Asks the Council to consult Parliament again if it intends to substantially amend the text approved by Parliament;

4.  Calls on the Council and the Commission to ensure that, as part of the assessment to be carried out pursuant to Article 25 of the Agreement on Operational and Strategic Cooperation between the Kingdom of Denmark and Europol, the European Parliament is kept regularly informed and consulted, in particular through the Europol Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group to be established pursuant to Article 51(1) of Regulation (EU) 2016/794(7);

5.  Calls on all parties involved to exhaust all possibilities under primary and secondary law in order to once again offer Denmark full membership of Europol;

6.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and Europol.

(1) OJ L 121, 15.5.2009, p. 37.
(2) OJ L 325, 11.12.2009, p. 12.
(3) OJ L 42, 18.2.2017, p. 17.
(4) OJ L 325, 11.12.2009, p. 6.
(5) Directive (EU) 2016/680 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by competent authorities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Council Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA (OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 89).
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0023.
(7) Regulation (EU) 2016/794 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) and replacing and repealing Council Decisions 2009/371/JHA, 2009/934/JHA, 2009/935/JHA, 2009/936/JHA and 2009/968/JHA (OJ L 135, 24.5.2016, p. 53).


Nomination of a member of the Court of Auditors
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European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on the nomination of Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz as a Member of the Court of Auditors (C8-0110/2017 – 2017/0802(NLE))
P8_TA(2017)0137A8-0166/2017

(Consultation)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 286(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C8-0110/2017),

–  having regard to Rule 121 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0166/2017),

A.  whereas Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control proceeded to evaluate the credentials of the nominee, in particular in view of the requirements laid down in Article 286(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;

B.  whereas at its meeting of 12 April 2017 the Committee on Budgetary Control heard the Council’s nominee for membership of the Court of Auditors;

1.  Delivers a favourable opinion on the Council’s nomination of Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz as a Member of the Court of Auditors;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Council and, for information, the Court of Auditors, the other institutions of the European Union and the audit institutions of the Member States.


Annual report on the control of the financial activities of the European Investment Bank for 2015
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European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 on the annual report on the control of the financial activities of the EIB for 2015 (2016/2098(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0138A8-0161/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the 2015 Activity Report of the European Investment Bank,

–  having regard to the 2015 Financial Report and the 2015 Statistical Report of the European Investment Bank,

–  having regard to the 2015 Sustainability Report, the 2015 Report on 3 Pillar Assessment for EIB operations inside the EU and the 2015 Report on Results Outside of the EU of the European Investment Bank,

–  having regard to the Audit Committee annual reports for the year 2015,

–  having regard to the European Investment Bank Group Annual Report on Anti-Fraud Activities 2015,

–  having regard to the Report on the implementation of the EIB’s Transparency Policy in 2015 and the 2015 Corporate Governance Report,

–  having regard to the EIB Office of the Chief Compliance Officer Activity Report 2015,

–  having regard to the EIB Group Operational Plans 2014-2016, 2015-2017, 2016-2018 and the EIF Corporate Operational Plan 2014-2016,

–  having regard to Articles 3 and 9 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to Articles 15, 126, 174, 175, 208, 209, 271, 308 and 309 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), to Protocol No 5 on the Statute of the EIB and to Protocol No 28 on economic, social and territorial cohesion,

–  having regard to Protocol No 1 on the role of National Parliaments in the European Union,

–  having regard to the Rules of Procedure of the European Investment Bank,

–  having regard to its resolutions of 11 March 2014 on the European Investment Bank (EIB) – Annual Report 2012(1), of 30 April 2015 on the European Investment Bank – Annual Report 2013(2), of 28 April 2016 on the European Investment Bank (EIB) – Annual Report 2014(3),

–  having regard to Decision No 1080/2011/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011(4) on the EIB External Mandate 2007-2013 and to Decision No 466/2014/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 granting an EU guarantee to the European Investment Bank against losses under financing operations supporting investment projects outside the Union(5),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 670/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 July 2012 amending Decision No 1639/2006/EC establishing a Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (2007-2013) and Regulation (EC) No 680/2007 laying down general rules for the granting of Community financial aid in the field of the trans-European transport and energy networks(6) (concerning the pilot phase for the Europe 2020 Project Bond Initiative),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 November 2014 on ‘An Investment Plan for Europe’ (COM(2014)0903),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2015/1017 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2015 on the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the European Investment Advisory Hub and the European Investment Project Portal and amending Regulations (EU) No 1291/2013 and (EU) No 1316/2013 – the European Fund for Strategic Investments(7),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 22 July 2015 entitled ‘Working together for jobs and growth: The role of National Promotional Banks (NPBs) in supporting the Investment Plan for Europe’ (COM(2015)0361),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 1 June 2016 entitled ‘Europe investing again, Taking stock of the Investment Plan for Europe and next steps’ (COM(2016)0359),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 14 September 2016 on the extension of the duration of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and to the introduction of technical enhancements for that Fund and the European Investment Advisory Hub (COM(2016)0597, SWD(2016)0297 and SWD(2016)0298),

–  having regard to the EIB’s operations evaluation of the functioning of theEFSI of September 2016,

–  having regard to Opinion No 2/2016 of the European Court of Auditors on the proposal for a regulation to increase and extend the EFSI,

–  having regard to Special Report 19/2016 of the European Court of Auditors entitled ‘Implementing the EU budget through financial instruments – lessons to be learnt from the 2007-2013 programme period’,

–  having regard to the Ernst & Young ad-hoc audit of 8 November 2016 of the application of Regulation (EU) 2015/1017 (‘EFSI Regulation’),

–  having regard to the Tripartite Agreement of September 2016 between the European Commission, the European Court of Auditors and the European Investment Bank,

–  having regard to the letter of the European Ombudsman to the President of the European Investment Bank dated 22 July 2016,

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development (A8-0161/2017),

A.  whereas the EIB is treaty-bound to contribute to EU integration, economic and social cohesion and regional development through dedicated investment instruments such as loans, equities, guarantees, risk-sharing facilities and advisory services;

B.  whereas the EIB, as the biggest public lender in the world, operates in the international capital markets, offering competitive terms to clients and favourable conditions to support EU policies and projects;

C.  whereas the European Investment Fund (EIF) and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) should play a key role in complementing the EIB’s interventions as the EU’s specialist vehicle for venture capital and guarantees aimed primarily at supporting SMEs and European integration and economic, social and territorial cohesion;

D.  whereas there are three different reports produced in the European Parliament on the activities of the EIB: a report on EIB financial activities (prepared by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Committee on Budgets), a report on the control of the financial activities of the EIB (prepared by the Committee on Budgetary Control), and a report on the implementation of EFSI (prepared by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Committee on Budgets);

E.  whereas safeguards against fraud, including tax fraud and money laundering, and against the financing of terrorism risks are contained in EIB contractual provisions included in the contracts signed between the EIB Group and its counterparties; whereas the EIB shall require that its counterparties comply with all applicable legislation; whereas additional contractual provisions addressing specific transparency and integrity issues should be imposed by the EIB on the basis of due diligence results;

F.  whereas the EIB acts as the implementing arm of the EU 2020 strategy and flagship initiatives by ensuring the use of public investment in substitution or correction of financial market gaps and by triggering new EU drivers of growth and job creation;

G.  whereas the catalytic effect of the EIB’s fundraising is a key element in defining EU added value and ensuring that Europe remains a leading player worldwide with all the attributes of a world-class economy in terms of competitiveness, innovation, infrastructure and attractiveness;

H.  whereas the EIB’s investments constitute an eco-stimulus package for making the EU far better equipped to remain a place of opportunities and to meet the challenges of globalised economic competition;

I.  whereas the Investment Plan for Europe is part of a broader strategy aimed at reversing the negative trend observed in public and private investment by mobilising new and private financial liquidity to be injected into the real economy with a view to fostering long-term strategic and sustainable investments across the Union;

J.  whereas there is currently a growing number of financial instruments designed and promoted by the EIB, from PPPs to securitisation; whereas such instruments may risk bringing about the socialisation of losses and privatisation of profits;

K.  whereas the EIB’s financing of operations outside the EU primarily supports the EU’s external policy objectives, while expanding the Union’s visibility and values and contributing to maintaining the stability of third countries;

L.  whereas continuous attention should be focused on the development of best practices related to the EIB’s performance policy and management, as well as good governance and transparency;

M.  whereas the EIB should maintain the triple-A rating as a fundamental asset of its business model and a high-quality, solid assets portfolio with sound investment projects in implementing the EFSI;

N.  whereas the EIB has not yet undertaken all necessary measures in response to the recommendations and calls of Parliament in its resolutions on the EIB Annual Reports from previous years;

Enhancing the sustainability of the EIB’s investment policy

1.  Notes that EUR 77,5 billion of operations were signed in 2015 (compared with EUR 77 billion in 2014), out of which EUR 69,7 billion went to EU Member States and EUR 7,8 billion went outside the EU;

2.  Welcomes the EIB’s annual reports for 2015 and its achievements presented therein, and the efforts achieved for a better presentation and reporting the EIB’s contribution (or additionality) and results;

3.  Recalls Parliament’s request to present a more comprehensive and harmonised annual report for a better qualitative overview and evaluation of the EIB’s overall activities and lending priorities; insists that the EIB further refines and provides information on the concrete and achieved economic, social and environmental impact, and added value, of its operations in the Member States and outside the EU;

4.  Emphasises that all EIB-financed activities must be part of and steadily consistent with the EU’s general strategy and political priority areas as defined in the Europe 2020 strategy, the Growth and Employment Facility and the Compact for Growth and Jobs, while applying the economic, social, financial efficiency and environmental impact criteria to project selection, in order to ensure the consistent implementation of EU policy;

5.  Emphasises the need to present concrete and concise results on how the EIB’s external investments have contributed to the achievement of the EU’s priorities and the development of capacity-building in the regions;

6.  Strongly encourages the EIB to continue its efforts to overcome investment, market and sectoral gaps and to invest in projects and operations which have real added value for achieving greater EU economic, social and territorial cohesion, a stronger investment environment, higher employment and the return of sustainable growth across the EU;

7.  Recalls that supporting economic recovery, sustainable growth and stronger cohesion is an overarching objective and that the EIB should better anticipate structural challenges, notably those related to Europe’s re-industrialisation and the knowledge-based and digital economy, in order to generate new economic opportunities, innovation, the development of a circular economy and better use of renewables in line with the goals of environmental, climate and energy policies; stresses that the process of reindustrialisation must be undertaken while taking into account the need to create high-quality jobs on the one hand and the various situations that characterise the European economy on the other, but in any event with due regard for the environment and the health of workers and members of the public;

8.  Is of the opinion that the EIB should systematically pay attention to mid- and long-term economic, social and environmental effects when defining investment actions and its funding decisions, particularly with regard to cross-border aspects; considers it necessary for the EIB to invest in both large- and small-scale sustainable projects of systemic importance in the long term that create added value at regional and EU level;

9.  Emphasises that the soundness of funded projects should by definition be assessed not only in terms of economic relevance but also with an equally strong focus on environmental and social sustainability, as well as on the political, cross-border and regional importance of such projects; recalls that prioritisation within the EIB’s lending activities on projects with clear and sustainable deliverables and impact on growth and employment must remain the core guiding principle;

10.  Acknowledges that the EIB is a core actor needed to revitalise the EU economy, boost employment, drive up growth figures in the Member States and maximise the effectiveness and value for money of available financial resources by using revolving instruments, namely through a multiplier effect of guarantee funds and leveraging;

11.  Believes there is a need to secure a resilient, sustainable and stable EU funding strategy to speed up economic recovery, boost employment and help certain economic sectors and less-developed regions catch up; recalls the need to focus on productive investment that makes a difference, especially in the long term, and to bolster the primary sector, research, infrastructures and employment; believes that projects should be chosen on the basis of their own merits, their potential to generate added value for the EU as a whole, and effective additionality, possibly with a higher risk profile;

12.  Reiterates, in this respect, that more information should be made public on the precise nature of individual projects funded directly or indirectly through the EIB’s lending activities, and, in particular, on their added value and expected economic impact on each Member State;

13.  Reiterates Parliament’s concern about defining a balanced strategy with a dynamic, fair and transparent geographical distribution of projects and investments among Member States, taking into account the special focus on the less developed countries and regions; observes that 73 % of the EIB’s total lending for 2015 (EUR 51 billion) is concentrated in six Member States, which shows that not all Member States or regions are able to benefit equally from investment opportunities;

14.  Supports EIB initiatives to provide joint technical assistance on the ground to the managing authorities and financial intermediaries, including targeted fi-compass training;

15.  Invites the EIB to step up its communication policy towards potential stakeholders and private investors on the available funding sources and instruments, and towards citizens on the results achieved;

16.  Calls on the EIB and the Commission to step up the dissemination of their financing possibilities, as well as their support and advice, to increase funding for projects of local and regional authorities and SMEs, and to simplify the access to EIB finance and blending grants with loans and financial instruments; calls on the Commission to support the drawing-up of training programmes for potential beneficiaries by giving managing authorities a more substantial role in providing information, guidance and advice for final beneficiaries;

17.  Considers it fundamental that the EIB keep its triple-A rating in order to preserve its access to international capital markets under the best borrowing conditions and to pass on the benefits in its investment strategy and lending conditions; calls on the EIB to develop its risk culture in order to improve its effectiveness and the complementarity and synergies between its interventions and various EU policies;

18.  Is deeply concerned about the generally higher costs and fees for EIB/EIF-managed funds implementing financial instruments under shared management, which have been revealed by the European Court of Auditors’ (ECA) findings in its Special Report 19/2016 on ‘Implementing the EU budget through financial instruments – lessons to be learnt from the 2007-2013 programme period’ and encourages the ECA to conduct a similar audit for the current period;

Monitoring the EIB’s impact in the implementation of key public policy areas

19.  Notes the report on the results and impact of the EIB operations inside the EU in 2015 based on the three-pillar assessment methodology with a view to assessing expected results, monitoring current results and measuring the impact of the four key public policy goals (PPGs), namely Innovation and skills (22,7 % of EIB signatures in 2015, amounting to EUR 15,8 billion), Finance for SMEs and mid-caps (28,5 % of signatures, or EUR 19,8 billion), Infrastructure (24,5 %, or EUR 17,1 billion) and Environment (24,3 %, or EUR 16,9 billion); notes that a selection of outputs and outcomes for the new operations signed are included to illustrate expected results, but that there is no information included in this report about monitored current results, nor on the impact achieved;

20.  Regrets that there is no information provided in the 2015 Annual Report on the EIB operations inside the EU about expected and achieved results from the Bank operations with regard to its two cross-cutting policy objectives, namely climate action and cohesion; is concerned that in 2015 the EIB did not reach the envisaged level of 30 % investments for cohesion (25,2 % achieved inside the EU) and that the forecasted implementation for 2016 (27 %) is also below the target of 30 %; strongly invites the EIB to reinstate economic, social and territorial cohesion as a primary public policy goal and to start explicit reporting on its implementation;

21.  Regrets as well as that the updating of the three-pillar methodology to align it with the requirements of the EFSI Regulation has not led to harmonisation of the EIB reporting for operations inside the EU with the reporting of operations outside the EU and to the inclusion of analytical and comprehensive information about achieved concrete results inside the EU; requests more information to be disclosed at project level by giving public access to 3 Pillars Assessment (3PA) and Results Measurement Framework (REM) project evaluation and assessment sheets;

22.  Highlights that an ambitious investment strategy must be coupled with clear monitoring and reporting instruments that guarantee performance management;

23.  Calls on the EIB to continuously put an emphasis on its performance scrutiny via performance assessments and proven impact; encourages the EIB to continue to define its monitoring indicators, more specifically indicators of additionality, with a view to assessing the impact as early as possible in the project generation phase, and providing the Board with sufficient information on the expected impact, in particular with regard to the contribution to EU policies;

24.  Acknowledges the complexity of monitoring a growing portfolio and various projects pipeline and subsequently the overall management of indicators; encourages the EIB to apply greater efforts to ensure proper monitoring;

25.  Encourages the EIB to be more pro-active towards Member States in order to provide capacity-building and advisory services directly to the beneficiaries for the preparation of large-scale investment projects through better cooperation with relevant national or decentralised authorities or national promotional banks;

Funding schemes for SMEs

26.  Recalls that the EIB has worldwide responsibilities in ensuring the EU’s attractiveness on the world stage by promoting a conducive investment climate for business and enterprises;

27.  Acknowledges the central role that SMEs and mid-caps play in boosting employment and the growth of the economy of the EU and individual Member States; supports the EIB’s efforts to intensify its support to all kinds of SMEs (starting capital, start-ups, micro-medium sized businesses, business clusters), with a focus on new business models with high-potential job opportunities for young people; calls on the EIB, in this context, to make the necessary efforts to ensure full implementation of the SME Initiative programme;

28.  Takes note that the EIB’s support to SMEs accounted for approximately 36,6 % of its funding in 2015, triggering a leverage effect of EUR 39,7 billion for SME finance and supporting 5 million jobs;

29.  Welcomes the EIF efforts to make the SME Initiative work currently in six countries (Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Finland, Romania and Malta), which are expected to benefit from about EUR 8,5 billion of new SME loans on favourable terms; calls on the Member States to implement the SME Initiative on a wider scale, bearing in mind its capacity to reduce the risk for financial intermediaries; appreciates therefore the proposal of the Commission to prolong the SME Initiative until 2020; stresses, however, that the SME Initiative should play a bigger role, as the financing of SMEs is vital for promoting growth and jobs in the EU, especially in the period after the economic and financial crisis; calls on the EIB to monitor and enhance the use of the instrument of securitisation; asks, furthermore, for improvements to the EIB’s communication policy and the administrative conditions of the SME Initiative; calls on the EIF to publish a report detailing the programme’s successes and failures;

30.  Welcomes the launch of new instruments, agreed between the EIB and the Commission, such as the Private Finance for Energy Efficiency (PF4EE) instrument, the SME initiative and the Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) financial instruments, which are expected to contribute to the achievement of the Europe 2020 strategy goals; notes the EIF’s activities, in particular the COSME (Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs) financial instruments and Innovfin, which benefited from the EFSI in 2015 by doubling the amount of loans it guarantees;

31.  Invites the EIB to increase its intervention risk profile, especially when supporting SMEs which are taking risks or evolving in economically disadvantaged regions or regions which lack stability; believes also that the SME sector and access to financing is a recurrent and longstanding objective to be pursued and further enhanced;

Innovation

32.  Supports all the incentives for market-driven innovation, social development and environmental protection, thereby maintaining sustainable growth and a careful use of resources; supports incentives which help the EU’s ambition to become a circular, knowledge-based and digital economy and maintain the EU’s competitiveness;

33.  Notes that the EIB already finances investments in R&D by EU security companies where civilian and dual-use technologies are concerned; is of the opinion that, as regards dual-use technologies, the EIB should primarily support those investments that are motivated by their commercialisation in civilian applications – examples of EIB projects of this type already included R&D investments in aircraft and space supplies, radar systems, cybersecurity and cloud security, microelectronics and vaccines;

34.  Notes that loans to innovative projects in 2015 amounted to a record level of EUR 18,7 billion and welcomes the greater emphasis being placed by the EIB on investment in innovation;

35.  Notes that, through continuing its support for civilian and dual-use technologies, the EIB could increase its support to the EU security sector within its established legal framework; this includes operations benefiting from the EFSI;

Infrastructure

36.  Invites the EIB to continue supporting infrastructure agenda based on efficient projects of common interest in the transport and energy sectors with their own resources and by implementing the Debt Financial Instruments under the Connected Europe Facility, while considering their compatibility with environmental and climate policy objectives and regional development; calls on the EIB to develop new financial instruments for the building of infrastructure and works under the terms of macro-regional strategies;

37.  Welcomes the level of financing of the objectives of economic and social cohesion (EUR 17 634 billion) and rural and urban regeneration (EUR 5 467 billion), and recommends that it be maintained; regards that funding as an essential complement to cohesion policy and the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds); emphasises the importance of maintaining a regular dialogue with the managing authorities to establish synergies and complementarity between both instruments;

38.  Calls on the EIB, Commission and national, regional and local authorities together with National Promotional Banks and Institutions (NPBIs) to strengthen their cooperation in order to create more synergies between the ESI Funds and EIB financing instruments and loans as well as to reduce the administrative burdens, simplify procedures, increase the administrative capacity, boost territorial development and cohesion and improve understanding of ESI Funds and EIB financing; considers that little information is available with regard to the blending activities of the EIB in Cohesion Policy projects and programmes; requests the EIB to honour its role as a public institution and to pursue the highest ambition in relation to accountability, transparency and visibility to avoid ambiguity; calls on the EIB to develop a communication policy regarding its activities, including its advisory activities, so that all forms of government and all beneficiaries can have access to its programmes;

39.  Underlines that the increased use of financial instruments in cohesion policy requires stronger involvement of the European Parliament in scrutinising the EIB’s activities also to allow for better assessing the implications and consequences of the EIB’s role;

40.  Requests the Member States to make full use of their allocation of ESI Funds and additionality, thus complementing EIB loans and financial instruments; asks, moreover, for more and better blending of grants with EIB financing to better exploit the leverage effect of ESI Funds; asks that the EIB spearheads this process as it has the expertise and a responsibility to shareholders that will help it deliver a return on its investments;

41.  Calls on the EIB to increase its financing of economic and social cohesion as well as of the urban objectives, while continuing to support traditional and innovative sectors in the EU; calls, moreover, for the development of special financial instruments to support the implementation of macroregional action plans and strategies, in cooperation with the Member States;

Environment and climate investment

42.  Encourages the EIB to focus its climate action on the sustainability of cross-sector projects in the context of the COP21 targets and to support the expansion of renewable energies and resource efficiency; notes that financing for renewables reached EUR 3,4 billion;

43.  Calls on the EIB to re-assess the attention that it specifically devotes to gas infrastructure projects, especially as gas demand in Europe is declining while new large-scale plans to build new pipelines and LNG terminals are emerging; expresses concern that the EIB investments in gas infrastructure could lead to investments in stranded assets;

44.  Believes it necessary to continue the development of a market for sustainable green projects, promoting above all the creation of a circular economy, in particular via a green bond market;

EIB’s contribution to the management of global issues

45.  Notes the increase of the external mandate from EUR 10 to 27 billion, with an additional optional amount of EUR 3 billion; recalls the need to constantly maintain the coherence of this mandate with the objectives of the EU’s external policy, particularly with regard to respect for civil rights in the countries receiving financing; reiterates Parliament’s request to the ECA to prepare a special report on the alignment with EU policies of EIB external lending interventions and their performance;

46.  Welcomes the EIB’s rapid adaptation capacity to international challenges; calls on the EIB to continue its support to EU external policies and emergency response related to the global challenge of migration by including the development aspect and by promoting economic resilience;

Monitoring of the EFSI’s added value and additionality

47.  Notes that the EFSI aims at leveraging through the EIB a total of EUR 315 billion in extra investment and new projects in the real economy by 2018; observes that 97 infrastructure and innovation projects and 192 SME financing agreements have been approved, representing a total expected investment of EUR 115,7 billion;

48.  Recognises that the implementation of the EFSI has rapidly changed the profile and business model of the EIB in terms of processes and monitoring of signatures and contracts;

49.  Notes that in order to make full use of the additional risk bearing capacity, the EIB Group is developing various new products that will allow for higher risk taking (e.g. subordinated debt, equity-type, risk sharing with banks), and has reviewed its credit risk policy and eligibilities to allow for increased flexibility; notes that the EIB is increasing its support to innovative companies or to infrastructure projects, as with the support of the EFSI; notes that the EIB can support a larger number of these risky projects without compromising the principles of sound management;

50.  Recalls that the objective of the EFSI is to identify distinct, truly innovative and riskier project profiles with new counterparts from the private sector compared with other existing EIB financing instruments, while achieving significant cross-border European added value in the implementation of the selected projects and an effective contribution to the existing EU common policy objectives;

51.  Recognises that the EFSI is a market-based instrument; recalls, however, that all Member States must develop adequate capacity to use it;

52.  Notes that the widest possible geographical spread should be considered in the implementation of the EFSI pipeline for the benefit of cohesion and sustainability objectives; asks the EIB to correct the current geographical imbalances within the Union and sectoral concentration of the EFSI’s portfolio, namely under the Infrastructure and Innovation Window (IIW) and the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Window (SMEW), by enhancing its advisory activities for projects development in Member States and technical assistance through the European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH), by considering expanding the number of sectors eligible for EFSI funding or by better adapting the type and size of the projects to the market needs in Member States;

53.  Calls on the EIB to carefully consider in the selection process real additionality and new dynamics along the magnitude of the multiplier effect, which might vary among the projects, in particular in fields where the EIB or the EIF were not already engaged, in cases of market failure or in sub-optimal investment situations;

54.  Notes that leveraging varies among projects mainly due to their scale, complexity and the correlation between important sectoral challenges and final beneficiaries’ expectations in a context of scarcity of public funds; is of the opinion that the assumption of an average leverage effect of x15 can only be measured at the end of the investment cycle while taking account of the sectors’ particularities; considers also that the effectiveness of interventions is not assessed only on the potential of financial instruments but also on measurable results;

55.  Calls on the EIB to pay particular attention to the principle of additionality and to provide relevant qualitative management information on the implementation of the EFSI stated objectives, showing their effective additionality and impact compared with benchmarks, but also in view of the extension of the EFSI beyond 2017;

56.  Considers it important for the mobilisation of private-sector capital that the EIB relieve investors of some of the risks incurred by potential projects; also invites the EIB to enhance both the EFSI’s attractiveness and its visibility in the investment guidelines and projects to be funded by further developing a more effective policy for raising awareness among potential private investors;

57.  Notes that the EFSI (through the SMEW) is an important tool for providing supplementary funding to SMEs, i.e. up to EUR 75 billion of the total investment catalysed by the EFSI over three years, along with the EIB and EIF lending capacities;

58.  Calls on the Commission to establish a permanent European Guarantee Platform under the EFSI to ease SME access to finance, and to improve the development of guarantees and lending products based on European guarantees;

59.  Calls on the EIB to use the opportunity presented by the EFSI to increase financing for smaller-scale, off-grid decentralised renewable energy projects involving citizens and communities which face difficulties in obtaining finance from other sources;

60.  Takes note also of the increase of the EIB’s special activities in terms of volume resulting from the first year of EFSI implementation, which reflects an evolution of the EIB’s prudent risk culture and lending policy;

61.  Insists, for accountability purposes, on the development of result-driven investments to be regularly assessed through the scoreboard of indicators by the Investment Committee, with a view to identifying well-targeted projects in terms of their contribution to growth and jobs and to having an objective overview of their additionality, added value and consistency with Union policies or other classical EIB operations; calls on the EIB to disclose information on how projects receiving the EFSI guarantee scored when measured against the EFSI Scoreboard of Indicators;

62.  Notes that, in the future, the EIB remains open to discussing with Parliament’s services the further arrangements which could be envisaged to have a more structured, less fragmented approach for the Parliament-EIB dialogue; the EIB and Parliament are currently working towards a swift conclusion of the formal agreement on the EFSI, which sets provisions for all information exchange under it – including the Annual Report on the EFSI to the Council and Parliament;

Deepening the EIB’s transparency, accountability, integrity and internal control as a prerequisite for better corporate governance

63.  Believes that the enhanced economic role of the EIB, its increased investment capacity and the use of the EU budget to guarantee the EIB’s operations must be accompanied by greater transparency and deepened accountability so as to ensure genuine public scrutiny of its activities, project selection and funding priorities;

64.  Invites the EIB to regularly update its risk-mapping of activities and to adapt its risk culture with regard to its recent business model and increasing volume of its portfolio related to the implementation of new instruments with the EFSI, various facilities, investment platforms and risk-sharing instruments; invites the EIB also in that context to include in its risk-mapping non-financial dimensions such as social and/or environmental added-value; welcomes, in that context, the implementation of the EIB’s prudential risk appetite framework in order to reinforce the monitoring of risks and oversight of the origin, ownership and management of risks; recalls the need to develop a single and homogeneous control framework;

65.  Welcomes the high quality of the EIB’s loan portfolio, with a level of impaired loans representing 0,3 % of the EIB’s total loan portfolio, confirming the EIB’s consistently prudent risk management policies and maintaining its strong credit standing on international financial markets;

66.  Welcomes the fact that the EIB’s transparency policy is based on a presumption of disclosure and that everyone can access EIB documents and information; recalls its recommendation for publication on the EIB website of non-confidential documents, such as Corporative Operational Plans for previous years, interinstitutional agreements and memorandums and calls on the EIB to not stop there, but to continue constantly looking for ways to improve and raising the bar;

67.  Welcomes the report on the implementation of the EIB Group Transparency policy for 2015 and the upcoming review of the EIB whistleblowing policy;

68.  Recalls that transparency in the implementation of EU policies not only leads to strengthening the EIB’s overall corporate accountability and credibility, with a clear overview of the type of financial intermediaries and final beneficiaries, but also contributes to enhancing the effectiveness and sustainability of the funded projects alongside a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and corruption in its loan portfolio; calls on the EIB to align itself with the new rapid alert and exclusion system planned by the Commission;

69.  Notes with concern that the EIB, despite awarding three times as much financing as the World Bank, has blacklisted only three entities, whereas the World Bank has blacklisted 820; calls on the EIB, in order to remedy this situation, to join forces with the network of other public banks dealing with blacklisting, a network which includes the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD);

70.  Reiterates its call to increase the transparency of the EIB’s interventions when operating with financial intermediaries and beneficiaries in order to avoid counterparts with negative records, blacklisted counterparts and counterparts with potential links with NCJs, offshore activities or organised crime; considers that using criteria for selecting financial intermediaries and having updated information on beneficial ownership of the company, including trusts, foundations and tax havens, are best practices to be permanently followed; invites the EIB to further reinforce its contractual conditions by integrating a clause or a reference to good governance in order to mitigate the integrity and reputation risks;

71.  Suggests that, the EIB should follow the example set by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank group and start disclosing information about the high-risk sub-projects it finances via commercial banks (the main intermediaries/financial vehicles used by the EIB to fund SMEs);

72.  Welcomes the regular meetings with civil society and public consultations on the development of the EIB’s policies;

73.  Calls for an increasingly high level of transparency to be ensured in the EIB’s disclosure policy as regards its governance bodies, in particular through the disclosure of the minutes of the meetings of the EIB’s and EIF’s Board of Directors or the EFSI Investment Committee and as regards projects of public interest benefiting from the EU budget guarantee and impacting EU territories and citizens; considers the disclosure of the scoreboard of indicators to be good practice for any operation and for the environmental and social impact assessments at the level of projects or subprojects;

74.  Reiterates its request for information on the contracting and subcontracting system to be made public and easily accessible, and for Parliament to be guaranteed access to the associated financial information and documentation in all cases;

75.  Welcomes the pro-active approach taken by the European Ombudsman in exerting public scrutiny over the EIB; is strongly concerned with the identified shortcomings in the existing EIB mechanisms to prevent possible conflicts of interest within its governing bodies; calls on the EIB, in this regard, in order to better prevent conflicts of interest in its governing bodies and potential revolving doors issues to take into consideration the Ombudsman’s recommendations and to revise its Code of Conduct as soon as possible;

76.  Considers that the Vice-Presidents of the EIB should no longer be in charge of projects in their home countries, given the clear potential for conflicts of interest and the fact that only a minority of Member States have their own Vice-President;

77.  Welcomes the review of the rules of the Complaints Mechanism Office (CM Office), and the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding between the European Ombudsman and the EIB; requests clarification from the EIB on the delay to the launch of a public consultation on the revision of the policies and procedures of its complaints mechanism; notes that such a revision process offers the opportunity to further improve the independence and efficiency of the complaints mechanism, with a view to also establishing a mechanism for a systematic flow of information directly between the CM Office and the directors; stresses that the EIB management should report annually to the Ombudsman and Parliament on how the recommendations of its complaints mechanisms have been reflected in the policies and practices of the bank; stresses, in addition, that the head of the CM Office should present its activity report and its assessment of how the bank is fulfilling the CM Office recommendations to Parliament once a year;

78.  Asks the EIB to do its utmost in its fight against tax evasion, tax fraud and avoidance, irregular activities and money laundering through its non-transparent and uncooperative jurisdictions (NCJ) policy and the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism Framework (AML-CFT);

79.  Invites the EIB also to maintain regular cooperation with other international financial institutions through the exchange of information on the results of its corporate or tax due diligence or ‘Know Your Customer’ review and to report annually to Parliament and the public on how it implements its NCJ policy;

80.  Considers that the EIB’s external prudential supervision merits careful consideration, as stated by Parliament in its previous resolutions;

81.  Notes the conclusion of the updated Tripartite Agreement between the EIB, the Commission and the ECA in September 2016 and calls on the ECA to conduct performance audits of the EIB operations in different sectors when they are related to the use of the EU budget resources with regard to their effectiveness and efficiency;

82.  Calls on the Commission to present annually by June every year starting from 2018 a report on implementation from the beginning of the current MFF and state of play, including results achieved, of all financial instruments managed and implemented by the EIB Group which operate with resources from the EU budget, in order to use it in the discharge procedure;

83.  Calls on the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) to include information in its annual report about cases related to the EIB;

Follow-up of Parliament’s recommendations

84.  Calls on the EIB to report on the state of play and status of previous recommendations issued by Parliament in its annual resolutions, especially as regards the impact of its lending activities;

85.  Calls on the EIB to revise its Policy on preventing and deterring prohibited conduct in EIB activities, which should set in stone the necessity for the EIB to stop financing and/or approving further loan disbursements to projects under ongoing national or OLAF investigation for corruption and fraud;

o
o   o

86.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European Investment Bank and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0201.
(2) OJ C 346, 21.9.2016, p. 77.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0200.
(4) OJ L 280, 27.10.2011, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 135, 8.5.2014, p. 1.
(6) OJ L 204, 31.7.2012, p. 1.
(7) OJ L 169, 1.7.2015, p. 1.


Structural Reform Support Programme for 2017-2020 ***I
PDF 241kWORD 44k
Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 27 April 2017 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of the Structural Reform Support Programme for the period 2017 to 2020 and amending Regulations (EU) No 1303/2013 and (EU) No 1305/2013 (COM(2015)0701 – C8-0373/2015 – 2015/0263(COD))
P8_TA(2017)0139A8-0374/2016

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2015)0701),

–  having regard to Articles 294(2), 175 and 197(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8‑0373/2015),

–  having regard to Article 294(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 16 March 2016(1),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 7 April 2016(2),

–  having regard to the provisional agreement approved by the responsible committee under Rule 69f(4) of its Rules of Procedure and the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 15 February 2017 to approve Parliament’s position, in accordance with Article 294(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

–  having regard to Rule 59 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development and the opinions of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, the Committee on Budgets, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on Fisheries and the Committee on Culture and Education (A8-0374/2016),

1.  Adopts its position at first reading hereinafter set out;

2.  Calls on the Commission to refer the matter to Parliament again if it replaces, substantially amends or intends to substantially amend its proposal;

3.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 27 April 2017 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2017/... of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of the Structural Reform Support Programme for the period 2017 to 2020 and amending Regulations (EU) No 1303/2013 and (EU) No 1305/2013

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EU) 2017/825.)

(1) OJ C 177, 18.5.2016, p. 47.
(2) OJ C 240, 1.7.2016, p. 49..


European Year of Cultural Heritage ***I
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Resolution
Text
Annex
European Parliament legislative resolution of 27 April 2017 on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a European Year of Cultural Heritage (COM(2016)0543 – C8-0352/2016 – 2016/0259(COD))
P8_TA(2017)0140A8-0340/2016

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2016)0543),

–  having regard to Article 294(2) and Article 167 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8‑0352/2016),

–  having regard to Article 294(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 12 October 2016(1),

–  having regard to the provisional agreement approved by the responsible committee under Rule 69f(4) of its Rules of Procedure and the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 15 February 2017 to approve Parliament’s position, in accordance with Article 294(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Rule 59 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Culture and Education and the opinion of the Committee on Budgets (A8-0340/2016),

1.  Adopts its position at first reading hereinafter set out;

2.  Approves the joint statement by Parliament and the Council annexed to this resolution;

3.  Takes note of the Commission statement annexed to this resolution;

4.  Calls on the Commission to refer the matter to Parliament again if it replaces, substantially amends or intends to substantially amend its proposal;

5.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 27 April 2017 with a view to the adoption of Decision (EU) 2017/... of the European Parliament and of the Council on a European Year of Cultural Heritage (2018)

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Decision (EU) 2017/864.)

ANNEX TO THE LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

JOINT STATEMENT BY THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL

In accordance with Article 9 of the Decision, the financial envelope for the implementation of the European Year of Cultural Heritage (2018) is set at EUR 8 million. In order to fund the preparation of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, EUR 1 million will be financed from existing resources in the 2017 budget. For the 2018 budget, EUR 7 million will be reserved for the European Year of Cultural Heritage and be made visible in a budget line. Of that amount, EUR 3 million will come from the resources currently provided for in the Creative Europe Programme and EUR 4 million will be reprioritised from other existing resources, without using the existing margins and without prejudice to the powers of the budgetary authority.

STATEMENT BY THE COMMISSION

The Commission takes note of the agreement of the co-legislators to introduce a financial envelope of EUR 8 million in Article 9 of the Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a European Year of Cultural Heritage (2018). The Commission recalls that it is the prerogative of the budgetary authority to authorise the amount of appropriations in the annual budget, in accordance with Article 314 TFEU.

(1) OJ C 88, 21.3.2017, p. 7.


Union programme to support specific activities in the field of financial reporting and auditing ***I
PDF 239kWORD 42k
Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 27 April 2017 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 258/2014 establishing a Union Programme to support specific activities in the field of financial reporting and auditing for the period of 2014-20 (COM(2016)0202 – C8-0145/2016 – 2016/0110(COD))
P8_TA(2017)0141A8-0291/2016

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2016)0202),

–  having regard to Article 294(2) and Article 114 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8‑0145/2016),

–  having regard to Article 294(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 25 May 2016(1)

–  having regard to the provisional agreement approved by the responsible committee under Rule 69f(4) of its Rules of Procedure and the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 15 March 2017 to approve Parliament’s position, in accordance with Article 294(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Rule 59 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (A8-0291/2016),

1.  Adopts its position at first reading hereinafter set out;

2.  Calls on the Commission to refer the matter to Parliament again if it replaces, substantially amends or intends to substantially amend its proposal;

3.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 27 April 2017 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2017/... of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 258/2014 establishing a Union Programme to support specific activities in the field of financial reporting and auditing for the period of 2014-20

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EU) 2017/827.)

(1) OJ C 303, 19.8.2016, p. 147.


Union programme to enhance the involvement of consumers in financial services policy-making ***I
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 27 April 2017 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing a Union programme to support specific activities enhancing the involvement of consumers and other financial services end-users in Union policy making in the field of financial services for the period of 2017-2020 (COM(2016)0388 – C8-0220/2016 – 2016/0182(COD))
P8_TA(2017)0142A8-0008/2017

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2016)0388),

–  having regard to Article 294(2) and point (b) of Article 169(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8‑0220/2016),

–  having regard to Article 294(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 19 October 2016(1),

–  having regard to the provisional agreement approved by the responsible committee under Rule 69f(4) of its Rules of Procedure and the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 15 March 2017 to approve Parliament’s position, in accordance with Article 294(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Rule 59 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (A8-0008/2017),

1.  Adopts its position at first reading hereinafter set out;

2.  Calls on the Commission to refer the matter to Parliament again if it replaces, substantially amends or intends to substantially amend its proposal;

3.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 27 April 2017 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2017/... of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing a Union programme to support specific activities enhancing the involvement of consumers and other financial services end-users in Union policy-making in the area of financial services for the period of 2017-2020

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EU) 2017/826.)

(1) OJ C 34, 2.2.2017, p. 117.


Discharge 2015: EU general budget - European Commission and executive agencies
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Decision
Decision
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Decision
Decision
Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission (2016/2151(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0143A8-0150/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0269/2016)(2),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2014 financial year (COM(2016)0674), and to the accompanying Commission staff working documents (SWD(2016)0338, SWD(2016)0339),

–  having regard to the Commission’s 2015 Annual Management and Performance Report for the EU Budget (COM(2016)0446),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2015 (COM(2016)0628), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2016)0322),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies(3), and to the Court of Auditors’ special reports,

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(4) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05876/2017 – C8‑0037/2017),

–  having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(5), and in particular Articles 62, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 93 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A8-0150/2017),

A.  whereas, under Article 17(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the Commission is to execute the budget and manage programmes and, pursuant to Article 317 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, is to implement the budget in cooperation with the Member States, on its own responsibility, having regard to the principles of sound financial management;

1.  Grants the Commission discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and executive agencies and in its resolution of 27 April 2017 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2015(6);

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision, and the resolution forming an integral part of it, to the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to the national parliaments and the national and regional audit institutions of the Member States, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency for the financial year 2015 (2016/2151(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(7),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0269/2016)(8),

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency for the financial year 2015(9),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2014 financial year (COM(2016)0674), and to the accompanying Commission staff working documents (SWD(2016)0338, SWD(2016)0339),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2015 (COM(2016)0628), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2016)0322),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency for the financial year 2015, together with the Agency’s reply(10),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(11) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05874/2017– C8‑0038/2017),

–  having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(12) and in particular Articles 62, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(13), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(14), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2013/776/EU of 18 December 2013 establishing the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency and repealing Decision 2009/336/EC(15),

–  having regard to Rule 93 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A8-0150/2017),

A.  whereas, under Article 17(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the Commission is to execute the budget and manage programmes and, pursuant to Article 317 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, is to implement the budget in cooperation with the Member States, on its own responsibility, having regard to the principles of sound financial management;

1.  Grants the Director of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and executive agencies and in its resolution of 27 April 2017 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2015(16);

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Director of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

3. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises for the financial year 2015 (2016/2151(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(17),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0269/2016)(18),

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises for the financial year 2015(19),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2014 financial year (COM(2016)0674), and to the accompanying Commission staff working documents (SWD(2016)0338, SWD(2016)0339),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2015 (COM(2016)0628) and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2016)0322),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises for the financial year 2015, together with the Agency’s reply(20),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(21) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05874/2017– C8‑0038/2017),

–  having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(22) and in particular Articles 62, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(23), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(24), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2013/771/EU of 17 December 2013 establishing the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and repealing Decisions 2004/20/EC and 2007/372/EC(25),

–  having regard to Rule 93 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A8-0150/2017),

A.  whereas, under Article 17(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the Commission is to execute the budget and manage programmes and, pursuant to Article 317 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, is to implement the budget in cooperation with the Member States, on its own responsibility, having regard to the principles of sound financial management;

1.  Grants the Director of the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 27 April 2017 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2015(26);

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Director of the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

4. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency for the financial year 2015 (2016/2151(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(27),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0269/2016)(28),

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency for the financial year 2015(29),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2014 financial year (COM(2016)0674), and to the accompanying Commission staff working documents (SWD(2016)0338, SWD(2016)0339),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2015 (COM(2016)0628), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2016)0322),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency for the financial year 2015, together with the Agency’s reply(30),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(31) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05874/2017 – C8‑0038/2017),

–  having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(32) and in particular Articles 62, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(33), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(34), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2013/770/EU of 17 December 2013 establishing the Consumers, Health and Food Executive Agency and repealing Decision 2004/858/EC(35),

–  having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2014/927/EU of 17 December 2014 amending Implementing Decision 2013/770/EU in order to transform the Consumers, Health and Food Executive Agency into the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency(36),

–  having regard to Rule 93 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A8-0150/2017),

A.  whereas, under Article 17(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the Commission is to execute the budget and manage programmes and, pursuant to Article 317 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, is to implement the budget in cooperation with the Member States, on its own responsibility, having regard to the principles of sound financial management;

1.  Grants the Director of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 27 April 2017 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2015(37);

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Director of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

5. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Research Council Executive Agency for the financial year 2015 (2016/2151(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(38),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0269/2016)(39),

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Research Council Executive Agency for the financial year 2015(40)

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2014 financial year (COM(2016)0674), and to the accompanying Commission staff working documents (SWD(2016)0338, SWD(2016)0339),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2015 (COM(2016)0628), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2016)0322),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the European Research Council Executive Agency for the financial year 2015, together with the Agency’s reply(41),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(42) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05874/2017 – C8-0038/2017),

–  having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(43) and in particular Articles 62, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(44), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(45), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2013/779/EU of 17 December 2013 establishing the European Research Council Executive Agency and repealing Decision 2008/37/EC(46),

–  having regard to Rule 93 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A8-0150/2017),

A.  whereas, under Article 17(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the Commission is to execute the budget and manage programmes and, pursuant to Article 317 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, is to implement the budget in cooperation with the Member States, on its own responsibility, having regard to the principles of sound financial management;

1.  Grants the Director of the European Research Council Executive Agency discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 27 April 2017 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2015(47);

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Director of the European Research Council Executive Agency, the Council, the Commission, and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

6. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Research Executive Agency for the financial year 2015 (2016/2151(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(48),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0269/2016)(49),

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the Research Executive Agency for the financial year 2015(50),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2014 financial year (COM(2016)0674), and to the accompanying Commission staff working documents (SWD(2016)0338, SWD(2016)0339),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2015 (COM(2016)0628), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2016)0322),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the Research Executive Agency for the financial year 2015, together with the Agency’s reply(51),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(52) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05874/2017 – C8-0038/2017),

–  having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(53) and in particular Articles 62, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(54), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(55), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2013/778/EU of 13 December 2013 establishing the Research Executive Agency and repealing Decision 2008/46/EC(56),

–  having regard to Rule 93 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A8-0150/2017),

A.  whereas, under Article 17(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the Commission is to execute the budget and manage programmes and, pursuant to Article 317 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, is to implement the budget in cooperation with the Member States, on its own responsibility, having regard to the principles of sound financial management;

1.  Grants the Director of the Research Executive Agency discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 27 April 2017 on the Court of auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2015(57).

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Director of the Research Executive Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

7. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency for the financial year 2015 (2016/2151(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(58),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0269/2016)(59),

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency for the financial year 2015(60),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2014 financial year (COM(2016)0674), and to the accompanying Commission staff working documents (SWD(2016)0338, SWD(2016)0339),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2015 (COM(2016)0628), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2016)0322),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency for the financial year 2015, together with the Agency’s reply(61),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(62) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05874/2017– C8‑0038/2017),

–  having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(63) and in particular Articles 62, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(64), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(65), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2013/801/EU of 23 December 2013 establishing the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency and repealing Decision 2007/60/EC as amended by Decision 2008/593/EC(66),

–  having regard to Rule 93 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A8-0150/2017),

A.  whereas, under Article 17(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the Commission is to execute the budget and manage programmes and, pursuant to Article 317 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, is to implement the budget in cooperation with the Member States, on its own responsibility, having regard to the principles of sound financial management;

1.  Grants the Director of the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 27 April 2017 on the Court of auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2015(67);

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Director of the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

8. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on the closure of the accounts of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission (2016/2151(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(68),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0269/2016)(69),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2014 financial year (COM(2016)0674), and to the accompanying Commission staff working documents (SWD(2016)0338, SWD(2016)0339),

–  having regard to the Commission’s 2015 Annual Management and Performance Report for the EU Budget (COM(2016)0446),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2015 (COM(2016)0628), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2016)0322),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies(70), and to the Court of Auditors’ special reports,

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(71) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05876/2017 – C8‑0037/2017),

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05874/2017– C8‑0038/2017),

–  having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(72) and in particular Articles 62, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes(73), and in particular Article 14(2) and (3) thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 93 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A8-0150/2017),

1.  Approves the closure of the accounts of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 27 April 2017 on the Court of auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2015(74);

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Council, the Commission, and the Court of Auditors, and to the national parliaments and the national and regional audit institutions of the Member States, and to arrange for its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

9. European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission and executive agencies (2016/2151(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission,

–  having regard to its decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budgets of the executive agencies for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to Articles 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(75) (the “Financial Regulation”) and Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1268/2012 of 29 October 2012 on the rules of application of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union(76) (the “Rules of Application”),

–  having regard to Rule 93 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A8-0150/2017),

A.  whereas Europe is facing a crisis of confidence in its institutions, a situation for which each individual institution of the Union must accept its own share of responsibility, and which thus requires Parliament to be particularly rigorous when scrutinising the accounts of the Commission;

B.  whereas the Union institutions and Member States should improve their communications policy so as to properly inform the citizens about the results achieved by the Union budget and their added value;

C.  whereas the Parliament must have a strong engagement towards Union citizens’ concerns about where the Union budget is spent and how the Union protects their interests;

D.  whereas the Union institutions should work towards a robust and resilient Union budgetary system that performs not only with flexibility, but also with agility in both stable and turbulent times;

E.  whereas, cohesion policy brings a clear value added by improving the quality of life of citizens through Europe by being a key policy of solidarity and a vital source of public investment;

F.  whereas the Union institutions need to build a clear understanding and agree on which European policy priorities and public goods should be financed first to answer our citizens concerns and close the gaps in our policies;

G.  whereas Union spending, while limited to 1 % of the Union GNI, is a significant instrument for achieving Europe-wide policy objectives utilising the European added value and on overage represents 1,9 % of Union Member States’ general government expenditure;

H.  whereas while the percentages involved in the Union budget as a) a portion of the overall aggregate Member States' expenditure, and b) the unaccounted for/misspent/wasted element of that budget, are small, the actual amounts involved are considerable and thus justify intense scrutiny;

I.  whereas, according to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Commission bears ultimate responsibility for the implementation of the Union budget, while Member States are required to sincerely cooperate with the Commission to ensure that the appropriations are used in accordance with the principles of sound financial management;

J.  whereas when the Parliament grants discharge to the Commission it checks whether or not funds have been used correctly and policy goals achieved;

Budget, programming periods and political priorities

1.  Notes that the seven year duration of the current Multiannual Financial Framework is not synchronised with the five year mandates of the Parliament and the Commission, and that this also creates discrepancies between the budget for the financial year and its discharge; furthermore, points out that the 10 year strategic planning cycle and Europe 2020 Strategy are not aligned either with the seven year cycle for managing the Union budget; is of the opinion that this is one of the causes of a major deficiency of the Union political governance since the Parliament and the Commission are bound by previous agreements on political objectives and finances which could create the impression that the European elections are irrelevant in this context;

2.  Notes that in 2015 the budget of the Union had to support the achievement of the objectives of two different long term political programmes:

   a) the Europe 2020 Strategy on the one hand and
   b) the 10 political priorities set out by President Juncker on the other hand,

while also responding to a number of crisis situations: refugees, insecurity in Europe and its neighbourhood, financial instability in Greece and the economic impact of the Russian ban exports, as well as the prolonged impact of the financial crisis and its structural consequences of unemployment, poverty and inequality;

3.  Notes that Union policies may have different short-, medium- and long-term objectives, whose realisation cannot necessarily be determined by a single multiannual financial framework; believes consideration needs to be given to a new balance between political agenda setting, policy implementation and financial framework needs;

4.  Regrets that the temporary budgetary arrangements do not offer the ideal system for transposing social and political aspirations into useful operational objectives for spending programmes and schemes;

5.  Points out that there will be an opportunity in 2020 to bring the long term strategy and policy-making in to line with the budgetary cycle and recommends that this opportunity should be availed of;

6.  Is worried that in 2015 the share of the climate-related spending of the Union budget was only 17,3 % in 2015 and was only 17,6 % on average for the period 2014-2016 according to the Court of Auditors (the “Court”)(77), while the objective was to reach, at least, 20 % over the financial period; stresses therefore that according to the Court there is a serious risk that the 20 % target will not be met without more effort to tackle climate change;

7.  Points out furthermore that the 20 % climate-related spending was decided before the Paris agreement; is convinced that further efforts should be made in order to make the Union budget even more climate-friendly; underlines, moreover, that the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework creates an excellent opportunity to ensure that the 20 % target of spending on climate-related actions is reached and to provide for a possible increase of this threshold in line with the EU's international commitments taken during the COP 21;

8.  Welcomes the performance based budgeting approach launched by the Commission; considers that the Union budget should be more efficient and more effective than ever due to the scarce financial resources; regrets however that the Commission focuses mainly on the outputs rather than on the outcomes;

Measures to be taken

9.  Endorses the suggestion made by the Court in its briefing paper of 28 October 2016 on the mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework (points 39 and 40) that it is time for the Commission to explore other options, for example:

   a rolling budgeting programme with a five year planning horizon, clause(s) of revision by objectives and policies and a rolling evaluation programme;
   determining the duration of programmes and schemes on policy needs rather than basing it on the length of the financial planning period; requiring Member States and the Commission to present well-justified needs for (a) Union funding and (b) results to be achieved, before spending is set;

10.  Calls on the Commission to put on the agenda of the next experts' meeting on Budget Focused Results the suggestions made by the Court in points 39 and 40 of its above-mentioned briefing paper of 28 October 2016 and the recommendations of the high-level group on own resources in order to prepare the next ‘Conference on EU Budget focused on Results’ initiative at which the policy areas on which the Union budget should be spent will be debated before the financial framework is decided upon;

11.  Endorses all recommendations made by the Court in its Special Report No 31/2016 and especially that the Commission should explore all potential opportunities, including the midterm Multiannual Financial Framework revision and the revision of some legal bases, to ensure a further real shift towards climate action; calls on the Court to issue a follow-up report on the climate-related spending of the Union budget by the end of 2018;

12.  Calls on the Commission to make greater use of the opportunities regarding the performance reserve within the existing legal framework, in order to create a genuine financial stimulus to effectively improve financial management; requests furthermore a reinforcement of the performance reserve as an instrument, by increasing the performance-dependent component in the following legislative framework;

13.  Calls on the Commission to orient its priorities towards the successful achievement of the Europe 2020 Strategy by using the instruments of the European Semester;

14.  Calls on the Commission to establish draft political priorities for the financial period beginning in 2021, and to submit the text to the Parliament at an early stage;

15.  Regrets that the Commission did not perform a full-scale review of the Europe 2020 Strategy in order to ensure its implementation under the Strategic Agenda for the Union in Times of Change, adopted by the European Council in June 2014, as this agenda envisages;

16.  Calls on the Commission to take into account the Paris agreement and to increase immediately the climate-related spending target in the Union budget from 20 % to 30 %;

17.  Calls on the Commission to draft the forthcoming Union budgets in order to make it more efficient and more effective and to better align them with the Europe 2020 targets, Union climate targets, and Union international commitments;

Shadow budgets

18.  Points out that numerous financial mechanisms supporting Union policies are not directly financed by the Union budget or recorded in the Union balance sheet: these include the European Financial Stability Facility, the European Stability Mechanism, the Single Resolution Mechanism and the European Investment Fund linked to the European Investment Bank;

19.  Notes that other mechanisms are partially recorded in the Union balance sheet such as the blending facilities and the European Fund for Strategic Investments;

20.  Points out the increasing use of financial instruments principally composed of loans, equity instruments, guarantees and risk sharing instruments under indirect management for the 2014-2020 period, and points out further that the European Investment Bank Group managed almost all of the financial instruments under indirect management; does not believe there is enough information available for an assessment of what these instruments have achieved, especially with regard to their social and environmental impact; emphasises that financial instruments can supplement grants but should not replace them;

21.  Regrets that the increasing use of such financial instruments, and also the financial instruments in shared management (the financial engineering instruments) poses higher risks not just for the Union budget remaining a credible instrument and sufficient for both current and future objectives, but also for accountability and the coordination of Union policies and operations; underlines that extending the use of financial instruments should be preceded by a comprehensive evaluation of their results, achievements and efficiency; points out that the Court’s special reports(78) state that the financial instruments do not work as expected and/or are oversized and/or are unsuccessful in attracting private capital;

22.  Warns the Commission that the financial instruments or any funding arrangement are not necessarily bound by the Union political objectives and targets and might finance projects which are not in line with the Union commitments;

23.  Points out that the launch of the European Fund for Strategic Investments has affected the delay in the launch of the Connecting Europe Facility and that the European Fund for Strategic Investments will also impact the use made of some other financial instruments;

Measures to be taken

24.  Urges the Commission to propose measures to make Union funding arrangements for implementation of the Union budget - which currently include different tools and combinations between them as for example programmes, structural and investment funds, trust funds, strategic investment fund, guarantee funds, facilities, financial instruments, macro-financial assistance instruments, etc. - clearer, simpler, more coherent and better equipped to ensure sufficient transparency, accountability, performance and public understanding of how Union policies are funded and what benefits they bring; regrets that the proposal for a new financial regulation from September 2016 does not address these problems in an adequate manner;

25.  Calls on the Commission to re-evaluate the ex-ante assessment for the Connecting Europe Facility debt instrument in the light of the creation of the European Fund for Strategic Investments and also to submit to Parliament an assessment of the impact of the European Fund for Strategic Investments on other Union programmes and financial instruments;

26.  Asks the Court to evaluate the contribution of the financial instruments and funding arrangements (as listed in paragraph 24) to the Europe 2020 Strategy; calls on the Commission to take any relevant measures in order to ensure that the financial instruments and any funding arrangement are compatible with the Union’s strategy, targets and commitments the Union has taken;

