Index 
Texts adopted
Wednesday, 18 April 2018 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Non-objection to a delegated act: European Union trade mark
 Fixing the period for the ninth election of representatives to the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage *
 EU-Australia Framework Agreement ***
 EU-Australia Framework Agreement (Resolution)
 Council of Europe Convention on the prevention of terrorism ***
 Council of Europe Convention on the prevention of terrorism (Additional protocol) ***
 Packaging and packaging waste ***I
 End-of-life vehicles, waste batteries and accumulators and waste electrical and electronic equipment ***I
 Waste ***I
 Landfill of waste ***I
 Procedural rules in the field of environmental reporting ***I
 Integrity policy of the Commission, in particular the appointment of the Secretary-General of the European Commission
 Progress on UN Global compacts for safe, orderly and regular migration and on refugees
 Implementation of the EU external financing instruments: mid-term review 2017 and the future post-2020 architecture
 Annual reports 2015-2016 on subsidiarity and proportionality
 Discharge 2016: EU general budget - Commission and executive agencies
 Discharge 2016: Court of Auditors' special reports in the context of the 2016 Commission discharge
 Discharge 2016: EU general budget - 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th EDFs
 Discharge 2016: EU general budget - European Parliament
 Discharge 2016: EU general budget - European Council and Council
 Discharge 2016: EU general budget - Court of Justice
 Discharge 2016: EU general budget - Court of Auditors
 Discharge 2016: General budget of the EU - European Economic and Social Committee
 Discharge 2016: EU general budget - Committee of the Regions
 Discharge 2016: EU general budget - European External Action Service
 Discharge 2016: EU general budget - European Ombudsman
 Discharge 2016: EU general budget - European Data Protection Supervisor
 Discharge 2016: Performance, financial management and control of EU agencies
 Discharge 2016: Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER)
 Discharge 2016: Office of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC)
 Discharge 2016: Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union (CdT)
 Discharge 2016: European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop)
 Discharge 2016: EU Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL)
 Discharge 2016: European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
 Discharge 2016: European Asylum Support Office (EASO)
 Discharge 2016: European Banking Authority (EBA)
 Discharge 2016: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
 Discharge 2016: European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)
 Discharge 2016: European Environment Agency (EEA)
 Discharge 2016: European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA)
 Discharge 2016: European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
 Discharge 2016: European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE)
 Discharge 2016: European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA)
 Discharge 2016: European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)
 Discharge 2016: European Medicines Agency (EMA)
 Discharge 2016: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)
 Discharge 2016: European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA)
 Discharge 2016: EU Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA)
 Discharge 2016: EU Agency for Railways (ERA)
 Discharge 2016: European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA)
 Discharge 2016: European Training Foundation (ETF)
 Discharge 2016: European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice (eu-LISA)
 Discharge 2016: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA)
 Discharge 2016: Euratom Supply Agency (ESA)
 Discharge 2016: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound)
 Discharge 2016: EU Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust)
 Discharge 2016: European Police Office (Europol)
 Discharge 2016: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)
 Discharge 2016: European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex)
 Discharge 2016: European GNSS Agency (GSA)
 Discharge 2016: Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI)
 Discharge 2016: Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking
 Discharge 2016: ECSEL Joint Undertaking
 Discharge 2016: Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking (FCH2)
 Discharge 2016: Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (IMI)
 Discharge 2016: ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy Joint Undertaking
 Discharge 2016: SESAR Joint Undertaking
 Discharge 2016: Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (S2R JU)

Non-objection to a delegated act: European Union trade mark
PDF 243kWORD 45k
European Parliament decision to raise no objections to the Commission Delegated Regulation of 5 March 2018 supplementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union trade mark, and repealing Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/1430 (C(2018)01231 – 2018/2618(DEA))
P8_TA(2018)0106B8-0187/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission delegated regulation (C(2018)01231) (“the amended delegated regulation”),

–  having regard to the Commission’s letter of 23 March 2018 asking Parliament to declare that it will raise no objections to the delegated regulation,

–  having regard to the letter from the Committee on Legal Affairs to the Chair of the Conference of Committee Chairs of 27 March 2018,

–  having regard to Article 290 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the Community trade mark(1), which was amended by Regulation (EU) 2015/2424 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2015 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 on the Community trade mark and Commission Regulation (EC) No 2868/95 implementing Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 on the Community trade mark, and repealing Commission Regulation (EC) No 2869/95 on the fees payable to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs)(2) and then codified as Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2017 on the European Union trade mark(3),

–  having regard to Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1431 of 18 May 2017 laying down detailed rules for implementing certain provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 on the European Union trade mark(4), containing updated references to Regulation (EU) 2017/1001,

–  having regard to the recommendation for a decision of the Committee on Legal Affairs,

–  having regard to Rule 105(6) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the fact that no objections have been raised within the period laid down in the third and fourth indents of Rule 105(6) of its Rules of Procedure, which expired on 17 April 2018,

A.  whereas Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 was codified as Regulation (EU) 2017/1001;

B.  whereas the references contained in a delegated regulation should reflect the renumbering of articles resulting from a codification of the basic act;

C.  whereas Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/1430 of 18 May 2017 supplementing Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 on the European Union trade mark and repealing Commission Regulations (EC) No 2868/95 and (EC) No 216/96(5) should therefore be repealed and the provisions of that delegated regulation should be laid down, with updated references to Regulation (EU) 2017/1001, in the amended delegated regulation;

D.  whereas the amended delegated regulation does not, therefore, involve any changes to the substance of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/1430;

E.  whereas swift publication of the amended delegated regulation in the Official Journal would allow for an early date of application and ensure continuity in the operation of the transitional regime provided for in the final provisions of the amended delegated regulation;

1.  Declares that it has no objections to the delegated regulation;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 78, 24.3.2009, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 341, 24.12.2015, p. 21.
(3) OJ L 154, 16.6.2017, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 205, 8.8.2017, p. 39.
(5) OJ L 205, 8.8.2017, p. 1.


Fixing the period for the ninth election of representatives to the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage *
PDF 238kWORD 42k
European Parliament legislative resolution of 18 April 2018 on the draft Council decision fixing the period for the ninth election of representatives to the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage (07162/2018 – C8-0128/2018 – 2018/0805(CNS))
P8_TA(2018)0107A8-0145/2018

(Consultation)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Council draft (07162/2018),

–  having regard to Article 11(2), second subparagraph, of the Act concerning the election of the members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage(1), pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C8-0128/2018),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 November 2015 on the reform of the electoral law of the