27.  Welcomes Commissioner Oettinger’s intention to bring the various shadow budgets, in the long run, back under the roof of the Union budget; considers that this would hugely increase democratic accountability; is of the firm opinion that this problem should be solved as soon as possible, but at the latest by the end of the next financial programming period; calls on the Commission to prepare a communication on this issue before November 2017;

Budgetary and financial management

28.  Regrets that the backlogs in the use of 2007-2013 structural funds are significant; notes that by the end of 2015, payment of 10 % of the total EUR 446,2 billion allocated to all approved operational programmes was still outstanding;

29.  Stresses that this situation may indeed pose a significant challenge and undermine the effectiveness of European structural and investment funds as in some Member States the unclaimed Union contribution, together with required co-financing, exceeds 15 % of the total general government expenditure when the last two financial framework periods, 2007-2013 and 2014-2020, are taken into account;

30.  Notes with concern the fact that, by the end of 2015, five Member States (the Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, Poland and Romania) and principle beneficiaries accounted for more than half of the unused commitment appropriations for structural funds that have not led to payments for the programming period 2007-2013, the reasons for this delay being various: lack of capacity and administrative assistance, lack of national resources to co-finance Union operations, delays in submitting regional programmes for the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, etc.;

31.  Points out that a new feature in this Multiannual Financial Framework is that unused amounts under the payment ceiling and under the commitments ceiling automatically increase the flexibility for subsequent years;

32.  Stresses that the level of commitments in 2015 was higher than in any previous year and just within the overall limit (97,7 % of the amount available);

33.  Points out that in 2015 three-quarters of operational spending went to schemes operating under the rules of the previous Multiannual Financial Framework: i. e. subsidies to farmers for 2014, cohesion projects, research projects under the seventh framework programme which began in 2007;

34.  Finds unacceptable that by the end of 2015 fewer than 20 % of the national authorities responsible for European structural and investment funds - with the exception of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development – had been designated by the Member States; considers those designations to be a necessary step for Member States' authorities to submit statements of expenditure to the Commission; is of the opinion that the considerable novelties introduced for the 2014-2020 period lead to administrative difficulties despite efforts for simplification;

35.  Points out that difficulties with completing the compliance assessment procedures concerning the new management and control system, that generally fall at the beginning of the programming period, are a serious cause for absorption delays;

36.  Notes that the global economic recession, which has a direct effect in the form of the budgetary restraint measures applied to public budgets and difficulties in obtaining internal financing is also a main factor for delaying absorption;

37.  Deeply regrets that, as a consequence, there is a risk that delays in budget execution for the 2014-2020 programming period will be greater than those experienced for the 2007-2013; fears that the forthcoming Multiannual Financial Framework might start with an unprecedented high level of reste à liquider (''RAL'') which might endanger the management of the Union budget in the first years; expects the Commission to have learnt from this with a view to preventing similar delays in the future;

38.  Notes that the Commission adopted in March 2015 a payment plan presenting short term measures to reduce the level of unpaid bill but points out that while those measures seek to improve shorter term cash-flow management, dealing with the high level of outstanding commitments requires a longer term perspective and a thorough evaluation of the root causes (administrative and operational difficulties, macro-economic restrictions, etc.) in order to devise an effective strategy so that they do not occur in the future;

39.  Stresses that the triggering of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union might create troubles in the way the Union budget is managed, especially concerning the payments; points out the need to cover this crucial element in any transitional or final agreement with any withdrawing Member State;

Measures to be taken

40.  Requests that the Commission take measures to strictly observe the rules and timetables regarding outstanding commitments including:

   i) closure and decommitment of the 2007-2013 programmes;
   ii) proper use of net correction in cohesion;
   iii) a reduction of cash held by fiduciaries; and
   iv) the compilation of payment plans and forecasts where outstanding commitments are significant;

41.  Requests once again that the Commission establish annually an updated long-term cash-flow forecast, spanning a seven-to-ten-year time horizon covering budgetary ceilings, payments needs, capacity constraints and potential decommitments in order to better match payments needs and funds available;

42.  Requests that as a matter of urgency, given the poor situation in which several Member States now find themselves, the Commission consider in its budgetary and financial management the capacity constraints and the specific socio-economic conditions of certain Member States; calls on the Commission to use all available instruments through technical assistance and the new Structural Reform Support Programme to support these Member States in order to avoid the underutilisation of funds and to increase the absorption rates especially in the area of the European structural and investment funds;

43.  Reiterates the need for simplification and clarity of rules and procedures at both Union and national level in order to facilitate access to Union funds for beneficiaries and to ensure sound management of those funds by the administrative services; believes that simplification will contribute to the speedy allocation of funds, higher absorption rates, increased efficiency and transparency, fewer implementation errors and reduced payment periods; considers that a balance needs to be struck between simplification and the stability of rules, procedures and controls; notes that, in any case, providing potential applicants and beneficiaries with sufficient information and guidelines is a necessary precondition for successful implementation;

44.  Calls on the Commission to refrain from new cuts of the technical assistance at its disposal and to come up with an action plan for effective and timely absorption with particular emphasis on those Member States and regions lagging behind and having low absorption rates;

Financial engineering instruments

45.  Regrets that only 75 %(79) of the contributions to the financial engineering instruments for the programming period 2007-2013 were paid out to the final recipients by the end of 2015 in shared management (57 % paid out at the end of 2014 and 37 % paid out at the end of 2012) and that cash held in financial instruments under indirect management remained high (EUR 1,3 billion in 2015; EUR 1,3 billion in 2014; EUR 1,4 billion in 2013);

46.  Notes with concern the fact that unused amounts of financial instruments remain relatively high, 80 % of which were concentrated in five Member States at the end of 2014 (of which Italy constituted 45 % of the total); considers that the Commission ought to carry out a comprehensive assessment of these instruments before the end of 2018 in order to determine whether they should be carried over into the next financial programming period;

47.  Requests that the Commission recover unused cash balances in financial instruments under shared management and remaining unused funds in indirect management financial instruments from previous Multiannual Financial Frameworks for which the eligibility periods has expired;

The Court’s statement of assurance

48.  Welcomes the fact that the Court gives a clean opinion on the reliability of the accounts for 2015 as it had done since 2007, that the Court concluded that revenue was free from material error in 2015 and notes with satisfaction that the commitments underlying the accounts for the year ended 31 December 2015 are legal and regular in all material respects;

49.  Deeply regrets that for the 22nd year in a row payments are materially affected by error because of the fact that the supervisory and control systems are only partially effective;

50.  Regrets that despite the improvement, payments are affected by a most likely error rate of 3,8 %; recalls that the most likely error rate for payments was estimated in the financial year 2014 at 4,4 %, in the financial year 2013 at 4,7 %, in the financial year 2012 at 4,8 % and in the financial year 2011 at 3,9 %;

51.  Stresses that even if the situation has improved in recent years the most likely error rate is still significantly above the materiality threshold of 2 %; stresses that if the Commission, the authorities in the Member States or the independent auditors had made use of all information available to them, they could have prevented, or detected and corrected a significant proportion of the errors before the related payments were made; cannot accept that available information not be used to reduce the level of errors; firmly believes that the Member states have a crucial role in this regard; urges the Members states to use all available information to prevent, detect and correct any error and to act accordingly;

52.  Regrets that due to a change in the legal framework of the common agricultural policy in 2015, the Court no longer includes cross compliance in its transaction testing making the comparison with the previous financial year more difficult; in 2014, such errors contributed 0,6 percentage points to the overall estimated level of error for Multiannual Financial Framework heading 2 ‘Natural resources’ whilst their annual contribution to the overall estimated level of error was between 0,1 and 0,2 percentage points over the period 2011-2014;

53.  Notes with concern that if the corrective measures taken by the Member States and the Commission had not been applied to the payments audited by the Court, the overall estimated level of error would have been 4,3 % rather than 3,8 %;

54.  Notes that the type of management has a limited impact on the level of error as the Court finds nearly the same estimated level of error under shared management with the Member States (4,0 %) and for expenditure managed directly by the Commission (3,9 %);

55.  Points out that the Court found highest estimated levels of error in spending under ‘Economic, social and territorial cohesion’ (5,2 %) and for “Competitiveness for growth and jobs” (4,4 %) whilst “Administrative expenditure” had the lowest estimated level of error (0,6 %); underlines that, in general, errors do not constitute fraud; recommends that the Court should initiate a special report examining and comparing those areas with a view to producing a concise 'best-practice' document;

56.  Notes that the different risk patterns of reimbursement schemes and entitlement schemes have had a major influence on the level of errors in the different spending areas; where the Union reimburses eligible costs for eligible activities on the basis of cost declarations made by beneficiaries the level of error is 5,2 % whilst where payments are made on meeting conditions rather than reimbursing costs the error rate is 1,9 %; recommends that the Court should examine and compare those areas with a view to concluding a special report on best practice;

Annual management and performance report: management achievements and Commission internal governance tools

57.  Notes that compared with the situation in 2014, the amount at risk in payments, as determined by the Commission in its 2015 Annual Management and Performance Report for the EU Budget (COM(2016)0446), has decreased by some 10 % which is notably due to the reduction in the amount at risk reported in agriculture;

58.  Stresses that the Commission recognises that spending is affected by a material level of error, as presented in its 2015 Annual Management and Performance Report, the amount at risk being in a range from EUR 3,3 to 4,5 billion which represents between 2,3 % and 3,1 % of the payments; notes that the Commission estimates that it will in future years identify and correct errors for between EUR 2,1 to 2,7 billion;

59.  Shares the view of the Court that the Commission’s methodology for estimating its amount at risk error has improved over the years but that individual estimations of directorates general of the level of irregular spending are not based on a consistent methodology (see in particular point 1.38 of the 2015 Court’s annual report); recommends that this practice should be regularised and standardised as soon as possible;

60.  Notes that, despite improvements, the Commission has not eliminated the risk that the impact of corrective actions is overstated;

61.  Points in particular to the fact that for more than three quarters of 2015, Commission directorates-general base their estimates of amount at risk on data provided by national authorities whilst it appears from the annual activity reports of the Commission directorates-general concerned Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) and Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) that the reliability of Member States’ control reports remains a challenge, although the data reporting of Member States has improved; considers it unacceptable that the Member States do not cooperate fairly with the Commission regarding the control reports and their reliability;

62.  Underlines that the control burden for end-users would decrease if a 'single audit' approach were applied, in which case a European audit would not be carried out separately, but would build on national audits; observes that such a continuing line of accountability will however only be possible if national audits are adequate and if the Commission and Member States agree on the principles and interpretations; calls on the Commission to be proactive in this regard by publishing guidelines;

63.  Believes that granting discharge should depend on the necessary improvement in financial management at Member State level; points to the instrument of national declarations in this context which could help to achieve greater accountability and ownership at national level;

64.  Points out that owing to the specificity of multiannual programming and the complexity and accumulation of regional, national and Union rules applying to the budget procedure, and since errors can be corrected more than 10 years after they have occurred, it is artificial to base the estimated impact of future corrections upon recorded corrections over the last six years;

65.  Emphasises, in this context, that if the Commission were sure of the effectiveness of its corrective capacity the directors general should not issue any financial reservation in their annual activity reports;

66.  Points out that the Commission reports(80) a total of implemented financial corrections and recoveries amounting to EUR 3,9 billion; notes that the Court classified them in three categories: EUR 1,2 billion in corrections and recoveries at source applied before the Commission accepted expenditure (on agriculture, cohesion and direct/indirect management); EUR 1,1 billion in withdrawals by Member States applied after accepting expenditure by replacing ineligible amounts with new cohesion projects; EUR 1,6 billion in net corrections (on agriculture and direct/indirect management);

67.  Stresses that where there is a high risk of irregularity it is best practice to discuss the risk and to quantify the level and likely impact; regrets that Commission reporting on this subject pays significant attention to “corrective capacity” rather than to quantifying and analysing the nature of the errors it identifies, and undertaking relevant preventive measures for avoiding such errors; points out in particular that the Commission communications on “Protection of the Union budget” provide no estimate of the level of irregularity present in initial or in approved claims for reimbursement;

68.  Shares the view expressed by the Court in its Special Report No 27/2016 that the distinction introduced by the Kinnock-Prodi reform between the “political responsibility of Commissioners” and the operational responsibility of directors-general means that it has not always been made clear whether ‘political responsibility’ includes taking responsibility for budgetary execution by the directorates-general, or whether it is distinct from it (see point 5 of the executive summary of the Court’s Special Report No 27/2016);

69.  Points out that the College of the commissioners does not assume responsibility for the annual accounts by drafting a foreword or a report from the President or the commissioner for budget, and that the Commission does not establish an annual statement on governance or on internal control, in line with best practice and the common practice of Member States;

Measures to be taken

70.  Calls again on the Commission and the Member States to put in place sound procedures to confirm the timing, the origin and the amount of corrective measures and to provide information reconciling, as far as possible, the year in which payments is made, the year in which the related error is detected and the year in which recoveries or financial corrections are disclosed in the notes to the accounts;

71.  Calls again on the Commission to issue, on an annual basis, a single, proper statement of assurance based on the annual activity reports of the directors-general and to produce its own statistical estimate of the level of error; asks the Commission to evaluate separately the amount of Union money it envisages to recuperate as recoveries or financial corrections linked to the financial year 2015;

72.  Asks the Commission to conduct a careful analysis of so-called ‘retrospective projects’ i.e. the practice of inserting into the regional operational programme projects already launched by the authorities using other funds and which may incorporate or replace measures or projects that present operational problems or are in breach of the rules, said analysis to include ex-ante assessments verifying that replacement projects meet the planned objectives;

73.  Calls on the Commission to add an annual statement on governance and on internal control to the financial statement, covering in particular:

   a description of the internal governance tools of the Commission,
   an assessment of the operational and strategic risk activities during the year; and
   a mid- and long-term fiscal sustainability statement,

and to provide in its Communication on the Protection of the Union budget an estimate of the level of irregularity present in initial or in approved claims for reimbursement;

74.  Calls on the Member States to deliver reliable data to the Commission especially concerning the control reports;

Political Reservations

75.  Endorses the reservations issued by the directors-general of DG REGIO, the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE), the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME), the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) and DG AGRI, in their annual activity report; is of the opinion that those reservations demonstrate that the control procedures put in place in the Commission and the Member States cannot give the necessary guarantees concerning the legality and regularity of all the underlying transactions in the corresponding policy areas;

76.  Questions why the director-general of the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD), as in previous years, continues to issue a horizontal reservation covering all payments and cost claims under the Seventh Framework Programme; calls on the Commission to develop, at long last, a more meaningful, risk based approach and use specific reservations when needed;

Getting results from the Union budget

Annual management and performance report: performance evaluation

77.  Notes that the 2015 Annual Management and Performance Report combines two former reports: the Evaluation Report produced in accordance with Article 318 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Synthesis Report required by Article 66 (9) of the Financial Regulation;

78.  Welcomes the fact that for each of the budget headings, the report provides implementation information on the progress of the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework programmes, evidence on the results of the 2007-2013 Multiannual Financial Framework programmes and also presents the links with the Europe 2020 Strategy;

79.  Regrets that the so-called evaluation report, on the one hand, confuses descriptions of activities with results, and, on the other hand, attempts to evaluate the impact of policies and makes promises for the future;

80.  Points out that Member States are not required to include common indicators in their programmes, with the exception of the Youth Employment Initiative and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and that results-based assessments do not form part of the initial control stage in the Member States;

81.  Regrets that instead of simplifying its internal governance tools the Commission has added a new multiannual strategic plan for every Commission department based on common general objectives that cover the ten political priorities of the Juncker-Commission, and which support the Europe 2020 goals and the Treaty obligations;

82.  Reiterates its call for thematic concentration, as expressed in its discharge report on budget year 2014; calls on the Commission to inquire to what extent thematic concentration could contribute to simplification and a decrease of the regulatory burden and control burden;

83.  Calls on the Commission to adopt its annual management and performance report in due time so that the Court can take it in account in its annual report; insists that the information provided by this report should be as objective as possible and contain a comprehensive assessment of the results achieved in the previous year by the Commission when pursuing its policies; asks the Commission to reflect on the need for a long term political programming period, as with the 10-year Europe 2020 Strategy;

84.  Draws attention to the need for the process of establishing performance indicators to be transparent and democratic, involving all the Union institutions, partners and stakeholders concerned in order to make the indicators adequate for measurement of the implementation of the Union budget, as well as to answer the Union citizens expectations;

Measures to be taken

85.  Calls on the Commission to better evaluate in its next performance reports the outputs and the outcomes of all policies; calls on the Commission to clearly and synthetically show the contribution of European policies to Union objectives and to evaluate their respective contribution to the Europe 2020 targets;

Horizon 2020

86.  Recalls that Horizon 2020 is an ambitious, wide-ranging programme whose general objective is based on three priorities: excellent science, industrial leadership, and societal challenges;

87.  Notes that the Juncker Commission has adopted ten political priorities for 2014-2019 that are not exactly the same as the Europe 2020 priorities; this leads to a situation where the legal framework and the budget allocation for Horizon 2020 reflect the Europe 2020 strategy, while the Commission when implementing Horizon 2020 has since 2014 refocused strategic planning and management arrangements on the ten political priorities;

88.  Regrets that the Commission has not so far mapped out the relationship between the two sets of priorities, and asks the Commission to clarify those links;

89.  Stresses that a key success factor for Horizon 2020 is effective synergy and complementarity between national and European research and innovation programmes; notes that the Commission plans to analyse the impact and synergies between Horizon 2020 and the European structural and investment funds in the context of the Horizon 2020 interim evaluation;

90.  Takes note of the two examples of complementarities between national and Union research programmes given in the 2015 Court's annual report and that the supreme audit institutions of Bulgaria and Portugal have found that while there are some areas in which national and Union research programmes are complementary in their countries, there were also some weaknesses at national level as to the indicators related to Horizon 2020 within national action plans and strategies and some issues regarding coordination and interaction between all the participants engaged in Horizon 2020 at the national level(81); takes note, as well, that Bulgaria was the first Member State using voluntarily the Horizon 2020 policy support facility and encourages the Commission to continue supporting Member States which need to modernise their research and innovation sectors;

91.  Recalls that the legal framework of Horizon 2020 introduces several important elements for performance management, such as objectives and key performance indicators; stresses that overall the objectives and indicators which have been agreed do represent a real improvement on the previous framework programmes;

92.  Points out that there remain a number of weaknesses in the performance indicators used in Horizon 2020, such as:

   i) in relation to the balance of indicators which measure only inputs or outputs rather than results and impact(82) ,
   ii) the absence of baselines and
   iii) a lack of ambition in targets;

93.  Regrets that the Court found that the Commission is not using its Horizon 2020 work programmes and associated calls for proposals to increase the required targeted focus on performance(83);

94.  Notes with satisfaction that, as to the proposals and grant agreements examined by the Court, sufficient emphasis had been put on performance in the objectives when required by the Commission, and that the same applies for the evaluation process of these proposals;

95.  Regrets that in the individual work programmes which drive Horizon 2020 and connected calls for proposals the use of the wider concept of “expected impact” rather than “expected result” increases the risk that information provided for this part is too broad and the performance assessment of Horizon 2020 will be difficult to aggregate(84);

96.  Is concerned that the Commission does not always use key performance concepts (for example, “output”, “results”, ''outcomes'', and “impact”) consistently;

97.  Regrets that the Court found that the current setup does not enable the Commission to monitor and report separately the spending and performance of research and development (R&D) and innovation within Horizon 2020; in addition, while the financial contribution of Horizon 2020 within Europe 2020 is well established in the budgetary process through the published programme statements, it is regrettable that the Commission has not yet reported on the implementation of Horizon 2020 and its contribution to Europe 2020 in a meaningful way; calls on the Commission to report on the implementation of Horizon 2020 and its contribution to Europe 2020 in a meaningful way as results of the programme become available;

98.  Suggests that the role for the national contact points should be increased in order to provide quality technical support on the ground; considers that annual assessment of results, trainings and stimulation of well performing national contact points will increase the success rate of Horizon 2020 programme;

Measures to be taken

99.  Calls on the Commission to present, in its future performance reports, the contribution of Horizon 2020 to Europe 2020 in a clear and exhaustive way;

Management plans and the annual activity reports of four directorates-general responsible for expenditure under ‘Natural resources’.

100.  Regrets the observations made by the Court that many of the objectives used in management plans and annual activity reports of DG AGRI, DG CLIMA, DG ENVI and DG MARE were taken directly from policy or legislative documents and lacked the level of detail necessary for management and monitoring purposes;

Measures to be taken

101.  Requests that the Commission:

   assess the performance of work programmes by translating high-level objectives set out in the Horizon 2020 legislation into operational objectives at work programme level;
   further clarify the links between the Europe 2020 Strategy (2010-2020), the Multiannual Financial Framework (2014-2020) and the Commission priorities (2015-2019);
   ensure across all its activities consistent use of the terms “input”, “output”, “result”, and “impact”, in line with its better regulation guidelines;
   take measures ensuring the same pay for researchers doing the same work within the same project;
   provide a list, by nationality, of all the enterprises quoted on the stock-exchange and/or which show a profit in their annual statement of accounts and which receive funds from Horizon 2020;

Revenue

102.  Welcomes the fact that the Court overall audit evidence indicates that revenue is not affected by a material level of error and, in particular, that the examined systems are effective for GNI and VAT based own resources, that the examined systems are overall effective for the traditional own resources, the key internal controls in Member States visited by the Court being nevertheless partially effective and that the Court found no errors in the transactions tested;

103.  Recalls that a reservation is a means by which a doubtful element in GNI data submitted by a Member State is kept open for possible correction and welcomes the fact that the Court did not identify serious problems in the lifted reservations reviewed in 2015;

104.  Is concerned by the fact that although progress has been made to improve the reliability of the Greek GNI data, the reservations have not been lifted; notes that it is the only outstanding general reservation at the end of 2015, covering 2008 and 2009;

105.  Regarding customs duties, notes that the Court found that the methodology used for the checks performed to verify whether tariff and import regulations are respected by importers (which include “post-clearance” audits), the quality and the results they produced varied across the Member States; the Court especially highlighted the interruption of the three-year time-barring in France for debt notifications, a practice which differs from those in other Member States and leads to different treatment of economic operators within the Union (85);

106.  Regarding traditional own resources, notes that at the end of 2015 the Commission also had a list of 325 open points concerning non-compliance with Union customs rules that they had identified through inspections in Member States;

107.  Points out that as to the customs duties and sugar levies statements, the Court found inefficiencies in the management of the amounts receivable (known as the B accounts) in the Member States and that the Commission identified similar shortcomings in 17 of the 22 Member States they visited;

108.  Stressed that the Court identified risks related to customs debt recovery from companies registered outside the Union or from citizens of non-Union countries and found a number of cases from different Member States that were unable to collect debts from citizens or companies based, for example, in Belarus, the British Virgin Islands, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine;

109.  Stresses that the impact of the major revisions to the GNI balances could be smaller if a common Union revision policy harmonising the timetable for major revisions had been in place;

110.  Deplores that structural and legal elements having led to the political incident which occurred by the end of October 2014 as to the contributions of some Member States are still in place;

Measures to be taken

111.  Calls on the Commission to:

   take the necessary steps to harmonise the time limits of debt notifications to economic operators following a post clearance audit across Member States;
   ensure that Member States provide correct declarations of the amounts collected from customs duties in the quarterly statements, and provide guidance on what should be recorded;
   facilitate to the extent possible the recovery of customs debts by the Member States, where the debtors are not based in a Union Member State;
   improve checks on the calculations of the contributions from the European Economic Area and the European Free Trade Association and the calculation of correction mechanisms and
   put in place the needed arrangements to reduce the impact of revisions of methods and sources presented by Member States for the compilation of their GNI.

Follow-up of the 2014 Commission discharge(86)

112.  Points out that the Commission agreed to start new actions on 88 requests made by the Parliament in its resolution accompanying the decision on the Commission discharge for the financial year 2014;

113.  Notes that, according to the Commission, for 227 requests from the Parliament the required action had already been taken or is ongoing, and that for reasons related to the existing legal and budgetary framework or its institutional role or prerogatives, the Commission cannot accept 35 requests from the Parliament;

114.  Regrets that the Commission’s answers remain at times vague and ambiguous;

115.  Welcomes the Commission’s action to follow through on five of the six principal commitments;

116.  Insists, nevertheless, that the Commission instructs its directorates general to publish all country specific recommendations they have issued in the context of the European semester in their respective annual activity reports (sixth commitment);

117.  Asks the Commission to reconsider its position in particular as regards the reliability of data transmitted by Member States, the transparency as to the final beneficiaries of Union funds, the transparency of the activities of the Ethical Committee, the fight against corruption and the reform of the administrative structures of the European Schools;

118.  Strongly condemns the fact that the Commission does not feel the need to further publish the EU anti-corruption report; is of the opinion, that whatever the Commission's intentions on fighting corruption, this last minute cancellation sends out the wrong signal not only to the Member States but also to the citizens; reiterates its opinion that corruption is still a challenge for the Union and the Member States, and that without effective anti-corruption measures it undermines economic performance, the rule of law and the credibility of democratic institutions within the Union; calls on the Commission to finalise and publish the 2016 anti-corruption report, to act swiftly and robustly to eliminate corruption in the Member States and Union institutions, and to commission an independent assessment of the anti-corruption standards in the Union institutions themselves;

119.  Strongly reiterates its call on the Commission to develop a system of strict indicators and easily applicable, uniform criteria, based on the requirements set out in the Stockholm Programme, to measure the level of corruption in the Member States and evaluate the Member States' anti-corruption policies; invites the Commission to develop a corruption index in order to categorise the Member States; is of the opinion that a corruption index could provide a sound basis on which the Commission could establish its country specific control mechanism when controlling the spending Union resources;

Competitiveness for growth and jobs

EU 2020

120.  Notes that despite the repeated error rate, and delays in its implementation and closure, the ex-post evaluation of the Seventh Framework Programme, undertaken by a high-level expert group(87), considered the Seventh Framework Programme to have been a success; the high-level group underlined in particular that the Seventh Framework Programme:

   encouraged scientific excellence at an individual and institutional level,
   promoted ground-breaking research through the novel “Ideas” programme (European Research Council),
   engaged industry and SMEs strategically,
   reinforced a new mode of collaboration and an open innovation framework,
   strengthened the European Research Area by catalysing a culture of cooperation and constructing comprehensive networks fit to address thematic challenges,
   addressed certain societal challenges through research, technology and innovation through the “Cooperation” programme,
   encouraged harmonisation of national research and innovation systems and policies,
   stimulated mobility of researchers across Europe: the “People” programme has created the necessary conditions for an open labour market of researchers,
   promoted investment in European research infrastructures,
   reached a critical mass of research across the European landscape and worldwide;

121.  Regrets that the public stakeholder consultation in the context of the Seventh Framework Programme evaluation, held between February and May 2015, pointed to the following weaknesses:

   high administrative burden and cumbersome legal and financial rules,
   high degree of over-subscription,
   insufficient focus on societal impact,
   the scope of topics and calls was too narrow,
   insufficient focus on industry participation,
   high threshold for newcomers; low average success rate for proposals and applicants of 19 % and 22 % respectively;
   weak communication;

122.  Deeply regrets that the target to invest 3 % of Member States’ gross domestic product (GDP) into research by 2020 will most likely not be met; considers therefore that the recurrent cuts in the Union budget concerning the research programs should be halted; calls on all Member States to rise to the challenge; also calls on the Commission to draw the necessary conclusions for the mid-term revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework and for the next Multiannual Financial Framework;

123.  Welcomes the progress made in delivering on the Innovation Union commitments: by mid-2014 all commitments had either been achieved or were on track;

124.  Welcomes also that the share of Horizon 2020 funds allocated to small and medium-sized enterprises increased from 19,4 % in 2014 to 23,4 % in 2015 and recommends that this trend should be proactively encouraged;

125.  Considers it unacceptable that the DG RTD has not complied with its request that the Commission’s directorates general should publish all their country specific recommendations in their annual activity reports; notes with concern that only a limited number of territories are represented in the 20 most important Horizon 2020 projects;

General issues

126.  Points out that chapter five of the 2015 Court’s annual report covers payments in the following areas: research (EUR 10,4 billion), education, training, youth and sport (EUR 1,8 billion), space (EUR 1,4 billion), transport (EUR 1,3 billion), other actions and programmes (EUR 1,1 billion), energy (EUR 0,5 billion) and competitiveness of enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (COSME) (EUR 0,3 billion); research therefore accounts for 62 % of the spending;

127.  Notes that the responsibility to implement the research framework programmes is shared amongst different Commission directorates-general, executive agencies, joint undertakings and so called Article 185 bodies (partnerships with the Member States), all of which requires close coordination;

128.  Clarifies that the Court’s audit almost exclusively concerned payments under the Seventh Research Framework Programme;

129.  Is concerned that the annual activity report of DG RTD indicated that by the end of 2015, 1 915 projects of the Seventh Framework Programme projects worth EUR 1,63 billion were still not completed; this could delay the implementation of Horizon 2020;

Management and control systems

130.  Emphasises that the Court considers the supervisory and control systems for research and other internal policies to be “partially effective”;

131.  Is concerned that, in 2015, of the 150 transactions that the Court audited, 72 (48 %) were affected by error; on the basis of the 38 errors which the Court had quantified, it estimated the level of error to be 4,4 %; furthermore, in 16 cases of quantifiable errors, the Commission, national authorities or independent auditors had sufficient information to prevent or detect and correct the errors before accepting the expenditure; if all this information had been used to correct errors, the estimated level of error for this chapter would have been 0,6 % lower;

132.  Deplores that in 10 out of 38 transactions subject to quantified error, the Court reported errors exceeding 20 % of the examined items; these 10 cases (9 from the Seventh Research Framework Programme and one from the 2007-2013 Competitiveness and Innovation Programme) account for 77 % of the overall estimated level of error for “Competitiveness for growth and jobs” in 2015;

133.  Regrets that most of the quantified errors which the Court found (33 out of 38) concerned the reimbursement of ineligible personnel and indirect costs declared by beneficiaries and that almost all of the errors found by the Court in cost statements were due to beneficiaries misinterpreting the complex eligibility rules or incorrectly calculating their eligible costs which leads to the obvious conclusion that those rules need to be simplified;

134.  Welcomes the fact that, according to the Court, compliance with procurement rules improved significantly;

135.  Questions why the director-general of DG RTD again issued, as in previous years, a horizontal reservation concerning all cost claims under the Seventh Framework Programme (EUR 1,47 billion); is of the opinion that horizontal reservations in general cannot be considered as an instrument of sound financial management; acknowledges however that certain parts of the Seventh Framework Programme expenditure were not covered by a reserve where there was evidence that the risks (and so the residual error rates) were significantly lower than for all expenditure; notes that within research and technology development this applies to expenditure by given joint undertakings; notes that outside of DG RTD this also applies to expenditure by the Research Executive Agency under the Marie Curie programme, and all expenditure from the European Research Council Executive Agency;

136.  Is surprised that the European Institute of Innovation and Technology did not participate, in 2015, in the common support centre for research and innovation;

137.  Is concerned that the Seventh Framework Programme, according to the commissioner, will not be fully executed and evaluated before 2020, which could cause delays in future follow-up programmes; urges the Commission to publish the evaluation report as soon as possible and at the latest before it presents the post Horizon 2020 research programme;

Horizon 2020

138.  Notes that under Horizon 2020 only advance payments were made until the end of 2015; warns the Commission that a late start of the Horizon 2020 project could delay the implementation of the programme; warns against financial backlogs at the end of the programme;

139.  Is concerned about the Court’s findings that multiannual programmes setting political objectives like EU 2020 or Horizon 2020, while advancing in parallel, are not really linked(88) ;

140.  Regrets furthermore that the first monitoring report on Horizon 2020 gave only little information about synergy effects between the programme and structural funds(89) ; calls on the Commission to report on these synergy effects as results of the programme become available;

141.  Is deeply concerned by the Court’s opinion(90) that Horizon 2020 is not sufficiently performance driven;

Measures to be taken

142.  Reiterates its demand, already made in the 2014 Commission discharge resolution(91), that the Commission should instruct all directorates-general to publish all country specific recommendations they have issued in the context of the European semester in their respective annual activity reports;

143.  Calls on the Member States to make an extra effort with the view to meeting the target of 3 % GDP being invested in research; considers that this would boost excellence and innovation; calls on the Commission therefore to examine the possibility of proposing a “science covenant” at local, regional and national level, building on the dynamic already created by the Covenant of Mayors; calls on the Member states and the Parliament to make an effort through the Union budget too;

144.  Calls on the Commission to revise the key performance indicator “EU innovation output”, as in the Commission’s own words “the composite nature of the indicator is not (...) suited to establish targets”;(92)

145.  Urges the Commission to follow-up in particular the 16 cases of quantifiable errors, in which Commission, national authorities or independent auditors had sufficient information to prevent or detect and correct the errors before accepting the expenditure; and further, to inform its competent committee in detail about the corrective measures taken before the end of October 2017;

146.  Calls on the Commission to inform its competent committee in detail about the 10 transactions that accounted for 77 % of the errors and the remedial measures taken;

147.  Calls on the Commission to modernise its management and control systems so that horizontal reservations are rendered superfluous; asks the Commission to inform its competent committee on the measures taken before November 2017;

148.  Calls on the Commission, together with the Court, further to clarify the links between the Europe 2020 Strategy (2010-2020), the multi-annual financial framework (2014-2020) and the Commission priorities (2015-2019) through, for instance, the strategic planning and reporting process (2016-2020); considers that this would strengthen monitoring and reporting arrangements and enable the Commission to report effectively on the contribution of the Union budget towards Europe 2020 objectives;

Miscellaneous

149.  Takes note of the exclusive attribution of operating grants under budget line 04 03 01 05 "Information and training measures for workers´ organisations" to only two specific trade union institutes, the European Trade Union Institute and the European Centre for Workers Questions; reminds the Commission that operating grants and framework partnerships must essentially be treated as grants and hence be subject to open tendering procedures and publication; expresses its general concern regarding the justification of such attribution practices on grounds of de facto monopolies or bodies´ technical competence and high degree of specialisation or administrative power (Article 190(1)(c) and (f) of the Rules of Application); considers that lasting exclusive attributions of operating grants to bodies on these grounds may actually lead to such de facto monopolies, high competences, specialisations and powers, hence further justifying exclusive attributions of operating grants on the basis of Article 190 of the Rules of Application;

150.  Reminds the Commission in that regard that exceptions to the rules of transparency and publication as established in articles 125ff of the Financial Regulation are to be interpreted and applied restrictively; invites the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission to strive towards clearly defining both the time frame and the scope of application for exceptions to the principles of transparency and publication, with the clear aim to further restrict their use;

Measures to be taken

151.  Requests the Commission to apply and interpret restrictively exceptions to the rules of transparency and publication as established in articles 125ff of the Financial Regulation; Requests the Commission to clearly define both the time frame and the scope of application for exceptions to the principles of transparency and publication, with the clear aim to further restrict their use;

Economic, social and territorial cohesion

EU 2020

152.  Notes the fact that, according to 2007-2013 the ex-post evaluation of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Cohesion Fund (CF)(93) , EUR 1 of cohesion policy investment will generate EUR 2,74 of additional GDP by 2023; welcomes the fact that structural and cohesion funds were invested mainly in small and medium enterprise innovation (EUR 32,3 billion), generic enterprise support (EUR 21,4 billion), in research and technology development infrastructure (EUR 17,5 billion), transport investments (EUR 82,2 billion), energy investment (EUR 11,8 billion), environmental investment (EUR 41,9 billion), culture and tourism investments (EUR 12,2 billion) and urban and social infrastructure (EUR 28,8 billion);

153.  Welcomes that the ERDF and the CF were able, to a certain extent, to counter-balance the effects of the 2007-2008 financial crises, indicating that without the intervention of structural funds the economic and social divergence among European regions would have grown even more;

154.  Welcomes the achievements of the cohesion policy shown by the ex-post evaluations of the 2007-2013 programming period in relation to the Europe 2020 targets:

   by ERDF and CF: Headlines 1 "Employment" and 2 "R&D and innovations" - 41 600 research jobs were created and 400 000 SMEs were supported; Headline 3 "Climate change and Energy" - 3900 MW additional capacity of renewable energy production were created;
   by the European Social Fund (ESF): Headlines 1 "Employment" - at least 9.4 million people gained employment (of which more than 300.000 people supported became self-employed); Headline 4 "Education" - at least 8.7 million people gained a qualification/certificate;

155.  Notes, however, that very few programmes had a focus on results or measured impact; therefore little to nothing is known about the sustainability of the investments;

156.  Highlights, however, that in 2015 very few programmes had a focus on results or measured impact; therefore urges the Commission to set and agree at inter-institutional level the necessary set of indicators to implement the budget based on result; notes, however, at this stage little to nothing is known about the sustainability and the European added value of the investments;

157.  Regrets that it is not informed about the measures the Commission asked Member States to undertake in the context of the European semester; calls on the Commission to inform the European Parliament about the measures taken by the Member states in the context of the European semester;

158.  Is very concerned that the Court had signalled delays in the start of the 2014-2020 programming period already in its 2014 annual report; and that still, at the end of 2015, fewer than 20 % of the national authorities responsible for European structural and investment funds had been designated;

The European Regional Development Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Social Fund: general issues

159.  Welcomes the fact that the Court has aligned the chapters in its annual report to the heading under the Multiannual Financial Framework; is of the opinion, however, that the funds under this heading are of such financial importance - ERDF EUR 28,3 billion; CF EUR 12,1 billion; ESF EUR 10,3 billion - that the Court’s audit strategy should keep the ERDF and the CF on the one hand, and the ESF on the other, identifiable;

160.  Is concerned that, in particular towards the end of a programming period, Member States focused on absorption funds available under national envelops rather than on achievement of policy objectives; calls on the Commission to help the worst performing member states through technical assistance, especially at the end of the financial period;

161.  Is anxious that the 16 Member States that have not yet transposed the directive on public procurement(94), the 19 Member States that have not transposed the directive on the award of concession contracts(95), and the 17 Member States that have not yet transposed the directive on procurement by entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors(96), do so as quickly as possible as the directives aim at further simplification; calls on the Commission to verify progress in these areas;

162.  Highlights the importance of the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI): by the end of November 2015, close to 320 000 young people had been included in actions supported by the YEI and 18 out of 22 Member States had launched actions under it; 28 % of the available YEI funding had been committed, 20 % had been contracted out to beneficiaries and 5 % had been paid to beneficiaries; notes that three Member States had not yet committed any funding by the end of November 2015 (Spain, Ireland and the United Kingdom);

163.  Takes note of the preliminary results of the implementation of the ESF and YIE in 2014-2015 and that 2,7 million participants took part in ESF and YEI activities, including 1,6 million unemployed and 700 000 inactive people;

164.  Regrets, at the same time, that a first study(97) seems to also point to a lack of effectiveness of the services delivered and deficiencies in data collecting in some Member States;

Management and control systems

165.  Notes that in 2015 more than 80 % of the payments were interim payments to operational programmes of the 2007-2013 programming period, whose eligibility period ended 31 December 2015; the advance payments to the 2014-2020 programming period amounted to around EUR 7,8 billion;

166.  Expresses concern at the fact that in Italy there have been unacceptable delays in payments to trainees under the Youth Guarantee; calls on the Commission to monitor the situation and to draw up a specific action plan for those Member States in which this problem is occurring;

167.  Acknowledges that the Court examined 223 transactions (120 transactions concerned ERDF, 52 concerned the CF, and 44 the ESF);

168.  Is worried about the fact that the Court quantified the estimated level of error at 5,2 % (2014: 5,7 %); is alarmed that the Court, as in previous years, had to conclude that “In 18 cases of quantifiable errors made by beneficiaries, national authorities had sufficient information to prevent or detect and correct the errors before declaring the expenditure to the Commission; urges the Member States to use all information to prevent, detect and correct the errors; urges the Commission to check whether the Member States use all information to prevent, detect or correct the errors; if all this information had been used, the estimated level of error for this chapter would have been 2,4 percentage points lower.”(98)

169.  Takes note that in the area of ERDF/CF expenditure, the Court identified that the main risks to regularity were that on the one hand, beneficiaries declare costs that are ineligible according to national eligibility rules and/or the less numerous eligibility provisions in the Union structural funds regulations, or, on the other hand, noncompliance with Union and/or national public procurement rules when awarding contracts; the Commission estimated the risk of error in this policy area between 3 % and 5,6 %;

170.  Takes note that in the area of ESF expenditure, the Court identified that the main risk to regularity related to the intangible nature of the investments in human capital and the involvement of multiple, often small-scale, partners in the implementation of projects; the Commission estimated the risk of error in this policy area between 3 % and 3,6 %;

171.  Notes with regret that one of the main sources of expenditure-related errors under the heading ‘Economic, social and territorial cohesion’ continues to be breaches of the rules on public procurement; points out that the serious breaches of the rules on public procurement include the direct award of additional contracts or additional works or services for which no justification is given, the illegal exclusion of bidders, conflicts of interest and discriminatory selection criteria; regards as essential a policy of complete transparency in respect of information concerning contractors and subcontractors, with a view to addressing errors and abuses of the rules;

172.  Underlines that simplification, including the simplified cost option, reduces the risk of error; points, however, to the fact that management authorities are apprehensive about additional workload, legal uncertainties and the risk that any irregularity could be considered as a systemic error;

173.  Welcomes the fact that Member States’ annual control reports became more reliable over the years: in only 14 ERDF/CF cases, was the error rate reported by Member States adjusted upwards by more than 2 %;

174.  Regrets that DG REGIO saw the need to issue 67 reservations (down from 77) due to unreliable management and control systems in 13 Member States and one reservation concerning the Instrument for Pre-Accession Cross-Border Programme Greece - the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; of the 67 programmes under reservation 22 can be allotted to Spain, 10 to Hungary and 7 to Greece; meanwhile, the estimated financial impact of these reservations decreased from EUR 234 million in 2014 to EUR 231 million in 2015 for ERDF/CF;

175.  Regrets also that Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL) issues 23 reservations (down from 36) due to unreliable management and control systems in 11 Member States; takes note that the estimated financial impact of these reservations decreased from EUR 169,4 million in 2014 to EUR 50,3 million in 2015 for the ESF;

176.  Supports the Commission’s plan that improving impact evaluations of cohesion policy programmes should be made a priority(99); asks the Commission how the findings will be incorporated in any legislation for the next programming period;

Financial engineering instruments (FEI)

177.  Notes that the managing authorities of the Member States reported a total of 1 052 FEIs (including 77 holding funds and 975 specific funds) operating at the end of 2015: 89 % account for FEIs for enterprises, 7 % for urban development projects and 4 % for funds for energy efficiency/renewable energies.

178.  Is aware that those FEIs were set-up in 25 Member States (all Member States except Ireland, Luxembourg and Croatia) and received financial support from 188 operational programmes, including one cross-border cooperation operational programme.

179.  Acknowledges that the total value of operational programme contributions paid to the FEIs amounted to EUR 16,9 billion, including EUR 11,7 billion of structural funds (ERDF and ESF); recognises, furthermore, that payments to final recipients have reached EUR 12,7 billion by the end of 2015, out of which EUR 8,6 billion structural funds, thus reaching an absorption rate of almost 75 % of the operational programme amounts paid to FEIs;

180.  Points out that recipients in Poland, Hungary and France are the prime beneficiaries of the FEIs;

181.  Shares the Court’s view that the Commission should ensure that all the expenditure related to ERDF and ESF financial instruments for the 2007-2013 programming period are included sufficiently early in the closure declarations to enable audit authorities to carry out their checks; considers, in addition, that the Commission should encourage all Member States that implemented financial instruments to carry out specific audits on the implementation of these instruments in view of the closure;

182.  Is deeply worried that the financial complexity created by more than 1 000 FEIs constitute a major part of the “galaxies of budgets” which renders democratic accountability impossible;

European Investment Bank

183.  Is deeply concerned about the generally higher costs and fees for European Investment Bank/European Investment Fund-managed funds implementing financial instruments under shared management which have been revealed by the Court’s findings in its Special Report No 19/2016 on 'Implementing the EU budget through financial instruments – lessons to be learnt from the 2007-2013 programme period' and encourages the Court to conduct similar audit for the current period;

184.  Calls on the Commission to present annually by June every year starting from 2018 a report on implementation from the beginning of the current Multiannual Financial Framework and state of play, including results achieved, of all financial instruments managed and implemented by the European Investment Bank Group, which operate with resources from the Union budget, in order to use it in the discharge procedure;

Specific cases

185.  Notes that the European-Anti Fraud Office (OLAF) opened administrative investigations, such as in Germany related to the Volkswagen Group on the basis of emissions scandal, in France related to the National Front and its President and into the project in the Czech Republic known as "Stork Nest" on the basis of alleged irregularities; calls on the Commission to inform its competent committee immediately when the investigations are completed;

186.  Is deeply concerned that in Hungary, the Court and DG REGIO discovered serious irregularities related to the construction of metro line 4 in Budapest; notes that based on an OLAF administrative enquiry, which began in 2012 and which was only recently concluded due to the complex nature of the case, the Commission may have to recover EUR 228 million and the European Investment Bank may have to recover EUR 55 million; and that the mismanagement was discovered at project level; observes that the OLAF case report also recommends judicial follow-up in Hungary and the United Kingdom; calls on the Commission to keep its competent committee regularly informed on the progress made and measures taken;

187.  Deplores the adoption by the Romanian government of an ordinance which could have impeded an effective fight against corruption and which, in addition, could have offered the possibility of pardoning politicians who may have been implicated in illegal acts; considers that such new legislative measures could have a very negative impact on the Commission's endeavour to protect the Union's financial interests as Romania is an important recipient of structural funds; calls on the Commission to inform its competent committee about the measures taken by the Commission to address the situation;

Measures to be taken

188.  Reiterates its demand, already made in the 2014 Commission discharge resolution(100), that the Commission should instruct all directorates general to publish all country specific recommendations they have issued in the context of the European semester in their respective annual activity reports;

189.  Asks the Court to keep, the ERDF and the CF on the one hand, and the ESF on the other, separately identifiable in its audit strategy, given their financial importance;

190.  Calls on the Commission:

   to make sure that the management and control systems concerned in the 15 Member States(101) which showed weaknesses, are reinforced, and report on its effort to its competent committee in writing before October 2017;
   to clarify the distinction between recoverable and non-recoverable value-added tax;
   to report on the amount de-committed (country, fund, amount) after the financial period 2007-2013 came to an end;
   in line with the Court’s recommendation, when making its legislative proposal for the next programming period, to propose necessary updates of the design and delivery mechanism for the European structural and investment funds taking into account also the suggestions of the high level simplification group in order to strengthen the cohesion policy contribution to tackle disparities in inequalities between Union regions and Member States; calls on the Commission to prepare a communication on this issue at an early stage;
   to foresee for the next programming period more manageable and measurable performance indicators as Parliament attributes equal importance to legality and regularity checks, on the one side, and to performance, on the other;
   to foresee full transparency and access to documentation for infrastructure work financed by the Union, focusing particularly on data relating to contractors and subcontractors;

191.  Fully supports Commissioner Oettinger’s stated view that financial instruments and “shadow budgets” must be brought back, in the long run, under the roof of the Union budget, as this would mean that the Commission would be answerable to the Parliament; calls on the Commission to prepare a communication on this issue before November 2017;

Common agricultural policy

192.  Recalls that the direct aid schemes introduced by the 2013 CAP reform only entered into force in claim year 2015 and that the present report relates to the expenditure of budget year 2015, corresponding to the direct aid applications lodged in 2014, the last year of the old CAP schemes;

Compliance issues

193.  Points out that the estimated level of error of the Court lies at 2,9 % for Multiannual Financial Framework Heading 2 “Natural Resources” in the financial year 2015; notes that this level is similar to that of 2014, when taking into account the change of approach of the Court regarding cross-compliance errors that are no longer included in the error rate;

194.  Calls on the Commission, therefore, with a view to improving accountability and reporting at senior management levels, to examine a more flexible and efficient application of the rule on internal mobility of managers in cases where a long time in post is combined with high error rates constantly being noted by the Court and sustained reservations about the results of management in the services concerned;

195.  Points out that for “Market and direct support”, the error rate estimated of by the Court is 2,2 %, slightly above the materiality threshold of 2 % (same level as in 2014), whilst in “Rural development and other policies” the estimated level of error remains high at 5,3 % but is lower than the 6 % estimated last year;

196.  Stresses that errors in direct support area were nearly all due to an overstated number of eligible hectares despite the fact that the reliability of data in the Land Parcel Identification System has been constantly improving over recent years, and points out that in rural development, half of the errors were caused by the ineligibility of the beneficiary or project, 28 % by procurement issues, and 8 % by infringements to agri-environmental commitments;

197.  Strongly regrets that for both areas, direct support and rural development, national authorities could have reduced the level of error to a level close to or below materiality(102) as they either had sufficient information to detect the error or they made the error themselves; urges the Members States to use all available information to prevent, detect and correct any error and to act accordingly;

198.  Welcomes the fact that the Commission significantly reduced the number of open conformity procedures: from 192 in 2014 to 34 in 2015, and that following changes in legislation designed to streamline the procedure, the Commission now monitors the audit cycle more closely in order to comply with the internal and external deadlines;

Management authorities

199.  Regrets that the Court found deficiencies affecting some of the key control functions of Member States paying agencies and that these related to:

   a) for the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund:
   the Land Parcel Identification System, the administrative controls;
   the quality of on-the-spot inspections;
   the lack of consistency in defining the parameters for maintaining land in Good Agricultural and environmental condition (GAEC) and;
   the recovery procedures for incorrect payments;
   b) for rural development support:
   deficiencies in administrative checks related to eligibility conditions, in particular those concerning public procurement;
   c) regarding cross-compliance, to the reliability of control statistics and sampling;

Reliability of the data communicated by the Member States

200.  Notes that in 2015, for the first time, the certification bodies were required to ascertain the legality and regularity of the expenditure; regrets that the Commission could use the work of those bodies only to a limited extent due to significant weaknesses in methodology and implementation such as:

   inadequate audit strategies;
   samples being drawn that were too small;
   insufficient skills and legal expertise of Certification Bodies’ auditors;

201.  Deeply regrets that there is still a problem as to the reliability of the data communicated by the Member States as:

   a) in Direct payments:
   DG AGRI made adjustments (top ups) for 12 out of 69 paying agencies with an error rate above 2 % (but none above 5 %) while only one paying agency had initially qualified its declaration;
   DG AGRI has issued reservations for 10 paying agencies: 3 for Spain, one each for France, Bulgaria, Cyprus Italy (Calabria), Romania, and one each for Spain and France as to POSEI (Programme d'Options Spécifiques à l'Éloignement et à l'Insularité for the ultra-peripheral regions);
   b) in rural area:
   DG AGRI made adjustments (top ups) for 36 out of 72 paying agencies and in 14 cases the adjusted error rate was above 5 %;
   DG AGRI issued a reservation for 24 paying agencies comprising 18 Member States: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy (4 paying agencies), Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Spain (3 paying agencies) and the United Kingdom (2 paying agencies;
   in addition DG AGRI issued reservations concerning public procurement for 2 Member States: Germany and Spain;

202.  Stresses that for the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund, the error rates established by the DG AGRI and the Court are diverging(103) whilst for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development the adjusted error rate of 4,99 % indicated by DG AGRI is broadly in line with the Court’s estimated level of error;

Performance issues

203.  Notes that as in 2014, the Court examined performance related issues for selected rural development transactions and is concerned by the facts that there was insufficient evidence that costs were reasonable in 44 % of projects, and that there were deficiencies in targeting measures and selecting projects, including weak links to Europe 2020 objectives; calls on the Commission to take all possible measures to improve this worrying situation;

Key performance indicators

204.  Is concerned about the reliability of the data used by the Commission to measure key performance indicator 1 (KPI 1) as defined by DG AGRI concerning the agricultural factor income; believes that the current trend in part time farming due to low commodity prices is not accurately accounted for, notes in particular that:

   a) the Commission is unable to give precise figures of farmers who have left their jobs in 2015 due to the dairy and pig meat crises as “it does not have readily available data on new entrants or on the number of farmers who have left the sector” (written questions 1 and 3 -hearing of Commissioner Hogan f 29 November 2016);
   b) 2013 is the last year for which figures on the number of farms are available: 10 841 000 farms managed each time by one farmer;
   c) the number of recipients of the CAP first pillar is in 2015: 7 246 694 Union farmers and 127 268 beneficiaries supported under market measures;
   d) the agricultural factor income is calculated per “annual work unit” which corresponds to the work performed by one person who is occupied on an agricultural holding on a full-time basis, the total farm labour force in the 28 Member States being the equivalent of 9,5 million annual working units in 2013 of which 8,7 million (92 %) were regular workers (104)(105);
   e) the Court concluded in its Special Report No 1/2016 that the Commission system for measuring the performance of the CAP in relation to farmers’ incomes is not sufficiently well designed and that the quality and quantity of statistical data used to analyse farmers’ incomes have significant limitations;

205.  Fears that the Commission is not well equipped to provide comprehensive yearly data as to KPI 1, nor – as a result – to precisely and comprehensively monitor the evolution of farmer income;

206.  Considers that key performance indicator 4 on the employment rate in rural development is not relevant, given that the employment rate in rural development is not solely influenced by the CAP measures, given also that the objective of maintaining and creating rural jobs is shared with many other instruments, notably other European structural and investment funds;

Fair CAP

207.  Stresses the large differences between the Member States as to average income by farmers(106) and recalls that last year the Parliament found that “it was unsustainable that 44,7 % of all Union farms had an income of less than EUR 4 000 per year, that on average 80 % of the beneficiaries of CAP direct support receive around 20 % of the payments and 79 % of the beneficiaries of CAP direct support receive EUR 5 000 or less per year”(107);

208.  Takes note that the director-general of DG AGRI reported in one page of its annual activity report for 2015 on the “Trends in the distribution of direct payments” and stressed once again that it is up to the Member States to use the options offered by the 2013 CAP reform to redistribute the CAP subsidies;

209.  Considers that direct payments do not fully play their role as a safety net mechanism for stabilising farm income, particularly for smaller farms, given that the current unbalanced distribution of payments leads to 20 % of all farms in the Union receiving 80 % of all direct payments, which does not reflect the level of production and is a legacy of Member States continuing to base payments on historic criteria, although recognising that the size of the farms, big or small, depends on each Member States; is the opinion that larger farms do not necessarily need the same degree of support for stabilising farm incomes as smaller farms in times of income volatility since they may benefit from economies of scale which are likely to make them more resilient; considers that capping the direct payments, as initially proposed by the Commission and endorsed by the Parliament, could deliver sufficient financial resources to make the CAP fairer;

Bio fuels

210.  Points out that according to the findings reported by the Court in its Special Report No 18/2016 on the Union system for certification of sustainable bio fuels, the Union certification system for the sustainability of biofuels is not fully reliable and has been prone to fraud because the Commission granted recognition decisions to voluntary schemes which did not have an appropriate verification procedure to ensure that the origin of biofuels produced from waste was indeed waste;

Simplification

211.  Insists that in its Special Report No 25/2016 the Court checked whether the Land Parcel Identification System allowed Member States to reliably check the measurement and eligibility of land claimed by the farmers and whether the systems were being adapted to meet the requirements of the 2014-2020 CAP, in particular those concerning greening obligations;

212.  Is concerned by the conclusions of the Court that six major changes potentially affecting the Land Parcel Identification System were introduced in May 2015 and that the complexity of the rules and the procedures required to deal with those changes has further increased the administrative burden for Member States;

Czech paying agency

213.  Asks the Commission to speed up the conformity clearance procedure opened on 8 January 2016 to get detailed and precise information on the risk of a conflict of interest concerning the State Agricultural Intervention Fund in the Czech Republic; notes that a failure to remedy a conflict of interest may ultimately result in the withdrawal of the accreditation of the paying agency by the competent authority or in imposing financial corrections by the Commission; asks the Commission to inform Parliament without delay if at the end of the conformity clearance procedure information related to possible cases of fraud, corruption or any illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the Union are transmitted to OLAF by DG AGRI;

Conformity clearance inquiry

214.   Considers that the simplification of the CAP and the reduction of administrative burden for beneficiaries and paying agencies should be priorities for the Commission in the years to come; considers also that whilst the Commission should strive to keep the positive trend in the efficiency of its management of CAP and the CAP error rates by concentrating its attention on maintaining its corrective capacity and on the corrective actions to be taken by Member States, it should consider refraining from starting or pursuing conformity clearance inquiries of minor scope;

Measures to be taken

215.  Calls on the Commission to:

   a) continue its efforts to follow up on cases where national legislation is not compliant with Union legislation, including all legal means at its disposal in particular suspension of payments;
   b) monitor annually the results of the Land Parcel Identification System quality assessment performed by Member States and check that all Member States with negative assessments actually take the necessary remedial action;
   c) re-examine the current legal framework in order to simplify and streamline the Land Parcel Identification System-related rules for the next CAP period, e.g. by reconsidering the need for the 2 % stability threshold and the 100-tree rule;
   d) ensure that all Member States’ action plans addressing errors in rural development include effective actions on public procurement;
   e) monitor and actively support the certification bodies in improving their work and methodology on the legality and regularity of expenditure and in particular in delivering opinions on the legality and regularity of the CAP expenditure of a quality and scope which enable the Commission to ascertain the reliability of paying agencies' control data or, where appropriate, estimate the necessary adjustment of paying agencies' error rates on the basis of those opinions, with a view to implementing the single audit approach in the area of agricultural spending;
   f) update DG AGRI’s audit manual by including detailed audit procedures and documentation requirements for the verification of the data supplied by Member States and used for calculating financial corrections;
   g) take the necessary measures in order to obtain from the Member States precise and comprehensive data as to the number of EU farmers and regarding the farmer income in order to really measure and monitor KPI 1 mentioned in the annual activity report of the director- general of DG AGRI concerning the agricultural income;
   h) redefine key performance indicator 4 relating to employment in rural area in order to stress the specific impact of the CAP measures on the employment in those areas;
   i) trigger regular debates between the Member States in the Council regarding the implementation of the provisions introduced by the 2013 CAP reform for redistributing the direct payments between beneficiaries and to fully report on the progress made in this regard in the annual activity report of DG AGRI; (108)
   j) assess in the context of its reflections on a simplified and modernised CAP whether the direct payment scheme is properly designed for stabilising farm income of all farms or whether a different policy design, or model of distribution of direct payments could result in better adjusting public funds to the objectives;
   k) modify substantially the system of certification of sustainable bio fuels and in particular effectively verify that Union biofuel feedstock producers comply with Union environmental requirements for agriculture, provide sufficient evidence of the origin of waste and residues used for the production of bio fuels and assess whether the voluntary schemes’ governance reduces the risk of conflicts of interest;
   l) lift the threshold below which conformity clearance inquiries in accordance with Article 52 of Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013 do not need to be pursued from EUR 50 000 to 100 000(109);
   m) reconsider the introduction of a binding cap for the direct payments;

Global Europe

Error rates

216.  Points out that according to the findings of the Court, spending on "Global Europe" is affected by a material level of error with an estimated level of error is 2,8 %, (2,7 % in 2014);

217.  Regrets that when excluding the multi-donor and budget support transactions the error rate for the specific transactions directly managed by the Commission has been quantified at 3,8 % (3,7 % in 2014);

218.  Notes that if all the information gathered by the Commission - and the auditors appointed by the Commission - had been used to correct errors, the estimated error rate for the chapter Global Europe would have been 1,6% points lower; urges the Commission to use all available information to prevent, detect and correct any error and to act accordingly;

219.  Points out that the budget support transactions examined by the Court were free from errors of legality and regularity;

220.  Points out that the most significant type of error, representing 33 % of the estimated level of error concerns expenditure not incurred: i.e. expenditure not incurred at the moment the Commission accepted and in some cases cleared it;

221.  Points out that the most frequent type of error, representing 32 % of the estimated level of error, concerns ineligible expenditure, i.e.

   a) expenditure related to activities not covered by a contract or incurred outside the eligibility period;
   b) non-compliance with the rule of origin;
   c) ineligible taxes and indirect costs wrongly charged as direct costs;

Declaration of assurance

222.  Recalls that in his declaration of assurance, the director-general of Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) considers that for both of the financial instruments managed by DG NEAR - the European Neighbourhood Instrument and the Pre-Accession Instrument - the financial exposure from the amount at risk is below the materiality threshold of 2 % and the average determined error rate for the whole directorate general is 1,12 %;

223.  Regrets that this statement is not consistent with the audit work of the Court and notes that DG NEAR recognises in its report that the approach followed needs further improvement;

224.  Notes in particular that DG NEAR calculated a residual error rate for 90 % of the expenditure resulting in three rates: a residual error rate for the Instrument Pre Adhesion direct management, a residual error rate for the Pre-Accession Instrument indirect management and a residual error rate for the European Neighbourhood Instrument covering all management modes; for the remaining 10 % of expenditure DG NEAR used other sources of assurance;

225.  Stresses that the Court found that the calculation of the residual error rate as to the management mode “indirect management by beneficiary countries”, which combines results from non-statistical sampling by the audit authorities with the historical residual error rate calculated by DG NEAR, is not sufficiently representative and does not provide accurate information on the amount of payments at risk; points out that according to the Court there is a risk that the calculation underestimates the level of error and may potentially impact on the assurance provided by the director-general;

226.  Welcomes the fact that the director-general of DG DEVCO put an end to the former practice of overall reservation concerning the legality and regularity of transactions in respect of all DG DEVCO’s operations and that following the recommendations of the Parliament made a risk differentiated declaration of assurance in the 2015 annual activity report;

227.  Notes that a specific reservation covering the African Peace Facility was issued due to control weaknesses identified by the Commission’s Internal Audit Service; considers that such a reservation should have been issued earlier as the deficiencies detected were present since the establishment of the facility in 2004; states that the practice of an overall reservation concerning all DG DEVCO has obviously contributed to a lack of transparency regarding the financial management of DG DEVCO;

228.  Notes that DG DEVCO assessed two spending areas as high risk:

   i) grants in direct management;
   ii) indirect management with international organisations;

but shares the views expressed by the Court that a reservation could have been justified as regards indirect management with beneficiary countries in particular because grants implemented indirectly by beneficiary countries should require a similar level of risk analysis as grants implemented directly;

229.  Points out that according to the findings of the Court (see points 48-50 of the 2015 Court’s annual report on the EDF), the corrective capacity of DG DEVCO has been overestimated by not excluding recoveries of pre-financing and earned interest and cancellations of recovery orders from the calculation of the average annual amount of recovery order issued for errors and irregularities between 2009 and 2015;

Weaknesses in control and preventing systems

230.  Stresses that the Court found weaknesses in the Commission’s control systems as:

   the expenditure verifications carried out by auditors appointed by beneficiaries in some cases failed to detect the errors leading to the Commission’s acceptance of non-eligible costs;
   delays were identified in the validation, authorisation and payment of expenditure by the Commission;
   the specific rules set up by the Commission for the twinning instruments (under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership instrument) concerning lump sum and flat rate costs were drafted in such a way that they created risk that the implementing Member States partner yields a profit;

External assistance management reports

231.  Regrets once again that the external assistance management reports issued by the heads of Union delegations are not annexed to the annual activity reports of DG DEVCO and DG NEAR as is foreseen by Article 67(3) of the Financial Regulation; regrets that they are systematically considered as confidential whilst in accordance with Article 67(3) of the Financial Regulation, "they shall be made available to the European Parliament and the Council having due regard, where appropriate to their confidentiality";

232.  Notes that because analysis of key performance indicators had been done in DG NEAR for the first time it is not possible to take any conclusion in terms of “trends” and that in 2015, five key performance indicators were not calculated for DG NEAR;

233.  Points out that:

   a) overall, the performance of delegations has improved, as measured by the number of benchmarks reached on average per delegation;
   b) the total value of the project portfolio managed by delegations has decreased from EUR 30 billion to EUR 27,1 billion and that
   c) the share of projects with implementation problems has decreased from 53,5 % to 39,7 %.

234.  Stresses that i) the Instrument for Stability, ii) the MIDEAST Instrument and iii) the European Development Fund are still the programmes with worryingly high levels of implementation difficulties and that an unacceptable 3 of 4 EUR spent with the European Development Fund are at risk of not reaching their objectives or of being delayed;

235.  Notes that information on 3782 projects has been reported by the heads of delegations for EUR 27,41 billion of commitments and that:

   a) 800 projects (21,2 %) worth EUR 9,76 billion (35,6 % of the entire project portfolio) are exposed to some type of output risk – either a priori or current output risk, projects financed from the European development fund accounting for 72 % of the total amount at risk (EUR 7 billion);
   b) 648 projects (17,1 %) worth EUR 6 billion (22 % of the entire project portfolio) are at risk of being delayed, projects financed from the European development Fund accounting for two thirds of all delayed projects;
   c) 1125 projects (29,75 %) worth EUR 10,89 billion (39,71 %) are at risk of not reaching their objectives or with delayed implementation, the European development fund accounting for 71 % of the EUR 10,8 billion at stake;

236.  Welcomes that for the first time the Commission questioned the heads of Union delegations about the a priori risk of projects which may offer a first step into a centralised risk management process; recommends that on the basis of the information available regarding the difficult field in which delegation may operate the Commission intensifies its dialogue with the delegations on how to manage this risk during the implementation phase of the project;

237.  Notes that the four worst performing delegations for which DG DEVCO is responsible are Yemen, Central African Republic, Gabon and Mauritania whilst the ranking of the four worst performing delegations for which DG NEAR is responsible are Syria, Egypt, Albania and Kosovo;

238.  Expects that DG DEVCO will progress in the achievement of the following priorities in 2016 and will report on them in its annual activity report for 2016:

   a) increase the accuracy of financial forecasting on decisions and contracts;
   b) increase the percentage of payments made within the 30-day period;
   c) increase the effectiveness of controls;
   d) improve performance of all delegations with less than 60 % of their key performance indicators marked “green” in 2015, in particular through the adoption of action plans and information systems;

239.  Expects DG NEAR to achieve the following priorities in 2016 and report on them in its annual activity report for 2016:

   a) introduce the five key performance indicators that were missing in the external assistance management report 2015 exercise;
   b) improve the monitoring possibilities for key performance indicators;

Union spending on migration and asylum in neighbourhood countries

240.  Recalls that one important aspect of the Union external relations is that the fight against poverty should also aim to create the conditions of preventing the uncontrolled arrival of irregular migrants in Europe;

241.  Endorses the main findings reported by the Court in its Special Report No 9/2016 concerning “EU external migration spending in Southern Mediterranean and Eastern neighbourhood countries until 2014” and stresses in particular that the existing fragmentation of instruments hinders parliamentary oversight of i) the way funds are implemented and ii), the identification of responsibilities, and therefore makes it difficult to assess the financial amounts actually spent to support external action on migration;

World Bank

242.  In light of the alarming information provided by Politico on 2 December 2016 regarding “Conflict of interest fears over Georgieva’s World Bank dealings” recalls that Parliament called on the Commission in its last discharge resolution concerning the Commission’s budget for 2014 to review the code of conduct for commissioners by the end of 2017, including by defining what constitutes a conflict of interest; stresses that without a detailed definition of what constitutes a conflict of interest, Parliament will not be able to properly evaluate fairly and consistently the existence of actual or potential conflicts of interest;

243.  Considers that the new funding arrangement concluded by the Commission with the World Bank(110) replacing a flat management fee with a more complex formula, and foreseeing in particular that certain projects directly carried out by the World Bank may be subject to a 17 % charge on the cost of personnel and consultants, will probably be detrimental to the budget of the Union and could result in payments exceeding the 7 % cap on management fees forbidden by Article 124(4) of the Financial Regulation;

244.  Stresses that the management fee paid to the World Bank will not be used for development and cooperation projects; wonders why the World Bank should be remunerated by the Commission for banking activities that are at the core of its mission of banker,

International Management Group

245.  Congratulates the Commission on the outcome of proceedings in Case T-381/15 on 2 February 2017; asks which contracts with International Management Group are still underway at present;

Measures to be taken

246.  Calls on:

   DG DEVCO and DG NEAR to enhance the quality of expenditure verifications contracted by beneficiaries, namely by introducing new measures such as the use of a quality grid to check the quality of the work performed by the beneficiary contracted auditors and the revision of the auditors’ terms of reference;
   DG NEAR to take action to ensure that funding channelled through a twinning instrument is in accordance with the non-profit rule and adheres to the principle of sound financial management;
   DG NEAR to revise the residual error rate methodology in order to provide statistically accurate information on the amount at risk for payments made under the Pre-Accession Instrument indirect management;
   DG DEVCO to revise the estimate of its future corrective capacity by excluding from the calculation recoveries of unspent pre-financing and earned interests and cancellation of recovery orders previously issued;
   DG DEVCO and DG NEAR to publish the external assistance and management reports issued by the heads of Union delegations as an annex to their annual activity reports as foreseen by Article 67(3) of the Financial Regulation and to indicate in their annual activity reports the measures taken to redress the situation in delegations with implementation problems, to shorten the delays and to simplify the programmes;
   the Commission to make public the declarations of assurance of the heads of Union delegations;
   the Commission to:
   i) clarify objectives;
   ii) develop, expand and improve the performance measurement framework of its migration and asylum policies in neighbourhood countries;
   iii) focus available financial resources on clearly defined and quantified target priorities and,
   iv) further consolidate the link between development and migration;
   the Commission to include in the code of conduct for commissioners the definition of what constitutes a conflict of interest, to fundamentally reconsider the need to foresee in its funding arrangements with international organisations and entrusted entities provisions regarding their remuneration for staff costs linked to activities that are at the core of their mission and to report fully to the Parliament by the end of 2017 on its reflections in this regard but also on the impact of the application of the new cost recovery policy;

Migration and security

247.  Welcomes the fact that, given the political sensitivity of the issue, the Court addressed for the first time the migration and security policy in the second part of chapter 8 of its annual report; notes that with EUR 0,8 billion this area represents a small but increasing part of the Union budget;

248.  Deplores the fact that the Court did not formulate any error rate regarding this policy area whilst the director-general of DG HOME estimates in his 2015 annual activity report a residual multiannual error rate of 2,88 % for non-research grants directly managed by DG HOME;

249.  Shares the concerns expressed by the Court regarding the fact that audits of the solidarity and management of migration flows performed by the Commission did not cover tests of controls on most key processes and that for this reason there is a risk that some annual programmes with ineffective control systems have been considered by the Commission to provide reasonable assurance and consequently will not be the focus of the Commission’s ex-post audits;

250.  Recalls that deficiencies were detected by DG HOME in the management and control systems of the European Refugees Fund, Return Fund, European Fund for Integration of Third-Country Nationals and the External Borders Fund for the period 2007-2013 by Czech Republic, Germany, France and Poland;

251.  Is of the opinion that KPI 1 included in the DG HOME annual activity report for 2015 is not relevant as the rate of return of irregular migrants to third counties is not significantly influenced by management by DG HOME;

252.  Deplores that the Commission considers that it is “difficult if not impossible to provide an estimated cost paid for migrants/seeker country by country as the management of migratory flows comprises a wide range of activities”(111) ;

253.  Asks the Court to provide the budgetary control authority with a most likely error rate concerning migration and security policy in its 2016 annual report and to evaluate the corrective capacity of the Commission services in this policy area;

254.  Expresses concern over checks carried out on funds for refugees, which are frequently allocated by the Member States in emergencies in ways that do not comply with the rules in force; regards it as essential that the Commission introduce more rigorous checks, including with a view to ensuring that the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers are upheld;

Measures to be taken

255.  Recommends that DG HOME:

   a) carefully quantify and analyse in its annual activity report the nature of the errors it identifies and provide more information concerning the reliability of its “corrective capacity”;
   b) promote the use of simplified cost options, the use of lumps sums and standardised “unit costs” in the management of its funds;
   c) carefully draw lessons from the past regarding the deficiencies detected in the management of the European Refugee Funds, Return Fund, European Fund for Integration of Third-Country Nationals and the External Borders Fund for the period 2007-2013;
   d) provide the budget and budgetary control authority with the most precise data possible as to the cost paid for migrants/asylum seekers in order to solidly justify the amounts of budgetary requests for funding programmes, while acknowledging the unquantifiable value of any and all human life;
   e) test the effectiveness of Member States internal control systems used for the SOLID programmes over most key processes : selection and award procedures, award procedures, project monitoring payments and accounting;
   f) organise and favour more synergy between all the services in charge if programmes possibly influencing the migration flows;

Administration

256.  Notes that an official can be appointed to a senior expert or a senior assistant post which opens the possibility to be promoted to the AD 14 grade or AST 11, and that once an official is appointed to a senior expert post, there is no possibility to move him/her back to an administrator job; regrets the inconsistency between this measure and those aiming to reduce administrative expenses or reinforce the link between grade and function; calls on the Commission to end this practice;

257.  Notes with concern that the average number of years in the grade before promotion have decreased for the grades AD 11 and higher; for grade AD 12, for example, in 2008 an official was promoted only every 10,3 years on average while in 2015 he/she was promoted every 3,8 years, which shows that the promotions in the upper salary grades have been speeded up; asks the Commission to slow down promotions in grades higher than AD 11 or AST 9;

258.  Emphasises that geographical balance, namely the relationship between staff nationality and the size of Member States, should still remain an important element of resources management particularly with respect to the Member States that have acceded to the Union since 2004, welcomes the fact that the Commission has reached a more balanced composition of officials from the Member States which joined the Union before and since 2004; but points out that the latter Member States are still underrepresented at the higher level of administration and in managerial posts, for which progress is still awaited;

259.  Notes with concern the excessively high prices charged for medical services in Luxembourg and the difficulties in ensuring that members of the EU institutions’ Joint Sickness Insurance Scheme receive treatment on an equal footing with Luxembourg’s citizens; calls on the institutions, and the Commission in particular, to demand and guarantee that Article 4 of Directive 2011/24/EU(112), under which Member States are required to ensure that healthcare providers on their territory apply the same fees for patients from other Member States as for domestic patients, be enforced in all Member States, and in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg especially; calls too for it to impose the appropriate sanctions where this directive is not complied with;

OLAF

260.  Notes that the College of commissioners lifted the OLAF director-general's immunity, following a request by Belgian authorities, in the context of investigations linked to the "Dalli case"; is of the opinion that the director-general is confronted with a three-fold conflict of interest:

   while the College was in the process of deciding on lifting his immunity, the director-general considered the possibility of opening OLAF investigations against Members of the Commission,
   once the College had taken its decision to lift his immunity, the director-general took legal action against the Commission for an alleged irregularity in the adoption of its decision; at the same time the director-general continued to represent the Commission on policy matters related to his portfolio,
   after the lifting of his immunity had been confirmed, the Belgian public prosecutor opened an investigation into the director-general's role in the case in question, while continuing to serve as the OLAF director-general's interlocutor for fighting fraud against the Union's financial interests in Belgium;

Considers that these conflicts of interest could damage both OLAF's and the Commission's reputation; asks therefore the Commission to place the OLAF director-general on leave until the end of the investigation conducted by the Belgian authorities, and to appoint a temporary substitute;

261.  Is shocked by news reports that, according to OLAF calculations, the United Kingdom customs’ ‘continuous negligence’ deprived the Union of EUR 1,987 billion in revenues in lost duties on Chinese merchandise; and that a highly sophisticated organised crime network also stripped EUR 3,2 billion from the value-added-tax income of major Union countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Italy; asks to be granted access to the complete case file and to be kept regularly informed;

Code of conduct

262.  Is of the firm opinion that there is a growing need for strong ethics regulation in order to fulfil Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union and Article 245 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; insists that well-functioning codes of conduct demand continuous attention; stresses that a code of conduct is only an effective preventative measure if properly applied and if compliance is systematically reviewed, not only in cases of incidents;

263.  Notes the Commission proposal to revise the codes of conduct for commissioners; regrets however that the revision is limited to the extension of the cooling-off period to three years only for the former President of the Commission; calls on the Commission to review the code of conduct for commissioners by the end of 2017, including by implementing Parliament's recommendation that the ad hoc ethical committee be reformed to extend its powers and include independent experts, by defining what constitutes a "conflict of interest", as well as introducing criteria for assessing the compatibility of post-office employment and extending the cooling off period to three years for all commissioners;

264.  Points out that an important step with regard to conflicts of interest is to increase the transparency of the Commission President, the ad hoc ethical committee of the Commission and of the Secretariat General, when reviewing situations of potential conflict; notes that only if the opinions of the ethical committee are published proactively can the public hold the Commission accountable;

265.  Calls on the College of commissioners to take a decision now that the recommendation of the ethical ad-hoc committee in the case of the former Commission President has been finalised so as to refer the case to the Court of Justice for it to give an opinion on the matter;

Expert groups

266.  Welcomes the Commission decision of 30 May 2016 establishing horizontal rules on the creation and operation of Commission expert groups(113), but regrets the fact that, despite many non-governmental organisations having expressed their interest, the Commission did not organise a full public consultation; reiterates the importance of reviving forms of involvement of representatives of civil society and the social partners in crucial areas such as the transparency and the functioning of the Union institutions;

267.  Recalls that a lack of transparency has a negative effect on the trust that Union citizens have in the Union institutions; believes that the effective reform of the Commission's expert groups system, based on clear principles of transparency and balanced composition, will improve the availability and reliability of data, which will in turn help increase people's trust in the Union;

268.  Takes the view that the Commission should make progress towards a more balanced composition of the expert groups; deplores the fact, however, that as yet no express distinction is drawn between those representing economic and non-economic interests so as to guarantee a maximum of transparency and balance;

269.  Recalls that both Parliament and the European Ombudsman have recommended to the Commission to make the agendas, background documents, minutes of meetings and deliberations of expert groups public;

Special advisors

270.  Calls on the Commission to publish the names, the function, the grade and the contract (working hours, length of the contract, place of work) of all special advisors; considers that there is a risk of conflicts of interest with the special advisors; is of the firm opinion that conflicts of interest should be avoided as it would undermine the credibility of the institutions; calls on the Commission to publish the declarations of interest of the special advisors;

European Schools

271.  Notes that individual schools are responsible for the annual accounts (which make up the “General Framework”); the appropriations available in the 2015 budget amounted to EUR 288,8 million to which the Commission contributed EUR 168,4 million (58 %);

272.  Is shocked that after all these years of alleged reforms, the Court continues to be extremely critical of the European schools’ financial management:"“II. The Schools did not prepare their annual accounts within the legal deadline. Numerous errors were found, most of which were corrected (as a result of the review) in the final version of the accounts. They constitute systematic weaknesses in the accounting procedures. (...)

IV.  The payment systems of the two selected Schools were affected by significant weaknesses: no automatic link between the accounting and payment systems and no strict segregation of duties, payments made outside the accounting system not automatically rejected by the system and a poor level of control generally. These weaknesses represent a significant risk in terms of the legality and regularity of payments.

V.  The Court also found several significant weaknesses in procurement procedures, which risked compromising the principles of transparency and equal treatment.

VI.  In a few cases, the Court did not find evidence of the qualifications of recruited staff and noted omissions in their personal files.

VII.  As a result, the Court was unable to confirm that the financial management was sound”;

"

273.  Deplores the fact that “(...) the Court was unable to confirm that the financial management was sound”;

274.  Deplores also that the Commission, in line with the Court’s findings and due to a case of suspected fraud which occurred between 2003 and 2012, issued again a reputational reservation on payments;

275.  Notes that the size of the budget allocated to the European Schools system is considerably larger than that received by all but 2 of the 32 agencies; believes that the financial accountability of the European Schools system should be raised to a level comparable to that of the European agencies, including by means of a dedicated discharge process for the EUR 168,4 million put at its disposal;

276.  Recalls that the Parliament in its 2010 Commission discharge procedure had already questioned “the decision-making and financing structures of the Convention on the European Schools”; and had demanded that the Commission “explore with the Member States a revision of that Convention and [...] report by 31 December 2012 on the progress made”(114); notes that no progress report was ever received by Parliament;

277.  Notes the ongoing financial and organisational crisis in the European Schools system is growing more acute because of the plans to open a fifth school in Brussels and the possible consequences of the withdrawal of one Member State from the European Schools Convention at some point in the future; questions whether the European schools system as currently organised and financed has the resources to cope with the planned expansion to five schools in Brussels; notes that this risks creating even more significant problems in the future by over-stretching some language sections that, under current resourcing models, only have the capacity to cover four Brussels schools (in the case of the German-language sections) or three (in the case of the English-language sections);

278.  Finds it unacceptable that Member State representatives continue to grant discharge to the European Schools, although the Commission, which pays 58 % of the annual budget, and the Court advise against it;

279.  Fully endorses the Court's 11 recommendations issued in its report of 11 November 2015 on the annual accounts of the European Schools for 2014 comprising accounting, staff, procurement procedure, control standard and payment issues;

280.  Welcomes the updated action plan drawn up by DG Human Resources and Security with the view to addressing the Commission’s reservation and the Court’s observations;

281.  Calls on the Commission to prepare a communication to the Parliament and the Council reflecting on how the administrative structure of the European Schools could best be reformed before November 2017;

282.  Calls for the Commission to play its full part in all aspects of the process of reform covering managerial, financial, organisational and pedagogical issues; asks that the Commission submit annually a report giving its assessment of the state of progress in these areas to the Parliament, to ensure its relevant committees can scrutinise the management of the schools system and evaluate the use it makes of the resources put at the system's disposal out of the Union budget; asks that the relevant commissioner give the matter his close attention, and specifically calls on him to participate personally in the biannual meetings of the board of governors; reiterates Parliament's view that a 'comprehensive review' of the European Schools system is urgently required; calls for the first draft of the review in question to be provided by 30 June 2017;

Committees Opinions

Foreign Affairs

283.  While welcoming the progress achieved, notes that 6 out of 10 civilian missions under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) have not yet been recognised by the Commission as compliant with Article 60 of the Financial Regulation; urges the Commission to step up work in order to accredit all civilian CSDP missions, in line with the Court's recommendation, allowing them to be entrusted with budget implementation tasks under indirect management;

284.  Welcomes the establishment of the Mission Support Platform aimed at reducing the administrative burden and increasing the efficiency of civilian CSDP missions; regrets its limited size and scope and reiterates its call for further progress towards a shared services centre, which would lead to further budgetary and efficiency gains through centralising all mission support services that do not need to be ensured locally;

285.  Reiterates its view that the Union’s financial rules need to be better adapted to the specificities of external action, including crisis management, and stresses that the current revision of the Financial Regulation needs to deliver greater flexibility;

286.  Is concerned by the lack of direct means of control in regard to the use of macro-financial assistance by recipient third countries; calls on the Commission to tie assistance of this kind more closely to measurable parameters;

287.  Welcomes equally the recommendations suggested by the Court in its Special Report No 13/2016 on Union assistance for strengthening the public administration in Moldova and in the Special Report No 32/2016 on Union assistance to Ukraine; considers that the Union should fully use the leverage of conditionality and ensure proper monitoring of the implementation of the reforms undertaken in order to positively contribute to the reinforcement of democratic practices both in Moldova and Ukraine;

Development and Cooperation

288.  Welcomes in this context the Court’s Special Report No 9/2016 on the Union's external migration spending in Southern Mediterranean and Eastern Neighbourhood countries; highlights that the Court comes to the conclusion that the Union's external migration spending has failed to demonstrate its effectiveness, that it is impossible to measure its results, that the Commission's approach to ensure that migration has a positive development impact is unclear, that return and readmission support is having little impact and that respect for human rights of migrants, which should underpin all actions, remains theoretical and is only rarely translated into practice;

289.  Welcomes the Court’s Special Report No 15/2016 on humanitarian aid spending in the Great Lakes region; highlights that the Court concludes that humanitarian aid to the population affected by conflict in the African Great Lakes area was, generally, managed effectively by the Commission; stresses the stark contrast with migration spending and sees this as further proof that well planned development policies deliver much better results than short term driven migration activism;

290.  Is very worried by a noticeable trend in recent Commission proposals to ignore legally binding provisions of Regulation (EU) No 233/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council(115) when it comes to official development assistance eligible expenditure and eligible countries for Development Cooperation Instrument spending; recalls that legality of the Union spending is a key principle of sound financial management and that political considerations should not take precedence over clearly spelled out legal provisions if the Commission wants to remain credible on rule of law issues; reminds the Commission in this context about the recent judgment of the Court of Justice(116) on cooperation with Morocco and the Western Sahara issue, in which the Court ruled that the Union has consistently infringed international law;

291.  Supports the use of budget support in general, but urges the Commission to more clearly assess and define the development outcomes to be achieved through budget support in each case and above all to enhance control mechanisms concerning recipient states' conduct in the fields of corruption, respect of human rights, rule of law and democracy; expresses deep concern about the potential use of budget support in countries lacking democratic oversight, either due to the lack of a functioning parliamentary democracy, freedoms for civil society and the media, or due to a lack of capacity of oversight bodies;

292.  Calls on the Commission to incorporate an incentive-based approach to development by introducing the more-for-more principle, taking as an example the European Neighbourhood Policy; believes that the more and the faster a country progresses in its internal reforms to the building and consolidation of democratic institutions, the eradication of corruption, the respect for human rights and the rule of law, the more support it should receive from the Union; stresses that this “positive conditionality” approach, accompanied by a strong focus on financing small-scale projects for rural communities, can bring real change and guarantee that Union tax payers’ money is spent in a more sustainable manner;

293.  Regrets that no prior consultation of Parliament took place when setting up the Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa; calls for more effective efforts to enhance the transparency of decisions on Emergency Trust Fund projects and underlines the lack of an adequate format for the regular consultation of Parliament; regrets that no action has been taken in this respect;

Employment and Social Affairs

294.  Notes the Court’s recommendation that the Commission use the experience acquired in the 2007 to 2013 programming period and report on a focused analysis of the national eligibility rules for the 2014 to 2020 programming period and that, based on this, it provide guidance to Member States on how to simplify and avoid unnecessary complex or burdensome rules;

295.  Calls on the Commission to consider the possibility of including Union funding programmes in its Annual Burden Survey as agreed in the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-making of 13 April 2016(117); highlights that the introduction of annual burden reduction targets that include Union funding programmes would increase compliance and therefore contribute to a reduction in the error rate;

296.  Welcomes the increased focus on results under the 2014 to 2020 programming period; considers, however, that further developing result indicators and monitoring systems would contribute to sound financial accountability and increase the efficiency of future operating programmes;

Environment, Public Health and Food Safety

297.  Is satisfied with the work carried out by the five decentralised agencies which are under its remit and which carry out technical, scientific or managerial tasks that help the Union’s institutions to elaborate and implement policies in the area of environment and climate policy, public health and food safety, as well as with the way those agencies’ budgets are implemented;

298.  Is satisfied with the overall implementation of the LIFE+ operational budget, which amounted to 99,95 % in 2015 for commitment appropriations and 98,93 % for payment appropriations; stresses that LIFE+ has helped to increase public awareness and participation in legislation and the implementation of the environmental policy of the Union, in addition to improving governance in this sector; notes that, in 2015, EUR 225,9 million were committed for action grants, EUR 40 million were used for financial instruments managed by the European Investment Bank and EUR 59,2 million were used for measures intended to support the Commission's role of initiating and monitoring policy and legislation development; notes that EUR 10,2 million were used for administrative support to LIFE and for support to the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises;

299.  Takes note that DG CLIMA has increased its implementation rate to 99,9 % of EUR 108 747 880 in commitment appropriations and 91,77 % of EUR 47 479 530 in payment appropriations, and that if the administrative expenditure is not taken into account, the rate of payment implementation reaches 96,88 %;

300.  Encourages the budgetary authority to focus on pilot projects and preparatory actions with true added value for the Union in the future; acknowledges that ten pilot projects and five preparatory actions amounting in total to EUR 1 400 000 in commitment appropriations and EUR 5 599 888 in payment appropriations have been implemented;

301.  Acknowledges that an evaluation of the second Health Programme (2008-2013) was finalised in 2015; welcomes that the third Health Programme was reinforced in 2015 to support and foster exchange of information and good practices in Member States facing challenges linked to significant reception of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, in particular in relation to the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety’s preparation of a personal health record for migrants’ health assessment to be used at “Hotspots” and reception areas and an additional budget for projects linked to migrants' health;

Transport and Tourism

302.  Notes that in 2015 EUR 12,8 billion was allocated to 263 transport projects through grant agreements signed in 2015 under the 2014 Connecting Europe Facility; calls for proposals; further notes that the Connecting Europe Facility funding has generated EUR 28,3 billion of total investments, combining a Union contribution with regional and Member States budgets, as well as loans from the European Investment Bank;

303.  Notes that for the area of "Competitiveness for growth and employment", to which transport belongs, the Court only audited seven transactions under the responsibility of the Directorate General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE); notes that errors were found in only one of the transactions audited and that those errors concern non-compliance with public procurement rules;

304.  Points out that the European Investment Bank's evaluation report notes geographical imbalances and sectoral concentrations in the Infrastructure and Innovation Window portfolio and that financing under the Infrastructure and Innovation Window is concentrated (63 %) in three Member States; calls on the Commission to urgently assess the impact of the European Fund for Strategic Investments for the Union as a whole; regrets that the European Fund for Strategic Investments is not sufficiently used for the financing of innovative transport projects in all modes of transport, for instance to promote sustainable means of transport or to further encourage the digitalisation process as well as barrier-free accessibility;

305.  Regrets that the Commission (DG MOVE) has not yet established a formalised consolidated strategic document for the supervision on the TEN-T core network corridors development; encourages the Commission to adopt such a strategic document regarding supervision activities and transparency; recalls that transparency and consultation with all stakeholders contribute to the success of transport projects;

306.  Points out that transport projects in 2014-2020 will be financed from several sources, including the Connecting Europe Facility, the CF, the ERDF and the European Fund for Strategic Investments; calls on the Commission, therefore, to develop synergies that will enable these different sources of funding to allocate the funds available more efficiently, as well as the blending of these resources; calls on the Commission to annually deliver and publish, inter alia on its websites, easily accessible lists of transport, including modal share percentages, and tourism projects, that are co-financed through the mentioned funds;

Regional Development

307.  Calls on the Commission through the high level group(118) to pay specific attention to national eligibility rules in its audit of national management and control systems, helping Member States to simplify them to allow changes to be made; in this context, underlines the importance of applying the single audit principle; calls on the Commission through simplified and effective guidance to clarify the notion of recoverable VAT to avoid different interpretation of the term 'non-recoverable' VAT and avoid a sub-optimal use of Union funds; calls on the Commission, Member States and the regional authorities to ensure that beneficiaries are provided with consistent information about funding conditions, particularly concerning the eligibility of expenditure and the relevant ceilings for reimbursement;

308.  Deplores the fact that managing authorities presented a lower level of cost claims for reimbursement in 2015 than in 2014, which led to a fall in the level of unpaid cost claims from EUR 23,2 billion in 2014 to EUR 10,8 billion in 2015, of which EUR 2,8 billion had remained unpaid since the end of 2014; points out that delays in the budgetary execution for the 2014-2020 period should not be greater than those for the previous period and lead to an accumulation of unpaid claims towards the end of the funding period; urges the Commission to monitor the situation closely with Member States and adapt its payment plan accordingly;

309.  Regrets that, as of 30 June 2016, not all Member States had transposed the directives on public procurement and urges the Commission to continue to assist Member States to increase their capacity to transpose those directives, as well as to implement all their action plans on ex ante conditionalities, which is an essential pre-requisite for prevention of fraudulent and non-fraudulent irregularities; stresses the importance of implementing the action plan on public procurement for European structural and investment funds in 2014-2020 with a view to simplifying, speeding up and harmonising electronic public procurement procedures;

310.  Notes that the average disbursement rate for ERDF and ESF financial instruments was 57 % at the end of 2014, which represents only a 10 % increase compared to 2013; regrets the Court’s observation on the extension of the eligibility period of disbursements made to final recipients within financial instruments by means of a Commission decision rather than an amending regulation; expresses concern in the event that the Court were to rule all disbursements after 31 December 2015 as irregular; notes with concern that a significant share of initial endowments of ERDF and ESF financial instruments during 2007-2013 programming period was spent on management costs and fees;

311.  Welcomes the Court’s approach in focusing on performance and considers it good practice that managing authorities define relevant result indicators measuring the contribution of the projects to the achievement of the objectives set for the operational programmes in accordance with the additionality criterion; stresses the need to intensify communication; calls on the Commission to identify more efficient channels of communication in order to increase the visibility of investments using European structural and investment funds; calls on the Commission to develop a limited number of relevant indicators which can help measure performance;

312.  Urges the Commission and Member States to make the best use of the territorial instruments by ensuring that in due time the integrated urban development strategies are approved for financing, which will allow cities to invest in comprehensive strategies, exploit synergies between policies and ensure a more effective long-term impact on growth and jobs;

Agriculture and Rural Development

313.  Asks the Court to continue to provide separate assessments for the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and Heading 2, also beyond the next financial year, as separate assessments allow for targeted action for improvement of the considerably different error rates;

314.  Urges both the Commission and Member State authorities to continue to address and reduce the complexities in relation to direct payments, wherever possible, and in particular if there are many different levels involved in the administration of the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund;

315.  Welcomes a new generation of additional financial instruments, believes that they must be designed with clearer objectives and a sufficient degree of scrutiny at the end of the period of implementation to demonstrate their impact and ensure that they do not result in an increased error rate;

316.  Calls, in relation to national payment agencies in the Member States that have fallen short of expectations in the past three years, for Union officials who are already in post rather than nationals of the Member State concerned, to be responsible in those payment agencies;

317.  Draws attention to the multi-annual nature of the agricultural policy management system and emphasises that the final evaluation of irregularities related to the implementation of the regulation(119) will be possible only at the end of the programming period;

318.  Notes that simplification of the CAP should not put viable food production at risk and calls for measures to shift towards a low-carbon economy in the agri-food and forestry sectors;

Fisheries

319.  Is satisfied to see that the follow-up to the reservations DG MARE expressed in its 2014 annual report in respect of the management and control system for the European Fisheries Fund programmes (2007-2013) has significantly reduced, to only five, the number of operational programmes and Member States concerned;

320.  Is reassured that the internal control system implemented by DG MARE provides sufficient assurance to adequately manage the risk relating to the legality and regularity of the transactions;

321.  Welcomes the fact that of the 12 specifically fisheries-related transactions audited by the Court, none shows a quantifiable error;

322.  Regards it as regrettable, however, that the vast majority of Member States forwarded details of their operational programmes relating to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund very late, which causes long delays in the mobilisation of funds;

323.  Notes in consequence that no expenditure was declared to the Commission before 30 June 2015 and therefore no expenditure was monitored by that date; points out that Member States are responsible for implementing appropriations under shared management;

Culture and Education

324.  Reiterates that the incorporation of all mobility programmes for young people in the Union into ERASMUS+ is primarily intended to increase their efficacy, and therefore urges the Commission to stick to the agreed aims and programme budget lines in order to avoid the programme losing its focus;

325.  Welcomes the responsiveness of both Erasmus+ and Creative Europe in reacting to the emerging challenges of refugee/migrant integration and anti-radicalisation in 2015;

326.  Notes that loans under the Student Loan Guarantee Facility (Erasmus+ Master Loan) were made available for the first time in 2015, with two banks in Spain and France launching the scheme; insists that, to become a viable loan facility, it will be vital to ensure broad geographic coverage and for the Commission to monitor closely the lending conditions;

327.  Recalls that 2015 was the first year in which the Creative Europe programme was managed across two Commission directorates-general, the Directorate-General for Education and Culture and the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology; insists on the need for a coordinated approach so that internal organisational challenges do not impair the functioning of the programme or public perception of it;

Civil liberties, justice and home affairs

328.  Calls on the Commission to draft and submit to the discharge authority a track record of cases of conflicts of interest identified;

329.  Regrets that key performance indicators in DG HOME’s annual activity report do not cover the numbers of people assisted, resettled, relocated and returned in 2015; regrets the lack of indicators to evaluate the effect of measures adopted to reinforce coordination and cooperation between national law enforcement authorities;

330.  Encourages the development of clearer and long-term political priorities with more concrete translation into operational priorities; in this respect stresses the importance of closer cooperation with other bodies, especially the agencies;

331.  Regrets the lack of alignment of the Commission’s information security governance structures with recognised best practices (as per the Internal Audit Service audit report);

Gender issues

332.  Points out that gender equality should be a cross-cutting objective for all policy areas; notes, however, that some of the programmes do not have specific targeted actions with specific budget allocations to fulfil this objective and a better collection of data should result not only in the quantification of appropriations allocated to actions contributing to gender equality but also in an improvement of the evaluation of the impact of those Union funds;

333.  Repeats its calls on the Commission to consider gender budgeting at all stages of the budgetary process, including, inter alia, in the implementation of the budget and the assessment of its execution, including EFSI, ESF, ERDF, Horizon 2020, in order to combat the discrimination taking place in Member States; stresses that a common set of quantifiable result and impact indicators, which would allow for better assessment of the implementation of the budget from the gender perspective, should be incorporated in the planning, implementation and evaluation of the budget, in line with the Budget Focused on Results initiative and the focus on performance;

334.  Calls on the Commission to use gender budgeting analysis of both new and existing budget lines and, where possible, to make necessary policy changes to ensure that gender inequality does not occur indirectly.

(1) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(2) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(6) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0144.
(7) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(8) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(9) OJ C 417, 11.11.2016, p. 2.
(10) OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 51.
(11) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(12) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(13) OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.
(14) OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.
(15) OJ L 343, 19.12.2013, p. 46.
(16) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0144.
(17) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(18) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(19) OJ C 417, 11.11.2016, p. 10.
(20) OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 61.
(21) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(22) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(23) OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.
(24) OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.
(25) OJ L 341, 18.12.2013, p. 73.
(26) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0144.
(27) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(28) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(29) OJ C 417, 11.11.2016, p. 2.
(30) OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 41.
(31) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(32) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(33) OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.
(34) OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.
(35) OJ L 341, 18.12.2013, p. 69.
(36) OJ L 363, 18.12.2014, p. 183.
(37) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0144.
(38) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(39) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(40) OJ C 417, 11.11.2016, p. 9.
(41) OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 157.
(42) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(43) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(44) OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.
(45) OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.
(46) OJ L 346, 20.12.2013, p. 58.
(47) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0144.
(48) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(49) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(50) OJ C 417, 11.11.2016, p. 11.
(51) OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 230.
(52) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(53) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(54) OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.
(55) OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.
(56) OJ L 346, 20.12.2013, p. 54.
(57) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0144.
(58) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(59) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(60) OJ C 417, 11.11.2016, p. 11.
(61) OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 219.
(62) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(63) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(64) OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.
(65) OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.
(66) OJ L 352, 24.12.2013, p. 65.
(67) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0144.
(68)1 OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(69) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(70) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 1.
(71) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(72) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(73) OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.
(74) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0144.
(75) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(76) OJ L 362, 31.12.2012, p. 1.
(77) Court’s Special Report No 31/2016.
(78) Court’s Special Report No 05/2015 and No 19/2016.
(79) European Commission DG REGIO summary of data on the progress made in financing and implementing financial engineering instruments reported by the managing authorities in accordance with Article 67(2)(j) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006, programming period 2007-2013, situation as at 31 December 2015 20.9.2016, p. 61.
(80) see point 1.39 of the 2015 Court’s annual report.
(81) see points 3.22 and 3.23 of the 2015 Court’s annual report.
(82) see points 3.29 of the 2015 Court’s annual report.
(83) see points 3.33 to 3.38 of the 2015 Court’s annual report.
(84) see point 3.56 of the 2015 Court’s annual report.
(85) see point 4.16 of the 2015 Court’s annual report.
(86) COM(2016)0674, SWD(2016)0338, SWD(2016)0339.
(87) “Commitment and Coherence - Ex-Post Evaluation of the 7th EU Framework Programme (20017-2013)”, November 2015.
(88) 2015 Court’s annual report, point 3.19.
(89) 2015 Court’s annual report, point 3.22.
(90) 2015 Court’s annual report, section 3.
(91) European Parliament Resolution of 28 April 2016 with observations forming an integral part of its decision on the discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2014, Section III – Commission, paragraph 8 (OJ L 246, 14.9.2016, p. 27).
(92) 2015 annual activity report, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, Brussels 2016, p. 11, footnote 8.
(93) SWD(2016)0318.
(94) Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on public procurement and repealing Directive 2004/18/EC (OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 65).
(95) Directive 2014/23/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on the award of concession contracts (OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 1).
(96) Directive 2014/25/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on procurement by entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors and repealing Directive 2004/17/EC (OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 243).
(97) First results of the Youth Employment Initiative, Final report to the DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion of the European Commission, June 2016.
(98) 2015 Court’s annual report, point 6.36.
(99) Reply to question 19 in the written questions to Commissioner Creţu.
(100) See paragraph 8 of the resolution of 28 April 2016.
(101) 2015 Court’s annual report, point 6.9, footnote 8.
(102) Avoiding these errors would have reduced our estimated level of error by 0.9 percentage points for “Market and direct support” and by 3.2 percentage points for “Rural development and other policies”.
(103) Annual Activity Report of DG AGRI states that the aggregated adjusted error rate has fallen from 2.61 % in 2014 to 1.47 % in 2015.
(104) Full-time means the minimum hours required by the relevant national provisions governing contracts of employment. If the national provisions do not indicate the number of hours, then 1 800 hours are taken to be the minimum annual working hours: equivalent to 225 working days of eight hours each.
(105) According to the last Farm Structure Survey (Eurostat) the overall change in the EU-28’s farm labour force during the period 2007–13 was a fall of 2.3 million annual work units (AWU), equivalent to a reduction of 19.8 %.
(106) See the reply to written question 3 - hearing of Commissioner Hogan of 29 November 2016.
(107) See paragraph 317 of the resolution of 28 April 2016.
(108) Member States must reduce the differences between per-hectare payment levels to beneficiaries on their respective territories (this is referred to as "internal convergence"). In principle (exceptions apply), they must also reduce by at least 5 % the receipts above EUR 150 000 which any beneficiary obtains from the basic payment scheme or the single area payment scheme. In addition, Member States have the option to redistribute up to 30 % of their direct payments national envelope to the first 30 ha on every farm ("redistributive payment"), as well as to set an absolute upper limit on each beneficiary's receipts from the basic payment scheme or the single area payment scheme ("capping").
(109) See Article 35(1) of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 908/2014 of 6 August 2014 laying down rules for the application of Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to paying agencies and other bodies, financial management, clearance of accounts, rules on checks, securities and transparency (OJ L 255, 28.8.2014, p. 59) and Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the financing, management and monitoring of the common agricultural policy and repealing Council Regulations (EEC) No 352/78, (EC) No 165/94, (EC) No 2799/98, (EC) No 814/2000, (EC) No 1290/2005 and (EC) No 485/2008 (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 549).
(110) Commission Decision C(2016)2210 of 12 April 2016 amending Commission Decision C(2014)5434 authorising the use of reimbursement on the basis of unit costs for activities implemented by a World Bank Group entity under the Framework Agreement with the Union.
(111) Reply to written question 23 - hearing of Commissioner Avramopoulos of 29 November 2016.
(112) Directive 2011/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2011 on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare (OJ L 88, 4.4.2011, p. 45).
(113) C(2016)3301.
(114) See paragraph 38 of the European Parliament Resolution of 10 May 2012 with observations forming an integral part of its decision on the discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2010, Section III – Commission and executive agencies (OJ L 286, 17.10.2012, p. 31).
(115) Regulation (EU) No 233/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation for the period 2014-2020 (OJ L 77, 15.3.2014, p. 44).
(116) Judgment of the Court of Justice of 21 December 2016, Council v Front Polisario, C-104/16 P, ECLI:EU:C:2016:973.
(117) Interinstitutional Agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission of 13 April 2016 on Better Law-Making (OJ L 123, 12.5.2016, p. 1).
(118) High Level Group of Independent Experts on Monitoring Simplification for Beneficiaries of the European structural and investment funds.
(119) Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005 (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 487).


Discharge 2015: Court of Auditors' special reports in the context of the 2015 Commission discharge
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European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the 2015 Commission discharge (2016/2208(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0144A8-0160/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the special reports of the Court of Auditors drawn up pursuant to the second subparagraph of Article 287(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0338/2016)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies(3),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(4) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to its decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission(5), and to its resolution with observations that forms an integral part of that decision,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05876/2017 – C8‑0037/2017),

–  having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(6) and in particular Articles 62, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 93 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0160/2017),

A.  whereas, under Article 17(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the Commission is to execute the budget and manage programmes and, pursuant to Article 317 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, is to implement the budget in cooperation with the Member States, on its own responsibility, having regard to the principles of sound financial management;

B.  whereas the special reports of the Court of Auditors provide information on issues of concern related to the implementation of funds, and are thus useful for Parliament in its role as discharge authority;

C.  whereas its observations on the special reports of the Court of Auditors form an integral part of Parliament’s aforementioned decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section III – Commission;

Part I – Special Report No 18/2015 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Financial assistance provided to Member States in difficulties”

1.  Takes note of the findings and recommendations of the Court of Auditor’s (the “Court”) Special Report;

2.  Welcomes the first special report of the Court on economic governance in the Union and looks forward to the upcoming reports that will be published in the coming year;

3.  Regrets that the Court has not included in this report all the Member States that received financial assistance since the beginning of the financial crisis, including the programme for Greece in order to facilitate a comparison;

4.  Welcomes however that the Court will produce a separate special report on Greece; calls on the Court to compare the results of both special reports and in particular to address the suggestions of the Parliament to the report on Greece, including medium and long term results (i.e. present debate on possible debt-relief);

5.  Encourages the Court to further reinforce its own human resources and expertise in this area to improve the quality of its work; calls on the Court in the meanwhile to take fully into consideration the external expertise reports requested by the Court as a background basis for the audit;

6.  Draws attention to the fact that the Court limited the audit to the very short term and concrete scenario of financial assistance as decided by the Council without taking into consideration other potential solutions to the fiscal imbalances that were already part of public and academic debate, such as the mutualisation of sovereign debt or debt relief;

7.  Regrets that the report limits its focus to the management of the assistance but does not analyse, nor question, the programme's content and the conditions negotiated for financial assistance;

8.  Takes note that the specific measures taken at the Union political level and the main features of the programmes have only been described in the special report; encourages the Court to analyse if the measures adopted were appropriate to the objectives of the programmes and the way they have interacted with the wider policy framework and long term objectives, including the Europe 2020 Strategy;

9.  Takes note that the objectives of the financial assistance programmes were for the assisted countries to return to financial markets, achieve sustainable public finances, and return to growth and reduce unemployment; regrets that the Court's findings have not fully analysed the results of the programme against these objectives;

10.  Notes that the Court primarily focused its conclusions on the Commission as the manager of the financial assistance, but considers that for a better understanding, further attention should have been paid to the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank which initially supported the Commission in the preparation and monitoring of the programmes;

11.  Shares the view of the Commission that the role of the Council and other partners has been underestimated in the establishment and management of the programme; asks the Court and Commission to analyse the relevance of the measures adopted by the Council, the role of the European Central Bank and whether these were appropriate to meet the objectives of the programme and contributed to the Union's objectives, including phasing out the economic crisis, more jobs and growth;

12.  Regrets that the partners did not always share all available information with the Commission, which led to inconsistent approaches by the negotiating team; urges the Commission to set up formal agreements with its partners in order to have full access to all information available in due time and thus avoid such problems in the future;

13.  Highlights that some of the reforms indicated in the programmes (i.e. reform of labour markets) can only lead to results in competitiveness in the very long term, while assistance programmes seek mainly more immediate, short-term results;

14.  Notes that the programmes have been mainly based on the side of expenditure (reforms on labour markets, pension and unemployment schemes, reduction of local entities etc.) as well as cuts to public programmes; understands that these cuts have been made in order to reform the financial markets of the assisted countries;

15.  Urges the Council to carefully review the toolbox and set of measures available for financial assistance in future programmes in order to reduce the impact on the population, the non-desired effect on internal demand and the socialisation of the costs of the crisis;

16.  Highlights that financial assistance provided to the Member States in difficulties took the form of loans borrowed on the capital markets using the Union budget as a guarantee; considers that the role of the Parliament as budgetary authority in these programmes has been undermined, thus further reducing the democratic legitimacy of the financial assistance provided;

17.  Urges the Commission to increase the level of Parliament's involvement in the framework of financial assistance when the Union budget it is at stake;

18.  Considers it important to study the role of the European Central Bank in indirectly helping Member States to meet their objectives and on the wider support to the financial architecture of the Union during the time of the financial programmes;

19.  Considers that at the onset of the crisis it was difficult to have predicted some abrupt imbalances with devastating effects in some Member States; highlights the difficulty of predicting the magnitude and nature of the 2007-2008 global financial crises which was unprecedented;

20.  Shares the Court’s view that the attention paid to the pre-crisis surveillance legal framework was not adequate in identifying the risk in the underlying fiscal positions in times of severe economic crisis;

21.  Welcomes the approval by the legislators of the 'six' and 'two' pack introduced as a result of the financial crisis which addressed the surveillance weakness that the crisis revealed; considers however that the reform of the Union economic governance framework in the past years has not lead to a complete phase-out of the crisis and calls on the Commission to further analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the new framework compared to other similar economies (i.e. US, Japan and other OECD countries) and to propose new reforms, if necessary;

22.  Calls on the Commission to follow the Court's recommendation to further improve the quality of its macroeconomic and fiscal forecasts;

23.  Takes note of the Court’s conclusion that the Commission achieved in difficult time constraints and limited experience ex novo duties to manage the financial assistance programmes; highlights the Court's conclusion that this was an achievement taking into consideration the circumstances;

24.  Welcomes the decision to allow the management of financial assistance to be the responsibility of the Commission instead of other financial partners, allowing tailored assistance that takes into consideration particularities and ownership of the Member States;

25.  Is of the opinion that while Member States should be treated equally, the flexibility to tailor and adjust programmes and reforms to particular national circumstances is also necessary; considers that for future programmes of the Commission and reports of the Court, it should be necessary to identify and differentiate the implementation of strictly Union measures from the national conjectural agendas;

26.  Takes note of the Court's comment as regards the Commission's difficulties in keeping track of the information and that its processes were not geared towards retrospective evaluation of the decisions taken;

27.  Underlines that in the early phase of the programmes, the Commission was operating under severe time and political pressure in the face of uncertain risks that challenged the stability of the whole financial system with unpredictable consequences in the economy;

28.  Considers that, whilst not having prior experience on financial assistance, the Commission 'learnt by doing' and managed to properly put in place relatively quickly those programmes and improved its management for the later ones;

29.  Shares the Court's recommendations that the Commission should further analyse the key aspects of the countries' adjustments, but also should compare economic forecasts including housing market, public and private national debts; urges all Member States to provide systematically and regularly the appropriate data to the Commission;

30.  Considers that the timeframe since the launch of the first Union programme until the end of the Court's analysis should give the opportunity to include improved recommendations both on the improvements and the results of the programme to future programmes, as a result of the inter-institutional and adversarial dialogue between the Court and the Commission;

31.  Considers that, on grounds of transparency, better information and communication to citizens, the replies of the Commission and the opinion of the Court should be presented in a double column to allow comparison of views as is done for the annual report of the Court;

32.  Taking into account the sensitivity of these new reports on Union financial governance, recommends that the press releases and other communication documents should reflect thoroughly the findings and recommendations of the Court;

Part II – Special Report No 19/2015 of the Court of Auditors entitled "More attention to results needed to improve the delivery of technical assistance to Greece"

33.  Notes that at the time this resolution was being drafted, the Commission had already presented its proposal for the establishment of the Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP); welcomes the fact that the Commission has evidently taken the recommendations from the Court into consideration and hopes the SRSP will emerge as a strong tool for technical assistance based on the lessons learned from the Task Force on Greece;

34.  Is concerned that the ad-hoc, rapid set-up of the task force caused some of its operational problems; calls for a thorough assessment of the situation on the ground and formulation of a concise step-by-step action plan as mandatory preliminary exercise of any technical assistance project; requests that in its subsequent technical assistance programmes the Commission applies a more planned approach, including a timeline with start and end date for mandates;

35.  Underlines that a dedicated budget is an essential pre-requisite to a successful technical assistance programme, both for planning and streamlining expenses, thus avoiding different levels of control and rules to be observed, related to separate budget lines;

36.  Notes that the task force managed an impressive number of projects involving multiple partner organisations; believes that the impact of technical assistance could have been improved by streamlining programmes, limiting the number of partner organisations and scope of projects to minimise administrative coordination efforts and increase efficiency;

37.  Regrets that the beneficiary Member State as well as the task force did not provide the Commission with regular activity reports; points out that the Commission should insist on receiving quarterly activity reports without excessive delay and a comprehensive final report in the form of an ex-post evaluation within a reasonable timeframe after the conclusion of the work of the Task Force on Greece; requests that the Commission monitor the implementation of technical assistance systematically in order to focus on results-oriented technical assistance; requests further that the technical assistance and the Task Force on Greece should include in their various reports an accounting of how and where exactly the so-called 'bailout' funds for Greece were disbursed;

38.  Calls on the Commission, Parliament and Council to use the discussion on the SRSP for the period 2017 to 2020 as an opportunity to revise the good practice of domain leaders; encourages the Commission to find a system together with the Member States to hire experts directly from the Member States, thus avoiding another layer of complexity and administrative burden by circumventing national agencies;

39.  Demands the Member States to show stronger commitment: a performance-based approach would allow the Parliament as well as national parliaments to play a more supportive role through their respective budget oversight committees;

Part III – Special Report No 21/2015 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Review of the risks related to a results-oriented approach for Union development and cooperation action"

40.  Welcomes the Court’s report and sets out its observations and recommendations below;

41.  Acknowledges the fact that the Commission has integrated risk analysis into the management of its external operations, which are carried out in complex and fragile environments with numerous types of risks, partner countries having differing levels of development and governance frameworks;

42.  Especially welcomes the Court’s recommendation to the Commission to improve the use of terminology regarding long-term results (outputs, outcomes and impacts) and stresses the importance of formulating true SMART objectives before any decision on financing different projects is taken;

43.  Highlights the need to put extra focus on formulating “attainable and realistic” goals to avoid the cases where the initial objectives were met by partner countries but without significant results in terms of development;

44.  Considers it necessary to refrain from focusing on budgetary outturn as the sole management objective, as this can be detrimental to the principle of sound financial management and the achievement of results;

45.  Recalls that the regular monitoring and mapping of high risk factors (external, financial and operational) and their quantification, from identification to implementation phases, is a prerequisite not only for a good financial management and quality expenditure but also to ensure the credibility, sustainability and reputation of the Union interventions; takes the view that setting-up activities and countries’ risk profiles also facilitate the design of a rapid risk mitigation strategy in case of deterioration of the situation in a partner country;

46.  Highlights the need to regularly adapt the control environment and risk management functions to take into account the emergence of new forms of assistance instruments and facilities like the blended finance, trust funds and financial partnerships with other international institutions;

47.  Reiterates the view that a new balance between absorption, compliance and performance is needed and to be reflected in the management of operations;

48.  Believes that developing partner countries' capacity building, governance frameworks and ownership is also an important way to mitigate systemic risks in order to favour a conducive environment allowing funds to reach their intended purposes and respond to the 3 Es requirements (economy, efficiency and effectiveness);

49.  Also considers necessary the strengthening of political and policy dialogue, aid conditionality and the logical chain framework in order to ensure both the coherence between decision and preconditions of payments or disbursements in financing agreements by clearly linking payments to the achievement of actions and results as well as the relevance of selected objectives and indicators;

50.  Encourages, particularly in the case of co-funded and multi-donor initiatives, international institutions to:

   assess and plan the future benefits of a project and the way each partner contributes towards the final outcomes and broader impacts so as to avoid the questions about the results ownership, i.e. which part of the results was attributable to the Union funding or to other donors’ interventions;
   combine their governance frameworks with the Union one, notably by improving their risk management methods; considers that the fungibility of funds should be closely monitored for its high level of fiduciary risk;

51.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that the connection between evaluations and policy formulation is effective by taking into account all lessons learned in the decision-making process;

52.  Recalls that undermining performance monitoring and results evaluation is detrimental to public accountability and to comprehensive information for policymakers;

Part IV – Special Report No 23/2015 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Water quality in the Danube river basin: progress in implementing the Water Framework Directive but still some way to go”

53.  Believes that the guidelines for a more differentiated reporting on progress with regard to water quality should be provided by the Commission;

54.  Agrees with the Court that the Commission should foster comparability of data, for example, by reducing the discrepancies in the number of physicochemical substances that are assessed for the ecological status;

55.  Highlights the need for the Commission to continue its follow-up of Member States’ progress in reaching good water quality, the objective of the water framework directive;

56.  Invites the Member States to ensure good-quality water monitoring in order to have accurate information on the situation and origin of pollution by water body, to allow better targeting and increase cost-effectiveness of the remedial measures;

57.  Encourages the Member States to ensure coordination between those bodies defining measures in the river basin management plans and those approving projects for funding;

58.  Encourages the Member States to assess and ensure the effectiveness of the enforcement mechanisms, in particular the coverage to be achieved and the deterrent effect of the penalties applied;

59.  Invites the Member States to assess the potential of using the water pollution charge as an economic instrument and as a way to apply the “polluter pays” principle at least for the main substances which negatively affect water quality;

60.  Calls on the Commission to consider systematically assessing not only the existence, but also the adequacy of the good agricultural and environmental condition standards and minimum requirements adopted by the Member States;

61.  Notes that the Commission should provide guidance on the possible methods for cost recovery in the field of diffuse pollution;

62.  Calls on the Member States to assess the potential of using economic instruments, such as environmental taxes, as an incentive to reduce pollution and as a way to apply the “polluter pays” principle;

63.  Invites the Commission and the Member States to identify ways for simplifying the set-up and implementation of the checks and for ensuring their effectiveness, on the basis of an inventory of the enforcement of both Union and national mechanisms;

Part V – Special Report No 24/2015 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Tackling intra-Community VAT fraud: More action needed"

64.  Is of the opinion that the Commission should initiate the establishment of a common system of estimating the size of intra-Community VAT fraud, which would allow Member States to evaluate their performance against adequate indicators; considers that the performance should be in terms of reducing the intra-Community VAT fraud, increasing detection of fraud and increasing tax recovery following the detection of fraud;

65.  Believes that, in order to improve the performance of Eurofisc as an efficient early warning system, the Commission should recommend to Member States to: (a) introduce a common risk analysis to ensure that the information exchanged through Eurofisc is well targeted to fraud; (b) improve the speed and frequency of these information exchanges; (c) use a reliable and user-friendly IT environment; (d) set up relevant indicators and targets to measure the performance of the different working fields; (e) participate in all Eurofisc working fields;

66.  Calls on the Commission in the context of its evaluation of the administrative cooperation arrangements among the Member States for exchanging information between their tax authorities to fight against intra-Community VAT fraud, to carry out monitoring visits selected on a risk basis; believes that these monitoring visits should focus on improving the timeliness of Member States’ replies to information requests, the reliability of the VAT Information Exchange System, the speed of Multilateral Controls, and the follow-up of the findings of its previous reports on administrative cooperation;

67.  Bearing in mind that Member States need information from non-Union countries to enforce VAT collection of e-commerce business-to-consumer services and intangibles supplied via the internet, calls on the Commission to support the Member States in negotiating mutual assistance arrangements with the countries where most of the digital service providers are established and in signing these arrangements, in order to strengthen cooperation with non-Union countries and enforce VAT collection;

68.  Is of the opinion that while intra-Community VAT fraud is often linked with organised criminal structures, the Commission and Member States should remove legal obstacles preventing the exchange of information between administrative, judicial and law enforcement authorities at national and Union level; considers, in particular, that the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and Europol should have access to the VAT Information Exchange System and Eurofisc data and that Member States should benefit from intelligence information supplied by them;

69.  Believes that the Commission should provide sufficient financial resources in order to ensure the viability and sustainability of the operational action plans set up by Member States and ratified by the Council under the umbrella of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Crime Threats initiative;

Part VI – Special Report No 25/2015 of the Court of Auditors entitled "EU support for rural infrastructure: potential to achieve significantly greater value for money"

70.  Recognises the importance of rural infrastructure investments supported by Union funds, especially by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development for needs, whose benefits go beyond agriculture, which otherwise may have not been funded given significant economic challenges and scarcity of financing faced by rural areas;

71.  Notes that European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development funding to infrastructure projects is based on shared management where Member States are responsible for management, monitoring and control as well as for selection and implementation of projects, while the role of the Commission is to supervise the proper functioning of the management and control systems in Member States; believes that these roles should be more clearly defined so that beneficiaries are clear as to which areas monitoring bodies have competence over; underlines that both the Commission and Member States must respect the principles of sound financial management;

72.  Considers the Court’s findings and recommendations, included in the Special Report No 25/2015, useful for further improvement of the performance-based utilisation of Union funded investments in rural infrastructure and for achievement of better results and value for money; requests that the Commission implement them;

73.  Strongly recommends that the Union investments in rural infrastructure be targeted at projects that allow improvement of public services and/or contribute to the creation of jobs and economic development in rural areas, and for which there is a demonstrable need for public support and which deliver added value, while also ensuring that these funds are additional investments, and are not used as a replacement of national funding to essential services;

74.  Recommends that Member States use a coordinated approach which quantifies needs, where applicable, and funding gaps and justifies the use of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) measures, and which considers not only Union funds and programmes, but also national, regional and local programmes and public and private funds that could address — or are already addressing — the same needs as the RDP;

75.  Calls on the Commission to build upon the first steps taken to ensure effective coordination and complementarity between the different funds of the Union, undertaken through the checklist used by it to ensure the consistency of the 2014-2020 RDPs, and to provide further guidance to Member States during the implementation of the programmes on how to achieve not only better complementarity, but also on how to avoid the risk of substitution of funds and to mitigate the risk of deadweight; in this regard, asks the Commission also to intervene by promoting good practices;

76.  Recommends to the Member States, in order to mitigate the risk of deadweight, before setting aid rates for infrastructure measures to assess the appropriate level of public funding needed to encourage investments, as well as during the project selection process to check, where appropriate before approving applications for support, whether the appli­cant has sufficient capital or access to capital to finance all or part of the project; encourages better use of management information systems by the Member States;

77.  Calls for the principle of additionality to be respected at all levels and insists therefore on a proper set-up of monitoring committees and their active participation in the process of coordination; asks the Commission to properly utilise its advisory role in the monitoring committees;

78.  Welcomes the Commission’s guidance issued in March 2014 encouraging Member States to ensure that eligibility and selection criteria are applied in a transparent and consistent way throughout the programming period, that selection criteria are applied even in cases when the budget available is sufficient to fund all eligible projects and that projects with a total score that is below a certain threshold are excluded from support; calls on the Member States to strictly follow this guidance for Union-funded rural infrastructure projects;

79.  Request that the Member States establish and consistently apply criteria to ensure the selection of the most cost‑effective projects, that is to say the projects with the potential to make the greatest contribution to the RDP objectives per unit of cost; asks them to ensure that project cost estimations are based on up‑to‑date price information that reflects actual market prices and that public procurement procedures are fair and transparent and promote genuine competition; notes the guidelines on how to avoid common errors in the Union co‑funded project, developed by the Commission at the end of 2014, and encourages all Member States to fulfill the ex-ante conditionality for public procurement requirements by the end of 2016;

80.  Calls also for greater transparency in the selection process; considers that public opinion on local problems in rural areas should be taken into consideration by managing authorities when approving grant applications; recognises that local action groups may play an important role in this process;

81.  Recommends that the Commission include in the scope of its future audits an examination of performance aspects concerning rural infrastructure projects; expects the changes made for the 2014-2020 programming period by the Commission, based on the identified past problems, to bring the intended improvement;

82.  Requests that the Commission and the Member States introduce requirements that oblige beneficiaries to ensure long-term sustainability and proper maintenance of the infrastructure financed by Union investments, and to check implementation of respective requirements;

83.  Requests that Member States set a reasonable timeframe for processing grant and payment applications and respect it, as in most cases beneficiaries have already drawn down bridging loans to complete works;

84.  Recommends that for the 2014-2020 period, the Commission and the Member States collect timely, relevant and reliable data that provides useful information on the achievements of the projects and measures financed; expects that this information will allow conclusions to be drawn on the efficiency and effectiveness of the funds spent, identify the measures and types of infrastructure projects delivering the greatest contribution to the Union objectives and provide a sound basis for improving the management of the measures;

85.  Encourages the Member States to ensure that clear, specific and where possible quantified objectives are set for the projects to which funds are committed, and thus to facilitate the execution and monitoring of the projects, and useful feedback for the managing authorities;

86.  Acknowledges that “community-led local development” is an important tool for overcoming the deficiencies identified by the Court;

Part VII – Special Report No 1/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Is the Commission’s system for performance measurement in relation to farmers’ incomes well designed and based on sound data?"

87.  Recommends that the Commission develop a more comprehensive statistical framework to provide information on the disposable income of farm households and to better capture the standard of living of farmers; believes that for this purpose the Commission should, in cooperation with the Member States and based on a common methodology, consider how best to develop and combine existing Union statistical instruments;

88.  Recommends that the Commission improve the framework for the comparison of farmers’ incomes with incomes in other sectors of the economy;

89.  Calls on the Commission to further develop the Economic Accounts for Agriculture so that their potential could be better used in order to:

   provide more detailed information on the factors impacting agricultural income;
   ensure transmission of regional-level data based on formal arrangements with the Member States.

90.  Is of the opinion that the Commission should examine whether the Economic Accounts for Agriculture can be further developed to provide a reasonable estimate of the economic value of the public goods that are produced by farmers and ensure that Economic Accounts for Agriculture information is used appropriately in income indicators;

91.  Recommends that the Commission base its analysis of farmers’ incomes on indicators taking account of the current situation of agriculture and on sufficient and consistent data for all beneficiaries of CAP measures; considers that this could be done by developing synergies between existing administrative data or by developing the Farm Accountancy Data Network or other suitable statistical tools;

92.  Is of the opinion, in view of the importance of the Economic Accounts for Agriculture for monitoring the CAP, that the Commission should introduce regular quality reporting on the Economic Accounts for Agriculture and obtain reasonable assurances that Member States set up a quality assurance framework to ensure that data provided by Member States are comparable and compiled in line with the quality criteria applying to European statistics;

93.  Recommends that the Commission address weaknesses identified in the implementation of the Farm Accountancy Data Network by agreeing a clear timetable with the Member States concerned and encouraging better use of the system’s potential;

94.  Urges the Commission further to develop the present quality arrangements for the establishment of the Farm Accountancy Data Network statistics by the Member States to ensure that, in all Member States, sectors and size classes of holdings that are of interest for the CAP are adequately represented, reflecting also the choices made by Member States in terms of CAP options;

95.  Recommends, taking into consideration the weaknesses identified by the Court, that the Commission improve the reliability and completeness of performance information of the CAP measures in relation to farmers’ incomes by:

   defining from the outset appropriate operational objectives and baselines against which the performance of the CAP measures can be compared for the next programming period;
   in the context of its evaluations, complementing the current framework of performance indicators with other relevant and good-quality data to measure the results achieved;
   also in the context of its evaluations, assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of the measures designed to support farmers’ incomes;

Part VIII – Special Report No 3/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Combating eutrophication in the Baltic Sea: further and more effective action needed”

96.  Welcomes the Court’s report and endorses its recommendations;

97.  Deeply regrets that even though between 2007 and 2013, the Union contributed EUR 14,5 billion to waste water treatment and water protection measures in Union Member States in the Baltic Sea region, in addition to EUR 44 million to water quality improvement in Russia and Belarus in 2001-2014, limited progress has been achieved to reduce nutrient emissions; asks the Commission to pay special attention to the cost-effectiveness of the above-mentioned measures;

98.  Highlights that eutrophication is one of the key threats to reaching a good ecological status for the Baltic Sea; emphasises the importance of combatting the eutrophication of one of the world’s most polluted seas; therefore, regrets that limited progress has been made on nutrient reduction in the frame of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission’s (HELCOM's) nutrient reduction scheme which allocates nutrient reduction targets to each Baltic country; regrets that the Union directive has been only partially applied by some Members States;

99.  Stresses that the Member States should create their nitrates programme procedures based on the most recent scientific indication and advice;

100.  Asks the Commission to request that Member States collect information on the cost‑effectiveness of nutrient load reduction measures in order to have a robust analysis for establishing future programmes of measures;

101.  Urges the Commission to improve the reliability of monitoring data on nutrients in the Baltic Sea as the reliability is not assured;

102.  Urges the Commission to promote effective designation of nitrate vulnerable areas to Member States in order to put in place sufficient measures in highly vulnerable areas and on the other hand avoid putting an unnecessary burden on farmers operating in areas that are not nitrate vulnerable; emphasises that the Member States in the Baltic Sea region should re-evaluate their designation of nitrate vulnerable areas;

103.  Notes with concern the lack of effectiveness of actions to reduce nutrient pollution of urban waste water; asks the Commission to ensure effective follow-up of the implementation of the Urban Waste Water Directive(7) and ensure that Member States comply fully with the directive;

104.  Regrets that the HELCOM recommendations have been only partly achieved and implemented under the Union directive for specific activities;

105.  Notes that the leverage effect has been high in financing the projects in Russia and Belarus; is worried however about the delays in projects which might result in significant losses of resources; asks the Commission to continue its efforts in this regard and to focus more closely on key polluters identified by HELCOM; also believes that in regard to the cooperation among Union and non-Union states best practices should be identified and applied widely;

Part IX – Special Report No 4/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “The European Institute of Innovation and Technology must modify its delivery mechanism and elements of its design to achieve the expected impact”

106.  Welcomes the report dedicated to the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and sets out its observations and recommendations below;

107.  Welcomes the Court’s findings and recommendations;

108.  Notes that the Court has identified several weaknesses in key concepts and operational processes and has given four recommendations if the EIT wants to become the ground-breaking innovative institute;

109.  Recalls the discharge 2012 and 2013 on the EIT in which the decision on granting the EIT discharge was postponed, based on the lack of assurance on the legality and regularity of the EIT’s grant transactions, inappropriate evidence not surpassing the ceiling of 25% of the knowledge and innovation communities’ (KICs’) global expenditure, the high level of carry-overs not being implemented and the delays in the implementations of the recommendations of the Commission’s Internal Audit Service;

110.  Considers that the current report of the Court gives rise to serious concerns about the basis, funding model and the operation of the EIT;

111.  Notes the reply of the Commission on the report, whereby the Commission gives its point of view on the facts and findings; observes that the Commission agrees with the majority of the recommendations of the Court;

112.  Notes that the report states that in 2015 several improvements were made by the EIT that seem to reflect the findings and recommendations of the Court; notes that close monitoring and evaluation is needed to verify the effects of these improvements;

113.  Emphasises that a multiannual grant agreement between the EIT and the KICs and the multiannual strategy of the KICs should not stand in the way of the KICs' annual reporting;

114.  Emphasises that performance monitoring and results evaluation is essential to public accountability and to comprehensive information for policymakers; highlights that this must also apply in the case of the EIT and KICs;

115.  Notes that the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation introduced in 2015 the concept of “Open Innovation” as the key policy concept to frame innovation policy at Union level; considers that it is not clear which role the EIT plays in this concept; emphasises that this concept does not provide a clear framework for the development of a coherent and coordinated action by the Commission, given the number of policies and instruments in the mix and number of directorate generals involved in supporting the innovation;

116.  Calls on the Commission to ensure a coordinated and efficient innovation policy, in which the responsible directorates-general tune up the activities and instruments, and to inform the Parliament on these efforts;

117.  Is concerned by the fact that in the KICs the involvement of businesses in the choice of research projects could lead to situations where researchers are financially and otherwise linked to the industry and may no longer be seen as independent; expresses this concern in the light of developments in which the influence of businesses in science and fundamental research has grown;

118.  Understands the EIT’s mission to promote cooperation among higher education, research and innovation; notes that companies may often be the main beneficiary, being the legal owners of innovative products brought to the market and receiving financial profits; stresses the need in this situation to consider the possibility of incorporating a structure in the cooperation-model in which given funds could, at least partially, flow back to the EIT;

119.  Believes that the improvements mentioned and the agreement of the Commission on the recommendations are reason to await further developments within the EIT;

120.  Calls on the EIT to give the discharge authority in its 2016 annual report an in-depth analysis of the implementation of the Court’s recommendations;

121.  Calls on the Commission to provide Parliament with a follow-up report on the implementation and monitoring of and actions taken regarding the Court’s recommendations;

Part X – Special Report No 5/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Has the Commission ensured effective implementation of the Services Directive?”

122.  Welcomes the Court's report, endorses its recommendations and is pleased that the Commission accepts these and will take them into account in future;

123.  Notes that despite the limitation of its scope by the exclusion of provision of some services, the Service Directive(8) has a very broad field of application, which required the Commission to have a set of measures to ensure its correct implementation;

124.  Stresses that the services market has not achieved its full potential and that the impact on growth and jobs of successful implementation of the Services Directive is high; while the potential economic benefit of full implementation of the directive is still not known, considers that the Commission should develop a study in order to estimate the output gains in the most reliable quantitative terms possible;

125.  Encourages subsequent inclusion of more sectors in order to achieve a broader removal of sectorial obstacles to market integration with a final goal of removing of barriers in the internal market for services and developing full Union potential for growth, competitiveness and job creation;

126.  Considers that Member States could have made better use of the measures provided by the Commission to support transposition, implementation and enforcement, especially by sharing the problems faced in the different stages of the procedure, discussing possible common solutions and exchanging best practices;

127.  Agrees that the Commission should reduce the length of infringement procedures as much as possible;

128.  Regrets that tools such as the points of single contact, the Internal Market Information System and the European Consumer Centres (ECC-net) were not sufficiently known and used by businesses and consumers when having an issue related to the application of the Services Directive;

129.  Notes that the provision of services online continue to be limited due to uncertainties for providers and recipients;

Part XI – Special Report No 6/2016 of the Court entitled “Eradication, control and monitoring programmes to contain animal diseases”

130.  Welcomes the recommendations of the Court and welcomes the Commission’s acceptance;

131.  Welcomes that the animal disease programmes were evaluated as successful by the audit and that the technical advice, risk analysis and supporting mechanisms were graded as good; welcomes the positive results of these programmes on the animal health in the Union; encourages the Commission and the Member States to apply the successful approach also in the future;

132.  Believes that the extensive output indicators for national programmes for the eradication, control and monitoring of certain animal diseases and zoonoses should be further improved, particularly relating to the technical implementation and economic indicators, which would allow for an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of the programmes;

133.  Notes the Commission’s view that establishing of the cost-effectiveness of the programmes is difficult, especially as there are no models available even on the international level; further notes that the cost-benefit of the programmes has been proven by avoiding the spread of disease and human infection and by saving lives;

134.  Notes that the exchange of epidemiological information and the ready access to historic results could be better supported by the relevant information systems, allowing for better coordination of control activities between Member States; notes that according to the Commission, existing IT tools are being developed to better support the Member States; encourages the Commission to ensure an added value of the developed IT tools for the exchange of necessary information;

135.  Considers that the Commission should support the availability of vaccines for use by the Member States when epidemically justified; welcomes the fact that the vaccine/antigen banks have already been put in place for two diseases; encourages the Commission to continue with a risk analysis that might determine a potential need for other vaccine/antigen banks;

136.  Notes that the Commission accepts to ensure that Member States systematically include, when relevant, the wildlife aspect in their veterinary programmes;

137.  Notes that the programmes in certain countries were not as successful in eradication of the animal diseases and that progress was rather slow; invites the Commission in cooperation with the Member States to prioritise these specific cases and to prepare a detailed strategy that would help to streamline the eradication of the diseases, in particular of the bovine tuberculosis in the UK and Ireland and ovine and caprine brucellosis in the south of Italy;

138.  Notes with concern that the underlying legislation covering the topic of animal disease remains overly complex and fragmented; welcomes the adoption of an umbrella piece of legislation - the regulation on transmissible animal diseases (the “Animal Health Law”)(9) in March 2016; notes that the new regulation will be applicable five years following the adoption; welcomes the fact that the new regulation will offer streamlined, simpler and clearer rules;

Part XII – Special Report No 7/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “The European External Action Service’s management of its buildings around the world”

139.  Welcomes the Court’s report and sets out its observations and recommendations below;

140.  Emphasises that the EEAS and the Member States have a shared interest in further developing local co-operation in the area of management of buildings with a specific and continuous attention to be devoted to security issues, best value for money and the Union's image;

141.  Welcomes the increase in co-location projects of Union delegations with Member States with the signature of 17 co-location memoranda of understanding; encourages the EEAS to further seek ways to extend this good practice; considers that this policy should include innovative approaches aiming at defining both a coordinated strategy of co-location with Member States eager to do so and appropriate cost-sharing arrangements related to buildings and logistics;

142.  Regrets the insufficient recording and inaccuracies in the information system for managing delegations office buildings and residences; asks for a regular review of the completeness and reliability of data encoded by Union delegations;

143.  Urges the EEAS to reinforce its management control and monitoring tools of all the costs incurred in the building policy in order to ensure an accurate overview and follow-up of all the expenditure; considers that emphasis should be put on the respect of the ceilings defined in the building policy to decrease the total annual rent of delegations’ offices, the adequacy of contributions paid by co-located entities, the coverage of the running costs involved in co-location situations and the correctness of costs with local market conditions;

144.  Believes that legal and technical expertise in real estate management should be swiftly developed while considering any cost-effective alternative options, such as hiring external expertise, like local brokers, to prospect the market or possibly negotiate with landlords;

145.  Supports the implementation of a medium-long term strategy identifying all options from investment priorities or possibilities of purchases, renting renewals to the sharing of premises with Member States, taking account also of staff projections and policy planning and development;

Part XIII – Special Report No 8/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Rail freight transport performance in the EU: still not on the right track”

146.  Welcomes the Court’s report, endorses its recommendations and is pleased that the Commission accepts these and will take them into account;

147.  Draws attention to the areas where action by Member States and Commission is most needed: market liberalisation, traffic management procedures, administrative and technical constraints, monitoring and transparency of the performance of the rail freight sector, fair competition between different modes of transport, a consistent approach between policy objectives and funds allocation, and improved coordination between the Member States and the Commission in the selection, planning and management of projects and rail network maintenance;

148.  Notes that the Commission has not properly assessed the impact of the legislative packages that it has launched since 2000 in the rail sector, in particular concerning rail freight transport; regrets that the Union funds invested in several projects cannot be considered cost-effective;

149.  Considers that a continuation of the current state of play in the rail sector will mean that the shifting targets for 2030 are not met;

150.  Finds that it is in the interest of Member States to have a common and mandatory impact assessment of future rail freight transport legislation to ensure that the shortcomings related to network incompatibilities are effectively overcome;

151.  Notes that the railway sector is generally very corporative which may affect the perception of market liberalisation more as a threat than as an advantage;

152.  Considers rail freight transport one of the key aspects of the single market for goods and given its massive positive potential in terms of climate change targets and reducing road transport usage, urges the Commission to give it a new impetus within the single market strategy; asks for a rail freight transport strategy to be put in place;

153.  Asks for a comprehensive evaluation of the Union’s rail freight transport with particular emphasis on the implementation of Regulation (EU) No 913/2010(10) including one-stop-shop activity and paths allocation, and an evaluation, in parallel, of freight corridors and of the Connecting Europe Facility corridors including the projects already approved under the Connecting Europe Facility;

154.  Asks for a comprehensive evaluation of the national rail systems interoperability;

155.  Asks for an evaluation of the Member States’ transport strategies drawn up following conclusion of the partnership agreements as regards the cross-border harmonisation and operability of TEN-T corridors;

156.  Asks for an action plan to support the full and swift implementation of the 4th Railway Package;

157.  Regrets that several of the obstacles to developing a strong and competitive European rail transport that were identified by the Court in Special Report No 8/2010 continue to obstruct progress in the sector;

Part XIV – Special Report No 9/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Union external migration spending in Southern Mediterranean and Eastern Neighbourhood countries until 2014"

158.  Welcomes the Court’s report and sets out its observations and recommendations below;

159.  Notes the Court’s critical approach and the large number of shortcomings presented by the Court, particularly the lack of effectiveness in using the allocated funds;

160.  Calls on the Commission to evaluate all of the Court’s observations and to take the requested measures to avoid making the same mistakes during 2014-2020 migration policy; calls for application of all the Court’s recommendations;

161.  Believes that the use of funds should be guided by improved monitoring and evaluation systems based on baseline indicators, progressive benchmarks and measurable and realistic objectives; calls on the Commission to review all indicators, benchmarks and objectives provided by the actual migration programmes;

162.  Is of the opinion that a comprehensive and coordinated response has to be constantly sought to the extent that the migration crisis poses many challenges that cross various sectors and institutional boundaries;

163.  Calls for continuous refinement of the strategic understanding and framework of the Union’s external migration policies and policy options with key actors to ensure clarity as well as a coordinated and coherent mobilisation of external migration mechanisms in the short, medium and long term, within or outside the budgetary framework of the Union;

164.  Calls on the Commission to engage constructively for a better coordination between instruments, mechanisms and relevant stakeholders to achieve migration crisis prevention;

165.  Invites all major stakeholders to reflect and respond adequately on the balance between the flexibility in interventions, the complementarity of the funds, their level and necessary leveraging as well as potential synergies and the overall additionality of Union’s interventions;

166.  Believes, in this context, that due care should be given to the appropriate targeting of aid to different and evolving external migration issues, while also ensuring the adequacy of oversight of disbursed funds in order to avoid the risk of misappropriation of funds and double financing;

167.  Considers that there is a crucial need to reconcile the demand for better results with the availability of sufficient funds to ensure a high level of ambition in the design of the Union’s comprehensive and sustainable response to current and future challenges induced by the migration crisis; believes that the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework mid-term revision are the appropriate forum to address these challenges, with a view to increasing the budget for those funds;

168.  Believes that, in addition to the funding gap, the existing fragmentation of instruments with their own specific objectives that are not interlinked hinders parliamentary oversight of the way funds are implemented and identification of where responsibilities lie, making it difficult to clearly assess the financial amounts actually spent to support external action on migration; regrets that this leads to a lack of effectiveness, transparency and accountability; considers it necessary to refocus ways of using existing policy instruments with a clear and renewed architecture of objectives to increase their overall effectiveness and visibility;

169.  Is of the opinion that Union external migration spending needs to be disbursed more efficiently and that it needs to fulfil “added value” criteria in order to provide people with adequate living conditions in the countries of their origin and to avoid an increase in flows of economic migration;

170.  Calls on the Commission to follow, assess and review constructively the activities of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which were to begin in October 2016;

171.  Welcomes the creation of Union trust funds and the intention to disburse funds more quickly and flexibly in emergency situations, and to bring together various sources of funding in order to address all aspects of any crises;

172.  Notes that trust funds are part of an ad hoc response which shows that the Union budget and the Multiannual Financial Framework lack the resources and flexibility needed for a rapid and comprehensive approach to major crises; deplores the fact that they result in a bypassing of the budgetary authority, which undermines the unity of the budget;

173.  Welcomes the Commission's proposal as part of the Multiannual Financial Framework mid-term revision, to establish a new European Union Crisis Reserve, to be financed from de-committed appropriations, as an additional instrument to react rapidly to urgent Union issues; calls on the Council to fully endorse this proposal;

174.  Emphasises the importance of sufficient control mechanisms to ensure political scrutiny of budget implementation in the context of the discharge procedure; urges the Commission to take immediate steps to increase the involvement of the budgetary and budgetary control authority and to better align the trust funds and other mechanisms with the budgetary norm, in particular by making them appear in the Union budget;

175.  Regrets that the Commission did not provide details of actual payments and calls on the Commission to take adequate measures to strengthen and simplify the encoding in the financial information system in order to better track and monitor the amounts targeted for external action on migration;

176.  Asks the Commission to launch a comprehensive repository tool for Union migration-related spending, including all completed, ongoing and planned projects; considers that the interactive database should provide stakeholders and citizens with the results visualised on the world map, and enabling a search filtered by country, type of project and the corresponding amounts;

177.  Is of the opinion that management by foresight would be more effective than a merely responsive policy such as crisis management in the long term;

178.  Recalls Parliament’s stance towards a holistic approach to migration based on a new policy mix including strengthening of the nexus between migration and development by addressing the root causes of migration while also advocating a shift in the ways of funding the migration crisis;

Part XV – Special Report No 10/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Further improvements needed to ensure effective implementation of the excessive deficit procedure”

179.  Welcomes the findings and recommendations of the Court’s report;

180.  Recommends that the Commission improve transparency of the excessive deficit procedure (EDP) through regular communication of its country assessments on compliance with structural reforms proposed under EDP and through greater transparency in the application of the rules;

181.  Believes that following consultation with Member States, the Commission should regularly report to the Parliament on the progress of country-specific EDPs;

182.  Recommends that the Commission continue its progress in involving national fiscal councils and ensure that the European Fiscal Board takes a formal role under the EDP; notes that transparency under the EDP has improved in recent years and recognises that certain information of a politically sensitive nature cannot always be put into the public domain;

183.  Recommends that the EDP focus more closely on the reduction of government debt; notes that as of end-2014 only 13 Member States had debt-to-gross domestic product levels below 60%; points out that several Member States now find themselves heavily indebted, despite the fact that the Union is benefiting from a modest recovery and public debt levels are higher now than they were in 2010;

184.  Acknowledges that the debt ceiling rule was only made operational under the EDP in 2011; considers that reducing government debt levels, particularly in heavily indebted Member States, will improve economic growth substantially in the long-term;

185.  Recommends ensuring that sufficient flexibility is maintained in the application of EDP rules under the Stability and Growth Pact; emphasises that because unanticipated events can occur in macro-economic policy, a sound economic governance framework needs to be adaptable in order to take account of economic developments;

186.  Considers that the Commission should ensure that the application of EDP rules are closely coordinated with structural reform measures agreed through the European semester;

Part XVI – Special Report No 11/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Strengthening administrative capacity in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: limited progress in a difficult context”

187.  Welcomes the Court’s report, endorses its recommendations and encourages the Commission to take these recommendations into account when working on strengthening the administrative capacity of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia;

188.  Is concerned that limited progress was made in strengthening administrative capacities with no significant progress in implementation of legislation in some key areas such as the development of a professional and independent civil service;

189.  Notes that only partial progress has been made in tackling corruption and improving transparency;

190.  Notes however that the Commission has to operate in a difficult political context and meets with lack of political will and commitment of national authorities to tackle the remaining issues; notes that the constraints of the ongoing political crisis played a role in the success of the financed projects;

191.  Notes and supports the key role which the Commission plays in resolving the political crisis in the country and welcomes the involvement of the commissioner in mediating the political dialogue between opposing political forces;

192.  Calls on the Commission to continue working on the dialogue with the political leaders across the political spectre, national authorities and experts on judiciary and law enforcement in order to find an agreement on an active fight against corruption and organised crime and on implementation of strict measures and mechanisms to prevent corruption and economic crime in line with the country’s criminal law;

193.  Strongly recommends that the Commission use political dialogue and contacts with national authorities in order to improve the efficiency of the public procurement system and the transparency of public spending;

194.  Calls on the Commission to prioritise the fight against corruption and regrets the absence of an effective government strategy in the fight against corruption; reiterates the need for greater political commitment by the national authorities in order to ensure sustainable results in this respect;

195.  Calls on the Commission to build on the achievements of successful projects, which are sustainable, have a quantifiable added value and were implemented and used in accordance with the regulations, when pursuing the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA II);

196.  Welcomes the Commission’s establishment of projects focused on civil society organisations; calls on the Commission to continue this practice and to establish strong relationships with local NGOs;

197.  Encourages the Commission to design projects that strengthen the rights and position of whistleblowers who bring public attention to corruption cases and fraud;

198.  Notes that although many of the projects were well-managed, the results were not always sustainable or even achieved; further notes that the projects did not always fall into a coherent approach towards strengthening administrative capacity building; calls on the Commission to improve strategic planning and to secure sustainability and viability of the projects by setting it as a pre-condition of the projects;

199.  Calls on the Commission to continue to follow the principles of sound financial management; invites the Commission to help design projects that serve also as a stepping stone for further investments in the country; encourages the Commission to prioritise projects with high potential in key areas such as public procurement or selection procedures, and to avoid financing projects with limited prospects of sustainability;

200.  Encourages the Commission to react in a flexible manner to unexpected developments either through the timely release of relevant resources or by their decrease in order to address emerging issues;

Part XVII – Special report No 12/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Agencies’ use of grants: not always appropriate or demonstrably effective”

201.  Welcomes the Court’s report and sets out its observations and recommendations below;

202.  Welcomes the Court’s findings and recommendations;

203.  Notes the reply of the Commission and the agencies involved, which, inter alia, contains important information on measures taken since the audits took place;

204.  Emphasises that the agencies are responsible for the multi-annual and annual programming as well as for the implementation (operational and financial) of their grant actions; finds therefore, that the agencies' effective management of grant activities is crucial for the achievement of the Union's objectives and policies;

205.  Notes that the Court has concluded that the agencies audited in general awarded and paid grants in compliance with the rules;

206.  Observes nevertheless that the Court has identified certain shortcomings regarding funding options, award procedures, control systems and performance measurement and has given five recommendations to improve these shortcomings;

207.  Notes that an agency's strategic justification and choice of a funding tool could strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of the tool and thereby the implementation of its tasks; highlights that inadequate follow-up of ex-ante evaluation could lead to agencies choosing inappropriate funding tools and poor grant design;

208.  Regrets the common broad descriptions of the agencies' grant activities and the vague output descriptions which lead to incomplete annual working plans;

209.  Notes the importance of aligning the agencies' grant actions with their mandate and strategic objectives; encourages therefore all agencies to have specific guidelines and criteria to assist their choice of the specific funding tool, based on an analysis of the agencies' needs, its resources, the objectives to be achieved, the potential beneficiaries to be targeted as well as the level of competition necessary and lessons learned from previous choices;

210.  Notes that agencies' work programmes should indicate which activities are to be implemented by grants, the specific objectives and expected results to be achieved by the grant actions, as well as the planned financial and human resources needed to implement grant actions;

211.  Considers that the setting of strategic objectives, targeted results and impacts, is of the utmost importance to achieving well-defined annual programming;

212.  Highlights that the regulatory framework of some agencies forces them to use grant procedures; notes with concern, however, that agencies did not systematically consider all funding options available to them and that grants were not always the most appropriate tool; further notes the Court’s observation that grant procedures use more restrictive eligibility criteria and weaker financial award criteria than procurement and should therefore not be the default funding option; considers, however, that a careful balance should be maintained between the weaknesses of grant procedures versus the administrative costs involved in public procurement procedures, and does not therefore agree with the Court’s observation that public procurement should be the default option;

213.  Is concerned by the Court’s observation that the agencies involved failed to set up adequate monitoring systems and ex-post evaluations; calls upon agencies to develop ex-post evaluations to improve their monitoring and reporting on grant-funded activities;

214.  Emphasises that performance monitoring and results evaluation is essential to public accountability and to comprehensive information for policymakers; highlights that due to their decentralised character, this is even more relevant for agencies; calls upon agencies to set up grant monitoring and reporting systems based on results and impact-oriented key performance indicators as well as ex post-evaluation results; considers the role of key performance indicators crucial for monitoring and evaluating progress, impact and results;

215.  Notes with concern that key performance indicators continue to focus on inputs and outputs rather than results and impacts; calls upon agencies to develop their key performance indicators more strategically and to base them on results and impacts;

216.  Calls on agencies to develop and undertake a risk assessment evaluation of their annual working plans to improve efficiency through more accurate implementation, monitoring and evaluation;

217.  Recommends strategic allocation of financial tools for short-term objectives to improve accuracy of financing decisions;

218.  Calls upon the Union Agency Network to assist agencies in improving their funding procedures and, in particular, their procedures for performance monitoring in this respect;

219.  Highlights in particular the Court’s findings regarding the grant procedures and the need of transparency, equal treatment and avoidance of potential conflicts of interest; calls on the agencies concerned to implement the Court’s recommendation as soon as possible;

220.  Calls upon agencies to apply specific grant procedures to establish formal internal procedures governing the principles of transparency and equal treatment, and safeguarding against the potential conflicts of interest; highlights that for this reason, agencies should strengthen their verification system regarding grant project implementation;

221.  Calls on the Commission and the agencies who were subject of the audits in this special report to provide the Parliament with an update of the implementation of the recommendations;

Part XVIII – Special Report No 13/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Union assistance for strengthening the public administration in Moldova”

222.  Welcomes the Court’s report, endorses its recommendations and encourages the Commission to take these recommendations into account when working on strengthening the administrative capacity of the Republic of Moldova;

223.  Notes with concern that the Union has only partially contributed to strengthening the public administration and that the Court registered a number of shortcomings, including weaknesses in the design and implementation of the audited programmes and projects;

224.  Notes however that the Commission has to operate in a difficult political context and meets with widespread corruption and many weaknesses of public institutions such as excessive bureaucracy, a lack of focus on core functions, a high staff turnover, low efficiency and lack of accountability; further notes that Moldova is hard hit by political instability, economic turmoil, deep poverty and massive emigration;

225.  Notes that although the particular political circumstances and external factors played an important role in the success of the budgeted programmes and indeed went in many instances beyond the control of the Commission, there were concrete weaknesses that could have been addressed by the Commission;

226.  Notes that the weaknesses observed by Court included the slow response time of the Commission to sudden developments, weak alignment of the programmes with Moldovan national strategies, a lack of ambitious targets, vague and unclear conditions, and a lack of justification for granting additional incentive-based funds;

227.  Calls on the Commission to encourage their Moldavian counterparts to develop systematic, clearly formulated national strategies that would include clear, measurable objectives and to better link designing of the programmes in the country to these strategies;

228.  Encourages the Commission to make use of ex ante evaluations to clearly assess the financing needs and to create focused and justified budgetary planning;

229.  Calls on the Commission to prioritise the fight against corruption and regrets the absence of a truly effective government strategy in the fight against corruption; welcomes the appointment of the high level advisor on anti-corruption to the Prime Minister’s office; however reiterates the need for a more ambitious and effective strategy and greater political commitment by the national authorities in order to ensure sustainable results in this respect; calls on the national authorities to focus on the fight against corruption and for a greater transparency and integrity of the public administration as a matter of priority;

230.  Calls on the Commission to continue the dialogue with the political leaders across the political spectre, national authorities and experts on judiciary and law enforcement in order to find an agreement on an active fight against corruption and organised crime and on implementation of strict measures and mechanisms to prevent corruption and economic crime in line with the country’s criminal law;

231.  Encourages the Commission to design projects that would strengthen the rights and position of whistle-blowers who bring public attention to corruption cases and fraud;

232.  Notes that the main aid delivery methods are sector budget support (74% of aid) and projects; notes with regret that the budget support had a limited effect in strengthening the public administration;

233.  Notes with concern that the method of sector budget support is a highly risky means of budget distribution, especially in the Moldovan context, in which the public administration is paralysed by massive corruption and dominated by a local oligarchy; invites the Commission to reconsider the methods utilised based on an in-depth risk analysis;

234.  Invites the Commission to utilise methods that would bring visible and tangible results for the Moldovan citizens;

235.  Notes that the projects designs were generally relevant, although they lacked coordination with regard to scope and timing and the technical assistance for the development of administrative capacity came later than needed;

236.  Regrets that although projects generally delivered the expected outputs, the results were not always sustainable, for which the political will and external factors are partly responsible; calls on the Commission to build on the achievements of successful projects, which are sustainable, have a quantifiable added value and were implemented and used in accordance with the regulations; calls on the Commission to improve strategic planning and to secure sustainability and viability of the projects by setting it as a pre-condition of the projects;

237.  Notes that the projects partially contributed towards strengthening public administration, however they were not always in line with the Moldovan administration’s needs or objectives; calls on the Commission to focus the projects more specifically on concrete national needs;

238.  Calls on the Commission to continue to follow the principles of sound financial management; invites the Commission to help design projects that would serve as a stepping stone for further investments in the country and to establish cooperation with international financial institutions in this regard; encourages the Commission to prioritise projects with high potential in key areas such as public procurement or selection procedures, and to avoid financing projects with limited prospects of sustainability;

239.  Notes with concern that although in 2012 the Commission developed a more systematic analysis of risk, high-level steering committees for budget support operations and an early warning system for newly materialised risks, it was not able to detect in a timely manner “the theft of the century”, during which USD 1 billion of depositors funds, potentially even including contributions from the Union finances, were embezzled during a massive corruption scandal; notes that the budget support payments were finally put on hold in July 2015 and their resumption made conditional upon an improvement of the macro-economic and fiscal situation and the conclusion of an IMF agreement;

240.  Calls on the Commission to improve the early warning system and the risk analysis in order to react in a faster and more flexible manner to potential risks;

241.  Observes that building an administrative capacity in Moldova is a key issue as the country does not have a full control over its entire territory, which gives an incentive to separatist tendencies of pro-Russian minded forces; recalls that Moldova has a European perspective and is therefore a strategic partner for the Union;

242.  Regrets that Moldova´s ongoing political instability inflicts long-lasting harm on the credibility of the country´s democratic institutions, leading to limited progress towards democracy, a decrease in support of Union integration and an increase in pro-Russian political initiatives;

243.  Calls on the Commission to continue its engagement in Moldova, with a view to strengthening the political association and economic integration between the Union and Moldova; stresses the importance of Union support, guidance, and monitoring on priority reforms aimed addressing the politicisation of state institutions, systemic corruption and public administration reform in order to achieve these objectives;

Part XIX – Special Report No 14/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “EU policy initiatives and financial support for Roma integration: significant progress made over the last decade, but additional efforts needed on the ground”

244.  Is mindful of Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, , Directive 2000/43/EC(11) on racial equality, Directive 2000/78/EC(12) on equal treatment in employment and occupation, and Directive 2004/38/EC(13) on freedom of movement and residence within the Union;

245.  Welcomes the 2008 Council framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia(14), the Parliament resolution of 9 March 2011 on the EU strategy on Roma inclusion(15), the Commission communication of 5 April 2011 on “An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020’ (COM(2011)0173), the Council recommendation of 9 December 2013 on effective Roma integration measures in the Member States(16), and the Commission communication of 17 June 2015 entitled ‘Report on the implementation of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies 2015’(COM(2015)0299);

246.  Points out that the integration of Roma depends on their inclusion and the extent to which they can enjoy the same rights as the entire body of European citizens, of which Roma fully form part;

247.  Draws attention to the common basic principles on Roma inclusion(17), that is to say, the ten common basic principles discussed at the first meeting of the European Platform for Roma inclusion, held in Prague in 2009, which were subsequently reproduced as an annex to the conclusions issued by the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council following its meeting of 8 June 2009;

248.  Endorses the recommendations of the Court and urges the Commission and the Member States to implement them as quickly as possible;

249.  Considers it disappointing that Roma inclusion and integration did not receive the necessary attention during the 2007-2013 programming period; calls, when the future Union strategic framework is drawn up, for greater account to be taken of the difficulties as regards inclusion and the discrimination with which Roma and other marginalised communities have to contend;

250.  Considers it unfortunate that the Court’s investigation failed to cover a wider range of countries where Roma make up a sizeable population, Slovakia, Greece, and France being examples in that category;

251.  Calls on the Member States to determine which disadvantaged persons they wish to target, taking into account the needs of those persons and the challenges facing them, and to devote specific attention to Roma populations when allocating European funding;

252.  Deplores the fact that, because of its complexity, cohesion policy funding, the only source of financing for Roma inclusion and integration projects and projects to combat discrimination, cannot play its proper role in promoting the inclusion of Roma and affording them access to rights;

253.  Considers that each Member State should therefore adopt a road map with a view to gauging the real impact of the laws, regulations, administrative provisions, and funds intended to support Roma and pinpoint areas in which resources and administrative capacity need to be strengthened at national, regional, and local level in order to help set up and manage Roma inclusion and integration projects and projects to combat discrimination against them;

254.  Calls on the Commission to provide detailed information about the funding available for Roma and to study the existing obstacles and take them into account for the purposes of simplifying funds;

255.  Recognises the importance of making a selection, through the use of European structural and investment funds, among long-term projects for marginalised Roma communities;

256.  Points to the need to establish more flexible selection criteria for projects to promote the inclusion of Roma and other marginalised communities;

257.  Calls on the Commission to ensure, in the next programming period or when revising the operational programmes, that Roma integration goals charted in the national Roma integration strategies are reflected in the European structural and investment funds framework at every operational level;

258.  Urges the Member States and the Commission to produce meaningful harmonised statistics on Roma so as to enable their social, administrative, and economic inclusion to be assessed more accurately;

259.  Maintains that exclusion as regards housing, homelessness, exclusion in terms of education, unemployment, and discrimination in access to employment are often the key factors in marginalisation; points, therefore, to the importance of integrated initiatives, encompassing housing, education, and access to employment, to aid Roma and other marginalised communities;

260.  Points out that one major obstacle to combating discrimination against Roma lies in the fact that very few discrimination cases are reported to organisations or authorities such as the police or social services; calls on the Member States, therefore, to adopt a strategy to remedy institutional discrimination and overcome Roma distrust of the authorities;

261.  Calls on the Commission, in partnership with representatives of marginalised communities, and Roma in particular, and with ‘specialised institutions’, to set up training courses within Member State authorities in order to combat discriminatory practices and set a better example conducive to inclusion through healthy, constructive, and effective dialogue;

262.  Points out that the Union has a programme for employment and social innovation, which is backed by EUR 900 million in funding for the period from 2014 to 2020 and focuses on vulnerable people and on combating poverty and social exclusion;

263.  Asks the Commission to consider setting up a European fund specifically to foster the inclusion of Roma and other marginalised communities, and calls on the Commission to ensure that expenditure under such a fund would be properly supervised;

264.  Calls on the Commission to establish a genuine European strategy for Roma inclusion, that is to say, a European action plan devised and implemented at every political and administrative level, involving representatives of the Roma community, and based on the core values of equality, access to rights, and non-discrimination; maintains that such a strategy must help to promote genuine inclusion of Roma and their access to education, employment, housing, culture, health care, participation in public affairs, training, and free movement within the Union;

265.  Points out, however, that Member States have a responsibility to take every measure necessary to support Roma and ensure that national law and rights as a whole are enforced uniformly on their territory, with no discrimination whatsoever;

Part XX – Special report No 15/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Did the Commission affectively manage the Humanitarian aid provided to populations effected by conflicts in the African Great Lakes Region?”

266.  Welcomes the special report dedicated to the review of the risks related to a results-oriented approach for Union development and cooperation action and sets out its observations and recommendations below;

267.  Welcomes the findings according to which the humanitarian aid was managed effectively especially in a difficult working environment characterised by insecurity and unpredictability making efficient implementation a real challenge;

268.  Calls on the Commission to continue its effort towards the linking of Relief Rehabilitation and Development, when local conditions permit; considers that this could potentially be supported through a permanent interservices platform linking relief, rehabilitation and development;. believes that such a platform could serve, among other purposes, for the identification of potential programmes to be combined; considers that integrated approaches with a clearly stated coordination of objectives and a coherent country/region strategy among all stakeholders should be set up wherever possible;

269.  Calls furthermore on the Commission services to deliver a better transition from short-term humanitarian activities to long-term development interventions and for a coherent coordination not only among different Union actors but also with national priorities and other international organisations through a common strategy by means of a joint humanitarian and development framework;

270.  Considers that a systemic appraisal of the real delivery of humanitarian interventions with an assessment of administrative costs in the region to be performed by focusing more on efficiency and with the development of possible benchmarks for common and regular costs items;

271.  Encourages, wherever possible, a better adaptation of timeframes to the intervention environment to avoid long and costly extensions;

272.  Calls on the relevant Union and UN institutions to fully respect and implement the Financial and Administrative Framework Agreement; asks the Commission to report to Parliament on the implementation of the agreement and related guidelines, and to identify areas needing improvement and make relevant proposals in this regard;

273.  Recalls that the reporting from UN and International Organisations should ensure the most accurate traceability of funding possible and comparisons with operational aspects of the aid delivery agreed on at the beginning of the intervention, as well as also providing useful feedback to the Commission services; stresses the importance of partner organisations delivering timely reports to the Commission, to allow a swift management or adjustment of the humanitarian response and funding modalities;

274.  Emphasises the need to improve the UN’s accountability and transparency in relation to the use of Union resources and performance in implementing internationally agreed humanitarian and development strategic orientations and goals;

275.  Asks the Commission to introduce results assessments at the level of humanitarian implementation plans to enable benchmarking of such plans and sharing best practices;

276.  Regrets the prevalence of incomplete or insufficiently results-oriented information, which prevents the Commission from properly exercising its monitoring function;

277.  Insists on the need to achieve the highest level of transparency and institutional accountability at all levels by ensuring access to exhaustive and sound budgetary information and financial data related to projects with Union funding, in order to allow Parliament’s scrutiny;

Part XXI – Special report No 16/2016 of the Court entitled "EU education objectives: programmes aligned but shortcomings in performance measurement"

278.  Welcomes the Court's report, endorses its recommendations and is pleased that the Commission accepts these and will consider them;

279.  Welcomes the fact that the Commission has implemented previous Court recommendations in its 2014-2020 European structural and investment funds legal framework, thus ensuring better value for money, i.e. via a performance framework and reserve, ex-ante conditionalities, common output and result indicators;

280.  Stresses that a focus on performance and results is needed and is pleased that the new regulatory framework for the 2014-2020 programming period includes provisions for reporting on results from Member States;

281.  Notes the shortcomings in performance measurement particularly in the setting of targets and output/result indicators at projects implemented in the 2007-2013 period; regrets that the result indicators are still not fully reliable and expects the weakness to be corrected for the second half of the 2014-2020 programming period;

282.  Welcomes the trend in the reduction of the number of early school leavers and in tertiary education attainment; invites the Member States to align their specific national targets to the Union target for better achievement of the education objectives;

283.  Notes that the target employment rate of recent graduates in the Union has been set at 82% by 2020 and four of the five visited Member States have still not attained this target; points out that those four Member States faced a serious economic crisis from which they are now starting to recover; believes it is still possible for those Member States to attain and even surpass this target;

284.  Emphasises the importance of maintaining a sufficient level of Union investment in education, given the strong link between educational attainment and employability;

Part XXII – Special Report No 17/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “The EU institutions can do more to facilitate access to their public procurement”

285.  Welcomes the findings and recommendations of the Court’s report;

286.  Calls for increased transparency of public procurement within Union institutions, as well as at national level, through public availability of documents and data on public procurement; considers that the visibility of the Union institutions’ procurement activities on the internet is poor, the information is insufficient, unclear and spread over many different websites;

287.  Strongly supports the recommendation of the Court for the Union institutions to create a common electronic one-stop shop for their procurement activities, allowing economic operators to find all relevant information in a single online location and to interact with the Union institutions through this website; believes that procurement procedures, including communication on applicable rules, business opportunities, relevant procurement documents, submission of tenders and all other communication between institutions and economic operators should all be managed via such a one-stop shop;

288.  Requests that the Commission’s website on European funds paid to all Member States should be published in one of the three working languages of the institutions and include the same data for all Member States, at least the value, the object of the contract, the name of the contractor, the name of subcontractors (if any), the length of the contract and if any additional documents exist; points out that this will enable NGOs from all Member States and the citizens to observe how the money is spent and the cost efficiency of the projects;

289.  Insists that it is the role of the contracting authorities to ensure a public procurement which is market-based, generating a sufficient amount of tenders and providing balanced access to all economic operators; agrees with the Court that for the ongoing 2016 revision of the Financial Regulation the Commission should propose a single rulebook for public procurement; emphasises that participation of small and medium sized enterprises should be explicitly encouraged, contrary to the current situation where only large operators are in advantage; considers that rules on market prospection prior to building contracts and on the language regime for procurement procedures should be included in the single rule book and deviations from the Procurement Directive(18) should be justified;

290.  Recalls that the use of restricted procurement procedures by the contracting authorities discourages potential tenderers, blocks transparency and information on how the taxpayers’ money is used; emphasises that the Council used restricted procedures for the vast majority of its tenders and that all Union institutions taken together awarded 25% or more of their contracts following a restricted procedure between 2010 and 2014; requires that such procedures be used in a very limited number of cases, with proper justification;

291.  Takes note that the Parliament publishes a complete annual list on its website of all its contractors who obtained contracts with a value of more than EUR 15 000, but that it does not publish all its contracts; encourages all institutions to make available full information on all contractors and contracts awarded through public procurement, including cases of direct awarding or restricted procedures;

292.  Stresses the need for wider publicity and contract notices transparently published for all operators; recalls that, according to the findings of the Court, “the European Parliament used a negotiated procedure to conclude a ‘building contract’ for EUR 133,6 million for a building in Brussels although the building did not exist when the contract was signed on 27 June 2012”, ignoring the rule that only existing buildings are covered by the exception from tendering on the broadest possible basis provided in Article 134 (1) of the Rules of Application; strongly underlines that all unfinished buildings or buildings not yet constructed have to be subject to open and competitive award methods and believes that this policy should extend to all building contracts, given the complexity of contracts and the large amounts of funds involved;

293.  Agrees with the Court that the Union institutions should divide contracts into lots wherever possible to increase participation in their procurement procedures; underlines that in 2014 the Council awarded a framework contract for 10 years, with a value of over EUR 93 million, for management, maintenance, repair and adaptation of technical installations in its present or future buildings to a single company without splitting it into lots; mentions that the Commission proceeded in the same way in 2015 for its 5-year contract “Your Europe Advice” - the Union’s free legal service, with a value of nearly EUR 9 million; emphasises that a lack of division along with an excessively long duration of framework contracts (10 or seven years, with a record of 17 years on a contract awarded by the Council for the Justus Lipsus building) crushes competition, encourages opacity and potential corruption; asks therefore all institutions to put an end to these practices, which are fully opposed to the spirit of transparency and good practice that the Union should promote;

294.  Requires that all Union institutions develop and implement adequate tools and methods for audits and evaluations, in order to acknowledge and signal the presence of irregularities; reiterates that better monitoring, detection, analysis, and reporting technology are needed in order to fight fraud and corruption; insists that this knowledge has to be made available to Member States as well; emphasises the central role of the whistleblowers in revealing wrongdoing and recalls that all European institutions and agencies must adopt internal binding rules for the protection of whistle-blowers, according to Article 22c of the Staff Regulations, entered into force on 1 January 2014;

295.  Agrees with the Court that the Commission should propose amendments to the Union Financial Regulation to allow for a rapid review of complaints from economic operators who consider that they have been unfairly treated; notes that such a review should take place before economic operators turn to the European Ombudsman or to the Union courts;

296.  Considers that law enforcement in public procurement can be ensured first and foremost by establishing competent and independent investigative bodies and agencies focusing on the investigation of corruption in public procurement; points out that Union institutions and Member States should share information and intelligence on public procurement among themselves as well as with OLAF, Europol, Eurojust and other investigative bodies; strongly recommends that the institutions with investigative powers, particularly OLAF, improve their case management systems to produce reports and statistics on the different types of allegations under investigation and the outcome of these investigations;

297.  Welcomes the Court’s conclusion that the Union institutions need to set up a single public repository of information related to their procurement contracts in order to allow effective ex post monitoring of their procurement activities;

298.  Stresses that central collection of public procurement data helps build meaningful, accurate and detailed statistics with the objective of preventing, detecting and investigating corruption in public procurement and taking the appropriate countermeasures; stresses that adding data fields in the central procurement databases (including TED) could hint at red flag situations with respect to irregularities in public procurement; calls on the Union institutions to ensure that such databases are filled out in a timely and complete way;

299.  Underlines the role of investigative journalists and NGOs in ensuring transparency in the public procurement process and detecting fraud or potential conflicts of interest; strongly believes that the above-mentioned categories should have full access to ARACHNE, ORBIS and other related instruments and databases allowing to detect any suspicions of conflict of interest or corruption in public procurement in Union institutions as well as in all Member States, particularly with regard to acquisitions made using European funds;

300.  Urges all institutions and agencies to always publish CVs and declarations of interest for middle and high management, members, experts and any type of leading bodies or structures, even in cases of experts detached from Member States, as the CVs of such experts should be publicly available at all times; underlines that a declaration of absence of conflict of interest which some institutions and agencies still use is not the appropriate document to publish, given that assessment of presence or absence of conflict of interest should always belong to an independent third-party organisation or body;

301.  Calls on the Court to regularly publish track records of all abuses related to whistleblowing cases as well as all situations of conflict of interest or revolving doors detected during monitoring or auditing processes and requests the Court to publish at least annually special reports on policy and cases of conflict of interest found in all European agencies and joint undertakings, in particular those related to industries;

302.  Welcomes the recommendation of the Court for the Union institutions to use peer reviews for mutual learning and exchange of best public procurement practice;

Part XXIII – Special Report No 18/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “The EU system for the certification of sustainable biofuels”

303.  Welcomes the Court’s report, especially the comments and recommendations issued by the Court; notes that the Commission accepted four out of five recommendations in full, and one in part; invites the Commission to reconsider full acceptance of the recommendation on the reliability of data provided by the Member States;

304.  Notes that the Union is considered to be a leader in global environmental policy, setting environmental standards at international level and providing best practice on protecting the environment and maintaining a competitive presence in the global market; notes that in its 7th Environment Action Programme the Union makes it an objective for 2050 to ‘live well, within the limits of our planet’; notes that one of the priorities is to ensure that ‘prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience’;

305.  Notes that the Union made a commitment in the Renewable Energy Directive(19) to ensuring that by 2020 the share of energy from renewable sources used in all forms of transport is at least 10 %, which can be achieved only through substantial use of biofuels; notes, however, that production of biofuels may itself be linked to certain risks in relation to land use and that it is therefore necessary to ensure its sustainability;

306.  Stresses that the establishment of an effective and reliable system for certification of sustainable biofuels constitutes one of the important steps towards fulfilment of the policy priorities stated in the 7th Environment Action Programme; notes that the sustainability of biofuels is certified by voluntary schemes recognised by the Commission; regrets that the Court did not find the Union certification system for the sustainability of biofuels to be fully reliable;

307.  Notes with regret that the Commission’s recognition procedure does not take account of some of the key aspects of sustainability and fair trade, such as land tenure conflicts, forced or child labour, poor working conditions for farmers, dangers to health and safety and the impact of indirect land-use changes, which in different contexts are considered extremely relevant; considers this to represent an inconsistency in the Commission´s policies; calls on the Commission to redevelop its assessment procedures in a more comprehensive manner and to include these aspects in its verification procedure for the voluntary schemes; calls on the Commission to require voluntary schemes to report once a year on the basis of their certification activities and relevant information concerning the abovementioned risks;

308.  Notes that to date the Commission has submitted two reports on the impact of Union biofuel policy on social sustainability in the Union and third countries and on the availability of foodstuffs at affordable prices; notes with regret that the information contained in the reports was rather limited and provided only unclear conclusions; calls on the Commission to improve the reporting system and to provide the Parliament with a detailed analysis in order to inform the public about these important issues;

309.  Notes with great concern that the production of biofuels can compete with cultivation of food crops and that massive dissemination of crops grown for biofuel production can have an immense impact on environmental and health standards in developing countries, for example in South America and South Asia, and that this can lead to massive deforestation and a decline in traditional agriculture, which has long-term socioeconomic impacts on local communities; regrets that the Commission’s reports do not address wider development issues in developing countries; calls on the Commission to adopt a more consistent and coherent approach towards its policies on environment, energy, development and other related issues; calls on the Commission to pay particular attention to the impact of indirect land-use changes;

310.  Notes with regret that the Commission has granted recognition to voluntary schemes that do not have appropriate verification procedures to ensure that the origin of biofuels produced from waste was indeed waste or that the biofuel feedstock cultivated in the Union in fact fulfilled the Union’s environmental requirements for agriculture; calls on the Commission to verify that Union biofuel feedstock producers actually comply with the Union’s environmental requirements for agriculture; calls on the Commission to provide sufficient evidence of the origin of waste and residues used for the production of biofuels;

311.  Notes with concern that some recognised schemes were insufficiently transparent or had governance structures comprising only representatives of a few economic operators; calls on the Commission to ensure that the voluntary schemes are free of conflicts of interest and to provide for effective communication with other stakeholders;

312.  Calls on the Commission to further ensure transparency of the voluntary schemes and economic operators by requiring the schemes to set up an official website providing publicly available detailed information on the voluntary schemes, their certification procedures, staff employed, certificates issued, audit reports, complaints, and the economic operators they cooperate with;

313.  Notes with concern that the Commission does not supervise the functioning of recognised voluntary schemes and thus cannot obtain assurances about the quality of certifications; notes with regret that a specific complaint system is lacking, which prevents the Commission from verifying that the complaints are dealt with correctly; calls on the Commission to introduce a supervision system that will ascertain whether the voluntary schemes’ certification complies with the standards laid down for recognition; calls on the Commission to request that the voluntary schemes set up transparent, user-friendly, informative and accessible complaints systems on their websites; calls on the Commission to supervise the complaints systems and to take action if necessary;

314.  Welcomes the fact that the Commission issues guidance notes to the voluntary schemes which contribute to promoting best practice and to increased effectiveness; notes, however, that the notes are not binding and are not fully implemented; invites the Commission to make the guidance notes binding for the voluntary schemes in order to ensure that the requirements are fulfilled;

315.  Notes that the Member States are responsible for ensuring that the statistics concerning sustainability of biofuels reported to the Commission are reliable, but that there is a risk of overestimation of the statistics; calls on the Commission to introduce a requirement for the Member States to support their statistics with appropriate evidence in the form of, for example, a certificate or declaration issued by the entity in charge of collecting data on sustainable biofuels and transmitting them to the national authority, which sends them to Eurostat;

316.  Reiterates that the data submitted by the Member States are often not comparable, because of varying definitions, basically making it impossible to ascertain the real situation; invites the Commission to harmonise the definition of waste substances not previously included in the Renewable Energy Directive list used for the production of advanced biofuels in installations existing before the adoption of Directive (EU) 2015/1513(20) amending the Renewable Energy Directive;

317.  Notes with concern that the specific value (double counting) of biofuels produced from waste and residues increases the risk of fraud; points out that there is a need for dialogue between the Commission and the Member States on monitoring and fraud prevention; invites the Commission to initiate such a dialogue;

318.  Welcomes the example of a voluntary scheme mentioned in the Court’s report which sets high standards for sustainable production aimed not only at preventing ecological damage, including by protection of soil, water and air, but also at safeguarding appropriate working conditions and protection of employees’ health on farms, as well as respect for human, labour and land rights; considers this to be an example of best practice; invites the Commission to consider creating a platform for the voluntary schemes where best practices could be exchanged;

Part XXIV – Special report No 19/2016 of the Court entitled “Implementing the EU budget through financial instruments - Lessons to be learnt from the 2007-2013 programme”

319.  Welcomes the findings and recommendations in the Court’s Special Report;

320.  Regrets that the overall view of the financial instruments could not describe a successful action to improve the investments in Union; notes that the Commission, in primis, and Member States have assumed higher risks and regrets that there was no significant private‑sector contribution to them;

321.  Stresses the high levels of management costs and fees compared to the actual financial support to final recipients; suggests setting tax ceilings for financial intermediaries; points out that specific European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund sizes should be revised to take advantage of the significant economies in the cost of operating funds wherever possible;

322.  Considers that the Commission is in a privileged position to provide additional guidance to Member States on how to set up such financial instruments within Member States or at Union level (which are managed directly or indirectly by the Commission); stresses the importance of ensuring that financial instruments are not subject to unacceptable tax avoidance schemes;

323.  Is concerned that tax rulings were used in some cases to make financial instruments more attractive for private-sector investors; regrets that the Commission considers that advance tax agreements cannot be considered per se as going against its own policy; calls the Commission to prevent any form of tax ruling concerning the use of a Union financial instrument;

324.  Shares the view that lessons learned from the audited programming period (2007-2013) should be reflected when setting up the financial instruments for European structural and investment funds; considers in particular that proposals should be oriented towards performance and results rather than mere compliance; considers the need for the projects to add more value to regional specialisation and economic development of European regions;

325.  Regrets that the legal basis in the previous period made it possible for Member States to freeze part of the contribution in the accounts of the banks and financial intermediaries managing the funds, without it being actually used for its intended purposes; notes the modifications introduced by the Commission in its closure guidelines; calls the Commission to actively monitor the situation in order to avoid such practice;

326.  Considers that the leverage effect should illustrate the extent to which private funding has been attracted by both the Union's and Member States’ initial financial contributions; regrets that the findings from Court’s special report show that the financial instruments in both shared and central management were not successful in attracting private capital; considers that Member States’ co-financing of financial instruments should be seen, together with the Union contribution, as a part of public funding;

327.  Requests that the Commission provide a definition for the leverage of financial instruments applicable across all areas of the Union budget, which clearly distinguishes between the leverage of private and national public contributions under the operational programme and/or of additional private or public capital contributions, and takes into account the type of instrument involved; recommends further efforts by the Member States on data gathering, management and sharing on the financial instruments' revolving effect;

328.  Draws attention to the need to provide ab initio clear and concrete estimated leverage for future financial instruments funds; expects the Commission to ensure, for the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund financial instruments under the 2007-2013 programme period, that Member States provide complete and reliable data on private contributions on capital endowments, both through the operational programmes and in addition to them;

329.  Is of the opinion that before taking a decision for financial engineering measures of relevant infrastructural projects, the managing authorities should make sure that their proposal is duly justified by an independent ex-ante evaluation of high quality, based on a standardised and commonly agreed methodology; supports the view that before approving the operational programmes, which include relevant infrastructural projects, the Commission should verify their consistency with an independent ex-ante evaluation and ensure the quality of the latter;

330.  Recommends to managing authorities that fund managers’ remuneration be linked to the quality of investments actually made, as measured by their contribution to the achievement of the strategic operational programme objectives and to the value of the resources returned to the operation from investments undertaken by the instrument;

331.  Recommends a pro-active approach and technical assistance on the ground by the managing authorities and the Union institutions on the better use of financial instruments in the regions;

332.  Strongly supports that the Commission should carry out a comparative analysis of the implementation costs of grants and financial instruments (in central and shared management) for the 2014-2020 programme period with a view to establishing their actual levels and impact on the achievement of Europe 2020 goals and the 11th thematic objectives of the cohesion policy; notes that such information would be particularly relevant in view of preparing the legislative proposals for the post-2020 period; asks for a complete performance evaluation before the end of 2019 in order to consider the future of such instruments;

Part XXV – Special report No 20/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Strengthening capacity in Montenegro: progress but better needed in many key areas”

333.  Welcomes the Court’s report, endorses its recommendations and encourages the Commission to take these recommendations into account when working on strengthening administrative capacity in Montenegro;

334.  Welcomes the fact that the Union pre-accession assistance has helped to strengthen administrative capacity; notes however that progress in several key areas has been only very slow;

335.  Regrets that although projects generally delivered the expected outputs, the results were not always sustainable, for which the political will of national authorities and external factors are partly responsible; calls on the Commission to build on the achievements of successful projects, which are sustainable, have a quantifiable added value and were implemented and used in accordance with the regulations; calls on the Commission to improve strategic planning and to secure sustainability and viability of the projects by setting it as a clear requirement;

336.  Regrets the low commitment of the national authorities, which negatively influences the progress of administrative capacity strengthening; calls on the national authorities to follow up on the project outputs delivered in order to increase the effectiveness; stresses that strong political will is needed to effectively address the de-politicisation and taming of the state administration;

337.  Welcomes the fact that the projects were coordinated well with other IPA projects or donor interventions in most cases; nevertheless stresses that there were also cases of weaker coordination leading up to overlapping of some of the efforts; invites the Commission to better align its activities aimed at Montenegro with other projects involving multiple beneficiaries;

338.  Regrets that there was insufficient information that could show progress over time in strengthening administrative capacity in the Commission´s reports; notes that the reports did not always assess the same parts of the public administration and the criteria for assessing the administrative capacity were not always clear, which made the comparison over time more difficult;

339.  Welcomes however the new reporting methodology for an annual assessment in the 2015 progress reports that has shown better harmonisation of assessment scales and better comparability; invites the Commission to build upon this reporting system also in the future;

340.  Notes that the Commission has used non-financial means of support for the reform process in a form of a political dialogue well, however stresses that major issues remain unresolved;

341.  Regrets that despite certain results achieved in the past year in terms of implementing anti-corruption legislation, the progress in the fight against corruption remains slow; stresses that the entire rule of law system needs to deliver more results with a special focus on strengthening the fight against corruption and organised crime; calls on the Commission to encourage the national authorities to strengthen the capacity in the area of financial investigation and whistle-blower protection;

342.  Welcomes the fact that the Anti-Corruption Agency started its work in 2016; notes however that corruption remains prevalent in many areas and continues to be a serious problem;

343.  Notes that the decentralisation of the project management can deliver valuable capacity building in the operating structures due to detailed ex ante checks; further notes that spreading good practice on project management accumulated in the IPA structures to the rest of the public administration operating in the same area can provide a potentially effective results; calls on the Commission to exploit these option in order to boost the effectiveness of the capacity building in Montenegro; calls on the Commission to encourage the national authorities to consider using good practice for capacity building;

344.  Notes that Montenegro is considered to be the most advanced country in the region in its accession process; stresses that the Union has played an irreplaceable role in the country; however notes with regret that Montenegro has been recently torn by political instability and polarisation, and by an increasingly tense battle for influence between Russia and NATO, whose forces the country will join in 2017; invites the Commission to continue the political dialogue with the national authorities in order to help reaching compromises between government and opposition;

Part XXVI – Special Report No 22/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “EU nuclear decommissioning assistance programmes in Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia: some progress made since 2011 but critical challenges ahead”

345.  Welcomes the Court’s dedicated work on the decommissioning of nuclear power plants as demonstrated in the current and 2011 special report(21);

346.  Supports the recommendations of the Court, of which the Commission fully accepted the majority;

347.  Recalls that since 2012 the Committee on Budgetary Control took a particular interest in the question of nuclear decommissioning, and therefore organised fact-finding missions to the three nuclear power plants in 2012, 2013 and 2014;

348.  Underlines that nuclear safety is of prime importance, not only for the Member States concerned but for the population in the whole Union and its neighbourhood;

349.  Emphasises that, in Lithuania, the removal and safe interim storage of nuclear rods from Unit 2 must be a priority;

350.  Recalls that, in Lithuania, one of the main reasons for delays was that technical and commercial disputes between national authorities and external contractors remained unsolved for years; considers that to avoid such a problem interfering with the decommissioning process, dedicated project management teams should be designated; asks the Commission if such project management teams are in place in all three Member Sates concerned;

351.  Reminds the Commission that the Slovakian Supreme Audit Office had scheduled an audit of JAVYS(22) for 2015; asks to be informed about the findings of this audit; in this context, calls on the competent Bulgarian and Lithuanian authorities to audit the decommissioning processes in Ignalina and Kozloduy;

352.  Is worried about delays in works on facilities for the storage of low and intermediate-level radioactive waste; calls on the Commission to update Parliament’s competent committee on progress made;

353.  Calls on the Commission to inform its competent committee about the efforts to close the financing gap, in particular in Lithuania;

354.  Recalls that the Court estimated the decommissioning costs in the three Member States, including high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel disposal at EUR 11 388 million; considers that the costs of decommissioning should not include the costs for high-level waste and spent fuel disposal, which falls within the responsibility of Member States and should be covered by national funds;

355.  Calls on the Commission to present, together with the three Member States concerned, a report regarding the actual status of the management of the spent fuel and radioactive waste generated by the decommissioning of the three nuclear power plants;

356.  Calls on the Commission to work together with the Member States in order to explore options for identifying geological repositories of high-level radioactive waste;

357.  Underlines that closure of the Ignalina nuclear power plant was a condition placed by the Union on the accession of Lithuania in exchange for Union support for its closure, decommissioning and mitigation of the social and economic impact, as defined in Protocol No. 4 to the 2003 Act of accession; notes that Lithuania has kept its obligations as regards the closure of Ignalina's nuclear reactors on the agreed schedule; is, however, concerned about delays in its decommissioning and therefore suggests a more thorough scrutiny of the process by Union authorities;

358.  Recalls that nuclear safety is of prime importance for the population of the whole Union and taking note of the Court’s recommendations regarding the continuation of funding, calls upon the Commission to perform a thorough assessment of the needs for continuation of the dedicated funding programmes for nuclear decommissioning in Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia beyond 2020; highlights that any potential new Union funding beyond 2020 proposed by the Commission for nuclear decommissioning in the three Member States should include clear rules and the right incentives to pursue decommissioning with more efficient control mechanisms, with regards to both financing and timing, while underscoring the need for the effective use of Union financial resources;

359.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that all future costs associated with nuclear decommissioning and the final disposal of spent fuel are accounted for properly and calculated in accordance with international standards and Union legislation;

360.  Calls on the Commission to evaluate action plans in the three countries with a view to suggesting common tenders for similar projects, especially for consultancy and the design of waste storage facilities;

361.  Calls on the Commission to evaluate the decommissioning process in Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia, including the cost-effective use of Union financial assistance, during the financial period 2007-2013;

362.  Calls on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to audit the functioning of the decommissioning support funds between 2007 and 2013;

363.  Is concerned at the Court's finding that the Commission's assessment of the financing plans and detailed decommissioning plans for the 2014-2020 financing period, i.e. of the second and third ex-ante conditionalities respectively(23), was inadequate; asks who shoulders the financial responsibility for this failure in the Commission; in this context, wants to be informed about the completed action plan which remedied the discovered weaknesses;

Part XXVII – Special Report No 23/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Maritime transport in the EU: in troubled waters - much ineffective and unsustainable investment”

364.  Welcomes the Court's report and endorses its recommendations;

365.  Welcomes the fact that the maritime transport has been growing in the Union in the last decade despite the considerable differences of utilisation between Member State ports;

366.  Underlines that Member States’ ports’ investment policy is established in accordance with political decisions taken at national level which can diverge from the Union strategy, also defined by those same Member States; is of the opinion that the Commission's primary role ought to be ensuring that national operations to finance infrastructure in the Union are consistent with the Union's transport policy and align them with Union-level strategies; regrets that the Commission does not have all the instruments at its disposal to ensure such consistency;

367.  Acknowledges that port infrastructure investments are long-term investments; regrets that in most cases the return on investment is however low and slow;

368.  Regrets that national port development strategies were mostly developed but that robust implementation plans and coordination remain issues;

369.  Is greatly concerned that the Court found a lack of reporting on aggregated capacity data as well as unreliable reporting on available capacity;

370.  Regrets that Member States do not provide data on the capacity of core ports, which hinders the Commission’s capacity monitoring; stresses the importance of an improvement of the situation so that the Commission can put forward a Union-wide port development plan; calls on the Commission to lay down a clear reporting system for data from Member States;

371.  Considers that the coordination between European Investment Bank and Commission services’ can be improved with better cooperation and more transparent procedures;

Part XXVIII– Special Report No 25/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “The Land Parcel Identification System: a useful tool to determine the eligibility of agricultural land – but its management could be further improved”

372.  Recommends that, based on a quantified cost‑benefit analysis and an assessment of risks, the Member States, in the current CAP period, strengthen their efforts to increase Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) data reliability based on timely and thoroughly conducted updates of the system; considers that given the complexity of pro‑rata assessment, the Member States using this option should, in the current CAP period, make further efforts to develop a pro‑rata catalogue with clear description and assessment criteria and use complementary technical tools in order to increase the objectivity of ortho‑imagery analysis and ensure reproductibility; recommends that Member States also consider the possibility of recording data on ownership and lease rights in their LPIS whenever feasible and cost‑effective;

373.  Recommends that with the support of the Commission, in the current CAP period the Member States develop and set up a framework for assessing the cost of running and updating their LPISs; considers that this should enable the Member States to measure the performance of their LPISs and the cost-effectiveness of system improvements;

374.  Recommends that the Member States ensure that using their LPISs, they reliably identify, register and effectively monitor ecological focus areas, permanent grassland and new categories of land; recommends that they also do a cost/benefit analysis, including in their LPISs all landscape elements protected under cross-compliance or agri-environmental schemes, in order to further enhance the monitoring and protection of such elements beneficial for the environment and for biodiversity;

375.  Recommends that the Commission re‑examine the current legal framework in order to simplify and streamline the LPIS‑related rules for the next CAP period, e.g. by re‑considering the need for the 2 % stability threshold and the 100-tree rule;

376.  Recommends that the Commission, before the start of the quality assessment exercise 2017, carry out a cost‑benefit analysis to determine whether the representativeness of quality assessment samples could be improved so that a better coverage of the population of parcels in the LPIS can be achieved;

377.  Recommends that starting in 2016, the Commission improve the monitoring of quality assessment results by analysing any inconsistencies in quality assessment reporting, following them up, providing feedback to the Member States, and ensuring that remedial action plans are prepared and executed when needed; calls on the Commission also to carry out a detailed annual trend analysis for each Member State and reference parcel type so that potential problems can be identified in good time.

Part XXIX– Special Report No 26/2016 of the Court of entitled “Making cross-compliance more effective and achieving simplification remains challenging”

378.  Recommends that the Commission examine as part of the impact assessment for the CAP post 2020 how to further develop its set of indicators to assess the performance of cross‑compliance; recommends also that it examine how to take into account farmers’ levels of compliance with the cross‑compliance rules in its indicators, with the purpose of strengthening the application and enforcing environmental standards in agriculture to ensure the consistency of the CAP;

379.  Recommends that to ensure that the problems encountered are not repeated, the Commission take different requirements according to local territorial needs into consideration; considers, furthermore, that payment levels should be linked more closely to the demands placed on farmers, so as to make it possible to address specific environmental problems and also compensate farmers for the restrictions that have been put on them at the same time;

380.  Recommends that the Commission from now on improve the sharing of information on cross‑compliance related infringements between concerned services in order to help them to identify the reasons for breaches and to take appropriate measures to address them;

381.  Asks for the CAP post-2020 that the Commission envisage improving the rules regarding cross‑compliance on‑the‑spot checks and call on the Member States to carry out their existing administrative checks in an efficient way by using all relevant information available; considers that this would allow a more effective targeting of key control points;

382.  Recommends that the Commission analyse as part of the impact assessment for the CAP post-2020 the experience of having two systems operating with similar environmental objectives (good agricultural and environmental condition standards and greening) with a view to promoting further synergy between them; considers that this analysis should take into consideration criteria such as the environmental impact of the standards and the historical level of compliance by farmers;

383.  Encourages the Commission to develop a methodology to measure the costs of cross‑compliance after the report on the performance of the CAP due by the end of 2018;

384.  Suggests inclusion of qualitative indicators and more concrete goals to be set for cross-compliance measures; recommends an easy, fast and simplified application method for the beneficiaries;

385.  Recommends that for the CAP post-2020, the Commission encourage a more harmonised application of penalties at Union level by further clarifying the concepts of severity, extent, permanence, reoccurrence and intentionality, but also taking into account the specific conditions in the different Member States; considers that to achieve this objective, minimum conditions should be introduced at Union level;

386.  Is of the opinion that as a lesson to be learned from the 2007-2013 period, for the period 2014–2020 and after, the indicators should assess the actual results of the implementation of cross‑compliance;

Part XXX – Special Report No 27/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Governance at the European Commission - best practice?"

387.  Recommends that the Commission, as required of European public interest entities, explain its reasons for not following best practice when it decides not to do so; recommends also that it strongly focus on results while well capturing the lessons from experience;

388.  Recommends that the Commission:

   a) invite the Internal Audit Service to carry out more audit work on high level governance issues;
   b) complete the process of aligning its internal control framework with the COSO 2013 principles;
   c) further bring forward the publication of the annual accounts;
   d) bring together information already presented in a variety of existing reports so as to form a single accountability report or suite of reports under the authority of its president, containing the accounts but also incorporating the following elements:
   a governance statement;
   a discussion of operational and strategic risks;
   a report on non-financial performance;
   information on activities during the year and the achievement of policy objectives;
   a report on the role and conclusions of the audit committee; and
   a mid- and long-term fiscal sustainability statement, together with, where appropriate, links to information contained in other reports;
   e) present this single accountability report or suite of reports for audit of the accounts: considers that the latter report(s) must be analytical, compact, easily understandable and accessible to auditors, employees and Union citizens, while strictly following the International Accounting Standards and the use of best practice;
   f) publish as part of the annual accounts or accompanying information an estimate of the level of error based on a sound methodology, and engage stakeholders, including the Parliament, at every step while choosing the statistical method for error estimation; considers that the methodology should be clear and consistent;
   g) update and publish its governance arrangements on a regular basis and explain its choice of structures and processes in relation to the framework it chooses;
   h) turn the Audit Progress Committee into an audit committee with a majority of independent external members, and expand its mandate to cover risk management, financial reporting and the work and results of ex post verification units and audit directorates.

389.  Insists that:

   a) high-level governance of international organisations must follow a business model and should be transparent, accountable, responsible and, most importantly, efficient;
   b) high-level governance must adapt to a fast-changing world, and must evolve and detect potential challenges before they become problems;
   c) horizontal and vertical relationships between the Commission’s different structures need to be clear and traceable; continuing the process of cutting red tape is a must; stronger coordination between the different structures is also recommended;
   d) more visibility of the results in the Member States from the annual governance is needed; sound data made public and presented effectively can support important decisions;
   e) solid ex ante, ex post and mid-term evaluation should ensure the value of every euro spent; to facilitate engagement the document should provide information on the relevant costs and benefits of all expenditure;
   f) strategic use of public procurement should be promoted: every year Member States spend around 14 % of their budget on purchase of services, works and supplies; public procurement should and must be used as an important tool for achieving the Europe 2020 objectives;

Part XXXI – Special Report No 28/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled “Dealing with serious cross-border threats to health in the EU: important steps taken but more needs to be done”

390.  Welcomes the Court’s report, endorses its recommendations, and encourages the Commission to take these recommendations into account when implementing further steps to deal with serious cross border threats to health in the Union;

391.  Reiterates the Court’s recommendation that lessons learned from the first reporting cycle need to be adequately applied ahead of the next report; considers that to ensure that future reporting is adequate, the process needs to be consistent across all Member States;

392.  Recognises the progress made since the 2008-2013 health strategy but stresses the need for better and more strategic monitoring;

393.  Supports the Court’s recommendation that the Health Security Committee develop a strategic plan to address the operational and strategic challenges it faces;

394.  Notes that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has no formal process to respond effectively to requests for assistance; believes such a situation to be intolerable;

395.  Recommends that the various Commission services which have functions related to health and the Directorate-General for Health & Food Safety develop a structured approach to improve co-operation;

396.  Regrets that Member States have not acted collectively to speed up the joint procurement of the pandemic influenza vaccine and recognises that influenza is an issue that affects health services in individual Member States on an annual basis; considers that a co-ordinated approach across Member States would benefit the health of Union citizens and reduce costs;

397.  Calls on the Commission, Member States and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to work together to further develop the Early Warning and Response System; stresses the need for such a system, which has been used extensively, to be upgraded to reflect changes in technology to ensure optimum use;

o
o   o

398.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

(1) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(2) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(5) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0143.
(6) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(7) Council Directive 91/271/EEC of 21 May 1991 concerning urban waste water treatment (OJ L 135, 30.5.1991, p. 40).
(8) Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market (OJ L 376, 27.12.2006, p. 36).
(9) Regulation (EU) 2016/429 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on transmissible animal diseases and amending and repealing certain acts in the area of animal health (‘Animal Health Law’) (OJ L 84, 31.3.2016, p. 1).
(10) Regulation (EU) No 913/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2010 concerning a European rail network for competitive freight (OJ L 276, 20.10.2010, p. 22).
(11) Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin (OJ L 180, 19.7.2000, p. 22).
(12) Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment occupation (OJ L 303, 2.12.20000, p. 16).
(13) Directive 2004/38/EC of the European parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States amending Regulation (EEC) No 1612/68 and repealing Directives 64/221/EEC, 68/360/EEC, 72/194/EEC, 73/148/EEC, 75/34/EEC, 75/35/EEC, 90/364/EEC, 90/365/EEC and 93/96/EEC (OJ L 158, 30.4.2004, p. 77).
(14) Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law (OJ L 328, 6.12.2008, p. 55).
(15)European Parliament Resolution of 9 March 2011 on the EU strategy on Roma inclusion (OJ C 199 E, 7.7.2012, p. 112).
(16) OJ C 378, 24.12.2013, p. 1.
(17) See Annex III to Special Report No 14/2016, pp. 74-76.
(18) Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on public procurement and repealing Directive 2004/18/EC (OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 65).
(19) Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC (OJ L 140, 5.6.2009, p. 16).
(20) OJ L 239, 15.9.2015, p. 1.
(21) Special Report No 16/2011, EU financial assistance for the decommissioning of nuclear plants in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia: achievements and future challenges.
(22) Jadrové vyrad'ovacia spoločnost' (JAVYS): The owner of the nuclear power plant and responsible for the decommissioning of the Bohunice nuclear power plant
(23) See COM(2011)0783, Council Regulations (Euratom), No 1368/2013 and (Euratom) No 1369/2013 and Commission Implementing Decision C(2014)5449.


Discharge 2015: EU general budget - 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th EDFs
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Decision
Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2015 (2016/2202(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0145A8-0125/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the financial statements and revenue and expenditure accounts for the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0485 – C8‑0326/2016),

–  having regard to the financial information on the European Development Funds (COM(2016)0386),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the activities funded by the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2015, together with the Commission’s replies(1),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(2) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendations of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the operations of the European Development Funds for the financial year 2015 (05376/2017-C8-0081/2017, 05377/2017-C8-0082/2017, 05378/2017-C8-0083/2017, 05379/2017-C8-0084/2017 ),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2014 financial year (COM(2016)0674), and to the accompanying Commission staff working documents (SWD(2016)0338 and SWD(2016)0339),

–  having regard to the Partnership Agreement between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part, signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000(3) and amended in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on 22 June 2010(4),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2013/755/EU of 25 November 2013 on the association of the overseas countries and territories with the European Union (‘Overseas Association Decision’)(5),

–  having regard to Article 33 of the Internal Agreement of 20 December 1995 between the representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on the financing and administration of the Community aid under the Second Financial Protocol to the fourth ACP-EC Convention(6),

–  having regard to Article 32 of the Internal Agreement of 18 September 2000 between Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on the Financing and Administration of Community Aid under the Financial Protocol to the Partnership Agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific States and the European Community and its Member States signed in Cotonou (Benin) on 23 June 2000 and the allocation of financial assistance for the Overseas Countries and Territories to which Part Four of the EC Treaty applies(7),

–  having regard to Article 11 of the Internal Agreement of 17 July 2006 between the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on the financing of Community aid under the multiannual financial framework for the period 2008 to 2013 in accordance with the ACP-EC Partnership Agreement and on the allocation of financial assistance for the Overseas Countries and Territories to which Part Four of the EC Treaty applies(8),

–  having regard to Article 11 of the Internal Agreement of 24 and 26 June 2013 between the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States of the European Union, meeting within the Council, on the financing of European Union aid under the multiannual financial framework for the period 2014 to 2020 in accordance with the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement and on the allocation of financial assistance for the Overseas Countries and Territories to which Part Four of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union applies(9),

–  having regard to Article 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 74 of the Financial Regulation of 16 June 1998 applicable to development finance cooperation under the fourth ACP-EC Convention(10),

–  having regard to Article 119 of the Financial Regulation of 27 March 2003 applicable to the ninth European Development Fund(11),

–  having regard to Article 50 of Council Regulation (EC) No 215/2008 of 18 February 2008 on the Financial Regulation applicable to the tenth European Development Fund(12),

–  having regard to Article 48 of Council Regulation (EU) 2015/323 of 2 March 2015 on the Financial Regulation applicable to the eleventh European Development Fund(13),

–  having regard to Rule 93 and the third indent of Rule 94 of, and Annex IV to, its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Development (A8-0125/2017),

1.  Grants the Commission discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2015.

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the Council, the Commission, the Court of Auditors and the European Investment Bank, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on the closure of the accounts of the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2015 (2016/2202(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the financial statements and revenue and expenditure accounts for the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0485 – C8‑0326/2016),

–  having regard to the financial information on the European Development Funds (COM(2016)0386),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the activities funded by the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2015, together with the Commission’s replies(14),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(15) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendations of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the operations of the European Development Funds for the financial year 2015 (05376/2017-C8-0081/2017, 05377/2017-C8-0082/2017, 05378/2017-C8-0083/2017, 05379/2017-C8-0084/2017 ),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2014 financial year (COM(2016)0674), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2016)0338 and SWD(2016)0339),

–  having regard to the Partnership Agreement between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part, signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000(16) and amended in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on 22 June 2010(17),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2013/755/EU of 25 November 2013 on the association of the overseas countries and territories with the European Union (‘Overseas Association Decision’)(18),

–  having regard to Article 33 of the Internal Agreement of 20 December 1995 between the representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on the financing and administration of the Community aid under the Second Financial Protocol to the fourth ACP-EC Convention(19),

–  having regard to Article 32 of the Internal Agreement of 18 September 2000 between Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on the Financing and Administration of Community Aid under the Financial Protocol to the Partnership Agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific States and the European Community and its Member States signed in Cotonou (Benin) on 23 June 2000 and the allocation of financial assistance for the Overseas Countries and Territories to which Part Four of the EC Treaty applies(20),

–  having regard to Article 11 of the Internal Agreement of 17 July 2006 between the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on the financing of Community aid under the multiannual financial framework for the period 2008 to 2013 in accordance with the ACP-EC Partnership Agreement and on the allocation of financial assistance for the Overseas Countries and Territories to which Part Four of the EC Treaty applies(21),

–  having regard to Article 11 of the Internal Agreement of 24 and 26 June 2013 between the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States of the European Union, meeting within the Council, on the financing of European Union aid under the multiannual financial framework for the period 2014 to 2020 in accordance with the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement and on the allocation of financial assistance for the Overseas Countries and Territories to which Part Four of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union applies(22),

–  having regard to Article 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 74 of the Financial Regulation of 16 June 1998 applicable to development finance cooperation under the fourth ACP-EC Convention(23),

–  having regard to Article 119 of the Financial Regulation of 27 March 2003 applicable to the ninth European Development Fund(24),

–  having regard to Article 50 of Council Regulation (EC) No 215/2008 of 18 February 2008 on the Financial Regulation applicable to the tenth European Development Fund(25),

–  having regard to Article 48 of Council Regulation (EU) 2015/323 of 2 March 2015 on the Financial Regulation applicable to the eleventh European Development Fund(26),

–  having regard to Rule 93 and the third indent of Rule 94 of, and Annex IV to, its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Development (A8-0125/2017),

1.  Approves the closure of the accounts of the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2015;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the Council, the Commission, the Court of Auditors and the European Investment Bank, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

3. European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2015 (2016/2202(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to Rule 93 and the third indent of Rule 94 of, and Annex IV to, its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Development (A8-0125/2017),

A.  whereas the main goal of the partnership agreement between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part, signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000(27) and amended in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on 22 June 2010(28) (the “Cotonou agreement”), as the framework of the Union’s relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, is to reduce and eventually eradicate poverty, consistently with the objectives of sustainable development,

B.  whereas the main objective of Council Decision 2013/755/EU(29) is to contribute to the progressive development of the overseas countries and territories (OCTs), by enhancing the competitiveness and strengthening the resilience of the OCTs reducing their economic and environmental vulnerability and promoting cooperation among them and other partners,

C.  whereas the European Development Funds (EDFs) are the Union’s main financial instrument for providing development cooperation to the ACP countries and the OCTs,

D.  whereas a wide range of implementation methods, reflecting the intergovernmental nature of the EDFs, are used in 79 countries with complex rules and procedures with regard to tendering and awarding contracts,

E.  whereas EDF activities are implemented in challenging contexts by facing recurrent high-risk exposure either geo-political or institutional,

F.  whereas external factors to the proper implementation of the EDF may mitigate or annihilate the efforts made in terms of development,

G.  whereas the EDFs are funded by Member States and managed both by the Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Commission being solely accountable for the discharge of the EDFs,

H.  whereas the Union has the potential and weight to shape responses to global and geopolitical challenges,

I.  whereas the history of its Member States confers obligations on the Union regarding the development of the ACP countries and the OCTs,

J.  whereas the future of the Union and that of the ACP countries and the OCTs are linked due to geography, globalisation and demographic change,

K.  whereas the global population projections for 2100, coupled with the effects of new migratory flows, armed conflicts, global warming and numerous economic and social crises, require immediate attention by the Union, in particular within its development policy's objectives; whereas development aid is an essential tool, whose multiple methods of implementation must be optimised to face those many global challenges,

L.  whereas the migration crisis has not only questioned the international aid principles and objectives but highlighted that the principle of solidarity needs to be applied more uniformly and unconditionally by all Member States,

M.  whereas the current migratory crises must not overshadow the sustainability of migration waves linked to demographic upheavals and which call for different responses,

N.  whereas there is a need for a renewed approach towards ACP countries and OCTs requiring new financial incentives and instruments,

O.  whereas fresh attention must be paid to the fact that a large part of the ACP countries are small island developing states; whereas islands, in particular ACP islands, play a new international role, particularly as a result of international negotiations on climate change,

P.  whereas a number of OCTs are located in the same regions as the ACP countries; whereas the OCTs face similar global challenges but, unlike ACP countries, are part of the European family and should therefore receive increased attention in the delivery of funds; whereas the very small size of the OCTs and the constitutional link between the OCTs and the Union are specificities that should be taken into account,

Q.  whereas the Commission Directorate-Generals for International Cooperation and Development and Regional and Urban Policy signed a Memorandum of Understanding in September 2013 in order to enhance cooperation between Outermost Region (OR), the OCTs and the ACP countries,

R.  whereas the Union’s external interventions are channelled through international organisations which either implement Union funds or co-finance projects together with the Union implying challenges in terms of oversight and governance,

S.  whereas the level and nature of the Union's engagement must be differentiated and conditional, depending on measurable progress in various fields such as democratisation, human rights, good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, the rule of law and the fight against corruption, offering its assistance where needed to help foster progress,

T.  whereas a regular and thorough political dialogue is key to ensuring greater ownership by the ACP countries and the OCTs and the ability to adjust policy objectives,

U.  whereas it is of fundamental importance to ensure coherence between all Union policies and the objectives of the Union’s development policy,

V.  whereas it is of fundamental importance to promote Union visibility and to project Union values in all forms of development aid,

W.  whereas the simplification of implementation processes is a driver for enhancing the effectiveness of the delivery of aid,

X.  whereas sustainability is crucial for increasing the overall effectiveness of development aid by steadily tracking impacts through all aid delivery modes,

Y.  whereas Union governance support is a key component of the development aid to generate effective governance reforms,

Z.  whereas budget support, while it can be a key-driver for change and to address main developments challenges, carries a considerable fiduciary risk and should be granted only if it provides sufficient transparency, traceability, accountability and effectiveness alongside to proven commitment in policy reforms; whereas budget support is particularly adapted for small and isolated territories, such as ACP islands,

AA.  whereas transparency and accountability are prerequisites for democratic scrutiny and the effectiveness of development aid,

AB.  whereas the management of administrative costs has to be steadily monitored in all circumstances and in regard to all aid modalities,

AC.  whereas illicit financial flows in developing countries aggravate poverty,

AD.  whereas the discharge authority has reiterated its call for the inclusion of the EDF in the Union’s general budget in order to enhance the visibility and democratic scrutiny on the EDF and overall development policies,

AE.  whereas the adherence by Union citizens to development policy requires maximum transparency, good management and performance,

Statement of assurance

Financial implementation of funds in 2015

1.  Notes that in 2015, spending concerned four EDFs, in particular the eighth EDF, which amounted to EUR 12 480 million, the ninth EDF, which amounted to EUR 13 800 million, the tenth EDF, which amounted to EUR 22 682 million and the eleventh EDF, which amounted to EUR 30 506 million; notes that the funding of the eleventh EDF allocates EUR 29 089 million to the ACP countries and EUR 364,5 million to the OCTs and that those two amounts comprise, respectively, EUR 1 134 million and EUR 5 million for the ACP investment facility of the EIB; notes that EUR 1 052,5 million relates to the Commission’s expenditure for the programming and implementation of the EDFs;

2.  Observes that those funds are implemented through projects and budget support under the following four modalities: 42 % of payments were made by direct management out of which 24 % were made through budget support; observes that the remaining 58 % were made under indirect management, namely 31 % through international organisations, 24 % through third countries and 3 % through national bodies of the Member States;

3.  Notes with concern that the 2015 spending still comprises funds coming from the eighth EDF, which was launched in 1995;

4.  Welcomes the efforts carried out by Europe Aid in 2015 as regards the level of net global commitments made in 2015, with EUR 5 034 million due to the entry into force of the eleventh EDF, which increased the resources for commitments by EUR 27 839 million; notes that the eleventh EDF impacted the implementation rates of outstanding commitments, the latter decreasing from 98 % to 69,7 % for global commitments and from 91,2 % to 63,5 % for individual commitments;

5.  Regrets that the lack of payment credits faced by the Commission in 2015 led to a difficult budgetary situation in the development cooperation that harmed the global performance of the funds, specifically the transfer of EUR 483 million to 2016 and the payment of an estimated amount of EUR 1 million of late interest; welcomes the efforts carried by the Commission to ensure the continuity of development aid and to limit the adverse consequences of the existing payment shortages;

6.  Notes also, for its whole area of responsibility, the Commission’s continuous efforts to reduce old pre-financing (39 % achieved with a 25 % target), old outstanding commitments or old RAL (reste à liquider) (46 % achieved compared to 25 % targeted) as well as the number of opened expired contracts, but however with less satisfactory progress for the latter under the EDFs; encourages the Commission services to continue to decrease the EDFs’ share in expired contracts;

Reliability of the accounts

7.  Welcomes the fact that the Court of Auditors (the “Court”), in its annual report on the activities funded by the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh EDFs for the financial year 2015, finds that the final annual accounts present fairly, in all material respects, the EDFs’ financial position at 31 December 2015 and that the results of their operations, their cash flows and the changes in net assets for the year then ended are in accordance with the provisions of the EDF Financial Regulation and with accounting rules based on internationally accepted accounting standards for the public sector;

8.  Welcomes the Commission’s action to solve the issue of the recovery both for interest on prefinancing above EUR 750 000 and for interest on prefinancing between EUR 250 000 and EUR 750 000 resulting in the proper recording of EUR 2,5 million of earned interest in the 2015 financial statements; calls on the Commission to also consider the situation of cases bellow EUR 250 000;

9.  Regrets, in the context of the management of recovery orders, the incorrect recording of operational revenue amounting to EUR 9,6 million corresponding to unspent pre-financing;

10.  Regrets that EUR 29,6 million of recovery orders under the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh EDFs were cancelled due to encoding errors, corrections or modifications ; asks the Commission to report on the EUR 15,8 million still subject to ongoing litigation;

11.  Expresses strong concern that of a recovery order of EUR 1 million, EUR 623 000 were waived after an amicable settlement between the Commission and the debtor(30) ; acknowledges the coherence with Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(31) (the ‘Financial Regulation’) as well as the principle of proportionality concerning recovery orders; stresses, however, the fact that tax payers' money is at stake and needs to be protected by the necessary means;

Legality and regularity of the transactions underlying the accounts

12.  Welcomes the fact that the Court’s opinion find that the revenue underlying the accounts for the year 2015 is legal and regular in all material aspects;

13.  Regrets that the Court’s report estimates that the most likely error rate for expenditure transactions from the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh EDFs remains identical to that in 2014, which was 3,8 %, and higher than that in 2013, which was 3,4 % and that in 2012, which was 3 %; calls on the EIB and the Commission to prepare an action plan to turn around the increasing trend of material error and present it to the discharge authority;

14.  Expresses concern about the Court’s assessment related to the legality and regularity of payments underlying the accounts which are materially affected by error; is concerned by the results of the sampling with regard to payments transactions, whereby 35 among 140 payments (25 %) were affected by error; notes that internal control systems and checks of their effectiveness involve not only Commission headquarters and Union delegations in beneficiary countries, but also other actors such as the national authorising officers designated by ACP countries, where frequently weaknesses in checks have been detected; calls on the Commission to support and strengthen those fragile institutional and administrative capacities;

15.  Is concerned that the typology of errors underlying the 2015 error rate of 3,8 % remains the same as 2014, i.e. the absence of supporting documents (the sum affected to this category of error being EUR 3 692 833 million) and non-compliance with procurement rules (the sum affected to this category of error amounting to EUR 1 176 140 million) representing 70 % of the estimated level of error (compared to 63 % in 2014); asks the EIB and the Commission to step up their efforts and effectively improve both ex-ante and ex-post controls of the funding projects in order to bring the sums effected by errors in the categories like "absence of supporting documents" and "non-compliance with the procurement rules" down considerably;

16.  Expresses, furthermore, its long-standing concern on the weaknesses of ex-ante checks insofar as 16 out the of 28 final transactions that were subject to ex-ante checks were subsequently authorised despite quantifiable errors revealed by those ex-ante checks; regrets that most of the errors found concerned, as in previous years, programme estimates, grants and operations managed with international organisations; calls therefore on the Commission to pay more attention to ex-ante checks to ensure the legality and regularity of EDF implementation; acknowledges that the nature of budget support limits the assessment of the factual error rate of budget support disbursements, such that transactions are prone to errors ;

17.  Stresses the inherent risk related to the notional approach, which declares the Commission's contributions to multi-donor projects free of regulatory error when they are pooled with those of other donors and not earmarked for specific identifiable items of expenditure, as the Commission assumes that Union eligibility rules are complied with as long as the pooled amount includes sufficient eligible expenditure to cover the Union contribution;

18.  Expresses concern that the notional approach substantially limits the Court's work, particularly in light of the fact that for the budget year 2015, EUR 763 million were disbursed via budget support, which amounts to 24 % of 2015 EDF spending ;

19.  Urges the Commission to swiftly remedy those deficiencies in ex-ante checks, while noting that the Commission had sufficient information from its information systems to prevent, detect and correct the quantifiable errors before making the expenditure with a direct positive effect on the estimated level of error which would have been 1,7 percentage points lower;

20.  Notes that EUR 89,9 million were recovered for the reimbursement of undue payments due to irregularities and errors;

Components of the assurance framework

21.  Welcomes the shift from a general reservation to the issuance of differentiated reservation as requested by Parliament in its previous EDF resolutions, namely (i) one thematic reservation for the two high-risk pending domains of grants in direct management (18 % of the total amount paid in 2015) and indirect management with international organisations; and (ii) a specific reservation for the African peace facility;

22.  Notes the actions undertaken by the Commission targeted on the two higher risk areas and calls the Commission to report on the implementation of those actions to Parliament;

23.  Invites the Commission to continue refining the risk assessment of its activity based budgeting to further ensure an adequate level of sectoral assurance; asks, in that context, to evaluate the level of risk and vulnerabilities of indirect management;

24.  Expresses concern over the risky nature of indirect management, particularly due to the lack of traceability of funds when they are disbursed by the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development to local actors and subcontractors;

25.  Considers the improvement of the monitoring tools for following the findings of the external audits to be positive; welcomes the new audit application and the quality grid developed by the Commission and support the Court’s recommendation to improve those new tools;

26.  Welcomes the fact that a residual error rate (RER) study was carried out for the fourth consecutive year and has become a key tool within the control, monitoring and auditing strategy;

27.  Stresses that the RER is calculated by deducting from the audit authorities' annual error rates the multiannual financial corrections imposed at national and Union levels;

28.  Expresses strong concern over the fact that the 2015 RER of closed contractual operations included in the annual activity report was estimated at 2,2 %, which is still over the materiality threshold of 2 % and equal to about EUR 174 million including EUR 98 million for the EDFs;

29.  Calls on the Commission to maintain high methodological standards in its RER assessment as well as to extensively monitor and enforce financial corrections by Member States;

30.  Draws attention to the fact that the balance between absorption, compliance and performance is needed and to be reflected in the management of operations;

31.  Welcomes the reduction of the estimated cost of control of the Commission Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development from EUR 371 million in 2014 to EUR 293 million in 2015 and encourages the Commission to further improve the cost-effectiveness of the Director-General’s control while ensuring the minimum errors possible;

32.  Invites the Commission to integrate into its ex-ante and ex-post evaluation, management and performance assessment tools in line with the Commission's Budget for Results initiative targeted to analyse the impact of other Union external policies and actions on the situation of the beneficiary countries;

Risks relating to a results-oriented approach for Union development cooperation

33.  Acknowledges the fact that the Commission has integrated risk analysis into the management of its external operations which are carried out in complex and fragile environments with numerous types of risks, partner countries having differing levels of development and governance frameworks;

34.  Points out the need to improve the use of terminology regarding long-term results (outputs, outcomes and impacts) and the importance of formulating true and sustainable SMART objectives before any decision on financing different projects is taken; highlights the need to put extra focus on formulating “attainable and realistic” goals to avoid cases where the initial objectives were met by partner countries but without significant results in term of development; reiterates that social and environmental aspects have to be taken into account, as well as economic ones, when assessing development objectives;

35.  Considers it to be necessary to refrain from focusing on budgetary outturn as the sole management objective, which can be detrimental to the principle of sound financial management and the achievement of results; stresses that any incentive-based approach, founded on a ‘positive conditionality’ system resulting in incentives for the well-performing beneficiaries and stricter controls for the ill-performing beneficiaries, should be linked to specific and stringent performance indicators, allowing for a quantifiable approach to assess shortcomings and targets met;

36.  Strongly underlines that any system founded on 'positive conditionality' should adhere without exception to the precautionary principle;

37.  Recalls that the regular monitoring and mapping of high risk factors (external, financial and operational) and their quantification, from identification to implementation phases, is a prerequisite not only for a good financial management and quality expenditure but also to ensure the credibility, sustainability and reputation of the Union interventions; takes the view that setting-up activities and countries’ risk profiles also facilitate the design of a rapid risk mitigation strategy in case of deterioration of the situation in a partner country;

38.  Underlines the need to regularly adapt the control environment and risk management functions to take into account the emergence of new forms of assistance instruments and facilities like the blended finance, trust funds and financial partnerships with other international institutions, and also when beneficiary countries benefits from different types of aid delivery;

39.  Believes that developing partner countries' capacity building, governance frameworks and ownership is instrumental to mitigating systemic risks, to allowing funds to reach their intended purposes and to responding to the ‘3 Es’ requirements (economy, efficiency and effectiveness) also taking into account ecology, equality and ethics; encourages the Commission in this regard to further examine the possibility and risks of using local audit firms and local services contract, ensuring full transparency and accountability;

40.  Acknowledges that the Financial Regulation allows beneficiaries to contract local audit firms; is, however, strongly concerned by the shortcomings in EuropeAid's management information system on the results and the follow-up of external audits, as mentioned by the Court for the EDF discharge procedure 2014; urges the Directorate-General for International Co-operation and Development to put into place a quality grid to assess the reliability of checks in place for audits and expenditure verifications done by local audit companies directly contracted by beneficiaries, where the risk of insufficient quality is assessed to be higher and audit and verification reports do not contain sufficient information on the actual work done to enable the current grid to be used effectively;

Improving EDF aid effectiveness

41.  Underlines that to establish the credibility of development assistance, particularly as regards the instruments used, aid delivery methods and the funds concerned, it is essential that the value for money and results achieved with this support can be demonstrated, but also that coherence between external policies and actions of the Union and the objectives of development aid, in particular the objectives for social development, defence of human rights and environmental protection are met;

42.  Recalls that the effectiveness of aid, the partner country ownership of development results and the reliance on partner’s countries governance frameworks are guiding principles to be regularly refined;

43.  Underlines that it is essential that the mode of implementation of projects is adapted to the objectives pursued in each case and for each project; believes that better results in terms of efficiency can be achieved by supporting projects the dimension of which are adapted to objectives previously set, leading to concrete and identifiable results and targeting sustainable development of local communities;

44.  Considers that for infrastructure projects financed through the EDF, an independent ex-ante assessment that takes the social and environmental impact of the projects into account, as well as their added value, is essential; considers that funding decisions ought to be correlated to a proper cost-benefit analysis, with projects funded if their implementation is not environmentally, financially or socially controversial;

45.  Recalls that the undermining of performance monitoring and results evaluation is detrimental to the goals of public accountability and to comprehensive information for policymakers; points out that it is indispensable to provide Parliament with a clear view of the real extent to which the Union’s main objectives have been achieved; stresses the importance of a more balanced approach with less confidentiality and more transparency, particularly regarding the external assistance management reports;

46.  Believes that the assessment of the risks inherent to the choice of a particular implementation modality is crucial before committing Union financial resources and when considering the expected results; believes that the mix of projects, both in terms of subject matter and in terms of types of implementation, is essential to ensuring the effectiveness of EDF support;

47.  Believes that stronger support for technical and administrative resources is necessary for improving the effectiveness of EDF aid in particular with regard to the complexity of rules, since the EDF financial regulation is not a stand-alone document and needs to be used in conjunction with other legal sources, which entails a significant risk of legal uncertainty and errors;

48.  Believes that simplification of the rules of funds allocation is necessary to ensure better use of the funds and enhancing the effectiveness of the aid delivery; encourages the Commission to initiate simplification of the rules of funds allocation and to support local partners in the implementation of the projects; stresses, however, that simplification cannot be to the detriment of the current system of ex-ante and ex-post checks and balances, which are essential to comprehensive oversight; underlines that there are already persistent weaknesses in the ex-ante checks, an area where simplification needs to be carefully weighed against risks; reminds the Commission to stress the right balance between less administrative burden and effective financial control while simplifying the rules for the allocation of development funds;

49.  Claims that the simplification of the rules of funds allocation should not divert appropriations from the objectives and principles of the basic acts, and believes that any channelling through trust funds should not go at the expense of the EDF and long-term Union policies;

Task force ‘knowledge, performance and results’

50.  Welcomes the first report on selected results of projects in the context of the launching of the Union’s International Cooperation and Development Results Framework as a complementary step to the Commission’s commitment to improve its accountability and widen its results reporting on ongoing operations; is particularly interested in the list of indicators of organisational performance, which help with measuring and reporting on the development impact, outcomes and outputs achieved by partner countries and Commission services;

51.  Considers it to be useful to include that information regularly in the upcoming annual activity report in order to follow the evolution of Union contributions to results in various fields of development cooperation such as public finance management, good governance or the leverage effects achieved with blending activities;

Assessment of achieved results by Union’s delegations

52.  Welcomes the progress in the analysis of global results achieved by the Union‘s delegations, based on the results provided in key performance indicators compared to targets as regards the efficiency of internal controls system and audit systems in place as well as on the effective management of operations and resources for 2015;

53.  Calls for a higher level of ambition in the strategy, management and accountability of EDF funds; emphasises that there is an opportunity to optimise all EDF activities' resilience by reinforcing the economic and financial efficiency criteria and by identifying gains in efficiency and effectiveness, reflected in the management performance; considers that the preparation of needs assessments is an efficient preliminary stage towards ensuring final effectiveness of the Union funding;

54.  Acknowledges the high importance of the information reported in the 86 external assistance management reports for the assurance to be delivered by the Commission on the management of external aid as well as the positive trends for the performance of delegations with 20 out of 24 key performance indicators meeting targets in 2015, compared to 15 in 2014;

55.  Regrets, however, that nine delegations out of 86 have not reached the benchmark of 60 % of their key performance indicators; calls on the Commission services to closely monitor those delegations which have recently reached the target of 60 % or which stand just above the 60 % target to refine and consolidate the delegations trend analysis;

56.  Invites the Commission’s services both to regularly update the definition of key performance indicators and related modes of assessment and to further develop their risks assessment, in particular through setting up risk profiles (a priori or output risks) for projects in each delegation’s portfolio with a view to better selecting only viable projects at early stage; strongly suggests a more comprehensive ex-ante risk assessment so that only the most viable projects are selected;

57.  Invites the Commission to develop a typology of the causes of the blockages and difficulties encountered in the implementation of the projects in order to identify immediately the most appropriate responses and corrective measures;

58.  Considers it to be essential that the head of delegations continue to be steadily made aware of their key role in the overall strengthening of assurance and in their management of operations, in particular as regards the weighting of the various components likely to trigger the issuance of a reservation;

59.  Reiterates strongly that the accountability of Union delegations staffed by the European External Action Service needs to be comprehensively enforced; believes that this should be done in addition to the external assistance management reports, which are prepared and signed by the heads of Union delegations;

60.  Takes the view that heads of Union delegations should be clearly reminded of their duties and their management and oversight responsibilities and that they should not only concentrate on the political component of their duties;

61.  Calls on the Commission to report immediately on the specific remedial actions taken when a project has been classified ‘red’ three years consecutively in relation to key performance indicator 5 (i.e. percentage of projects with red traffic light for implementation progress) and key performance indicator 6 (i.e. percentage of projects with red traffic light for achieving results) in order to rapidly re-examine the initial programming objectives, reallocate available funds to more appropriate projects and aid needs, or even consider to possibly stopping the project;

62.  Acknowledges the diplomatic consequences of stopping project funding and stopping direct budget support disbursements, but strongly underlines the importance protecting the financial interests of the Union;

63.  Urges the Commission to pay particular attention to monitoring of operations carried out with international organisations such as the United Nations as well as its sub-organisations, to the old outstanding commitments, especially in the EDF context and to the reliability of the Common External Relations Information System data and values used for the preparation of external assistance management reports;

64.  Underlines that the total resources of the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh EDFs amount to EUR 76,88 billion, of which EUR 41,98 billion are indicated as payments; is greatly concerned that outstanding commitments amount to EUR 11,61 billion and that the available balance at the end of 2015 amounts to EUR 23,27 billion;

Results-oriented monitoring

65.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that the connection between evaluations and policy formulation is effective by taking into account all lessons learned in the decision-making process; asks the Commission to both allocate adequate management capacities to the various evaluation activities and to ensure the reliability of Europe Aid evaluation and results-orientated monitoring systems;

66.  Recalls that external, objective and impartial feedback on the performance of Commission aid projects and programmes should be provided as part of the Commission’s commitment to quality assurance; considers outcomes of the evaluations to be key elements feeding into policy and the political review process, helping the adjustment of strategic political objectives and enhancing the overall coherence of Union policies; considers it advisable to guarantee that projects funded will undergo a final assessment through an independent ex-post analysis;

67.  Believes that investing in the analysis and aggregation of results and evidence from different kinds of evaluation helps the Commission not only to gain an overall picture of trends but to draw lessons that strengthen the ultimate effectiveness of the evaluation processes while also yielding a better evidence base for decision and policymaking;

68.  Considers that the sharing of knowledge by all means and tools is crucial for developing not only a culture of evaluation but mainly an effective culture of performance;

Budget support activities

69.  Observes that EUR 1 266 44 million out of EUR 5 746 million in total payments (or 22 %) were devoted in 2015 to budget support;

70.  Considers that budget support is an aid modality adapted to the specificities of development aid, fostering country ownership and aid effectiveness, which has shown concrete results in reaching the objectives of development policy; notes, however, that budget support entails fiduciary risks and may lead to uncertainty regarding results and performance; calls on the Commission to ensure the good use of development aid through budget support, in particular by providing tailored trainings and technical assistance to beneficiaries;

71.  Welcomes the 2016 Annual Budget Support Report of the Commission, which reviews the 2015 key results indicators across Union budget support countries; encourages the Commission to include the outcomes of this report in the upcoming annual activity report;

72.  Recalls the necessity continually to respect the four eligibility criteria in the pre-contracting phase, the evolution of the stated objectives and agreed expected results in the budget support scrutiny;

73.  Stresses that the contribution of budget support to desired development outcomes must be clearly demonstrated and its use must be made conditional on the improvement of public finance management and on democratic oversight and accountability as well as full transparency towards national parliaments and citizens of recipient countries; considers tying this support to corruption being fought effectively in countries benefiting from budget support to be a priority;

74.  Considers the disbursement performance criteria to be a core factor in the management of budget support activities as well as for deepened political and policy dialogue;

75.  Considers it necessary to strengthen the political and policy dialogue, aid conditionality and the logical chain framework to ensure coherence between decisions and preconditions to payments by clearly linking payments to the achievement of results, selected objectives and predefined key performance indicators; invites the Commission services to further consolidate its supervision framework accordingly; calls on the Commission to closely monitor and report more systematically on performance and results;

76.  Calls on the Commission to regularly report on the implementation of the Addis Tax Initiative launched in 2015, particularly on the actions launched to tackle tax avoidance, tax evasion and illicit financial flows; considers also that government effectiveness and public financial management, corruption and fraud are the main risk dimension to be steadily and thoroughly scrutinised;

Developing the overseeing dimension of the trust funds and blending instruments

77.  Recognises the rationale for developing dedicated trusts funds as pooling instruments for financial resources from various stakeholders, with a view to increasing flexibility and speeding up the Union response to global international issues, major crises or emergency situations; believes, nevertheless, that small-scale projects with clearly identified objectives, operators and beneficiaries, producing concrete results and responding to a long-term strategy can also effectively participate in the Union response to those challenges;

78.  Believes that the coherence and complementarity of any new development tools with the EDFs should be duly taken into account, particularly as regards aid impact, management and administrative costs against total contributions; calls on the Commission to ensure that those new development tools are always in line with the Union’s overall strategy and development policy objectives;

79.  Expresses concern at the multiplicity of trust funds and blending platforms, which are financed by Member States with substantial amounts but are not part of the Union budget; strongly underlines possible issues regarding governance, effectiveness, transparency and accountability; warns the Commission about the risk of outsourcing and dilution of the objectives of the development policy; calls on the Court to help in assessing the risks, improving the overall transparency and accountability and to compare the effectiveness of investments through the trust funds with those of direct or indirect EDF management;

80.  Notes that trust funds were part of an ad hoc response which shows that the EDF, the Union budget and the Multiannual Financial Framework lack the resources and flexibility needed for a rapid and comprehensive approach to major crises; believes that more time is needed to prove its effectiveness;

81.  Acknowledges the setting-up of the Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) but regrets that no prior consultation of Parliament took place, although Parliament enjoys reinforced oversight of EDF programming based on a political commitment made by the Commission; observes that 57 % of the initial amount pledged by Member States and other donors (Switzerland and Norway) were paid for the EUTF (i.e. EUR 47,142 million); notes that EUR 1,4 billion from the EDF reserve will be used for the EUTF and that the total financial pledges made by Member States represent only EUR 81,492 million (i.e. 4,3 % of the projected EUR 1,8 billion); notes the Bekou Trust Fund of the amount pledged and paid of EUR 34,925 million;

82.  Calls on the Commission to implement comprehensive control mechanisms to ensure political scrutiny, especially from Parliament, on the governance, management and implementation of these new instruments in the context of the discharge procedure; considers it to be important to develop specific supervision strategies for those instruments, with specific objectives, targets and reviews;

83.  Is strongly concerned by insufficiently specific objectives and a lack of binding indicators and measureable targets to assess performance of the trust funds; asks that performance monitoring arrangements (or results matrices or frameworks) relating to planned actions be further enhanced to include middle and long term goals fully in line with the Union policy objectives;

84.  Is particularly interested in receiving information on the leverage ratios achieved by the existing blending facilities with a specific focus on the value added and additionality compared to classical Union support;

Strengthening the cooperation frameworks with international organisations

85.  Observes that EDF interventions implemented via indirect management with international organisations and development agencies amounted to EUR 810 million out of which EUR 347 million was through the United Nations;

86.  Recognises the added value of the cooperation with international organisations in certain specific contexts; points out, however, recurrent weaknesses, such as the level of financial errors affecting the error level rate, the reporting weaknesses, the problem with results' ownership and, as a consequence, the lack of the Union’s visibility as a donor and the need to harmonise expectations as regards results-orientation and value for money;

87.  Encourages, particularly in the case of co-funded and multi-donor initiatives, the Commission or international institutions to:

   (i) assess and plan the future benefits of a project and the way each partner contributes towards the final outcome and broader impact so as to avoid questions over results ownership i.e. which part of the results are attributable to Union funding or to other donors’ interventions;
   (ii) combine the governance frameworks with those used by the Union, in particular by improving their risk management methods; considers that the fungibility of funds should be closely monitored for its high level of fiduciary risk;
   (iii) improve the models of cooperation frameworks used with all international organisations to ensure in particular a more thorough control of the management costs;
   (iv) ensure coherence between projects implemented in a cooperation framework with international organisations and the actions and policies of the Union as a whole;

The management of the African Peace Facility

88.  Notes that the African Peace Facility (APF) is the Union financial instrument designed to support cooperation with Africa in the area of peace and security with a total in 2015 of EUR 901,2 million committed, of EUR 600 million contracted and a total amount paid under the eleventh EDF; notes that around 90 % of the APF funds are managed via agreements signed with the African Union Commission which is the implementing body of the African Union;

89.  Notes that the Commission does not trust the implementation of the APF, which has been operational for years; in this context it is surprised by the proposal of the Commission to divert even more development funds to security actions in Africa; underlines also that the financing of the APF from the EDF has been a provisional solution for 15 years now; stresses that development funding has made a very important financial contribution to African security policies over all those years whereas Union security spending for development purposes is non existant;

90.  Deplores the fact that the control system for the management and operational monitoring of the APF was not effective in protecting the EDFs against illegal and irregular expenditure and the implementation of the mitigating measures was inadequate to remedy the institutional weaknesses identified; regrets also the weaknesses in the monitoring and reporting systems on the funded APF activities;

91.  Expresses its concern that the results of the pillar assessments carried out according to the Financial Regulation requirements were not taken into account, namely concerning the non-compliance of the accounting, procurement and sub-delegations processes; regrets that corrective measures have not been implemented more quickly;

92.  Invites the Commission to adapt the governance, coordination and respective responsibilities of stakeholders involved (i.e. the Commission services, the European External Action Service and the Union delegations) in the monitoring of the APF funding and reporting on its ongoing projects;

93.  Asks to the Commission to report in due course to Parliament on the corrective measures, level of recoveries and improvements in the management of funds by the APF;

Cooperation with the OCTs

94.  Acknowledges that the EDFs mainly focus on African countries and considers that OCTs should not be sidelined in terms of political objectives; calls on the Commission to implement more synergies with the Union internal and horizontal policies with concrete OCTs-participation;

95.  Believes that attention should be brought on the aid performance and impact of the development policy but also other European and international policies on countries located in the same geographical area than OCTs; calls for particular attention to be paid to the specific situation of Mayotte owing to its change in status from OCT to that of an outermost region in 2014;

96.  Invites the Commission to ensure that funding benefits all OCTs fairly and equally; calls on the Commission to further support OCT administrations in the implementation of EDF projects, in particular through training and technical assistance;

97.  Recalls the geographic characteristics of OCTs; calls on the Commission to better integrate targeted key performance indicators for funding in OCTs; calls also on the Commission to propose, as part of the extension of preparatory action within the BEST scheme(the voluntary scheme for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of European overseas), a permanent mechanism to protect biodiversity, develop ecosystem services and combat the effects of climate change in the Union's OCTs;

98.  Once again calls on the Commission to establish by 2020 a specific funding instrument for OCTs, bearing in mind their special status and their membership of the European family.

The EDF response to urgent global challenges

The migration issue and the development aid

99.  Recalls that the main goal of Union development policy is to reduce and eventually eradicate poverty and that EDF have so far achieved progress in ACP countries and in the OCTs; believes that successful development aid and migration issues are interconnected, as migration can result from social and economic vulnerabilities and as the mitigation of the root causes of migration can be traced back to targeted development aid;

100.  Notes the recent adoption of the Union’s global strategy to achieve sustainable development by 2030, which further consolidates the link between development and migration and places migration and security in the new development and cooperation framework;

101.  Recalls Parliament’s stance towards a holistic approach to migration based on a new policy mix, including strengthening the nexus between migration and development addressing the root causes of migration while also advocating a shift in the ways of funding the response to the migration crisis;

102.  Acknowledges that the Union has increased support for security sector reforms; believes, however, that the Commission should ensure that funds are not shifted towards promoting security without a parallel strengthening of support for democratic reforms;

103.  Believes that the magnitude of the migration crisis has triggered the need for more rapid and effective response and aid delivery; considers it useful to develop an appropriate sector code for ‘migration’ in the OECD Development Assistance Committee to better integrate migration into the development agenda, to facilitate the encoding and use of funds and to better track and monitor the amounts targeted for external action on the fight against root causes of migration;

104.  Welcomes the intended launch of an external investment plan in Africa on the model of the European Fund for Strategic Investment to address specific bottlenecks in investment; considers this as one of the most appropriate and efficient tools to achieve the Parliament's long-term aim to provide people with adequate living conditions, and hence also address the root causes of excessive migration from Africa;

105.  Acknowledges that the EDF's funds are contributing to addressing the root causes of the current global refugee and migration crisis; underlines that the EDF's funds must not be misused for purposes other than determined in the provisions such as secure border control and effective return measures; calls the Commission to engage constructively to achieve synergies between the Union budget, the EDF and bilateral cooperation in order to address issues concerning migration crisis prevention;

106.  Calls for continuously refinement of the strategic understanding and framework of the Union’s migration external policies and policy options with key actors to ensure clarity as well as a coordinated and coherent mobilisation of external migration mechanisms in the short, medium and long term, within or outside the budgetary framework of the Union;

107.  Considers that there is a crucial need to reconcile the need for better results with the availability of sufficient funds to ensure a high level of ambition in the design of the Union’s comprehensive and sustainable response to current and future challenges induced by the migration crisis; is of the opinion that Union external migration spending needs to be disbursed more efficiently and that it needs to fulfil “added value” criteria in order to provide people with adequate living conditions in their countries of origin and other ACP countries;

108.  Invites all major stakeholders to reflect and respond adequately on the balance between the flexibility in interventions, the complementary of funds, their level and necessary leveraging as well as potential synergies and the overall additionality of Union interventions;

109.  Believes that the existing fragmentation of instruments with their own specific objectives without being interlinked, hinders parliamentary oversight on the way funds are implemented, the identification of responsibilities and therefore makes it difficult to clearly assess the financial amounts actually spent to support external action on migration; regrets that it leads to a lack of effectiveness, transparency and accountability; considers it necessary to refocus ways of using existing policy instruments with a clear and renewed architecture of objectives to increase their overall effectiveness and visibility;

110.  Believes, in this context, that due care should be given to the appropriate targeting of aid to different and evolving external migration issues while also ensuring the adequacy of oversight of disbursed funds in order to avoid the risk of misappropriation of funds and double financing, and while ensuring that other ACP countries continue to benefit from EDF assistance;

111.  Believes that climate change and its challenges, migration and development are closely intertwined; calls for a better understanding of this correlation in the allocation of development aid and in the development policy objectives; calls on the Commission and the EIB to avoid simply increasing the funds spent to tackle migrations related problems without taking into account projects aimed to climate change adaptations and other development projects;

EIB contributions

112.  Notes that in 2015, EUR 936 million was allocated to ACP countries and OCTs in projects implemented in 15 countries and 6 regional groupings;

113.  Supports the overarching objectives of the ACP Investment Facility's framework i.e. supporting the local private sector and the development of employment and socio-economic infrastructures favouring sustainable development at local and regional level as well as the development of the private sector and key infrastructures within the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund;

114.  Welcomes the EIB’s efforts to contribute to a Union response to critical international matters, in particular through the EIB’s ACP migration package and the economic resilience initiative, supporting the Union and partner countries for tackling socio-economic challenges contributing to migration, prefiguring the external investment plan; states however the ongoing challenge of an appropriate political and democratic control of the EIB activities;

115.  Invites the EIB to insist and give priority to long-term effect of investments and their contribution to sustainable development in all economic, social and environmental aspects;

116.  Encourages the EIB to further support local private sector development as a key driver of sustainability, to support basic social and economic infrastructure of immediate interest for the beneficiaries as well as the search for new local and regional partners in the specific domain of micro-finance; invites the EIB to increase additionality with a better justification of the use of the funds;

117.  Invites the EIB to ensure that ongoing project are regularly monitored and that the original objectives and criterion are effectively met during the life time of the project; believes that the EIB should take into account the possible evolution of a project and of its objectives;

118.  Welcomes the second EIB report in 2015 on the results of its external operations and the use of the 3 Pillar Assessment Framework (3PA) and the Results Measurement (ReM) Framework by the EIB for the ex-ante assessment of expected results from investment projects;

119.  Believes that the framework measuring results and performance of the Investment Facility should measure the impact on development for every project; underlines the importance of targeting the same objectives and strategies as the Union's development policies; invites the EIB to further align its activities with Union development policy objectives;

120.  Calls for a systematic disclosure of the ACP investment facility on lending agreements and increased transparency on the board decisions and steering documents;

121.  Considers the audit on the investment facility to be a good practice in terms of cooperation and collaborative scrutiny between Parliament and the Court; regrets, however, that projects implemented in and funds allocated to the OCTs are not covered by the audit; deplores the fact that the investment facility does not fall within the scope of the Court’s annual statement of assurance audit and is not subject to Parliament’s discharge procedure;

Towards the post-Cotonou agreement

122.  Acknowledges the EDF’s achievements while considering that new prospects should be considered in order to take into account the changes in the landscape of the ACP countries and the OCTs and in the development of new sustainable objectives, in particular the correlation between peace, humanitarian aid, climate change and its challenges, loss of biodiversity as well as migration;

123.  Welcomes the Joint Communication to Parliament and the Council on “A renewed partnership with countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific”, published by the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on 22 November 2016 (JOIN(2016)0052), and calls for further discussions between the Union institutions on the future of Union-ACP relations;

124.  Observes that while the Commission has proposed substantial simplifications to the Financial Regulation applicable to the General Budget, each EDF is still governed by its own respective Financial Regulation; believes that a single financial regulation would reduce the complexity in managing and implementing the various EDFs; stresses, furthermore, that Parliament has long called for the integration of EDFs into the Union budget;

125.  Believes that in the post-Cotonou agreement, further coherence should be ensured between the objectives of development and all the Union’s external policies, and elements such as the fight against inequalities and actions in favour of sustainable development should be central;

126.  Looks forward to being fully informed and consulted on the mid-term review of the 11th EDF which is supposed to take into account Agenda 2030 and a new European Consensus on Development but which should also fully respect the principles of development effectiveness reconfirmed at the Nairobi High Level Forum of the Global Partnership, in particular ownership of priorities by recipient countries;

127.  Recommends that the post-Cotonou agreement goes beyond economic questions and promotes an efficient political dialogue; recalls that political dialogue is one of the keys to ensure aid performance and effectiveness;

128.  Considers that the post-Cotonou agreement should promote the empowerment and the participation of local communities and civil society in general, in particular through the establishment of local partnerships agreements, in order to ensure a proper project implementation at the local level, especially in the framework of indirect management;

129.  Calls for recognition of the impact of climate change and its challenges and loss of biodiversity on all development factors; believes that the post-Cotonou agreement should be more focused on the sustainable development of beneficiary countries and especially on the issue of energy self-efficiency;

130.  Calls on the Commission to recognise and further develop the island dimension in the development policy and to create a specific instrument for small island developing states, allowing better allocation of funds, performance and adapted control;

131.  Suggests to the Commission to provide a priori assessment and to report more systematically on the impact of development policy on countries and regions in the same geographical area to allow for more synergies between all funds available in those regions;

132.  Reiterates Parliament’s long support for budgetisation to increase democratic scrutiny and accountability, enhance effectiveness, transparency and visibility in the use of EDFs; underlines also that budgetisation would reduce transaction costs and would simplify reporting and accounting requirements by having only one set of administrative rules and decision-making structures;

Follow-up of Parliament resolutions

133.  Calls upon the Court to include in its next annual report a review of the follow-up to Parliament's recommendations in Parliament's annual discharge resolution.

(1) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 287.
(2) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 297.
(3) OJ L 317, 15.12.2000, p. 3.
(4) OJ L 287, 4.11.2010, p. 3.
(5) OJ L 344, 19.12.2013, p. 1.
(6) OJ L 156, 29.5.1998, p. 108.
(7) OJ L 317, 15.12.2000, p. 355.
(8) OJ L 247, 9.9.2006, p. 32.
(9) OJ L 210, 6.8.2013, p. 1.
(10) OJ L 191, 7.7.1998, p. 53.
(11) OJ L 83, 1.4.2003, p. 1.
(12) OJ L 78, 19.3.2008, p. 1.
(13) OJ L 58, 3.3.2015, p. 17.
(14) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 287.
(15) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 297.
(16) OJ L 317, 15.12.2000, p. 3.
(17) OJ L 287, 4.11.2010, p. 3.
(18) OJ L 344, 19.12.2013, p. 1.
(19) OJ L 156, 29.5.1998, p. 108.
(20) OJ L 317, 15.12.2000, p. 355.
(21) OJ L 247, 9.9.2006, p. 32.
(22) OJ L 210, 6.8.2013, p. 1.
(23) OJ L 191, 7.7.1998, p. 53.
(24) OJ L 83, 1.4.2003, p. 1.
(25) OJ L 78, 19.3.2008, p. 1.
(26) OJ L 58, 3.3.2015, p. 17.
(27) OJ L 317, 15.12.2000, p. 3.
(28) OJ L 287, 4.11.2010, p. 3.
(29) Council Decision 2013/755/EU of 25 November 2013 on the association of the overseas countries and territories with the European Union (‘Overseas Association Decision’) (OJ L 344, 19.12.2013, p. 1).
(30) Communication CAB D(2016) Ares 06675546
(31) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.


Discharge 2015: EU general budget - European Parliament
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section I – European Parliament (2016/2152(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0146A8-0153/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0270/2016)(2),

–  having regard to the report on budgetary and financial management for the financial year 2015, Section I – European Parliament(3),

–  having regard to the Internal Auditor’s annual report for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies(4),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(5) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 314(10) and Article 318 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(6), and in particular Articles 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to the Bureau decision of 16 June 2014 on the Internal Rules on the implementation of the European Parliament’s budget(7), and in particular Article 22 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 and Rule 98(3) of, and Annex IV to, its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0153/2017),

A.  whereas the President adopted Parliament's accounts for the financial year 2015 on 4 July 2016;

B.  whereas the Secretary-General, as principal authorising officer by delegation, certified, on 24 June 2016, his reasonable assurance that the resources assigned for Parliament's budget have been used for their intended purpose, in accordance with the principles of sound financial management and that the control procedures established give the necessary guarantees concerning the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions;

C.  whereas the audit of the Court of Auditors stated that, in its specific assessment of administrative and other expenditure in 2015, it did not identify any serious weaknesses in the examined annual activity reports and internal control systems of the institutions and bodies required by Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012;

D.  whereas Article 166(1) of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 requires each Union institution to take all appropriate steps to act on the observations accompanying Parliament’s discharge decision;

1.  Grants its President discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Parliament for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section I – European Parliament (2016/2152(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section I – European Parliament,

–  having regard to Rule 94 and Rule 98(3) of, and Annex IV to, its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0153/2017),

A.  whereas in his certification of the final accounts, the European Parliament's (“Parliament’s”) accounting officer stated his reasonable assurance that the accounts present a true and fair view of the financial position of Parliament in all material respects and that no issues requiring a reservation have been brought to his attention;

B.  whereas, in accordance with the usual procedure, 129 questions were sent to Parliament's administration and written replies were received and discussed publicly by the Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT), in the presence of the vice-president responsible for the budget, the Secretary-General and the internal auditor;

C.  whereas scrutiny, particularly in the form of the yearly discharge procedure is essential to ensure that Parliament's political leadership and administration are held accountable to citizens in the Union; whereas there is permanent scope for improvement in terms of quality, efficiency, and effectiveness in the management of public finances; whereas the principle of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources should be a core element when executing the budget;

Oversight over Parliament’s budgetary and financial management

1.  Notes that the formal oversight system of Parliament’s budgetary and financial management consists of four main components:

   (a) the certification of the final accounts by Parliament’s accounting officer;
   (b) the annual reports of the internal auditor and his opinion on the internal control system;
   (c) the assessment of administrative and other expenditure for all the Union institutions, including Parliament, by its external auditor, the Court of Auditors (the “Court”); and
   (d) the discharge procedure prepared by CONT resulting in a decision of Parliament on granting the President of Parliament discharge.

2.  Notes that the annual report of the internal auditor contains findings based on specific audit work; aims to improve budgetary and financial management but not to provide a comprehensive picture of Parliament’s budgetary and financial management; notes, similarly, that the Court’s report only represents the results of a small sample (16 transactions) in respect of Parliament’s transactions;

3.  Understands that, in general, the low level of error in respect of the administrative expenditure may account for the relatively little attention paid by the Court to Parliament’s transactions;

4.  Points out, however, that even if the error rate is remarkably low, the reputational risk is relatively high, given that such financial and budgetary errors might impact negatively on the standing of the institution;

5.  Adds that, more recently, as a consequence of the generally felt need for performance based budgeting, discharges should not be confined to detecting irregularities but also include measurement of concrete performance and results and that this too is particularly important in the case of Parliament, since lack of results has a direct impact on the institution’s reputation;

6.  Notes that, against this background, the work undertaken by Parliament in the context of the discharge procedure offers an opportunity to consider more thoroughly the accounts of Parliament’s administration; calls for a strengthening of in-house expertise on accounts and auditing that rapporteurs can make use of in the preparation of their discharge reports;

Parliament’s accounts

7.  Notes that Parliament's final appropriations for 2015 totalled EUR 1 794 929 112, or 19,78 % of heading 5 of the Multiannual Financial Framework(8) set aside for the 2015 administrative expenditure of the Union institutions as a whole, representing a 2,2 % increase compared to the 2014 budget (EUR 1 755 631 742);

8.  Notes that total revenue entered in the accounts as at 31 December 2015 was EUR 176 367 724 (2014: EUR 174 436 852), including EUR 27 988 590 in assigned revenue (2014: EUR 26 979 032);

9.  Points out that four chapters accounted for 71 % of total commitments: Chapter 10 (Members of the institution), Chapter 12 (Officials and temporary staff), Chapter 20 (Buildings and associated costs) and Chapter 42 (Expenditure relating to parliamentary assistance); notes that this indicates that Parliament’s expenditure is characterised by a high level of continuity for the major part linked to remunerations for Members and staff, adjusted according to the Staff Regulations and other contractual obligations;

10.  Notes the figures on the basis of which Parliament's accounts for the financial year 2015 were closed, namely:

(a)  Available appropriations (EUR)

appropriations for 2015:

1 794 929 112

non-automatic carry-overs from financial year 2014:

-

automatic carry-overs from financial year 2014:

277 911 825

appropriations corresponding to assigned revenue for 2015:

27 988 590

carry-overs corresponding to assigned revenue from 2014:

106 077 150

Total:

2 206 906 677

(b)  Utilisation of appropriations in the financial year 2015 (EUR)

commitments:

2 176 992 756

payments made:

1 770 807 099

appropriations carried forward automatically including those arising from assigned revenue:

392 379 176

appropriations carried forward non-automatically:

-

appropriations cancelled:

43 720 402

(c)  Budgetary receipts (EUR)

received in 2015:

176 367 724

(d)  Total balance sheet at 31 December 2015 (EUR)

1 511 058 599

11.  Notes that, in 2015, 99,1 % of the appropriations entered in Parliament’s budget were committed with a cancellation rate of 0,9 % and that, as in previous years, a very high level of budget implementation was achieved;

12.  Draws attention to the fact that the appropriations cancelled totalled EUR 41 422 684 with the bulk of the cancellations made against salaries and expenditure related to buildings;

13.  Notes that the ‘mopping-up’ transfer accounted for EUR 71 000 000, which represents 4 % of the total appropriations transferred from provisional appropriation headings and from other sources, so as to help fund the annual lease payments for the Konrad Adenauer building; urges that Parliament's building policy be laid down with sufficient clarity, as part of the budgetary strategy; considers that level of the 'mopping-up' transfer as very high; is of the firm opinion that an effective management of the budget should reduce this transfer to the bare minimum; calls on the Court, in this connection, to draw up a report on Parliament's building policy;

Court’s opinions on the reliability of the 2015 accounts and on the legality and regularity of the transactions underlying those accounts

14.  Notes that overall audit evidence indicates that the spending on ‘administration’ is not affected by a material level of error, but that on the basis of the seven quantified errors the estimated level of error present under heading 5 of the MFF on administration is 0,6 % (up from 0,5 % in 2014);

15.  Is very concerned about the Court’s finding that of the 151 transactions examined for all the Union institutions, 22 (14,6 %) were affected by error; notes, however, that, of these 22 transactions, only seven errors were quantified, and thus had financial implications, resulting in an estimated level of error of 0,6 %;

16.  Notes, furthermore, the specific findings concerning Parliament contained in the annual report of the Court for 2015; notes that the Court found weaknesses in controls on the authorisation and settlement of expenditure made in 2014; these involved only one out of 16 Parliament transactions that were examined, concerning one or other of the political groups, and those weaknesses were cleared in 2015;

17.  Notes the responses given by Parliament to the Court during the adversarial procedure; asks the Court to keep the responsible committee informed on the implementation of its recommendation to provide better guidance and to review the existing control framework for the implementation of budget appropriations allocated to political groups;

The internal auditor's annual report

18.  Notes that, at the competent open committee meeting with the internal auditor held on 30 January 2017, the internal auditor presented his annual report and described that in 2015 he had adopted reports on the following subjects:

   Follow-up of open actions from internal audit reports;
   Code of conduct on multilingualism;
   IT operational efficiency and performance measurement;
   Financial Management System (FMS);
   Debt recovery process;
   Business continuity management;
   IT data centre inventory and management of external expertise;

19.  Notes and supports the views expressed by the internal auditor concerning the need:

   to draft a reasoned proposal for updating the code of conduct on multilingualism for interpretation services that includes specific provisions on the planning of trilogue-related meetings;
   to improve the regulatory framework applicable to meetings with interpretation, including: better alignment between existing sets of rules; measures to spread demand more evenly over the week and to identify and fill underused slots; underscores the need to reduce the number of meetings cancelled at short notice, since this results in considerable misallocation of resources;
   to draw up relevant criteria and indicative thresholds for starting legal procedures and for waiving debts and submitting these for approval by the principal authorising officer by delegation;
   to establish an adequate governance and policy (including institutional guidance and practical arrangements) for business continuity management;

20.  Notes that, at the end of 2015, after successive follow-up audits, four actions from the review of the internal control framework, all of them “moderate risk”, remain open, one of which had its due-date deferred to 2017 in the context of Parliament’s new financial management system; calls on the internal auditor to keep CONT informed on the progress achieved on those actions;

21.  Asks the Internal Auditor in presenting the annual report, to focus more closely on those aspects where shortcomings and/or irregularities have been encountered; asks also the Internal Auditor to make his reports on follow-up, developments and solutions relating to problems identified in the course of his mandate available to the Committee on Budgetary Control; asks the Secretary-General to introduce procedures for the assessment of performance and results;

Follow-up to the 2014 discharge resolution

22.  Notes the written answers to the 2014 discharge resolution provided to CONT on 20 October 2016 and of the presentation, by the Secretary-General, of the various questions and requests in respect of Parliament's 2014 discharge resolution and of the exchange of views with Members that followed; regrets, however, that many of these applications have not been followed up and that no reason or justification has been given; stresses the importance being able to discuss more frequently with the Secretary-General in CONT issues affecting Parliament's budget and its implementation.

23.  Notes that there was an inconsistency between the dates of presentation of the draft Parliament discharge report and the possible tabling of additional questions to the Secretary-General; asks the Secretary-General to provide replies to the supplementary questions before the deadline for amendments and, if necessary, before the vote in committee is taken;

Parliament's 2015 discharge

24.  Notes the exchange of views between the vice-president responsible for the budget, the Secretary-General and CONT in the presence of the member of the Court and the internal auditor, on 30 January 2017;

25.  Expresses its satisfaction with the commitment of Parliament’s administration to continuously improving the performance of Parliament’s services as a whole and to do so in an efficient manner, although it also considers that it is taking too long in some cases to put the changes into practice;

26.  Notes that Parliament, which costs about EUR 3,60 per citizen per year, does not need to shy away from comparisons with other parliamentary systems, especially since one-third of costs is accounted for by basic factors (multilingualism and number of sites) over which Parliament itself has limited influence and which do not apply to other parliaments in the same way;

27.  Notes, however, that attention paid to performance based budgeting varies between the directorates-general, and is well developed in, for example, the Directorate-General for Finance (DG FINS), but is still at a preliminary stage elsewhere in the administration; calls upon the Secretary-General to ensure that clear, measurable targets are set and monitored throughout the administration;

28.  Notes the Secretary-General’s reply regarding the accessibility of the ePetition application for Members and the general public as well as the Legal Service report; asks the Secretary-General to report on the actions to follow-up the recommendations of the Legal Service;

29.  Welcomes the attention paid by the administration to sustainability, in particular, in the context of public procurement procedures; notes, however, that, with the entry into force of the new directive on public procurement(9), it has become possible to increase the weight of criteria related to social and environmental sustainability relative to the criterion of the lowest price;

30.  Calls upon the Secretary-General to submit a plan of action on how to apply sustainability criteria in Parliament’s public procurement procedures and, in this respect, to include an evaluation of the use made of green public procurement as an instrument;

31.  Acknowledges that, according to the Court, the costs of the geographic dispersion of Parliament amount to EUR 114 million per year and notes the finding, in its resolution of 20 November 2013 on the location of the seats of the European Union’s Institutions(10), that 78 % of all missions by Parliament staff coming under the Staff Regulations arise as a direct result of the fact that Parliament’s services are geographically dispersed; recalls that the estimate of the environmental impact of that dispersal is between 11 000 to 19 000 tonnes of CO2 emissions; calls on the Bureau to request the Secretary-General to develop, without delay, a roadmap for a single seat for Parliament; reiterates its call on Parliament and the Council to address, in order to create long-term savings, the need for a roadmap for a single seat, as stated by Parliament in several previous resolutions; believes that the withdrawal of the UK and the need to reallocate the European Agencies which currently have their seats in the UK could provide an excellent opportunity to solve several issues in the same time; points however to Article 341 TFEU which establishes that the seats of the institutions of the Union shall be determined by common accord of the governments of the Member States and Protocol 6 annexed to the TEU and the TFEU which lays down that Parliament shall have its seat in Strasbourg; recalls that a single-seat solution requires Treaty change;

32.  Recalls the reply by the Administration to Question 75 in the questionnaire concerning the discharge for Parliament for 2013, namely that it had decided to discontinue the ‘practice of long-term missions ..., ... leading to considerable savings’, but views as a major contradiction the fact that 13 members of staff are currently on long-term missions; considers that a long-term mission for a member of staff, involving an expatriation allowance and daily allowances, to a place where that person was already living and working is a reprehensible use of taxpayers’ money and contrary to the Staff Regulations; insists on a clarification of the circumstances of every long-term mission, and in particular on the disclosure of the reasons and costs for that long-term mission;

33.  Recalls that all officials and other servants of the Union, even those who work within cabinets, are to carry out their duties solely with the interests of the Union in mind, according to the rules laid down in the Staff Regulations; points out that Union officials are paid by taxpayers' money, which is not intended to finance press or other staff engaged in promoting any national political interest of a President; calls on the Bureau to lay down clear provisions in Parliament’s regulations;

34.  Notes the decision of the President of 21 October 2015, by which he sought to appoint people to managerial posts within Parliament without observing procedures, and in particular without calls for applications; notes that that decision ‘did not correspond to the rules’ (Administration’s reply in connection with the second questionnaire from CONT; insists that that decision by the President be formally revoked;

35.  Notes that, on 15 December 2015, the President gave himself authority to allocate an uncapped special allowance to his cabinet staffers, over and above the existing cabinet allowance, despite the fact that the Staff Regulations make no provision for such a special allowance; raises again the question of the lawfulness of that authority and the validity of the special allowances; asks for consideration to be given to whether the decision concerned should be revoked;

Management of the subsidy scheme for visitors' groups

36.  Notes the fact that, on 24 October 2016, the Bureau adopted the revised Rules governing the payment of financial contributions for sponsored visitors groups;

37.  Welcomes the fact that this considerably reduces cash payments and introduces mandatory electronic transfers thereby reducing the risks of theft, as well as the reputational risk for Parliament, while still providing for considerable flexibility; supports the Bureau’s intention to evaluate the revised system after one year of implementation; regrets, however, that Parliamentary Assistants can be nominated to receive payments to their personal accounts and to certify the group's expenses; is concerned this places an unnecessary legal and financial responsibility on APAs and exposes them to potential risks; urges the Bureau to reconsider this as a priority;

38.  Deplores the fact that Parliament granted discharge to its President in respect of the implementation of the Parliament’s budget for the financial year 2014 and, at the last minute, deleted important paragraphs, raising further questions concerning the President's political activities and his financial behaviour during the 2014 European elections;

Transparency register and conflict of interest

39.  Welcomes the increasing attention on the part of the media and the public to Parliament and its administration; notes, however, that some journalists find it difficult to obtain the specific information they are looking for; points out that transparency of Parliament and its administration is essential for the legitimacy of the institution and that, always respecting the rules governing the protection of personal data, access to information should be improved;

40.  Calls on the Bureau to publish on Parliament's website the relevant documents submitted to it by the Secretary-General in a machine-readable format, unless the nature of the information contained therein makes this impossible, as is the case, for example, for the protection of personal data;

41.  Stresses the need to make the work of Parliament's internal decision-making bodies, in particular the Bureau, more transparent and accessible; calls for Bureau agendas to be published on the Intranet in good time and for the minutes of meetings to be published much more promptly; observes that it is not necessary to wait until they are translated into all languages;

42.  Recalls the obligation on Members to inform the administration immediately of any change in their declarations of interests;

43.  Asks the Secretary-General to forward this resolution to the Bureau, highlighting all requests for action or decisions by the Bureau; calls on the Secretary-General to establish a plan of action and a timetable enabling the Bureau to follow up and/or respond to the recommendations contained in Parliament’s discharge resolutions and to include the results in the annual monitoring document; asks the Secretary-General to report in good time to the Committee on Budgets and CONT on all projects with a significant budgetary impact that have been submitted to the Bureau;

44.  Believes that Members ought to be able to use Parliament’s website to provide their constituents with the greatest possible transparency on their activities and, therefore, calls upon the Secretary-General to develop a system that Members can use to publish details of their meetings with interest representatives; and urges the Secretary-General to make this possible without further delay, as already requested in Parliament’s 2014 discharge resolution;

45.  Calls on the Bureau to define and publish the rules concerning the use of the general expenditure allowance (GEA);

46.  Notes the low level of awareness, among Members, of the possibility of returning general expenditure allowance surpluses; reminds Members that the GEA does not constitute an additional personal salary; asks the Secretary-General to publicise this possibility as a priority; urges Members to return surpluses at the end of their mandate;

47.  Similarly, calls on the Secretary-General to provide Members who would like to publish on their own websites details of payments to them of any other Parliament allowances , with appropriate data records that can be easily reprocessed;

48.  Calls, further, on the Secretary-General to assist interested political groups in the same way;

49.  Notes that Parliament’s website makes available a range of documents regarding the decision on the recognition of the European political parties and European political foundations alongside details specifying the final funding amount; asks Parliament to request the Commission to present a proposal for a revision of the current Union legal act on the statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations(11), including stricter requirements for the setting up of European political parties and foundations, in order to prevent abuses;

50.  Welcomes the introduction of a special form for rapporteurs where they can indicate which interest representatives had influenced their reports (legislative footprint);

51.  Reiterates its call for Parliament’s administration to produce a report on the use of Parliament’s premises by interest representatives and other external organisations;

52.  Is concerned that the current code of conduct for Members may need to be further improved in order to avoid conflicts of interests paying specific attention to:

   paid side-jobs of Members;
   lobbying activities directed towards the European institutions of former Members while they are entitled to a transition allowance;
   the registration of declarations of Members’ interests;
   the composition and competences of the advisory committee.

Directorate-General for Communication

53.  Welcomes the development of indicators for the performance measurement of Parliament’s communication activities and invites the Secretary-General to devote a separate section on the effectiveness of this new performance-based approach in the field of communication in the 2016 report on Parliament’s activities;

54.  Supports the various programmes aimed at facilitating visits by journalists and citizens who are interested in finding out more about Parliament’s activities;

55.  Reiterates, in this regard, its call in the 2014 discharge where it was noted that Parliament website remained relatively un-user-friendly, difficult to navigate and had not yet incorporated the most recent technological developments, with the result that it was difficult to find relevant information quickly; it was also pointed out that, given the importance of communication with European citizens, the website did not contribute to improving the image of Parliament with the public at large;

56.  Calls on the Directorate-General for Communications (DG COMM) to introduce a more efficient and user-friendly website that incorporates a more efficient website search engine, one that will raise the profile of Parliament with the general public and respond more directly to the needs and interests of citizens; notes that mediocre results only have been obtained, despite the expenditure of considerable resources;

57.  Expresses concern about the effectiveness of Parliament’s communication strategy; calls in this respect for a comprehensive review of the current strategy and, in particular, for a more active approach towards those who are not automatically interested in Parliament’s activities or who may even be sceptical about its functioning; invites the Secretary-General to develop a new strategy to reach out further in order to engage with these citizens too, including by facilitating access to information, to adequately address unjustified prejudices against Parliament, while avoiding unnecessary and costly advertising campaigns;

58.  Underlines the need to modernise the mission of the information offices of Parliament by optimising the use of new communication technologies and patterns and taking advantage of their privileged geographical positions, close to citizens, to further intensify “going local” activities, such as debates organised with Members and civil society, with a view to listening to people and engaging with them; emphasises that online debate and media attention triggered by such events should contribute to increase outreach to citizens still further; notes that building and staff costs for the information offices in the Member States are disproportionately high in relation to the amount of money spent on the key functions of those offices; calls on the Secretary General to present, by the end of 2017, to CONT a detailed activity and financial report on the information offices in the cities of Brussels and Strasbourg respectively, with a special focus on the value that they add;

59.  Is concerned at the replies given to the questions for written response on Parliament's information offices in some Member States, as in most cases only a fraction of their operating costs arise from the real goals and tasks of such offices, whilst the lion's share of the money is spent on office rentals and the salaries and travel expenses of their staff;

60.  Invites the Secretary-General to improve internal communication between the various directorates-general, so that, for instance the development of new important tools such as the legislative train gets known to a wider public, both internal and external;

LUX Prize

61.  Welcomes the joint presentation made to CONT and the Committee on Culture and Education of the survey as requested in the 2013 discharge conducted to determine whether the LUX Prize is well known and how, if at all, it is viewed in their respective Member States and of the findings therein;

62.  Recalls that the survey mainly related to the awareness of the LUX Film Prize among Members and film-makers, on the aim of the Prize, which is to illustrate to citizens Parliament's commitment to consensual values such as human rights and solidarity, as well as its commitment to cultural and linguistic diversity;

63.  Notes that the survey had a low response rate, just 18 % of Parliament’s constituent Members, corresponding to 137 Members from all political groups and Member States, and that, among those Members, more than 90 % were aware of the LUX Film Prize, 75 % understood its purpose and more than 80 % have a positive image of it.

64.  Is not convinced of the selection method, by which Members decide about the nominations and the final election of the Prize winner, and invites the Bureau to report on alternative models for obtaining the desired results, for example, by supporting a comparable initiative taken by film-makers’ organisations themselves;

65.  Notes that, although during the years the amount of spectators has increased, a number of 43 000 within the Union is still very low and raises the question whether the Lux Prize is justifiable;

House of European History

66.  Regrets the repeated delays of the opening of the House of European History, which was originally planned for March 2016, was subsequently delayed till September and November 2016 and is now scheduled to take place on 6 May 2017;

67.  Notes with concern the on-going discussions on the nature of its temporary exhibitions; emphasises the importance of the academic independence of the House of European History in terms of exhibition content and design, these being determined exclusively by museological and historical criteria;

68.  Is pleased that, according to estimates, the House of European History will welcome 250 000 visitors a year; points out that the annual operating costs of this facility are estimated in advance at EUR 13,3 million; expresses its concern at the proportionally low number of visitors compared to the high operating costs, bearing in mind that, in 2015, Parliament welcomed 326 080 visitors, and that the operating cost was just EUR 4,3 million;

69.  Notes that with the establishment of the Parlamentarium and the opening of the House of European History, the Parliament and its surroundings are becoming a citizens' and tourist attraction that will bring about a better knowledge of the role of Parliament and illustrate for citizens Parliament's commitment to consensual values such as human rights and solidarity; requests that the Bureau consider entering into a dialogue with the local authorities to see how the latter can contribute to the financing and management of the House of European History;

70.  Calls on the Bureau to consider adapting the management of the House of European History to a more inter-institutional approach, exploring further cooperation with other institutions of the Union, especially the Commission and the Council;

71.  Welcomes the Commission decision to contribute EUR 800 000 a year to the operating costs of the House of European History; considers, however, that the Commission should contribute a much higher proportion of the estimated annual operating costs;

Directorate-General for Personnel (DG PERS)

72.  Notes that, by 31 December 2015, a total of 5 391 officials and temporary staff were employed within the Secretariat (an increase of 96 compared with 31 December 2014) and a total of 771 officials and temporary staff were employed within the political groups (an increase of 26 compared with 31 December 2014); notes that, together with contract agents, DG PERS was responsible for 9 402 staff (an increase of 467 compared with 31 December 2014);

73.  Notes that at 1 January 2015, 47 posts were deleted from Parliament’s establishment plan in accordance with the 2014 revision of the Staff Regulations and the MFF for 2014-2020, leaving the total establishment plan at 6 739 posts of which 5 723 (84,9 %) were for the secretariat and 1 016 (15,1 %) for the political groups; notes that, on 31 December 2015, 4,9 % of the posts in the secretariat were vacant, compared to 9,6 % at the end of 2014;

74.  Welcomes the fact that the gender balance of the directors-general improved from 18,2  % / 81,8 % in 2014 to 33,3 % / 66,7 % in 2015, but notes that the gender balance of directors fell from 34 % / 66 %,in 2014, to 31,1 % / 68,9 %, in 2015; recalls that the absolute majority of the Parliament staff is composed of women but that women are in a limited part of the managerial posts; notes that the gender balance in heads of unit continued to improve from 30 % / 70 %, at the end of 2014, to 31,2 % / 68,8 %, at the end of 2015; emphasises that imbalances for managerial posts therefore persist and that an equal opportunities programme for these posts remains of the utmost importance; is of the firm opinion that Parliament should have at least 40 % of women in managerial posts by 2019;

75.  Expresses its surprise that Parliament’s advisory committee on the appointment of senior officials consists solely of higher management and invites the Secretary-General to include a representative of a staff association;

76.  Emphasises that geographical balance, namely the relationship between the numbers of staff having a particular nationality and the size of population of their corresponding Member States, should still remain an important element of resources management particularly with respect to the Member States that have acceded to the Union since 2004, welcomes the fact that Parliament has reached an overall balanced composition of officials from the Member States which joined the Union before and since 2004; but points out that these Member States still represent only 3 % of staff at "higher administrator" (AD12-16) level at the three places of work, compared to their share of the population of the Union, which is 21 %, and that progress on this is still awaited;

77.  Recognises that, for certain activities, such as running the canteens and cleaning, outsourcing has been Parliament’s preferred option and that, as a consequence, for certain DG’s, the number of external staff on Parliament’s premises may even exceed the number of officials;

78.  Notes, however, that such outsourcing decisions cannot provide an explanation for the use of all external staff and that, for example in the Directorate-General Innovation and Technological Support ((DG ITEC), the ratio between external staff and officials is difficult to explain;

79.  Expresses the opinion that external staff should not be used to compensate for the reduction of the number of posts as agreed in the context of the 2014 revision of the Staff Regulations and the current MFF;

80.  Notes the Secretary-General's replies regarding the conditions for external contracting by Parliament; emphasises that the administration must carefully and systematically ensure strict compliance by service providers with employment, safety and welfare legislation etc. applicable to all external staff working on Parliament premises, such as canteen, cleaning and maintenance staff etc.; calls on Parliament to introduce regular alert and monitoring mechanisms for the prevention and detection of any isolated or systematic cases of negligence, abuse or infringement, enabling it to take immediate action;

81.  Notes that the procedure for bringing Parliament's security guard service in-house is complete and that the procedure for doing the same for the drivers' service is on-going; calls on the Secretary-General to report to CONT on what has been learnt from these procedures and any savings that have been made as a result;

82.  Notes with concern that canteen personnel are not paid in accordance with the hours in their contract for weeks when Members work elsewhere, such as. constituency weeks or plenary sessions in Strasbourg and that a considerable number are assigned short-time work, affecting their employment and earnings; calls on the Secretary-General to come up with a solution in negotiation with the canteen service provider that guarantees the employees regular hours and payments every week;

83.  Notes that, at the end of 2015, there were 1 813 accredited parliamentary assistants (APAs) working at Parliament, compared to 1 686 a year before; calls for special consideration of the rights of APAs and local assistants, as their contracts are directly linked to the mandate of the Members they support, bearing in mind that APAs are members of staff holding Parliament employment contracts, while local assistants are subject to various national legislations;

84.  Regrets that the evaluation report on the application of the provisions governing APAs was not submitted to CONT before the end of 2016, as called for in the resolution on the 2014 discharge, and that it still has not been submitted;

85.  Points out that, in cases of harassment or whistleblowing, APAs are in a particularly vulnerable position, as their contracts are based on mutual trust between the Member and his or her assistant; notes that, if this trust is lacking, this in itself is a reason for terminating the contract; notes, furthermore, that if the Member has to resign as a result of reputational damage arising from a criminal offence or other violation of law, this normally means that the contracts of all his or her assistants will also be terminated; calls, therefore, for the immediate strengthening of the representation of APAs in the advisory committee on harassment, ensuring that there is a gender balance, as already requested in the context of the 2013 and 2014 discharges; calls on the Bureau to assign appropriate funds to cover the travel and subsistence expenses of APA claimants, who often don’t have the necessary means to come to Brussels to attend in person and state their case to the harassment committee; calls also for the possibility of financial compensatory measures for APAs to be considered in the next revision of the Staff Regulations in order to ensure equal treatment of APAs and recognition of their particular vulnerability in cases of harassment or whistleblowing;

86.  Welcomes the intention of the administration to launch the process for adaptation of the flat rate allowances for Strasbourg missions received by APAs, which are significantly lower than those for permanent officials; emphasises that this adaptation should be based on transparent calculation methodology and that it should be in direct correlation with the recent upwards revision of allowances and accommodation ceilings for permanent officials; also emphasises that automatic indexation of the allowances for future revisions should be introduced;

87.  Deplores the fact that the Bureau has not responded to the requests made by Parliament in its 2013 and 2014 discharge Resolutions to apply to APAs the same daily allowances than the other staff; asks the Secretary General to provide, before any changes are implemented, an estimation of the additional cost which would arise through this adjustment; meanwhile underlines that the current mission reimbursements ceilings for APAs have not been adjusted since 2009 and that the discrepancy between APAs and other staff has further increased up to at least 40% following the introduction of new ceilings approved by the Council on 9 September 2016 and so far applied , from 10 September 2016 only to officials; calls, therefore, on the Bureau to take the necessary measures to remedy this inequality;

88.  Deeply regrets the fact that the employment period of an APA in the case of death or resignation of his or her Member ceases at the end of the relevant calendar month; emphasises that this could mean that an APA would not have a single day of notice if the Member's term of office happens to end on the final day of a given month; calls for this unacceptable situation to be resolved in the next revision of the Staff Regulations, by linking notice periods to a defined period of time, such as four weeks, rather than to calendar months; further calls on the Bureau to swiftly introduce temporary measures that could provide a provisional solution to this problem before such legal revision takes place;

89.  Is concerned about the alleged practice of Members obliging APAs to undertake missions, particularly to Strasbourg, without mission orders, without mission costs or simply without travel costs; is of opinion that such a practice leaves room for abuse: where APAs travel without a mission order they not only have to pay for the costs by their own means, they are also not covered by workplace insurance ; calls on the Bureau make sure that the Staff Regulations are properly implemented and to penalise Members who breach the rules;

90.  Notes that trainees are entitled to a discount of EUR  0,50 on main dishes in all the self-service restaurants in Brussels and Luxembourg EUR 0,80 in Strasbourg; considers, however, that, taking into account their average pay levels and the high prices charged over the last two years, these discounts are not sufficient to have even a minimal impact on their finances; calls on the Secretary-General to grant price reductions in line with their earnings;

91.  Calls on the Bureau to ensure that social and pension rights are guaranteed for APAs that have worked with no interruption for the last two legislative parliamentary terms; in this regard, invites the administration to put forward a proposal that takes into account the decision to have early elections in 2014 and the time spent in the recruitment procedure, when calculating the 10 year service period required by the Staff Regulations;

92.  Calls on the Conference of Presidents to reconsider the possibility for APAs, at certain conditions to be set, to accompany Members in official Parliament Delegations and Missions, as already requested by several Members.

93.  Calls on the Secretary-General and the Bureau to look into and resolve problems arising mainly from the last change of term in relation to APAs (as delays in signing contracts, interruption of contracts, early European elections, etc.) which can have serious consequences on future acquisition labour rights of APAs; ask APAs' representatives to be involved in the search for solutions;

94.  Asks the Parliament, in the interests of equal opportunities and respect for employment rights, to adopt guidelines on attribution of a grade to APAs and to develop corresponding clear job descriptions, responsibilities and tasks for each function group;

95.  Notes that in 2015 the number of terminations of service of staff was 154, of which 126 were retirements, 13 invalidities, nine resignations and six deaths; invites the Secretary-General to strictly enforce the fourth paragraph of Article 16 of the Staff Regulations on potential conflicts of interest after termination of service in Parliament, in particular in cases of resignation, as it is striking that no cases of potential conflicts of interest have ever been published;

96.  Notes with concern that no special arrangements have been made for staff in the event that a Member State decides to leave the Union; whilst recognising that this issue is relevant to all European institutions, invites the Secretary-General to engage in dialogue with the Commission in order to ensure that British staff do not become victims of Brexit, and that their statutory, contractual and acquired rights are fully safeguarded;

97.  Calls for a more efficient organisation of training courses in order to adapt them to the specific needs of APAs; calls, in particular, for the administration to take into account the calendar of parliamentary and MEP's activities and define tailored timetables and specific topics.

98.  Points to the fact that 43 % of Parliament’s staff considers that teleworking would have a positive effect on their job satisfaction; emphasises that Parliament is the only institution that has not introduced teleworking and a flexitime system, while both have been present for many years in most of the other institutions, including the Commission, with proven results in terms of increased productivity and better quality of life for members of staff; notes that Parliament introduced occasional teleworking in October 2016; asks the Secretary-General to report to all interested services, including Members and their assistants, on the implementation of this service; calls also for the 'flexitime' system to be incorporated as soon as possible into Parliament’s working practices;

99.  Calls on Parliament to change its rules governing internships offered by MEPs and political groups in order to improve the situation of interns and trainees in Parliament, including decent remuneration, the fixing of a limited duration of traineeships and a learning agreement.

DG FINS

Contracts awarded by the Parliament

100.  Notes with satisfaction that Parliament publishes a complete annual list on its website of all those of its contractors who obtained contracts with a value of more than EUR 15 000, and that that list includes the name and address of the contractor, the type and subject of the contract, its duration, its value, the procedure followed and the relevant directorate-general;

101.  Points out that this list goes beyond the transparency requirements set out in the Financial Regulation; encourages all the Union institutions to make available full information on all contractors and contracts awarded through public procurement, including cases of direct awarding or restricted procedures;

102.  Supports the Court’s conclusion that the Union institutions need to set up a single public repository of information related to their procurement contracts in order to allow effective transparency and ex post monitoring of their procurement activities;

103.  Points out that, despite previous calls for improvement, the service offered by Parliament's travel agency remains unsatisfactory, since prices are relatively high and the agency has failed to negotiate agreements with the major airlines to secure better rates and more flexibility when making travel arrangements;

104.  Calls on the agency to actively seek to offer lower prices whatever the airline in question; requests that the agency introduces a feedback process (user satisfaction surveys) with a view to identifying areas in which further progress might be made;

Voluntary Pension Fund

105.  Notes that the voluntary pension fund increased its estimated actuarial deficit to EUR 276,8 million at the end of 2015; further notes that at the end of 2015, the amount of net assets to be taken into account and the actuarial commitment amount to EUR 155,5 million and EUR 432,3 million respectively;

106.  Recalls that these projected future liabilities are spread over several decades but notes that the total amount paid in 2015 by the voluntary pension fund amounts to EUR 15,8 million;

107.  Points out that this raises concerns about the possible exhaustion of the fund and that Parliament is the guarantor for the payment of pension rights when and if this fund is unable to meet its obligations;

108.  Calls once again on the Bureau to make an assessment as soon as possible of the current situation of the Pension Fund;

109.  Recalls Paragraph 112 of last year's discharge resolution(12) that calls for an assessment of the current situation of the pension fund; regrets that such an assessment has not yet been delivered;

110.  Recalls that the Court of Justice ruled in 2013 that the decision to increase the age of retirement for Fund subscribers from 60 to 63 years in order to avoid the early exhaustion of the capital and to align it with the new statute for Members was valid;

111.  Considers that, whereas national pension funds normally have to meet strict standards and are not allowed to have any actuarial deficit at all, the voluntary pension fund is now facing an actuarial deficit of 64 % of the actuarial commitment, calls on the Secretary-General to present the Bureau with a comprehensive plan of action to avoid the early exhaustion of the fund;

Other matters

112.  Regrets the fact that, in selecting the financial institutions that Parliament deals with for its payments and accounts, no attention is paid to the policies of these institutions in respect of corporate social responsibility and calls on the Secretary-General to make sure that, in future, Parliament primarily deals with financial institutions that have investment policies that focus on sustainability and other aspects of corporate social responsibility;

113.  Emphasises that in 2015 Parliament had on average EUR 106.25 million on bank accounts raising no interest income whatsoever; invites the Secretary-General to examine whether it is necessary to have such a high amount of liquidity and in particular, invites him to improve treasury management in this respect and, if possible, to find ways of increasing the returns on such deposits;

DG ITEC

114.  Is satisfied with the implementation of DG ITEC’s strategic orientations 2014-2019; considers that many changes in the electronic working environment for Members and staff are being implemented, but that the implications of these changes, including new opportunities, are relatively little known and are being developed mainly inside DG ITEC; calls for closer co-operation between DG ITEC and DG COMM to improve internal and external communication concerning the many innovations that have been or will soon be implemented;

115.  Understands the efforts of DG ITEC to improve the number of hits for Parliament’s webpages in the context of Google’s search engine; is, however, also of the opinion that the search engine on Parliament’s webpage itself should lead to meaningful results, so that users can actually use the portal of the site to quickly get to the relevant webpages; is concerned that, at the moment, this search engine does not function properly, and invites the Secretary-General to find a quick solution for this long-standing problem;

116.  Notes, with concern, that, despite the fact that, within the remit of DG ITEC, expenses incurred on an annual basis for the acquisition of new hardware amount to more than EUR 35 million, there is no clear policy for environmental and social sustainable procurement and invites the Secretary-General to develop an action plan in this regard to make sure that in the future all calls for tender include environmental and social selection criteria of hardware;

117.  Calls on DG ITEC to make all Parliament's web pages accessible to portable devices, since, even though a large proportion of visitors to the pages use an iPad or mobile phone to access the sites of Parliament and the specialised committees, the current interfaces cannot be considered to be compatible with portable devices; proposes the implementation of measures to improve, tangibly and within a reasonable time-frame, the accessibility of the web pages to portable devices;

118.  Finds it essential for the mandate of the Members that printers remain in their offices; points out that cheap generic cartridges may possibly lead to dangerous levels of emissions of particles and to health damages; calls, therefore, for measures to be taken by DG ITEC and Directorate-General for Infrastructure and Logistics (DG INLO) to promote the procurement of eco-friendly printers and to ensure the sole use of original cartridges, whilst creating options for Members and their staff to have printers located strategically near but not inside their offices;

119.  Notes the adoption by the Bureau on 7 September 2015 of an information and communications technology systems security policy (“ICT security policy”) ; stresses that, in the current global context, a considerably more robust ICT security policy that fully addresses the management of risks associated with cyber security urgently needs to be implemented; welcomes in this regard the appointment of a cyber security officer of Parliament;

120.  Reiterates the call in its 2014 discharge resolution for the creation of an emergency rapid alert system which allows DG ITEC, in collaboration with the Directorate-General for Security and Safety (DG SAFE), to send swift communications by SMS or e-mail to Members and staff that agree to their contact details being included on a communication list for use in specific emergency situations;

121.  Commends DG ITEC for rolling out Wi-Fi throughout Parliament’s buildings; notes, however, the Wi-Fi in the hemicycle in Strasbourg is unreliable , especially when, during voting sessions and key debates, many Members use the system simultaneously; calls on the Secretary-General to take the necessary remedial measures in this respect;

Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union

122.  Welcomes the fact that certain public meetings of inter-parliamentary delegations are already being broadcast by web-streaming; asks the Secretary-General to continue developing and expanding this service, together with the content of the delegations’ web pages;

DG INLO

123.  Notes that the 2010 – medium term building strategy is currently being revised; calls for that strategy to be extended to cover a longer-term perspective, and for it to include a case study of the likely consequences of Brexit;

124.  Welcomes the fact that from 2019 onwards, the amount of office space for Members and their assistants in Strasbourg will increase; calls on the Secretary-General to ensure that, as long as no single-seat solution has been found for the working place of Parliament, the minimum amount of square meters per assistant in accordance with the current rules on labour conditions, will be guaranteed, since Parliament’s position on this issue is vulnerable, as it deliberately disrespects those rules on the minimum amount of office space;

125.  Deeply regrets the decision to change the furniture in the offices of Members and their assistants in Brussels and calls for this to be halted immediately; notes that most of the furniture is perfectly serviceable and presentable, and that there is therefore absolutely no need to change it; considers that feedback from a number of Members – as opposed to a general survey – is not, on its own, sufficient justification for the change, while arguments put forward by the administration on matters of taste, fashion or outdated style are equally inadequate; individual items of furniture should only be changed if there are clear signs of deterioration, major wear and tear or health risk at the workplace of a specific or general nature (such as the possible development of more ergonomic office chairs); points out that, at a time of economic crisis, resulting in our current straitened financial circumstances, such concern with external appearances might seriously compromise the credibility of Parliament and its Members, in particular in the eyes of citizens and public opinion;

126.  Recognises that, in accordance with the Bureau decisions of 2013 and 2015, the new catering contracts do not provide for any direct subsidies from Parliament’s budget; is concerned, however, that certain services were offered at higher than market prices in 2015; refers, in this respect, to the coffee service during meetings; notes prices were revised in August 2016;

127.  Regrets deeply the arbitrary, subjective and disproportionate criteria used for the recruitment of drivers and the internalisation of this service initiated in 2016 for safety reasons; regrets that the procedure did not take into account the skills and experience acquired by drivers during years of work in direct contact with Members and the relationship of trust established with them and the fact that they then found themselves unemployed, many of them already at an age at which it is difficult to find work;

Directorate-General for Interpretation and Conferences (DG INTE)

128.  Is concerned about the problematic social dialogue between DG INTE and the representatives of interpreters, which started in January 2014 and which, to date, has produced no agreement; calls on the Secretary-General to initiate a mediation between the parties involved to improve the mutual understanding of the positions and to find solutions that are agreeable to all;

129.  Expresses its satisfaction with the progress that has already been achieved in the modernisation process of DG INTE, notably with respect to the enhanced availability of interpreters, the moderate increase in the number of hours interpreters spend delivering interpretation and the improved distribution of interpreter workloads; notes that the calculation method with regard to statistics has been clarified and that all annual leave and sick leave have now been excluded from the calculation of the average number of hours spent by interpreters in the booth;

130.  Requests information from the Secretary-General regarding the measures that have been taken since the adoption of the resolution on the discharge on the budget 2014 to achieve more resource efficiency and effectiveness in the organisation of meetings by streamlining conference management in Parliament;

DG SAFE

131.  Welcomes the continuous efforts to work on safety and security in and around Parliament’s premises ; acknowledges that safety within Parliament must seek to achieve a delicate balance between taking a number of protective measures into account, and introducing an overly security conscious regime that slows down the activity of Parliament; nevertheless, insists that Parliament’s security should be further reinforced, and calls on the Secretary-General to ensure that staff are correctly trained and able to perform their tasks professionally, including in emergency situations;

132.  Calls on the Secretary-General to ensure that cooperation with the other Institutions of the Union is actively pursued, along with cooperation with the Belgian, French and Luxemburgish authorities.

133.  Calls on DG ITEC and DG SAFE to reinforce cyber-defence capabilitiesin light of the increased threat of cyber-attacks in recent months;

Environment-friendly Parliament

134.  Recalls that the Bureau launched the Environmental management system (EMAS) project in Parliament on 19 April 2004; notes that a revised environmental policy was adopted by the Bureau in 2016 that retains and reaffirms the commitment of Parliament to continuous environmental improvement;

135.  Welcomes the installation of the inter-institutional helpdesk on green public procurement, which is now to be fully implemented by setting clear targets in the field, as well as stepping up efforts in internal information, promotion and effective governance on green public procurement; underlines also the fact that sub-contracted service providers must equally comply with the rules; deplores the high use of plastic bottles, cups, containers and packaging in Parliament in this respect;

136.  Bears in mind that Parliament committed itself to making a 30 % reduction per FTE of its CO2 emissions by 2020 compared to 2006; commends the fact that, between 2006 and 2015, this indicator fell by approximately 24,3 %;

137.  Considers it to be of the utmost importance, therefore, that Parliament set itself new, more challenging, quantitative targets, and that those targets should be regularly measured by the responsible services; notes, in this regard, the Bureau 2015 decision to offset the total amount of Parliament's carbon emissions, including emissions from flights by Members between their country of origin and Parliament's working places;

138.  Reminds Parliament of its commitment under Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency which stipulates that it will, "without prejudice to applicable budgetary and procurement rules, undertake to apply the same requirements to the buildings they own and occupy as those applicable to the buildings of Member States' central government under Articles 5 and 6" thereof, due to the high visibility of the buildings and the leading role that it should play with regard to the energy performance of buildings; underlines the urgency of compliance with this declaration, not at least for its own credibility in the currently ongoing revisions of the energy performance of buildings and the energy efficiency directives;

139.  Calls on the Bureau to study an incentive scheme for promoting more sustainable and efficient transport for home-work commuting;

140.  Welcomes Parliament’s initiative with regard to the implementation of a comprehensive policy to reduce food waste; calls on Parliament to ensure that food waste is actively prevented by all the catering providers in all the premises of Parliament; calls on Parliament to intensify the practice of donation of unsold food for charity purposes;

141.  Assumes that the introduction of an efficient meeting room reservation system and a facility management register can bring into play considerable potential as regards Parliament’s costs and environmental efforts, and calls on the Secretary-General to take that approach forward, accordingly;

Political Groups (budget item 4 0 0)

142.  Notes that, in 2015, the appropriations entered under budget item 4 0 0, attributed to the political groups and non-attached Members were used as follows:

Group

2015

2014**

Annual appropriations

Own resources and carried-over appropriations

Expenditure

Rate of use of annual appropriations

Amounts carried over to next period

Annual appropriations

Own resources and carried-over appropriations

Expenditure

Rate of use of annual appropriations

Amounts carried over to next period (2011)

EPP

17 440

10 198

17 101

98,06 %

8 720

19 919

7 908

17 796

89,34 %

9 960

S&D

15 256

5 748

15 379

100,81 %

5 625

15 619

4 653

14 850

95,07 %

5 422

ECR

5 959

1 614

5 065

84,99 %

2 509

5 014

1 060

4 476

105,43 %

1 598

ALDE

5 692

2 517

5 865

103,03 %

2 344

6 214

1 774

5 491

88,35 %

2 498

GUE/NGL

4 305

1 256

3 832

89,02 %

1 729

3 527

417

2 689

76,62 %

1 255

Greens/EFA

4 153

1 293

3 890

93,67 %

1 556

4 292

1 389

4 396

88,41 %

1 287

EFDD

3 843

1 643

3 629

94,45 %

1 856

3 231

1 142

2 708

88,83 %

1 615

ENF

1 587

0

827

52,09 %

760

 

 

 

 

 

Non-attached Members

1 627

533

1 001

61,51 %

214

1 991

441

1 281

64,32 %

533

Total

59 860

24 803

56 588

94,53 %

25 312

59 807

18 784

53 687

89,76 %

24 168

* all amounts in thousands of EUR

** 2014 consisted of two financial years due to parliamentary elections in May 2014. The figures for 2014 in the table represent the consolidated amounts.

143.  Recalls that the Court recommended in its annual report that Parliament “review the existing control framework for the implementation of budget appropriations allocated to political groups and in addition, that Parliament provide better guidance through reinforced monitoring on the application by the groups of the rules for authorisation and settlement of expenditure, and for procurement procedures”

European Political Parties and European Political Foundations

144.  Notes that, in 2015, the appropriations entered under budget item 4 0 2 were used as follows(13):

Party

Abbreviation

Own resources*

EP grant

Total revenue

EP grant as % of eligible expenditure (max. 85 %)

Revenue surplus (transfer to reserves) or loss

European People's Party

EPP

1 926

8 053

12 241

85 %

363

Party of European Socialists

PES

1 246

5 828

8 024

85 %

40

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party

ALDE

561

2 093

2 789

85 %

90

European Green Party

EGP

480

1 666

2 245

85 %

83

Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists

AECR

395

1 952

2 401

85 %

8

Party of the European Left

EL

372

1 484

2 044

85 %

71

European Democratic Party

EDP/PDE

120

457

577

85 %

0

EUDemocrats

EUD

55

292

370

85 %

3

European Free Alliance

EFA

127

636

845

85 %

0

European Christian Political Movement

ECPM

87

461

560

85 %

4

European Alliance for Freedom

EAF

94

494

588

85 %

7

Alliance of European National Movements

AENM

53

292

399

85 %

0

Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedom

MENF

161

401

562

85%

0

Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe

ADDE

250

821

1.070

85 %

-403

Movement for a

Europe of Liberties

and Democracy

MELD

91

44

226

85 %

-208

Total

 

6 017

24 974

34 943

85 %

59

(*) all amounts in thousands EUR

145.  Notes that in 2015 the appropriations entered under budget item 4 0 3 were used as follows(14):

Foundation

Abbreviation

Affiliated to party

Own resources*

EP grant

Total revenue

EP grant as % of eligible expenditure (max. 85 %)

Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies

WMCES

EPP

949

4 725

5 674

85 %

Foundation for European Progressive Studies

FEPS

PES

847

3 848

4 695

85 %

European Liberal Forum

ELF

ALDE

183

880

1 063

85 %

Green European Foundation

GEF

EGP

163

914

1 077

85 %

Transform Europe

TE

EL

159

847

1 066

85 %

Institute of European Democrats

IED

PDE

47

284

331

85 %

Centre Maurits Coppieters

CMC

EFA

57

241

298

85 %

New Direction - Foundation for European Reform

ND

AECR

323

1 100

1 423

85 %

European Foundation for Freedom

EFF

EAF

47

268

315

85 %

Organisation For European Interstate Cooperation

OEIC

EUD

33

132

165

85 %

Christian Political Foundation for Europe

CPFE

ECPM

51

267

318

85 %

Foundation for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy

FELD

MELD

50

248

298

85 %

Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe

IDDE

ADDE

144

673

817

85 %

European Identities and Traditions

EIT

AENM

32

169

201

85 %

Total

 

 

3 085

14 596

17 681

85 %

(*) all amounts in thousands EUR.

 

 

 

 

 

 

146.  Notes with concern that, in the cases of the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, the Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy, the Initiative for Direct Democracy in Europe and the Foundation for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy major irregularities have been detected, relating to prohibited direct or indirect financing of national parties and to donations;

147.  Expresses its concern about the reputational risk for Parliament any such irregularities constitute and is convinced of the need for quick and effective action to prevent and address any similar irregularities in the future; considers however that these irregularities are limited to a limited number of political parties and foundations; is of the opinion that these irregularities should not question the financial management of the other political parties and foundations;

148.  Is aware of the new regulations, namely Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1141/2014 and Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1142/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2014(15), which will start to affect the funding of European political parties and foundations for the financial year 2018, and of the important role of the newly established Authority for European political parties and European political foundations, as well as of the on-going discussions in the Bureau of the proposals of the Secretary-General to address a number of issues not resolved by those Regulations; calls on Parliament's internal auditor to make a new audit report on the financing of the European political parties and foundations as soon as possible after the entry into force of the new Regulation;

149.  Considers it to be essential in this respect to look into any deficiencies in the current system of internal and external controls in respect of the avoidance of major irregularities; notes the declarations of the external accountant, EY, that its audits are aimed at obtaining a reasonable assurance that the annual accounts are free of material misstatements and that the entity has complied with in scope of rules and regulations, and that they include examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the opinion; notes, however, that the examinations do not include investigations of possible fraudulent statements and documents, and therefore provide only for a somewhat limited insight in the financial activities examined;

150.  Notes the scarce human resources (effectively 2 FTEs) in DG FINS devoted to checking the accounts of European political parties and foundations; is of the firm opinion that considering the high reputational risk involved, more resources could be devoted to this activity;

151.  Calls on the Bureau, in so far as the principle of confidentiality allows it, to facilitate access to the underlying documents contained in the final reports of European political parties and foundations and, in particular the accounts and the audits undertaken;

152.  Requests the new established Authority to submit a progress report to Parliament after its first year of activity, namely 2017; and calls on the Secretary-General to ensure that the authority will have at his disposal all necessary resources to fulfil its tasks;

(1) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(2) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 354, 27.9.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 1.
(5) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 10.
(6) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(7) PE 422.541/Bur.
(8) Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020 (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884).
(9) Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on public procurement and repealing Directive 2004/18/EC (OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 65).
(10) OJ C 436, 24.11.2016, p. 2.
(11) Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1141/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2014 on the statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations (OJ L 317, 4.11.2014, p. 1).
(12) OJ L 246, 14.9.2016, p. 3.
(13) Notes: all amounts in thousands of EUR Note (1) : total revenue includes previous year’s carry-over in accordance with Article 125(6) of the Financial Regulation
(14) Notes: all amounts in thousand EUR
(15) Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1142/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2014 amending Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 as regards the financing of European political parties (OJ L 317, 4.11.2014, p. 28).


Discharge 2015: EU general budget – European Council and Council
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section II – European Council and Council (2016/2153(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0147A8-0131/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0271/2016)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies(3),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(4) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 314(10) and Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(5), and in particular Articles 55, 99, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0131/2017),

1.  Postpones its decision on granting the Secretary-General of the Council discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Council and of the Council for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court of Auditors, the European Ombudsman, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the European External Action Service, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section II – European Council and Council (2016/2153(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section II – European Council and Council,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0131/2017),

A.  whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, Parliament stresses the special importance of further strengthening of the democratic legitimacy of the Union institutions through improving on transparency and accountability, implementing the concept of the performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources;

1.  Notes that on the basis of its audit work, the Court of Auditors (the “Court”) concluded that the payments as a whole for the year ended on 31 December 2015 for administrative and other expenditure of the institutions and bodies were free from material error;

2.  Notes with satisfaction that in its annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2015 (“the Court’s report”), the Court observed that no significant weaknesses had been identified in respect of the audited topics related to human resources and procurement for the European Council and Council;

3.  Notes that in 2015, the European Council and the Council had an overall budget of EUR 541 791 500 (EUR 534 202 300 in 2014), with an implementation rate of 92,6 %;

4.  Takes note of the increase of EUR 7,6 million (+ 1,4 %) in the Council's budget for 2015;

5.  Notes the publication by the General Secretariat of the Council (GSC) of the annual activity reports of the Legal Service, the Communication and Document Management and the Administration directors-general;

6.  Takes note of the explanations provided in the Administration annual activity report on structural underspending; yet is concerned that the underspending rate continues to be high in certain categories; encourages the development of key performance indicators to improve budgetary planning;

7.  Maintains its concern with the very high number of appropriations being carried over from 2015 to 2016, particularly those on property, plant and equipment;

8.  Reiterates that the budget of the European Council and the Council should be separated in order to contribute to the transparency of the financial management of the institutions and to improve the accountability of both institutions;

9.  Asks for the overview of human resources to be broken down by category, grade, sex, nationality and vocational training;

10.  Emphasises that geographical balance, namely the relationship between staff nationality and the size of Member States, should still remain an important element of resources management particularly with respect to the Member States that have acceded to the Union since 2004; welcomes the fact that the European Council and the Council have reached an overall balanced composition of officials from the Member States which joined the Union before and since 2004, but points out that Member States which acceded to the Union in 2004 or after are still under-represented at the higher level of administration and in managerial posts, for which progress is still awaited;

11.  Notes the existence of a gender balance policy in the GSC; welcomes the positive trend of gender balance in management; calls on the Council, however, to further strengthen its efforts, pointing to the fact that the level of gender balance in the management posts still reached only 30 % / 70 % by the end of 2015;

12.  Welcomes the information regarding the occupational activities of former senior officials of the GSC after leaving the service(6) in the year 2015; supports the full transparency and publication of such information every year;

13.  Notes with great concern that the GSC in 2015 had still not implemented internal whistleblowing rules, as remarked by the Ombudsman; calls on the Council to implement internal whistleblowing rules without further delay;

14.  Observes the Council’s establishment plan to comply with the inter-institutional agreement to reduce staff by 5 % over a period of five years; asks to be informed how this reduction tallies with the creation of 19 new posts; suggests that the Council report back to Parliament on the possible alternative savings achieved to compensate for the delay in the reduction of staff;

15.  Takes note of the Directorate-General Administration’s reorganisation to improve its quality and efficiency; expects this reform to have a positive impact on the implementation of the Council’s budget;

16.  Is concerned at the delivery delay of the Europa building; asks to be informed of the financial impact of the postponement;

17.  Reiterates its call for the Council's building policy to be provided to the discharge authority; reminds the Council of Parliament's call for progress reports on building projects and a detailed breakdown of the costs incurred to date;

18.  Notes with satisfaction that the GSC obtained the eco-dynamic enterprise label in 2015 and EMAS certification in 2016 for its efficient environment management;

State of play

19.  Takes note of the secretary-general of the Council’s official reply to the invitation of Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control to attend the exchange of views with the secretary-generals of the other institutions; observes that the reply simply reiterates the Council position on the exchange of financial information already expressed in the past; notes that the written questionnaire sent to the GSC on 17 November 2016 with questions from the Members remained unanswered;

20.  Reiterates that the Council ought to be transparent and fully accountable to Union citizens for the funds entrusted to it as a Union institution; stresses that this implies that the Council must take part fully and in good faith in the annual discharge procedure, just as the other institutions do; considers, in this regard, that effective supervision of the Union's budget implementation requires cooperation between Parliament and the Council through a working arrangement; deeply regrets the difficulties encountered in the discharge procedures to date;

21.  Insists that the expenditure of the Council must be scrutinised in the same way as that of other institutions and points out that the basics of such scrutiny have been laid down in its discharge resolutions of the past years;

22.  Recalls that Parliament grants discharge to the other institutions after considering the documents provided and the replies given to the questions; regrets that Parliament repeatedly encounters problems in receiving answers from the Council; in this sense hopes for a much improved cooperation with the secretary-general of the Council for whom the year 2015 was the first year he took on these new responsibilities;

23.  Regrets the failure in the past to grant the discharge due to insufficient cooperation between Parliament and the Council; notes that there would appear to be greater goodwill on both sides and expresses optimism that progress will be made with a view to improving cooperation in the future, something that will improve the public image of Parliament and the Council; calls on Parliament and the Council to continue along this path;

24.  Underlines the Parliament’s power to grant discharge pursuant to Articles 316, 317 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Articles 164 to 167 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012, and affirms that granting or not granting discharge is a duty that Parliament has towards the Union citizens;

25.  Recalls that each of the institutions, as defined in Article 2(b) of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012, is autonomous in implementing its own section of the budget given its budgetary autonomy laid down in Article 55 of that Regulation; affirms that, according to the practice and the interpretation of the current rules and the budgetary autonomy of the Council, and in order to maintain transparency and democratic accountability towards Union taxpayers, the Parliament grants discharge to each institution individually;

26.  Considers that satisfactory cooperation between Parliament, the European Council and the Council as a result of an open and formal dialogue procedure can be a positive sign to be sent to the citizens of the Union.

(1) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(2) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(6) Third and fourth paragraphs of Article 16 of the Staff Regulations.


Discharge 2015: EU general budget - Court of Justice
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section IV – Court of Justice (2016/2154(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0148A8-0136/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0272/2016)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies(3),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(4) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 314(10) and Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(5), and in particular Articles 55, 99, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs (A8-0136/2017),

1.  Grants the Registrar of the Court of Justice discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Court of Justice for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the Court of Justice, the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Auditors, the European Ombudsman, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the European External Action Service, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section IV – Court of Justice (2016/2154(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section IV – Court of Justice,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs (A8-0136/2017),

A.  whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority stresses the particular importance of further strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the Union institutions by improving transparency and accountability, implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources,

1.  Notes with satisfaction that, in its annual report for 2015, the Court of Auditors identified no significant weaknesses in respect of the audited topics relating to human resources and procurement for the Court of Justice of the European Union (the “Court of Justice”);

2.  Welcomes the fact that, on the basis of its audit work, the Court of Auditors concluded that the payments as a whole for the year ended on 31 December 2015 for administrative and other expenditure of the Court of Justice were free from material error;

3.  Notes that in 2015, the Court of Justice had appropriations amounting to EUR 357 062 000 (EUR 355 367 500 in 2014) and that the implementation rate was 99 %; welcomes the very high utilisation rate in 2015, identical to the rate in 2014;

4.  Notes that the estimated revenue of the Court of Justice for the financial year 2015 was EUR 44 856 000; asks the Court of Justice to explain why the established entitlements in the financial year 2015 are EUR 49 510 442, which is 10,4 % higher than estimated ;

5.  Notes that revenue from entitlements carried over from 2014 to 2015 amounts EUR 84 620,37 and that 84,28 % represents revenue from persons working with the institutions and other Union bodies;

6.  Notes that the Court of Justice's budget is mostly administrative, with around 75 % being used for expenditure concerning persons working within the Court of Justice and the remaining amount relating to buildings, furniture, equipment and special functions carried out by it; stresses, however, that introducing performance-based budgeting should not apply only to the Court of Justice's budget as a whole but should include the setting of specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based (SMART) targets to individual departments, units and staffs’ annual plans; in this respect, calls on the Court of Justice to introduce the principle of performance-based budgeting more widely in its daily operations;

7.  Welcomes the productivity of the judicial activity of the Court of Justice in 2015, with 1 711 cases brought before the three courts and 1 755 cases completed; notes that this is the highest annual number of the cases in the Court of Justice's history;

8.  Notes that the Court of Justice completed 616 cases in 2015, which represents a decrease compared to 2014 (719 cases were completed in 2014), and had 713 new cases brought before it (compared to 622 in 2014);

9.  Notes that in 2015 the General Court received 831 new cases and dealt with 987 cases, which constitutes a general increase when compared with previous years;

10.  Notes that in 2015 the Civil Service Tribunal completed 152 cases, as in 2014, and had 167 new cases; stresses that ten years after its establishment, 2015 was the last year of existence of the Tribunal; believes that an in-depth assessment of those ten years of activity should be made by the Court of Justice;

11.  Notes that the 2015 statistics for the three courts confirm the trend seen in recent years as regards the average duration of proceedings, which remains satisfactory (for the Court of Justice, 15,3 months requests for a preliminary ruling (compared with 15 months in 2014), 1,9 months for urgent requests for a preliminary ruling (compared with 2,2 months in 2014), 17,6 months for direct actions (compared with 20 months in 2014) and 14 months for appeals (compared with 14,5 months in 2014); for the General Court and Civil Service Tribunal, respectively 20,6 months (compared with 23,4 months in 2014) and 12,1 months (compared with 12,7 months in 2014) for all types of case; considers that the amendments to the Statute of the Court of Justice adopted in 2015 can only further enhance that streamlining;

12.  Welcomes the fact that the number of cases concluded increased by 57 % during the period 2007 to 2015, largely owing to the coordinated efforts of the courts and auxiliary staff, despite the extremely limited increase in auxiliary staff capacity over that period;

13.  Notes that 2015 was the year of adoption of the judicial architectural reform of the Court of Justice, which was accompanied by the development of new rules of procedure for the General Court; understands that, by virtue of the number of judges of the General Court being doubled in a three-stage process extending until 2019, that reform will enable the Court of Justice to continue to deal with the increase in the number of cases; looks forward to analysing the achievements of that reform in the Court of Justice's capacity to deal with cases within a reasonable period and in compliance with the requirements of a fair hearing;

14.  Believes that that reform will allow the Court of Justice to deal with its increasing caseload more quickly and efficiently and serve the interests of those seeking justice, respecting their right to due process within a reasonable time, in line with the objectives of an effective, high-quality service;

15.  Notes the upcoming recast of the Code of Conduct for Members where the conditions for carrying out external activities and the publication of their financial interests will be clarified; calls for a greater level of transparency on the external activities of each judge; requests that the Court of Justice provide information regarding other posts and paid external activities of the judges on its website and its annual activity reports;

16.  Notes that out of the commitments of missions of EUR 295 500 only EUR 41 209 were used; points out that this under-investment could be avoided; requests the Court of Justice to improve its budgeting and accountability in regard to the mission budget and emphasises the need for the principle of missions to be cost-effective;

17.  Considers that the Court of Justice should make available a general overview of the participants and the contents of its meetings with external parties other than the ones related to its judicial activity;

18.  Asks the Court of Justice to provide the discharge authority with a list of meetings with lobbyists, professional associations and civil society by June 2017; asks the Court of Justice to present the minutes of those meetings by June 2017;

19.  Notes with satisfaction the improvements made in the e-Curia application and the fact that all Member States used it in 2015; considers that alongside the dematerialisation of documents, data security should be improved;

20.  Notes that, according to its annual management report for 2015, the Court of Justice works closely with the Court of Auditors' team designated to carry out its performance review; in this regard notes that, at the beginning of the audit process, the Court of Justice raised obstacles to the work of the audit team; notes with satisfaction that the Court of Justice has improved its cooperation with the auditors and provided further documents to Court of Auditors; is aware that the principle of secrecy of deliberations is necessary to help preserve the independence of decision-makers, to promote consistency and finality of decisions and to prevent decision-makers from having to spend more time testifying about their decisions than making them; points out, however, that the secrecy of deliberations as principle ab ovo prevents any external control; invites the Court of Justice, therefore, to develop an internal control/remedy mechanism in order to provide in such cases a certain level of control;

21.  Notes that the Court of Justice has complied with the interinstitutional agreement to reduce staff by 5 % over a period of five years;

22.  Notes the high proportion of posts occupied (98 %) despite the high staff turnover rate in the Court of Justice and supports its active recruitment policy; calls on the Court of Justice to set up rules on revolving doors;

23.  Welcomes the exchange of staff made by the Court of Justice with the European Central Bank in 2015 and expects that cooperation to continue in the years to come;

24.  Welcomes the initiative of the Court of Justice to improve the gender balance in management posts and the fact that the gender balance in middle and senior management posts reached a level of 35 % to 65 % in 2015; believes, nevertheless, that there is further room for improvement in this area in the institution; notes, furthermore, that Parliament and the Council have stated that it is their objective to ensure an equal representation of women and men when appointing new judges to the General Court(6);

25.  Emphasises that geographical balance, namely the relationship between staff nationality and the size of Member States, must remain an important element of resources management, particularly with respect to the Member States that acceded to the Union in 2004 or thereafter;

26.  Welcomes the fact that the Court of Justice has reached a more balanced composition of officials from the Member States which joined the Union before 2004 and from the Member States which acceded to it in 2004 or thereafter; is deeply concerned, however, at the considerable geographic imbalance in middle and senior management level, to the disadvantage of the Member States which acceded to the Union in 2004 or thereafter; calls on the Court of Justice to endeavour to correct that situation and to report to Parliament on the improvements achieved in that regard;

27.  Regrets the fact that the Court of Justice's internal whistleblowing rules were adopted only in the beginning of 2016; recommends that the Court of Justice disseminate those rules among its staff so that all employees are aware of them; asks the Court of Justice to provide, by June 2017, details of the whistleblower cases in 2015, if any, and of how they were handled and finalised;

28.  Urges the Court of Justice to enact the submission of declarations of interests, instead of declarations of the absence of conflicts of interests, as self-evaluation of conflicts of interests is, in itself, a conflict of interests; considers that the evaluation of a situation of conflicts of interests must be done by an independent party; asks the Court of Justice to report by June 2017 on the changes introduced and to indicate who is checking the situations of conflicts of interests; reiterates that transparency is a key element to the public trust; calls on the Court of Justice to establish clear rules regarding "revolving doors" and to put in place measures and dissuasive penalties, such as the reduction of pensions or the prohibition to work at least three years in similar bodies, to prevent "revolving doors";

29.  Notes the cooperation of the Court of Justice with the Commission and Parliament’s interpretation services within the Interinstitutional Committee for Translation and Interpretation, particularly in the area of interpretation; expects that that cooperation will be extended to the translation area and supports it, where possible and without undermining the Court of Justice’s responsibilities;

30.  Calls on the Court of Justice to provide Parliament with the costs of translation according to the harmonised methodology agreed within the Interinstitutional Working Group on key interinstitutional activity and performance indicators;

31.  Notes that the translation directorate of the Court of Justice had a workload increase of 1,4 % and that its productivity increased by 7 % in 2015 due to the outsourcing of workload control and the implementation of new translation supporting tools;

32.  Supports the review of expenditure and of the conditions for use of official cars jointly conducted by the internal audit services of the Court of Justice and of the Court of Auditors; calls on the Court of Justice to consider, within the frame of that review, the possibility of reducing the number of official cars at the disposal of its members and staff; calls on the Court of Justice, moreover, to improve its checks against the use of official cars for private purposes;

33.  Welcomes the commitment of the Court of Justice to ambitious environmental targets; encourages the institution to apply the principles of green public procurement and calls for the establishment of rules and a sufficient budget for carbon offsetting;

34.  Notes the detailed information on the Court of Justice’s buildings policy, particularly with regard to the construction of a fifth extension of the current buildings complex;

35.  Welcomes the opening of the Court of Justice’s historical archive at the Historical Archives of the Union in Florence;

36.  Welcomes the Court of Justice’s initiative to publish its annual activity report in a new format; calls on the Court of Justice to publish the Court of Auditors annual report, in particular the parts referring to the Court of Justice;

37.  Calls on the Court of Justice to improve its communications policy towards the citizens of the Union;

38.  Considers the answer given by the Court of Justice to Parliament’s question (Question 26) on allowances to be incomplete; asks the Court of Justice for clarification and for a clear and detailed answer.

(1) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(2) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(6) See Annex to Parliament’s legislative resolution of 28 October 2015 – Joint statement by the European Parliament and the Council – Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0377.


Discharge 2015: EU general budget - Court of Auditors
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section V – Court of Auditors (2016/2155(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0149A8-0151/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0273/2016)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies(3),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(4) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 314(10) and Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(5), and in particular Articles 55, 99, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0151/2017),

1.  Grants the Secretary-General of the Court of Auditors discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the Court of Auditors, the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Ombudsman, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the European External Action Service, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section V – Court of Auditors (2016/2155(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section V – Court of Auditors,

–  having regard to the Special Report No 15/2012 of the European Court of Auditors: “Management of conflict of interest in selected EU Agencies”,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0151/2017),

A.  whereas, in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority stresses the particular importance of further strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the Union institutions by improving transparency and accountability, implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources,

1.  Appreciates the cooperation between the Court of Auditors (the “Court”) and Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control and welcomes regular feedback based on Parliament’s demands; welcomes the recent practice that allows Parliament to present its suggestions to the Court for its annual work programme; calls for an even more structured annual debate between the Court’s president and Parliament’s Conference of Committee Chairs;

2.  Notes that the Court’s annual accounts are audited by an independent external auditor in order to apply the same principles of transparency and accountability that the auditor applies to its auditees; takes note of the auditor’s opinion that the Court’s financial statements give a true and fair view of the financial position of the Court;

3.  Notes that in 2015, the Court’s final appropriations amounted to a total of EUR 132 906 000 (compared to EUR 133 498 000 in 2014) and that the overall rate of implementation for the budget was 98,68 %; emphasises that the implementation rate was less than in 2014 (98,8 %);

4.  Stresses that the Court’s budget is purely administrative, with a large amount being used for expenditure concerning persons working within the institution; stresses, however, that introducing performance-based budgeting should not apply only to the institution’s budget as a whole but should also include the setting of specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based (SMART) targets to individual departments, units and the annual plans of members of staff; in this respect, welcomes the Court’s implementation of the performance-based budgeting principle in its daily operations;

5.  Reminds the Court that, according to the Common Approach on decentralised agencies adopted in July 2012 by Parliament, the Council and the Commission (at paragraph 54), the audit of the decentralised agencies remains “under the full responsibility of [the Court], which manages all administrative and procurement procedures required” ; encourages the Court to put forward proposals to resolve the issue of the audit of the agencies within the context of the ongoing revision of the Financial Regulation, and the subsequent revision of the Framework Financial Regulation; considers that this matter should be clarified so as to reduce any excessive administrative burden on the decentralised agencies, without impairing the necessity and effectiveness of the Court’s work;

6.  Notes that the Court’s reform was implemented in 2015 and was considered to be a success by the Court; looks forward to receiving a mid-term assessment of the Court’s 2013 to 2017 strategy, including an analysis of the achievements of the main objectives of the reform;

7.  Welcomes the Union’s added value approach of the Court in its reports; calls for further work with the other institutions of the Union to develop the performance indicators and priorities for a good financial governance;

8.  Notes that the revision of Article 163 of the Financial Regulation provides that “special reports are drawn up and adopted within [...] 13 months”(6); observes that this time frame was not complied with in 2015; urges the Court to comply with that time-limit without compromising the quality of the reports; in that regard, encourages the Court to improve the recommendations in its special reports to be even more targeted;

9.  Takes the view that the special reports of the Court should be given more prominence by the recipient institutions and should include annual, dedicated reports; emphasises that the effectiveness of separate special reports could be enlarged if they were grouped together in time in relation to specific policy areas, thus making it possible for Parliament to devote ad hoc reports to those special reports of the Court outside the discharge cycle;

10.  Deplores the fact that the Court has, to date, failed to present a special report on conflicts of interests in all agencies, in particular in those related to industries, despite the reiterated requests made by Parliament in its discharge resolutions since 2012; urges the Court to produce and publish a first special report on conflicts of interests by the end of June 2017 and to publish subsequent reports annually thereafter; considers the production of annual reports on conflicts of interests by the Court to be vital for the integrity of the Union institutions, bodies and agencies, and to avoid conflicts of interests between the Union agencies, in particular those relating to industry, and lobbying groups;

11.  Observes that the Court complies with the interinstitutional agreement to reduce staff by 5 % over a period of five years; asks to be informed, by June 2017, about how that reduction matches the new recruitments made by the Court in 2015 and of the percentage of the 2015 new recruitments;

12.  Regrets that within the members of the Court there was a gender imbalance of five women compared to 23 men in 2015 and that the number of women went down to three in 2016; regrets, furthermore, that the Court has an ongoing gender imbalance in senior and middle management posts (30,4 % women compared to 69,6 % men); calls on the Court to promote gender balance, in particular in management posts; calls, furthermore, on the Court to report back to the discharge authority on the measures taken and on the results achieved in that regard, without undermining its mission;

13.  Emphasises that geographical balance, namely a proportional relationship between the members of staff of a particular nationality and the size of the relevant Member State, must remain an important element of resources management, particularly with respect to the Member States that have acceded the Union in or after 2004; welcomes the fact that the Court has reached an overall balanced composition of officials from the Member States which acceded to the Union before 2004 and from the Member States which acceded in or after 2004; points out that, nevertheless, the Member States which joined the Union in or after 2004 remain underrepresented at the higher level of administration and in managerial posts, for which progress is still needed;

14.  Is concerned about the high number of days of sick leave among the staff; calls on the Court to target its well-being activities to ensure the well-being of its staff, in order to better perform its core mission;

15.  Notes the method used by the Court to calculate staff sick leave; is of the opinion that that method is not appropriate to calculate absences for sickness effectively; calls on the Court to apply a calculation system based on working days of absence per individual employee, as practised by other institutions;

16.  Notes that the Court organised five away days, mainly in preparation of the reform of the Court, with a low proportion of members of staff (only 107) participating; calls on the Court to target its well-being activities better in order to include proactive and positive human resources development, with the participation of as many members of staff as possible;

17.  Notes the Court’s reinforced ethical framework to prevent conflicts of interests, as well as misconduct by members of staff; calls on the Court to report to Parliament on the revision of its internal anti-harassment rules;

18.  Urges the Court to enforce the submission of declarations of interests, instead of declarations of absence of conflicts of interests, as the self-evaluation of conflicts of interests is a conflict of interests in itself; considers that the evaluation of a situation of conflicts of interests must be made by a third party that is independent; asks the Court to report by June 2017 on the changes introduced and to indicate who is checking the situations of conflicts of interests; reiterates that integrity and transparency are key elements to public confidence; calls on the Court to establish clear rules regarding "revolving doors" and to put in place measures and dissuasive penalties, such as the reduction of pensions or the prohibition to work at least three years in similar bodies, to prevent "revolving doors";

19.  Reminds the Court that the Union’s decentralised agencies must adopt codes of good administrative behaviour and be encouraged to use the transparency register as a reference instrument for their interaction with the relevant representatives;

20.  Calls on the Court to be party to the interinstitutional agreement on a mandatory transparency register;

21.  Welcomes the creation of a transparency portal on the Court’s website as well as the fact that the Court has already in place rules on whistleblowing; recommends that the Court disseminate those rules among its staff so that all employees are aware of them; asks the Court to provide, by June 2017, details on whistleblower cases in 2015, if any, and on how they were handled and resolved;

22.  Notes that in 2015 the Court owned three buildings, K1, K2 and K3; asks the Court to include the planning for the upgrade works of those buildings in its annual activity report and to ensure the implementation of the highest possible standards of energy efficiency during the upgrades;

23.  Notes the summary of the Court’s building policy included in its annual activity report and calls for more detailed information on this matter to be provided in the future;

24.  Notes the increased volume of translation work in 2015, which was almost 3 % more than in 2014; notes that under the Court’s reform, the structure of the translation directorate was optimised; calls on the Court to clarify how that directorate improved its work;

25.  Notes the negotiations between the Court and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) to consider the possibility of an administrative arrangement; calls on the Court to report on the progress in negotiations on that matter;

26.  Reiterates its calls on the Court to include in its annual activity reports, in compliance with the existing rules on confidentiality and data protection, the results and consequences of closed OLAF cases, where the Court or any member of its staff were the subject of the investigation;

27.  Notes the internal auditor service recommendation to consider a more rational use of the Court’s official vehicles; invites the Court to address this matter in cooperation with the Court of Justice of the European Union and to inform Parliament of the actions taken to rationalise the management of the fleet;

28.  Welcomes the Court’s efforts and its achievements in lowering its environment footprint; notes that the Court launched an Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) project in 2013, which aims to obtain the EMAS certification by the end of 2016; welcomes the fact that, on 13 November 2015, the Court adopted an environmental policy formalising its participation in a high-quality environmental management initiative; expresses concern for the delay of the EMAS certification;

29.  Stresses the importance of widening cooperation with universities in the Union for the creation of specialised courses on European auditing; calls on the Court to keep Parliament informed of the developments and of the results of that future enlarged cooperation;

30.  Calls on the Court to envisage the possibility of making recommendations on better communication about the budget of the Union, its functions and its mission, and on how to explain it more effectively to Union citizens.

(1) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(2) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(6) See Article 251(1) in Commission proposal COM(2016)0605.


Discharge 2015: EU general budget - European Economic and Social Committee
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section VI – European Economic and Social Committee (2016/2156(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0150A8-0144/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0274/2016)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies(3),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(4) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 314(10) and Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(5), and in particular Articles 55, 99, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0144/2017),

1.  Grants the Secretary-General of the European Economic and Social Committee discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Economic and Social Committee for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court of Auditors, the Committee of the Regions, the European Ombudsman, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the European External Action Service, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section VI – European Economic and Social Committee (2016/2156(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section VI – European Economic and Social Committee,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0144/2017),

A.  whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority stresses the particular importance of further strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the Union institutions by improving transparency and accountability, implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources;

1.  Welcomes the conclusion of the Court of Auditors (the “Court”), according to which the payments as a whole for the year ended on 31 December 2015 for administrative and other expenditure of the European Economic and Social Committee (the “Committee”) were free from material error;

2.  Notes with satisfaction that, in its annual report for 2015, the Court identified no significant weaknesses in respect of the audited topics relating to human resources and procurement for the Committee;

3.  Notes that in 2015 the Committee’s budget amounted to EUR 129 100 000 (compared to EUR 128 559 380 in 2014), with a utilisation rate of 95,9 %; points out that there was a slight increase of the utilisation rate in 2015, when compared to 2014;

4.  Notes that the Committee’s budget is mostly administrative, with a large amount being used for expenditure concerning persons working within the institution and the remaining amount relating to buildings, furniture, equipment and miscellaneous running costs; stresses, however, that introducing performance-based budgeting should not apply only to the Committee’s budget as a whole but should also include the setting of specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based (SMART) targets to individual departments, units and the annual plans of members of staff; in this respect, calls on the Committee to introduce the principle of performance-based budgeting more widely in its daily operations;

5.  Notes the Committee’s follow-up observations to Parliament’s 2014 discharge resolution, attached to its annual activity report; welcomes the setting up of a support service for public procurement in 2015;

6.  Notes that 2015 was the starting year of a new term in office of the Committee, which may have affected the achievements, particularly of the legislative directorates, including interpretation and the communication and human resources directorates;

7.  Notes that the report on the implementation of the Cooperation Agreement between Parliament and the Committee (the “Agreement”) assesses the cooperation between both institutions in a timely and positive manner;

8.  Notes that, according to the Committee, the nature of the ‘intensified’ cooperation referred to in the Agreement needs to be better clarified and that some elements remain to be fully implemented and require sustained engagement from both institutions; is convinced that further efforts for full implementation of the Agreement and the development of synergies will bring positive results to both parties;

9.  Reiterates its request for a joint assessment of the budgetary savings resulting from the Agreement to be included in its mid-term review or in the next follow-up report of the Agreement;

10.  Notes that the opinions of the Committee are not well integrated into Parliament's work and calls on the Committee to develop proposals together with Parliament’s Secretary-General to streamline the procedures of the Committee and Parliament in this respect;

11.  Notes the conclusion of a new administrative bilateral cooperation agreement between the Committee and the Committee of the Regions, signed in 2015; trusts that that agreement ensures further efficiency in the performance of both committees; takes the view that similar administrative functions should be merged in order to avoid a pointless duplication of activities;

12.  Notes that the direct access between the RMD and the REM buildings was closed by Parliament due to security concerns after the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks; trusts that Parliament will re-assess the security concerns, as reopening of the passage would be beneficial to the three institutions;

13.  Welcomes the administrative changes applied in 2015, in particular the full implementation of a cost-based system for reimbursement of members’ travel expenses and the full revamp of the members’ portal; calls on the Committee to provide a comparative annual overview of members’ travel expenses for 2014, 2015 and 2016;

14.  Notes that, according to the Committee’s rules of procedure, its members are completely independent in the performance of their duties, in the general interest of the Union; notes that the declarations of interests of the members are available on the Committee’s website; calls on the Committee to join the future InterInstitutional Agreement on a Mandatory Transparency Register;

15.  Is concerned about the high number of vacant permanent posts in 2015 and encourages the Committee to implement the necessary measures to improve its recruitment procedures;

16.  Notes with concern the continued gender imbalance in senior and middle management posts (30 % / 70 %in the case of senior management); regrets also the geographic imbalance in senior and middle management posts, in particular the shortage of staff from Member States which acceded to the Union in 2004 or thereafter; calls on the Committee to take action to correct those imbalances and to report back to the discharge authority on the measures taken and on the results achieved;

17.  Notes the Committee’s plan to comply with the interinstitutional agreement(6) to reduce staff by 5 % over a period of five years; asks to be informed as to how this reduction tallies with the situation in 2016, in which three new posts were created; suggests that the Committee report back to Parliament on any alternative savings achieved to compensate the possible delay in the reduction of staff;

18.  Welcomes the fact that the internal whistleblowing rules entered into force in early 2016;

19.  Fully supports the creation of ethics counsellors’ posts to help with possible harassment-related situations and specific training for the hierarchy to improve the knowledge and management of whistleblowing cases; regrets that three cases linked to harassment had to go through legal action;

20.  Is unable to opine on the level of the staff absenteeism due to sick-leave because of the poor report provided by the Committee on that matter; calls on the Committee to report on its staff’s sick leave divided by the number of working days on sick leave per individual member of staff;

21.  Notes that the Committee decreased the average cost of its ‘away days’ by 35 % per participant compared with 2014 and that only 218 staff took part in the event, compared to 415 in 2014; calls on the Committee to target its well-being activities to include as many members of staff as possible to help further improve its staff’s well-being;

22.  Notes with satisfaction the downward trend of the unused rate of interpretation services requested from 4,3 % in 2014 to 3,5 % in 2015;

23.  Welcomes the provision of translation data according to the harmonised methodology settled by the inter-institutional committee for translation and interpretation; notes the ongoing revision of the Code of Conduct for Translation, to be made jointly with the Committee of the Regions;

24.  Notes that the outsourcing rate for translation increased to nearly 10 % in 2015 due to the transfer of staff to Parliament under the Agreement; calls on the Committee for an assessment of the cost-effectiveness of the arrangement now in practice;

25.  Welcomes the Committee’s strategic framework for learning and development, in particular the new focus on learning from colleague to colleague; asks the Committee to provide a follow up of that particular method in its next annual activity report;

26.  Notes with great satisfaction the efforts and the results so far achieved in improving the environmental footprint of the Committee and the renewal of the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) certification;

27.  Notes the administrative arrangements between the Committee and the European Anti-Fraud Office with a view to establishing a structured framework for cooperation and facilitating the rapid exchange of information;

28.  Welcomes the information on the Committee’s building policy in its annual activity report, especially given that it is important that the costs of such policy are properly rationalised and are not excessive;

29.  Notes the Committee’s efforts and achievements in stepping up its information and communication policy; stresses, however, that it is more important that the effectiveness of its opinions on Union decision-making be improved than that they be publicised generally.

(1) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(2) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(6) Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management (OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1).


Discharge 2015: EU general budget - Committee of the Regions
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section VII – Committee of the Regions (2016/2157(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0151A8-0141/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0275/2016)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies(3),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(4) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 314(10) and Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(5), and in particular Articles 55, 99, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0141/2017),

1.  Grants the Secretary-General of the Committee of the Regions discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Committee of the Regions for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the Committee of the Regions, the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court of Auditors, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Ombudsman, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the European External Action Service, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section VII – Committee of the Regions (2016/2157(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section VII – Committee of the Regions,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0141/2017),

A.  Whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority stresses the particular importance of further strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the Union institutions by improving on transparency and accountability, implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources;

1.  Notes that the Court of Auditors (the “Court”), in its annual report for 2015, observed that no significant weaknesses had been identified in respect of the audited topics relating to human resources and procurement for the Committee of the Regions (the “Committee”);

2.  Notes with satisfaction that on the basis of its audit work, the Court concluded that the payments as a whole for the year ended 31 December 2015, the administrative and other expenditure of the institutions and bodies were free from material error;

3.  Notes that the Committee's budget is mostly administrative, with a large amount being used for expenditure concerning persons working within the Committee and the remaining amount relating to its buildings, furniture, equipment and miscellaneous running costs; stresses, however, that introducing performance-based budgeting should not apply only to the Committee’s budget as a whole but should also include the setting of specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based (SMART) targets to individual departments, units and the annual plans of members of staff; in this respect, calls on the Committee to introduce the principle of performance-based budgeting more widely in its daily operations;

4.  Notes that in 2015, the Committee had an approved budget of EUR 88 900 000 (compared with EUR 87 600 000 in 2014), of which EUR 87 200 000 comprised commitment appropriations with a utilisation rate of 98,2 %; notes the slight decrease of the utilisation rate in 2015;

5.  Notes the conclusion of a new administrative bilateral cooperation agreement between the Committee and the European Economic and Social Committee signed in 2015; trusts that that agreement ensures further efficiency in the performance of the Committee and the European Economic and Social Committee;

6.  Notes with satisfaction that the report on the implementation of the Cooperation Agreement between Parliament and the Committee (the “Agreement”) was timely and positively assesses the cooperation between both institutions; observes, however, that the nature of the “intensified” cooperation referred to in the Agreement needs to be better clarified;

7.  Welcomes the Committee’s interest in having a more systematic approach to the cooperation with Parliament, particularly in political areas and with Parliament’s research service (EPRS); believes that further development of synergies brings positive results to both institutions;

8.  Reiterates its request for a joint assessment of the budgetary savings resulting from the Agreement to be included in the next follow-up report of the Agreement;

9.  Notes with concern that none of the targets set by the Committee in 2015 to increase involvement of Parliament and Council in activities related to the Committee opinions were achieved;

10.  Notes that the direct access between the RMD and the REM buildings was closed by Parliament due to security concerns after the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks; trusts that Parliament will re-assess the security concerns as reopening of the passage would certainly be beneficial to all three institutions;

11.  Notes with concern a consistent decrease in the payment execution rate in 2015 in some budgetary items; takes note that 2015 was the starting year of the sixth term in office of the Committee; is of the opinion, nevertheless, that the Committee should not allow this to impact on budgetary management; calls on the Committee to improve its performance and better to prepare for the starting year of the seventh term in office of the Committee;

12.  Urges the Committee to further improve the transparency of its operations and include all the data available on the missions undertaken by its Members in its annual activity report, with detailed expenses;

13.  Calls on the Committee to join the future Inter-Institutional Agreement on a mandatory transparency register;

14.  Notes with concern the continued gender imbalance in senior and middle management posts (25 % / 75 % in senior management and 38 % / 62 % in middle management); urges the Committee to improve its gender balance and report back to the discharge authority on the measures taken to tackle this issue, and the results achieved;

15.  Notes with satisfaction the good geographical balance within the management positions;

16.  Is deeply concerned with the high number of days of sick leave within the Committee staff; calls on the Committee to assess the reasons, focus its human resources’ governance to improve the situation and target its well-being activities to include as many staff members as possible to help prevent this kind of absenteeism;

17.  Is concerned that the audit recommendations on performance of IT projects for internal application lag adequate implementation; calls on the Committee to correct this situation without further delay;

18.  Welcomes the provision of translation data according to the harmonised methodology settled by the inter-institutional committee for translation and interpretation; notes that the undergoing revision of the Code of Conduct for Translation is to be made jointly with the European Economic and Social Committee;

19.  Notes that the outsourcing rate of translation increased from 2,57 % in 2014 to nearly 10 % in 2015 due to the transfer of staff to Parliament under the Agreement; calls on the Committee for an assessment of the cost-effectiveness of the new arrangement now in practice;

20.  Notes the Committee adoption of rules on whistleblowing in December 2015; also notes that one whistleblowing file was opened in 2015; asks the Committee to keep Parliament informed of developments in of the case;

21.  Considers it to be fundamental that the Committee immediately follow up on the two Civil Service Tribunal rulings(6) and the European Anti-Fraud Office’s case report(7), the Commission’s Paymaster Office department’s report(8) and Parliament’s resolutions(9) and bring the whistleblower case of the former internal auditor of the Committee to a just, honourable and equitable settlement before the end of 2017;

22.  Considers it to be fundamental that the Committee work together with the European Economic and Social Committee to follow up immediately on the ruling of the Civil Service Tribunal in a harassment case involving officials from both institutions(10), that it report to Parliament on the progress and that it review its procedures for handling future allegations of harassment to ensure that they are in line with the case-law of the Civil Service Tribunal;

23.  Notes with great satisfaction the efforts and results so far achieved in improving the environmental footprint of the Committee and the renewal of the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) certification;

24.  Notes the Committee’s efforts and achievements in stepping up its information and communications policy;

25.  Welcomes the information on the Committee’s building policy in its annual activity report, in particular given that it is important that the costs of such a policy be properly rationalised and not excessive.

(1) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(2) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(6) Judgments of the Civil Service Tribunal of 7 May 2013, case F-86/11 (ECLI:EU:F:2011:189), and of 18 November 2014, case F-156/12 (ECLI:EU:F:2014:247).
(7) European Anti-Fraud Office Final Case Report dated 8 October 2003.
(8) The Commission Paymaster Office department’s report of 8 May 2008.
(9) Parliament’s resolutions of 29 January 2004 (OJ L 57, 25.2.2004, p. 8), 21 April 2004 (OJ L 330, 4.11.2004, p. 153), 12 April 2005 (OJ L 196, 27.7.2005, p. 54), 27 April 2006 (OJ L 340, 6.12.2006, p. 44), 29 April 2015 (OJ L 255, 30.9.2015, p. 132) and 28 April 2016 (OJ L 246, 14.9.2016, p. 152) in support of the Committee’s Internal Auditor’s case.
(10) Judgment of the Civil Service Tribunal of 26 February 2013, Case F-124/10: Vassilliki Labiri v European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) (ECLI:EU:F:2013:21).


Discharge 2015: EU general budget - European External Action Service
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section X – European External Action Service (2016/2160(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0152A8-0122/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0278/2016)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies(3),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(4) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 314(10) and Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(5), and in particular Articles 55, 99 and 164 to 167 thereof,

–  having regard to the Special Report No 7/2016 of the Court of Auditors: “The European External Action Service’s management of its buildings around the world”,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0122/2017),

1.  Grants the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European External Action Service for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the European External Action Service, the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court of Auditors, the European Ombudsman and the European Data Protection Supervisor, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section X – European External Action Service (2016/2160(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section X – European External Action Service,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0122/2017),

A.  whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority stresses the special importance of further strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the institutions of the Union by improving transparency and accountability, implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources;

1.  Welcomes that, according to the Court of Auditors (the “Court”), the overall level of error in Heading 5 (Administration), including the budget of the European External Action Service (EEAS), continues to be relatively low with an estimation at 0,6 % in 2015;

2.  Takes note that the Court identified no significant weaknesses as regards the annual activity report and the internal control system of the EEAS;

3.  Calls on the EEAS to remedy certain weaknesses found by the Court in the recruitment procedures of local agents in delegations (i.e. a lack of transparency as regards certain steps of the procedure) and in procurement procedures (notably incorrect appraisals of offers compared to technical specifications or use of the incorrect procurement procedure) organised by delegations;

4.  Agrees with the Court that improving the guidance, the design, coordination and execution of public procurement procedures for low value contracts is of importance as those contracts represented 4,5 % of the total value of contracts concluded in 2015; supports the intention of EEAS to hold regional seminars and provide administrative procurement support for the entire network of delegations;

5.  Calls on the EEAS to improve the quality of its selection procedures by integrating all the necessary supporting documentation; asks the EEAS to better harmonise the procurement procedures carried out in the delegations; reiterates its request to remedy the recurring weaknesses in this area by continuing the administrative support to the delegations where the situation is the most critical;

6.  Welcomes the fact that improved and more comprehensive guidelines reinforcing the supervision of the heads of delegations, covering both the accountability and reporting requirements, have been issued in the framework of the exercise of the External Assistance Management Report (EAMR) for 2015;

7.  Regrets the increase of the average rate of anomaly on commitments to 22,4 % in 2015 (compared to 18,3 % in 2014) at the level of ex ante controls;

8.  Notes that the total budget of the EEAS for 2015 was EUR 602,8 million, representing a total increase of 16,2 % compared to 2014, which resulted from the transfer to its budget of EUR 71,5 million from the Commission’s administrative budget (EUR 25,2 million) and from other budget lines (up to EUR 46,3 million) to finance the common costs of the Union’s delegations such as rents, offices’ security and IT costs; observes that EDF funds were not included;

9.  Points out that the execution of the EEAS administrative budget remains a point of concern as certain delegations receive budget contributions from the Commission from 33 different budget lines in addition to the EEAS’s own budget; invites all the stakeholders to further refine and simplify the budget sources and arrangements in order to ease the budgetary implementation; welcomes the recent budgetary arrangement found with regard to the EDF administrative costs, which will be charged to the EEAS budget as of 2016 on the basis of a calculation of a standard amount per person;

10.  Takes note that the headquarters budget amounted to EUR 218,9 million out of which EUR 140,5 million (or 64,7 %) concerned the payment of salaries and other entitlements of statutory and external staff, EUR 30 million (or 13,7 %) were for buildings and EUR 30,7 million related to IT systems, equipment and furniture;

11.  Notes that the delegations’ budget of EUR 383,9 million was divided between EUR 155,8 million (i.e. 40,6 %) for buildings and associated costs, EUR 105,5 million (27,5 %) for the remuneration of statutory staff, EUR 60,1 million (or 15,7 %) for external staff and outside services, EUR 20,6 million (5,4 %) for other expenditure related to staff and EUR 41,9 million (10,9 %) for other administrative expenditures; notes also that EUR 204,7 million was received from the Commission for the administrative costs of the Commission’s staff posted in the Union’s delegations;

12.  Reiterates its request to pay attention, especially in delegations, to ‘business continuity’ and ‘document management’ as key internal control standards but also as significant management components, particularly for the availability and reliability of information used for various management purposes, i.e. the monitoring, assessment and reporting of activities and projects;

13.  Observes that only two delegations made reservations related to the lack of a proper tendering procedure and missing key management information to be used for the statement of assurance;

14.  Supports the regular contacts between the EEAS and the Commission services dealing with external matters on the prevention and detection of fraud;

15.  Supports the setting up of the Regional Centre Europe, which is an initiative aimed at providing better administrative assistance to the Union’s delegations in the domains of financial management, procurement and human resources; looks forward to receiving the evaluation of the pilot project in 2017; encourages the EEAS to continue this practice of pooling know-how as appropriate in other regions with a view to steadily reducing administrative burden and costs in delegations;

16.  Considers it essential that the heads of delegations continue to be regularly made aware of their key-role in the overall strengthening of assurance, management and accountability, in particular as regards the weighting of various components likely to trigger the issuance of a reservation, in addition to their political duties; encourages the EEAS to offer training and expertise to the heads of delegations, especially to Member States’ diplomats;

17.  Observes the changes and streamlining in the organisation of the EEAS to simplify the reporting lines and information flows facilitating the EEAS formulation of responses to crises or political challenges and to reduce the level of hierarchical layers with fewer directorates;

18.  Recognises the critical feature of the management of human resources in the context of the EEAS with ‘three sources’ of recruitment, the management of the posting in delegations while achieving the annual staff reduction representing 17 posts for 2015 in headquarters;

19.  Notes that the share of Member States’ diplomats represents 32,9 % of the EEAS overall AD staff (i.e. 307 persons) in comparison to 33,8 % in 2014; points out that this proportion is higher in delegations with 43,1 % or 166 Member States’ diplomats and 25,7 % in headquarters; calls for a more balanced distribution of staff and reminds the EEAS of the importance of pooling expertise of Member States and EEAS staff at every level;

20.  Stresses that the number of Member States’ diplomats posted as heads of delegations was 63 out of 134 heads of delegations posts, representing 47 % of the total; points out that those 63 posts were distributed with an unequal gender balance of 16 % / 84 %, and only 16 out of the 63 were nationals of Member States which joined the Union in 2004 or later; notes also that within the 29 deputy heads of delegations, the genders were represented with an imbalance of 24 % / 76 %, and that 6 of the deputy heads of delegations were Member States’ diplomats;

21.  Observes that the number of seconded national experts from Member States continued to increase in 2015 (8 % more compared to 2014) to reach 434 (with 376 posted in headquarters and 58 in delegations); notes that 40 % of the 376 seconded national experts (or 151) located in Brussels were paid by their national administrations;

22.  Reminds the EEAS of the need to ensure full respect of the staffing formula on the ratio between staff coming from Member States and from Union institutions, as set out by the Council Decision establishing the EEAS;

23.  Notes that the general distribution by gender is almost reaching parity with a balance of 47 % / 53 % in the overall staff, while on the AD level staff the difference is 31,7 % / 68,3 % (compared to 31 % / 69 % in 2014); observes that this 30 % proportion is stable since 2011;

24.  Reiterates its concern about gender imbalances in management positions as the level is currently at 21,4 % / 78,6 %; regrets that the ratio of the other gender applying to management positions remains at the low level of 16 %; considers that progress is important in this regard and calls therefore on the EEAS to reshape its conditions and recruitment policies in order to attract both genders equally for management positions;

25.  Reiterates that geographical balance, mainly the relationship between staff nationality and the size of Member States, should be an important element of the EEAS human resources management, particularly with respect to the Member States that have acceded the Union in 2004 or after; is seriously concerned about the continuous underrepresentation of those Member States at both staff and management level; calls, therefore, on the EEAS to endeavour to correct that situation significantly; stresses that those Member States are especially underrepresented at the higher level of administration and in managerial posts, for which significant progress is still awaited;

26.  Welcomes the commitment of the Vice-President/High Representative made to Parliament to address the existing imbalance with an overrepresentation of national diplomats in the positions of heads of delegations, and calls on the EEAS to present a review of its human resources policy in the course of 2017, addressing issues such as gender balance and mobility of staff between institutions, while taking also into consideration its impact in terms of human resources for the strengthening of the Union ‘external action and visibility through the Union global strategy’;

27.  Encourages the EEAS to further develop the role of Union delegations, particularly facilitating and supporting coordination between Member States in providing consular assistance;

28.  Reminds the EEAS that there is a silver lining between economic diplomacy and lobbying; calls therefore on the EEAS to join the future Interinstitutional Agreement on a Mandatory Transparency Register, including for the Union delegations, insofar as this is legally possible;

29.  Takes note of the annual expenditure of EUR 160 million devoted to the Union’s delegation network, which represent more than a 50 % increase compared to the preceding financial year; notes that 80 % of the delegations are still rented, the rents amounting to EUR 53,04 million in 2015; welcomes the loan facility of EUR 200 million for better managing the building policy and reducing the purchasing costs of delegations; regrets that despite the loan facility and the increase in expenditure only a few delegation buildings are owned by the EEAS; calls on the EEAS to present not only the delegation building contracts of the current year but to provide also an overview of the situation of all delegation buildings in its annual activity report;

30.  Calls on the EEAS for an overhaul of its building policies in line with the recommendations made by the Court of Auditors in its Special Report No 7/2016, in particular concerning:

   the need for consistency and full costs recovery of the charges paid by Member States or other Union institutions or bodies hosted in delegation office buildings;
   the improved selecting of delegation buildings;
   direct involvement of headquarters before renting (or renewing a rental agreement) or buying office buildings;
   the improvement of its real-estate management information system, in order for the EEAS to obtain more reliable and relevant information to feed into its planning process;

31.  Calls on the EEAS to further develop the use of surfaces, in particular by addressing as a matter of priority the individual situations of unoccupied or unnecessarily large premises and the associated extra costs identified by the Court (EUR 7,8 million), while recognising the challenges of building management in often complex environments;

32.  Emphasises that the EEAS and the Member States have a shared interest in factoring the use of the buildings and to further developing local co-operation in the area of management of buildings, with specific and continuous attention to be devoted to best value for money, security issues and the Union’s image;

33.  Welcomes the increase in co-location projects of Union delegations with Member States with the signature of six co-location memoranda of understanding in 2015, leading to a total of 86 co-location projects by the end of 2015; encourages the EEAS to further seek ways to extend this good practice; considers that this policy should include innovative approaches aiming at defining both a coordinated strategy of co-location with Member States eager to do so and appropriate cost-sharing arrangements related to buildings and logistics; observes that co-location arrangements also concern other entities contributing to the management of foreign policies such as the European Investment Bank, the ECHO services, common security and defence policy missions and Union special representatives;

34.  Regrets the insufficient recording and inaccuracies in the information system for managing delegations’ office buildings and residences; asks for a regular review of the completeness and reliability of data encoded by Union delegations to deepen the general planning of surface, locations and cost recovery;

35.  Urges the EEAS to reinforce its management control and monitoring tools of all the costs incurred in the building policy in order to ensure an accurate overview and follow-up of all the expenditure in this area; considers that emphasis should be put on monitoring the ceilings defined in the building policy to decrease the total annual rent of delegations’ offices and related recurrent costs, and to ensure the adequacy of the contributions paid by co-located entities, the coverage of the running costs involved in co-location situations and the correctness of costs with local market conditions;

36.  Believes that legal and technical expertise in real estate management should be swiftly developed while considering any cost-effective alternative options such as hiring external expertise (e.g. local brokers) to prospect the market or possibly negotiate with landlords;

37.  Asks the EEAS for an annual list of inspections carried out in the delegations;

38.  Calls on the EEAS to have checks carried out by the delegation inspectorate on the last five rental or purchase agreements for residences for Union ambassadors, including the residence in Tirana, Albania, and to report back to Parliament;

39.  Supports the implementation of a medium and long term strategy to identify all possible options in this area from investment priorities or possibilities of purchases to renting renewals or to the sharing of premises with Member States, taking into account staff projections and policy planning and development;

40.  Encourages the EEAS to further apply the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), and also the principle of green public procurement in its building policy, while understanding that the local conditions of the 139 delegations require a certain degree of flexibility;

41.  Is of the opinion that the security of the EEAS and of its delegations needs to be further strengthened and calls on the EEAS to give priority to it when choosing buildings and spaces for its delegations; considers that the security of buildings should be an integral part of its building policy and that the EEAS evacuation scheme and its evacuation decisions, if needed, should be coordinated with the Representations of the Member States concerned;

42.  Welcomes the fact that the EEAS envisages a project of common vision and joint action with the objective of achieving a stronger Europe which contributes to peace and security in the region and the whole world;

43.  Calls on the EEAS to improve its communication policy towards Union citizens.

(1) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(2) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.


Discharge 2015: EU general budget - European Ombudsman
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section VIII – European Ombudsman (2016/2158(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0153A8-0142/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0276/2016)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies(3),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(4) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 314(10) and Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(5), and in particular Articles 55, 99, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0142/2017),

1.  Grants the European Ombudsman discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Ombudsman for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the European Ombudsman, the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court of Auditors, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the External Action Service, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section VIII – European Ombudsman (2016/2158(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section VIII – European Ombudsman,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0142/2017),

A.  whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority stresses the particular importance of further strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the Union institutions by improving transparency and accountability, implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources,

1.  Notes with satisfaction that the Court of Auditors (the “Court”) identified no significant weaknesses with respect to the audited topics related to human resources and procurement for the European Ombudsman (the “Ombudsman”);

2.  Emphasises the fact that on the basis of its audit work, the Court concluded that the payments as a whole for the year ended on 31 December 2015 for administrative expenditure of the Ombudsman were free from material error;

3.  Stresses that the Ombudsman’s budget is purely administrative and amounted in 2015 to EUR 10 346 105 (EUR 9 857 002 in 2014); stresses, however, that introducing performance-based budgeting should not apply only to the Ombudsman’s budget as a whole but should also include the setting of specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based (SMART) targets to individual departments, units and staffs’ annual plans; in this respect, calls on the Ombudsman to introduce the principle of performance-based budgeting more widely in its daily operations;

4.  Notes that of the total appropriations, 92,32 % were committed (compared to 97,87 % in 2014) and 86,19 % paid (compared to 93,96 % in 2014), with a utilisation rate of 92,32 % (compared to 97,87 % in 2014); notes that the utilisation rate continued to decrease in 2015;

5.  Notes that the lowering of the utilisation rate in 2015 influenced the Ombudsman’s decision to reduce several budget lines, namely, those for missions, representation expenses and publications, and translations, and consequently reduced the budget of those lines;

6.  Acknowledges that the Ombudsman is a frontrunner in transparency among the Union institutions; calls, nevertheless, for further improvement of the transparency of recruitment conditions and processes; asks the Ombudsman to indicate the principal adviser’s tasks and to clarify his or her position in the organisational chart; in light of the changes before adoption of the organisational structure of the institution in November 2015, asks the Ombudsman to ensure that an updated version of its organisational chart is available on its website;

7.  Welcomes the continuation of the Ombudsman's investigations into "revolving door" cases in the Commission; is concerned about the "internal revolving door" between the Ombudsman and the other institutions which might be under scrutiny of the Ombudsman or between the other institutions which might scrutinising each other's work; calls on the Ombudsman to analyse the situation and to work out rules in order to avoid conflicts of interests if it considers it to be necessary;

8.  Welcomes the efficient implementation of the annual management plan in 2015 within the strategy towards 2019; notes that the large majority of the targets settled by the Ombudsman to assess its performance through key performance indicators were reached; trusts that that trend will be kept in the years to come;

9.  Acknowledges the key role that the Ombudsman played in the process of introducing internal rules for the protection of whistleblowers under Article 22(a) to (c) of the Staff Regulations in the Union institutions by the end of 2015; asks the Ombudsman to monitor the implementation of those rules on an ongoing basis and to evaluate whether they provide appropriate protection for Parliament’s accredited parliamentary assistants;

10.  Encourages the Ombudsman in its preparation of rules on the prevention and fight against harassment;

11.  Acknowledges the importance of the Ombudsman’s strategic and own initiatives and invites the Ombudsman to inform the discharge authority regularly about the impact of its inquiries; reiterates that the Ombudsman’s first priority should be to address complaints from citizens within a reasonable time frame; asks the Ombudsman to interpret maladministration as widely as possible when performing its duties and to develop closer cooperation with Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control in its strategic work;

12.  Acknowledges the new definitions of public and non-public interest introduced by the implementing provisions for sorting the incoming complaints; asks the Ombudsman to inform the discharge authority as to how those definitions have affected its performance;

13.  Welcomes the fact that the Ombudsman publishes on its website the identity and other details of the external stakeholders whom she meets;

14.  Notes the results achieved in the complaints handling in 2015 and welcomes the fact that the Union institutions complied with the Ombudsman's proposals at a rate of 90 %; calls on the Ombudsman to provide a breakdown of compliance of the Union institutions with its proposals in its annual activity reports; asks the Ombudsman to provide an analysis of the possible reasons of non-compliance and asks the Union institutions to improve their compliance rate further;

15.  Welcomes the achievement of gender balance at management level in 2015; endorses the Ombudsman’s support for measures sustaining the equal participation of men and women in its workforce;

16.  Regrets, however, the clear geographic imbalance at middle and senior management level, and, in particular, the overrepresentation of managers from the Member State of which the Ombudsman is a national; calls on the Ombudsman to ensure a sustained correction of this situation;

17.  Notes the Ombudsman’s plan to comply with the inter-institutional agreement to reduce staff by 5 % over a period of five years and asks to be informed on how that reduction matches the 2016 estimates to create five new posts;

18.  Is concerned about the two complaints made to the European Data Protection Supervisor against the Ombudsman in 2015 and asks for details of those complaints to be provided to Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control;

19.  Welcomes the consistent application of the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) rules, the dematerialisation of documents, the creation of a permanent green mobility scheme and the use of video conferencing for meetings; encourages further application of the principles of green public procurement and calls on the Ombudsman to establish rules and a budget for carbon offsetting;

20.  Welcomes the Ombudsman’s clarification for the absence of a building policy, as its services are hosted by Parliament, and asks to be informed of any developments or changes with regard to the current situation;

21.  Welcomes the provision of exhaustive information on all the human resources at the Ombudsman’s disposal, broken down according to grade, sex and nationality, and requests that that information be automatically included in the Ombudsman’s annual activity report;

22.  Expects the Ombudsman to continue to strive for consistent quality in its annual activity report and asks the Ombudsman to provide a comprehensive annual impact report, which is an important tool for the assessment of its work;

23.  Expresses the wish that national ombudsmen, authorities of the Member States and the Union institutions provide more help to the Ombudsman by drawing the attention of Union citizens to the possibility of turning to the Ombudsman in cases of maladministration by any of the institutions or bodies of the Union.

(1) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(2) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.


Discharge 2015: EU general budget - European Data Protection Supervisor
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section IX – European Data Protection Supervisor (2016/2159(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0154A8-0140/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2015 (COM(2016)0475 – C8‑0277/2016)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2015, together with the institutions’ replies(3),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(4) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 314(10) and Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(5), and in particular Articles 55, 99, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0140/2017),

1.  Grants the European Data Protection Supervisor discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the European Data Protection Supervisor, the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court of Auditors, the European Ombudsman and the European External Action Service, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section IX – European Data Protection Supervisor (2016/2159(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015, Section IX – European Data Protection Supervisor,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0140/2017),

A.  whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority stresses the particular importance of further strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the Union institutions by improving transparency and accountability, implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources;

1.  Welcomes the conclusion of the Court of Auditors (the “Court”), according to which the payments as a whole for the year ended on 31 December 2015 for administrative and other expenditure of the European Data Protection Supervisor (the “Supervisor”) were free from material error and that the examined supervisory and control systems for administrative and other expenditure were effective;

2.  Notes that, in its annual report for 2015, the Court identified no serious weaknesses with regard to the audited topics (five recruitment procedures, five procurement procedures and a single financial transaction) relating to the Supervisor’s human resources and procurement activities; stresses that this is the fourth consecutive year in which no serious weaknesses were identified by the Court;

3.  Notes that in 2015, the Supervisor had a total allocated budget of EUR 8 760 417 (compared to EUR 8 012 953 in 2014) and that the implementation rate was 96 % (compared to 92 % in 2014); welcomes the improved result;

4.  Notes that the Supervisor's budget is mostly administrative, with a large amount being used for expenditure relating to persons working within the institution and the remaining amount relating to buildings, furniture, equipment and miscellaneous running costs; stresses, however, that introducing performance-based budgeting should not apply only to the Supervisor’s budget as a whole but should also include the setting of specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based (SMART) targets to individual departments, units and the annual plans of members of staff; in this respect, calls on the Supervisor to introduce the performance-based budgeting principle more widely in its daily operations;

5.  Notes with concern that three internal control system indicators are qualified as needing substantial additional effort, in particular the “objectives and performance indicators” that are recommended to develop SMART objectives and relevant, accepted, credible, easy and robust indicators; welcomes the commitment of the Supervisor to implement all the recommendations regarding those indicators;

6.  Notes that while the Supervisor has only one senior management post, its middle management posts present a gender imbalance of 40 %/60 %; calls on the Supervisor to pursue its efforts to ensure that its recruitment and promotions policy is as gender balanced as possible;

7.  Notes with great satisfaction that each of the Supervisor’s members of staff was absent from work on average for only 6,6 days due to sick leave;

8.  Emphasises that the Supervisor has organised different after-work events; calls on the Supervisor to check for ways in which to reward the individual members of staff who contribute most to its well-being activities, continue with such activities, and try to include as many members of staff as possible; calls on the Supervisor to share its experience in this field with the Union institutions and other Union bodies;

9.  Notes with satisfaction that the Supervisor has designated two anti-harassment counsellors who can provide confidential assistance and who belong to the network of the Commission; notes that there were no reported cases of harassment;

10.  Notes that the Supervisor adopted a code of conduct for its supervisors on 16 December 2015; stresses, however, that the code is more of a policy statement and provides no rules against conflicts of interests; regrets that the CVs and declarations of interests of the Supervisor’s members and staff are not available for public consultation; calls on the Supervisor to draft and submit to the discharge authority a track record of cases of conflicts of interests identified;

11.  Welcomes the Supervisor’s practice of regularly informing staff about management meetings and their outcome;

12.  Notes with satisfaction that any attendance by the Supervisor at professional meetings with organisations or self-employed individuals outside the Union institutions (including lobbyists) are published at least on its website; notes that, similarly, all conferences in which the Supervisor participates are published on its website, together with any formal speaking notes; reiterates its call on the Supervisor to provide detailed information on missions undertaken by its members and staff in its annual activity report since the information provided was not sufficiently detailed in terms of transparency and cost-effectiveness guarantees;

13.  Calls on the Supervisor to join the Internstitutional Agreement on a Mandatory Transparency Register, when it is set up;

14.  Notes the creation of a small task-force in July 2015 to assess the legal, operational and budgetary means for the creation of the European Data Protection Board which will take over the Article 29 Working Party; welcomes the utilisation rate achieved in 2015 for the appropriations entered in the relevant titles; calls on the Supervisor to include the findings of the task force in its annual activity report;

15.  Welcomes, in particular, the advisory role played by the Supervisor during the development of legislation in the data protection package (the General Data Protection Regulation(6) and the Data Protection Directive(7)), the Europol reform(8) and the Passenger Name Record Directive,(9) the EU-US Privacy Shield(10) as well as its opinion on the First reform package on the Common European Asylum System (the Eurodac, EASO and Dublin regulations)(11) as well as its involvement in the setting-up of the European Data Protection Board;

16.  Welcomes the cooperation of the Supervisor with the Union institutions and other Union bodies, mainly in administrative, procurement, financial, accounting and budgetary matters; asks the Supervisor to include detailed information on all service-level agreements and the results obtained from this cooperation in its annual activity report;

17.  Welcomes the strategy developed by the Supervisor for 2015 to 2019 and the associated key performance indicators used to monitor and adjust, if needed, the use of its resources; acknowledges that the key performance indicators selected show that the implementation of this strategy is largely on track; calls on the Supervisor to continue to provide the scoreboard in its annual activity report and to clarify the distinction between external and internal indicators;

18.  Welcomes the clarification for the absence of a building policy of the Supervisor, as its services are hosted by Parliament in one of its buildings, and asks to be informed of any development or change with regard to the current situation;

19.  Welcomes the provision of exhaustive information on all the human resources at the Supervisor’s disposal, broken down according to grade, sex and nationality and requests that that information be automatically included in its annual activity report;

20.  Notes the Supervisor’s plan to comply with the interinstitutional agreement(12) to reduce staff by 5 % over a period of five years; is well aware of the future challenge of preparing the Union institutions and bodies for the application of the General Data Protection Regulation, which is to apply from 25 May 2018; suggests that the Supervisor inform Parliament about any alternative savings achieved to compensate the possible delay in the reduction of staff;

21.  Reiterates its call on the Commission to exempt agencies in the justice and home affairs area, as well as the Supervisor, from the general 5 % staffing cut, since in the current political climate these bodies are being requested to take on ever-increasing workloads;

22.  Notes the reference, in the introduction to the Supervisor’s 2015 annual activity report, to specific sections on procurement and missions’ management; calls for its next annual activity report to include an overview of the same data for the last three or four years;

23.  Notes that the Supervisor applied the recommendation formulated in Parliament’s 2014 discharge report and published a list of awarded contracts; recommends that the Supervisor publish the Court’s report together with its annual activity report, for the sake of transparency and public confidence;

24.  Urges the Supervisor to adhere to the rules covered by Article 16 of the Staff Regulations and to lay down clear binding rules regarding “revolving doors”, in accordance with the guidelines published by the Commission;

25.  Welcomes the publication, on 16 June 2016, of the Supervisor’s decision on internal rules concerning whistleblowing;

26.  Calls on the Supervisor to improve its communications policy in relation with Union citizens;

27.  Encourages the increasing contribution of the Supervisor to solutions driving innovation and enhancing privacy and data protection, in particular by increasing transparency, user control and accountability in big data processing; notes the delivery of several opinions calling for action maximising benefits of new technologies without compromising fundamental rights.

(1) OJ L 69, 13.3.2015.
(2) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 375, 13.10.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 380, 14.10.2016, p. 147.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(6) Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation) (OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1).
(7) Directive (EU) 2016/680 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by competent authorities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Council Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA (OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 89).
(8) Regulation (EU) 2016/794 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) and replacing and repealing Council Decisions 2009/371/JHA, 2009/934/JHA, 2009/935/JHA, 2009/936/JHA and 2009/968/JHA (OJ L 135, 24.5.2016, p. 53). See OJ C 38, 8.2.2014, p. 3.
(9) Directive (EU) 2016/681 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the use of passenger name record (PNR) data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime (OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 132). See OJ C 392, 25.11.2015, p. 11.
(10) See OJ C 257, 15.7.2016, p. 8.
(11) See OJ C 9, 12.1.2017, p. 3.
(12) Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management (OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1).


Discharge 2015: Performance, financial management and control of EU agencies
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Resolution
Annex
European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union agencies for the financial year 2015: performance, financial management and control (2016/2206(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0155A8-0149/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union agencies for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2014 financial year (COM(2016)0674), and to the accompanying Commission staff working documents (SWD(2016)0338 and SWD(2016)0339),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ specific annual reports(1) on the annual accounts of the decentralised agencies for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(2), and in particular Article 208 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1271/2013 of 30 September 2013 on the framework financial regulation for the bodies referred to in Article 208 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council(3), and in particular Article 110 thereof,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ special report No 12/2016 on the “Agencies’ use of grants: not always appropriate or demonstrably effective”,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinions of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0149/2017),

A.  whereas this resolution contains, for each body within the meaning of Article 208 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012, cross-cutting observations accompanying the discharge decisions in accordance with Article 110 of Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1271/2013 and Article 3 of Annex IV to Parliament’s Rules of Procedure,

B.  whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority stresses the particular importance of further strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the Union institutions by improving transparency and accountability, and implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources;

1.  Emphasises that the agencies have significant influence on policy and decision-making and programme implementation in areas of vital importance to European citizens, such as health, the environment, human and social rights, migration, refugees, innovation, financial supervision, safety and security; reiterates the importance of the tasks performed by agencies and their direct impact on the daily lives of Union citizens; insists on the essential role that agencies have in enhancing the visibility of the Union in the Member States; reiterates also the importance of the autonomy of the agencies, in particular of the regulatory agencies and those with the function of independent information collection; recalls that the main reason for establishing agencies was for the purpose of making independent technical or scientific assessments;

2.  Notes that, according to the Court of Auditors’ (the “Court”) summary of results from its 2015 annual audits of the Union agencies and other bodies (the “Court’s summary”), the agencies’ 2015 budget amounted to some EUR 2,8 billion, representing an increase of about 7,7 % compared to 2014 and about 2 % of the Union’s general budget; points out that the major part of the agencies’ budget is funded through Commission subsidies, whereas the rest is income from fees or other sources which amount to almost one-third;

3.  Notes that the agencies employ 9 965 permanent, temporary, contract or seconded staff representing a noticeable increase of 6,25 % compared with the previous year, thus creating a need to monitor closely developments in this regard; understands, however that the number of staff increased the most in agencies dealing with migration matters and the prevention of serious crime and terrorism, both of which were renewed and strengthened as priorities of the Union in 2015;

4.  Notes that, according to the Court’s summary, it issued an unqualified opinion on the annual accounts of all agencies except for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex); notes in addition that the transactions underlying the agencies’ accounts were legal and regular for all agencies except for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, for which the Court has issued a qualified opinion;

5.  Acknowledges that in 2015 the agencies proceeded with executing their work programmes as envisaged; notes however that the ongoing discussions regarding the revision of the Financial Regulation and the future multiannual financial framework post-2020 present a valuable opportunity to take a forward look and to exploit these opportunities to implement positive change regarding the management of the agencies’ budgets, deliverables and their multiannual work programmes;

6.  Recalls that the discussion of the draft annual work programmes and the multiannual strategies of the agencies in the committees responsible should help to ensure that the programmes and strategies are balanced, reflect the actual political priorities and contribute to achieving the goals set in the Europe 2020 strategy;

7.  Notes with satisfaction that some agencies already cooperate according to their thematic grouping, such as the justice and home affairs agencies(4) and the European supervisory authorities(5) ; encourages other agencies which have not already started, to cooperate further with other agencies within the same thematic grouping whenever possible, not only in establishing shared services and synergies, but in their common policy areas as well; encourages the Court to consider presenting landscape reviews of the agencies’ common policy areas; calls on the Commission and the Council when deciding on the relocation of the agencies based in the United Kingdom also to take into account the possibilities to better cooperate with other agencies in the same thematic grouping and introduce shared services;

8.  Believes that within the framework of the discussions on the new approach for a Union budget based on results, as well as on the basis of both the progress achieved in improving thematic cooperation and the exercise undertaken by the agencies in the report “How do EU agencies and other bodies contribute to the Europe 2020 Strategy and to the Juncker Commission Agenda?”, all the Union institutions involved, namely the Commission, the Parliament and the Court, should also take this thematic approach into account in the annual discharge procedure, following the proposal in the annex to this resolution;

9.  Notes with concern that Union regulatory agencies in charge of the risk assessment of regulated products, in particular the European Food Safety Authority, the European Chemicals Agency or the European Medicines Agency do not have the financial and legal resources to fulfil their mission properly;

Common approach and the Commission’s Roadmap

10.  Recalls that in July 2012, Parliament, the Council and the Commission adopted a common approach on decentralised agencies (the “Common Approach”), a political agreement concerning the future management and reform of the agencies; recalls in addition that the Common Approach was implemented through the Commission’s Roadmap of December 2012 (the “Roadmap”);

11.  Notes the second progress report on the implementation of the Common Approach (COM(2015)0179) and appreciates the progress made in many areas towards rationalising their functioning; welcomes the Commission’s and the agencies’ efforts and progress made in the implementation of the roadmap;

12.  Notes that most of the Roadmap actions implemented by the agencies helped to improve their accountability and transparency, which further demonstrates the considerable efforts taken by the agencies to implement the Common Approach, despite the pressure in terms of resources, and shows that agencies are responsible, accountable and transparent; notes in addition, as the EU Agencies Network (“the Network”) has observed, that the implementation of the actions foreseen in the Common Approach is effectively complete;

13.  Is concerned however that the implementation of the actions had in addition a generally negative impact on the agencies’ efficiency, as well as that in certain areas the implementation resulted in significant increases in costs, both in terms of human and financial resources; notes moreover that these increased costs were experienced during the implementation of the actions, but will also continue on an ongoing basis in the future;

14.  Acknowledges the administrative burden that the implementation of the Roadmap has caused to the agencies, as well as the “outsourcing” of several tasks related to collecting and consolidating agencies’ data and input to the Network, in particular with regard to the budgetary and discharge procedure; calls on the Commission and the budgetary authority to recognise these efforts, and to provide additional resources in the establishment plan of the agencies, in particular related to the functions of the Network’s permanent secretariat;

15.  Notes that in the context of the implementation of new mechanisms to improve reporting procedures, the previous reporting mechanisms should be discontinued to avoid duplication of tasks and double reporting systems in order to achieve greater efficiency;

16.  Believes that the agencies should continue to develop, in close cooperation with the Commission, the Parliament and the Court, comprehensive indicators that measure the overall results and efficiency of their activities; notes that the overall objective should be a balanced number of indicators that enhance agencies’ transparency and accountability and support decisions of the budgetary authority on budget and staff allocation;

Budget and financial management

17.  Recalls that the principle of annuality is one of the three basic accounting principles, together with unity and balance, which are indispensable to ensuring the efficient implementation of the Union budget; notes that, according to the Court’s summary, an elevated level of carry-overs of committed appropriations that remains the most frequent issue of the budgetary and financial management affecting 32 agencies, compared with 28 in 2014; notes moreover from the Court that it continued to report on these matters following its internally defined threshold for the different titles of the agencies’ budget;

18.  Notes, however, that carry-overs may often be partly or fully justified by the multiannual nature of the agencies’ operational programmes, do not necessarily indicate weaknesses in budget planning and implementation and are not always at odds with the budgetary principle of annuality; notes that the carry-overs resulting from these operational programmes are in many cases planned in advance by the agencies and communicated to the Court, which facilitates the explicit distinction between planned and unplanned carry-overs;

19.  Points out that the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) agreed, in principle, on a transparent distinction between “planned” and “unplanned” carry-overs which has been followed by Eurofound for many years; encourages the Network, the agencies and the Court to explore whether the procedure for the distinction of planned and unplanned carry-overs and their transparent communications could be established, until such time as the matter is included in the Financial Regulation;

20.  Highlights that the level of carry-over cancellations is indicative of the extent to which the agencies have correctly anticipated their financial needs and is a better indicator of good budgetary planning than the level of carry-overs;

21.  Stresses therefore the need to establish clear definitions of “planned and communicated” carry-overs in order to streamline the Court’s reporting on this issue, as well as to enable the discharge authority to discern between the carry-overs indicating poor budgetary planning, and the carry-overs as a budgetary tool which support multiannual programmes as well as procurement planning;

22.  Demands in this regard to include the definition of “planned and communicated” carry-overs together with other necessary guidelines in the next revision of the Financial Regulation and the Framework Financial Regulation; invites the Commission, the Court and the Network to discuss and to propose possible solutions to this issue, in order to streamline in particular the financial management in the areas of multiannual programming and procurement;

23.  Observes that the audited budgetary implementation reports of certain agencies differ from the level of detail provided by most other agencies, which demonstrates the urgency for clear guidelines on the agencies’ budgetary reporting; acknowledges that the agencies with the different reporting have outsourced the role of accounting officer to the accounting officer of the Commission, as well as that the different level of detail was based on the practices of the Commission's reporting; supports the Commission's intention on establishing guidelines for the agencies' budgetary reporting for the 2016 accounts; calls on the Network and the Commission to report to the discharge authority on future developments regarding this issue;

24.  Notes that the agencies generally award and pay grants in compliance with rules; invites the agencies to improve their grant management and to focus on measuring the effectiveness of the grants awarded;

25.  Urges all agencies to each formulate a comprehensive business continuity plan addressing the connected risks of budgeting and business volatility that could arise as a result of unexpected and serious events or circumstances;

26.  Welcomes the Court's findings and recommendations in its special report No 12/2016 on the agencies' use of grants;

Cooperation among agencies and with other institutions – shared services and synergies

27.  Highlights the benefits of sharing services, which enable consistent application of administrative implementing rules and procedures that concern human resources and finance issues, as well as the potential efficiency gains of sharing services between the agencies, in particular when considering the budget and staff reductions that the agencies are facing;

28.  Notes with concern that some agencies continue to have dual operational and administrative headquarters; regards it as essential that all dual headquarters which do not offer any operational added value should be done away with at the earliest opportunity;

29.  Acknowledges the Network’s observation that with the aim of guaranteeing efficiency gains in terms of financial and human resources, the agencies worked to avoid duplication and make information sound, accurate and easily accessible; notes with satisfaction that these efforts resulted in an online shared services catalogue in which all the agencies within the Network are expected to participate, either by offering and proposing new services or by requesting services through the centralised platform, and in which, as of January 2017, 21 agencies offer a total of 184 services to be shared, including the exchange of documentation and participation in expert fora;

30.  Acknowledges furthermore that the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the European Fisheries Control Agency signed a “proof of concept” pilot project that could serve to explore the viability of EUIPO to provide IT disaster recovery services at a very low price to other agencies within the Network; agrees that such a scheme can bring not only benefits in terms of better ICT services and lower operational costs, but also a stronger Network and an increased ICT maturity; calls on the Network to report to the discharge authority on further developments regarding this pilot project;

31.  Observes that the European Food Safety Authority, on behalf of 20 agencies, launched a joint open call for tenders in order to select a “Cloud Service Brokerage” provider; notes with satisfaction that the contract, awarded in September 2016, could according to European Food Safety Authority provide an overall financial saving of EUR 2,5 million to the agencies;

32.  Acknowledges that the Network is currently developing a new tool on joint procurement, which is included within the shared services area in the “EU Agencies’ Extranet”; notes with satisfaction that this tool would serve and support several agencies, thus creating an additional lever for sharing a common external service provider, with subsequent resources savings and volume effect;

33.  Emphasises the importance of cooperation and exchange of ideas and practices between the agencies within the framework of the Union agencies performance development network, which contributes to more balanced governance and greater coherence between them; stresses that the network must contribute to greater efficiency and not create additional costs and more bureaucracy;

34.  Welcomes the increasing systematisation in cooperation between the European Training Foundation and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, creating further synergies in their respective mandates through their joint annual work programme, in particular through the development of a common Riga Monitoring Framework and their collaboration with the International Labour Organization on finalising work on six methodological guides on skills anticipation and matching tools and methods;

Human resources management

35.  Recalls that paragraph 27 of the interinstitutional agreement(6) calls for a progressive reduction of staff by 5 % in all institutions, bodies and agencies to be effected between 2013 and 2017; welcomes the fact that most agencies have already met or exceeded the 5 % reduction based on their respective 2012 establishment plans;

36.  Notes with concern that the Commission applied an additional levy of 5 % of staff to the agencies in order to create a redeployment pool from which it would allocate the posts to the agencies with new tasks entrusted to them or in a start-up phase; is particularly concerned that with the additional staff reduction, fulfilment of the agencies’ mandates and annual work programmes proves increasingly difficult, particularly for the agencies classified by the Commission as “cruising speed agencies”; calls on the Commission and the budgetary authority to ensure that potential further cost saving measures do not hinder agencies´ abilities to fulfil their mandates effectively; notes that there are many instances where the agencies' capacity to fulfil their responsibilities has been compromised, such as European Food Safety Authority’s ability to ensure food safety, or Eurofound's capacity to take on new tasks relating to migrants and refugees;

37.  Emphasises that geographical balance, namely the relationship between staff nationality and the size of Member States, should still remain an important element of resources management particularly with respect to the Member States that have acceded to the Union since 2004, welcomes the fact that the agencies of the Union have reached a more balanced composition of officials from the Member States which joined the Union before and since 2004; but points out that these Member States are still underrepresented at the higher level of administration and in managerial posts for which progress is still awaited;

38.  Is convinced that the agencies’ staff financed by fees paid by industry, and consequently not financed by the Union budget, should not be, in principle, affected by the additional staff reduction above the 5 % as requested by the inter-institutional agreement; urges the Commission and the budgetary authority to treat the agencies financed primarily by the Union budget as a separate case and to put forward a specific framework for agencies financed mainly by industry, which should be in proportion to the services provided by the agency concerned;

39.  Notes that by implementing projects and programmes funded by the Union agencies play a direct role in job creation across the Union; notes, furthermore, that jobs are created by the Union's various funding programmes in several very different ways, including the use of incentives such as payment of bonuses, resulting in significant disparity in the quality of jobs created by the Union; urges the Commission to undertake a thorough and comprehensive evaluation of the impact of funds, programmes and projects financed through the Union budget on direct job creation; asks the Commission to publish such an evaluation as soon as possible and to present it to the Parliament;

40.  Acknowledges the efforts taken to have equal levels of both genders among the staff and members of the agencies' management; urges those agencies whose staff records still show an unsatisfactory gender balance to act further to correct this imbalance and to communicate the results back to the discharge authority as quickly as possible;

Conflicts of interest and transparency

41.  Notes that, according to the Network, all agencies have already adopted generic rules on whistleblowing as part of the ethics guidelines on whistleblowing and in accordance with the provisions of the staff regulations; notes with concern however, that only 65 % of the agencies have adopted additional internal rules on whistleblowing; acknowledges the Network’s observation that, in the cases where the relevant rules are not yet in place, the process is ongoing, with adoption of such rules pending; notes that in several cases, the agencies are waiting for guidance or input from the Commission before they can finalise their rules; acknowledges moreover that the rules should be finalised and implemented in the first half of 2017; calls on the agencies which have still not adopted the internal whistleblowing rules to do so without delay and by doing so reinforce their internal whistleblowing policies in order to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in the workplace, regularly inform and train employees on their duties and rights, ensure protection of the whistleblower from reprisal, follow up the substance of whistleblowers' alerts in a timely manner keeping both the whistleblower and any potentially involved person informed of the progress of the procedure, and put in place a channel for anonymous internal reporting; calls on the agencies to report back annually to the discharge authority on the number of whistleblower cases and their follow-up activities; calls on the agencies and equally on the Commission to provide the necessary guidance and approval where required;

42.  Notes that out of the 16 agencies which use expert groups, scientific panels and committees, 13 took into account in their staffing policies the concerns raised by the Ombudsman’s own-initiative inquiry OI/6/2014/NF concerning the composition of the Commission expert groups; encourages the remaining agencies to take the Ombudsman’s concerns into account as soon as possible;

43.  Notes that the CVs and declarations of interest of the management board members, management staff and in house experts were published by 84 % of the agencies, compared with 74 % in the previous year; notes moreover that 60 % of the agencies check the factual correctness of the declarations of interest submitted by experts, the management board and staff at least once a year; calls on all the agencies to adopt strict guidelines for a coherent policy on the prevention and management of conflicts of interest and to implement this in accordance with the Roadmap on the follow-up to the Common Approach; calls on the remaining agencies which have not yet introduced such a policy to regularly verify the declarations on a regular basis to ensure necessary public oversight and scrutiny of management;

44.  Welcomes the efforts of agencies to maximise transparency with the publication of declarations of interest and CVs on their websites; notes, however, that in several cases, some of these documents are missing; recalls however that the agencies lack the appropriate provisions in their founding regulations to make such document provision obligatory; expects therefore that any revision of the concerned agencies' founding regulations will stipulate a mandatory declaration of interest and CV from each board member; calls also on the Commission to take advantage of the ongoing revision of the Financial Regulation to similarly address this issue as far as possible;

45.  Calls on the agencies, in this regard, to take further actions towards more transparent management; stresses that constant and efficient internal monitoring is essential for the tracking and detecting of possible conflicts of interest;

46.  Notes that the agencies have shown a commitment towards preventing, detecting and deterring fraud or any other irregularity and taking the appropriate actions in the event of their occurrence; notes with satisfaction that the Network established an anti-fraud working group of the Inter-Agency Legal Network, with the aim to enhance harmonised and standardised approaches for anti-fraud strategies among the agencies; acknowledges the Network’s observation that the majority of agencies indicated an increase of awareness of anti-fraud prevention; acknowledges moreover that in order to facilitate and share best practices, speakers from the European Anti-Fraud Office and/or the Court have been regularly invited to the aforementioned Inter-Agency Legal Network working group, as to present their institutional point of view as well as to provide support and raise awareness of the agencies in matters relating to fraud;

47.  Emphasises that all agencies should have controls and guidance in place with regard to legal costs relating to judicial proceedings in which an agency was or is a party; encourages the agencies to share best practices on this matter;

48.  Calls on the agencies to develop common guidelines for applying public access to documents, especially as regards intellectual property rights;

49.  Encourages the agencies to further strengthen their visibility and to continue to develop various communication channels that would present their work and activities to wide public;

50.  Notes that the members of the management board and executives of several agencies published a declaration of absence of conflict of interest instead of a declaration of interest; underlines that it is not for the management board or for the executives to declare themselves free of conflicts of interest; stresses that this constitutes in itself a conflict of interest; calls for independent verification of the declarations of interest;

Communication and visibility

51.  Notes that the agencies are actively promoting their work through various channels, in particular by regularly updating their websites to provide information and promote the work delivered; notes in addition that social media is increasingly becoming a standard communication tool for the agencies; observes that open-days, targeted campaigns and videos explaining the core work of agencies are some of the activities used in educating the citizens and providing them with opportunities to learn more about the work of the agencies and the Union institutions; acknowledges that the general or specialised media relations activities are regularly measured through different indicators, and that each agency has its communication plan with specific activities tailored for its needs;

Other comments

52.  Reiterates its position from the 2013 and 2014 discharge procedures that, according to the agreement of the Parliament, the Council and the Commission in paragraph 54 of the Common Approach, all aspects of outsourced external audits “remain under the full responsibility of the Court, which manages all administrative and procurement procedures required”; reiterates moreover that the new audit approach involving private sector auditors has resulted in a significant increase in the administrative burden on the agencies, as well as that the time spent on procurement and administration of audit contracts created additional expenditure thus straining further the diminishing resources of the agencies; expresses its concern at the possible conflicts of interests in cases where such private auditors or their respective companies also take on audit or consultancy work for the private sector companies with clear business interests with the Union agencies; emphasises that it is imperative to resolve this issue within the context of the ongoing revision of the Financial Regulation and the subsequent revision of the Framework Financial Regulation; calls on all parties involved in these revisions to provide clarity on this issue as a matter of urgency so as to significantly reduce the excessive administrative burden and to return to the preferred approach of a public audit scheme;

53.  Notes that, according to the Court’s summary, the referendum vote of the citizens of the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the Union, which took place on 23 June 2016 and after balance sheet date, is noted in an “Other matter” paragraph in the annual reports of the European Banking Authority and of the European Medicines Agency, which are both located in London, along with other Union premises in the UK such as the Union information offices; notes that this paragraph clarifies that the accounts and related notes of the two agencies were prepared using the information available at the date of signing of their accounts when the result of UK citizens’ vote were not yet known and the formal notification of the triggering of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union has not been presented; refers, for observations relating to the specific implications for the European Banking Authority and European Medicines Agency on this matter, to its resolution of 27 April 2017(7) on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Banking Authority for the financial year 2015 and its resolution of 27 April 2017(8) on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Medicines Agency for the financial year 2015;

54.  Notes the simultaneous publication of proposals to revise the respective regulations establishing the Union’s three tripartite agencies in accordance with the principles set out in the Joint Statement of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on decentralised agencies of 19 July 2012; underlines the importance of preserving and improving the current full tripartite governance of those agencies ensuring active participation of national authorities, European employers’ organisations and European workers’ organisations in their governance and functioning; recalls that staffing cuts have been implemented and reiterates its concern that further cuts could limit the agencies' ability to carry out their mandates;

55.  Notes the ongoing evaluation and fitness check of the four Union agencies under the remit of Directorate-General for Employement, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL) which was due to start in December 2016 and with a planned completion date in December 2017(9); takes the view that these evaluations should contribute to Parliament’s informed decisions regarding the effectiveness and impact of agencies' contributions; also stresses the need to exploit synergies in overlapping activities of the four agencies, as well as between the agencies and the Commission itself and to avoid duplication of work;

56.  Welcomes the solid output and flexibility of all agencies in the area of freedom, security and justice; welcomes their flexibility to adapt to evolving political priorities and to respond to unforeseen events; regrets, however, the lack of effective indicators reflecting the impact of their work on internal security, migration, border management and of fundamental rights development; welcomes the efforts made by several agencies to improve their budgetary management by optimising the use of their budgets and by implementing a better budgetary planning process;

57.  Welcomes the commitment of all justice and home affairs agencies to further fine-tune budgetary procedures; stresses, however, that their priority should be to improve operational efficiency on the ground and to address the structural issues identified by the Court and the Internal Audit Service;

58.  Acknowledges the high number of agencies which have been set up in the area of freedom, security and justice but reiterates the importance of the missions which they carry out and their direct impact on citizens' lives; stresses that all agencies have been set up in response to a specific needs; is convinced that all the agencies in this policy area fulfil a distinct and necessary role providing European added value;

59.  Requests that all justice and home affairs agencies identify financial, resource or other bottlenecks hindering their operational performance and to call for adjustments in a timely manner.

o
o   o

60.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the agencies subject to this discharge procedure, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

ANNEX: PROPOSAL FOR GROUPING OF AGENCIES FOR EP DISCHARGE

STANDING COMMITTEES

EU AGENCIES

ECONOMIC AND MONETARY AFFAIRS

EBA; EIOPA; ESMA

EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS

CdT; EU-OSHA; Eurofound; Cedefop, ETF

ENVIRONMENT, PUBLIC HEALTH AND FOOD SAFETY

EEA; EFSA; ECDC; ECHA; EMA

INDUSTRY, RESEARCH AND ENERGY

EIT, ACER; BEREC; ENISA; EURATOM; GSA

TRANSPORT AND TOURISM

EASA; EMSA; ERA;

FISHERIES

EFCA

CIVIL LIBERTIES, JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS

Eurojust, FRA, Frontex, EASO; EMCDDA; CEPOL, eu-LISA; Europol

WOMEN´S RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY

EIGE

(1) OJ C 449, 1.12.2016.
(2) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 328, 7.12.2013, p. 42.
(4) European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), European Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA), European Asylum Support Office (EASO), European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), European Police College (CEPOL) (since 1.7.2016: European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL)), European Police Office (Europol) (as from 1.5.2017: European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol)), European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), The European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust)
(5) European Banking Authority (EBA), European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA)
(6) Interinstitutional agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management (OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1).
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0163.
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0172.
(9) http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/roadmaps/docs/2016_empl_020_evaluation_agencies_en.pdf


Discharge 2015: Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER)
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Decision
Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators for the financial year 2015 (2016/2189(DEC))
P8_TA(2017)0156A8-0147/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators for the financial year 2015, together with the Agency’s reply(1),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(2) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the Agency in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05873/2017 – C8‑0075/2017),

–  having regard to Article 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(3), and in particular Article 208 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 713/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 establishing an Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators(4), and in particular Article 24 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1271/2013 of 30 September 2013 on the framework financial regulation for the bodies referred to in Article 208 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council(5), and in particular Article 108 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0147/2017),

1.  Grants the Director of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision, and the resolution forming an integral part of it, to the Director of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on the closure of the accounts of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators for the financial year 2015 (2016/2189(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators for the financial year 2015, together with the Agency’s reply(6),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(7) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the Agency in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05873/2017 – C8‑0075/2017),

–  having regard to Article 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(8), and in particular Article 208 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 713/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 establishing an Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators(9), and in particular Article 24 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1271/2013 of 30 September 2013 on the framework financial regulation for the bodies referred to in Article 208 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council(10), and in particular Article 108 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0147/2017),

1.  Approves the closure of the accounts of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators for the financial year 2015;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Director of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

3. European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators for the financial year 2015 (2016/2189(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0147/2017),

A.  whereas, according to its financial statements, the final budget of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (the “Agency”) for the financial year 2015 was EUR 11 266 000, representing an increase of 3,55 % compared to 2014; whereas the Agency’s entire budget derives from the Union budget,

B.  whereas the Court of Auditors (the “Court”), in its report on the Agency’s annual accounts for the financial year 2015 (the “Court's report”), stated that it has obtained reasonable assurances that the Agency’s annual accounts for the financial year 2015 are reliable and that the underlying transactions are legal and regular,

C.  whereas, in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority stresses the particular importance of further strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the Union institutions by improving transparency and accountability, implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources,

Follow-up of 2014 discharge

1.  Acknowledges the fact that the Agency:

   used a set of budget planning guidelines developed and endorsed the Commission’s internal audit service (IAS) in order to improve the planning and implementation of its annual budget and developed pre-recorded internal training on budgetary and financial management;
   included information about the state of play concerning the prevention and management of conflicts of interests and transparency in its annual report;

Budget and financial management

2.  Notes that budget monitoring efforts during the financial year 2015 resulted in a budget implementation rate of 95,09 %, reaching the Agency’s planned target and representing an increase of 0,09 % compared with 2014; notes, furthermore, that the payment appropriations execution rate was at 74,88 %, representing an increase of 5,04 % compared with 2014;

Commitments and carry-overs

3.  Notes that, according to the Court’s report, the carry-overs for Title III (operational expenditure) were EUR 1 360 000 (59 %) out of its committed appropriations, compared to EUR 1 570 000 (62 %) in 2014; notes, furthermore, that those carry-overs predominantly related to the long-term nature of the implementation of Regulation (EU) No 1227/2011;

4.  Notes that, according to the Court’s report, carry-overs for Title II (administrative expenditure) amounted to EUR 790 000 (35 %) out of its committed appropriations, compared to EUR 980 000 (41 %) in 2014; acknowledges that, according to the Agency, those carry-overs predominantly related to studies and services not delivered in 2015;

5.  Notes that carry-overs may often be partly or fully justified by the multiannual nature of the agencies’ operational programmes and do not necessarily indicate weaknesses in budget planning and implementation and are not always at odds with the budgetary principle of annuality, in particular if they are planned in advance by the Agency and communicated to the Court; notes the fact that the Agency found it difficult to reconcile the principle of annuality with the multi-annual nature of the REMIT implementation project;

Procurement and recruitment procedures

6.  Notes that the Agency employed 54 temporary agents, 20 contract agents, 6 seconded national experts, 9 trainees and 6 interim staff at the end of 2015; notes, furthermore, that there were no changes to the establishment plan in 2015;

7.  Notes from a job screening exercise that 67,83 % of the Agency’s jobs were operational, 22,89 % were in the area of administrative support and coordination and 9,28 % were neutral;

8.  Notes that 75 members of staff participated in an away day in 2015 which cost EUR 6 517 (EUR 87 per person);

Internal controls

9.  Notes that the Agency complied with the minimum requirements of all the internal control standards (ICS);

10.  Notes that the Agency evaluated the efficiency of its ICS with a view to finding areas for further improvements in 2015; acknowledges the fact that the Agency was to implement appropriate measures accordingly; calls on the Agency to inform the discharge authority of the measures implemented;

Internal audit

11.  Notes that the Commission’s IAS made a preliminary visit regarding the Agency’s audit on the procurement process; notes that the IAS was to perform that audit at the beginning of 2016; notes, furthermore, that the IAS was also to conduct a full risk assessment and an IT risk assessment audit at the beginning of 2016 and that the assessment was to result in a new strategic audit plan for the Agency; looks forward to the Agency’s reporting on the IAS audits in its 2016 annual activity report;

12.  Notes that out of six recommendations issued by the IAS following the 2014 audit on the “development of framework guidelines and opinion on network codes”, two were implemented and closed in 2014 and two in 2015; notes that the Agency was to implement the two remaining recommendations in 2016; acknowledges the fact that the last open recommendation stemming from the 2013 IAS audit on “planning, budgeting and monitoring” was closed in 2015;

Performance

13.  Notes that in late 2015 the Agency launched a survey enabling stakeholders to assess its regulatory activities, working methods and efficiency (for example in relation to the timely provision of deliverables), transparency, engagement with stakeholders and publications; notes, furthermore, that in October 2015 the Agency released a study for a methodology proposal to evaluate the impact of the gas network codes and guidelines in terms of implementation and market effects; asks the Agency to keep the discharge authority informed on the matter;

Prevention and management of conflicts of interests and transparency

14.  Notes that the Agency’s administrative board adopted the policy for the prevention and management of conflicts of interests, applicable to its staff with specific provisions for management, as well as to its administrative board, its board of regulators, its board of appeal, its working group chairs and co-chairs and its task-force convenors; notes, furthermore, that the Agency published the declarations of conflicts of interests on its website but points out that some CVs and declarations of the members of the board of regulators remain missing; calls on the Agency to publish those documents and allow the public the necessary overview of its senior management; notes that in 2016 the administrative board detected a potential conflict of interests of one of its members and followed the ad hoc procedure provided for; asks the Agency to provide further information about this issue to the discharge authority;

15.  Notes with satisfaction that the Agency adopted an anti-fraud strategy for the period 2015 to 2017, following guidance from OLAF, and that awareness-raising training has been provided to all staff;

16.  Notes that the Act on Implementation of International Education Programmes was adopted in the host Member State on 16 June 2016 and entered into force on 15 July 2016; notes that the host Member State initiated a feasibility study followi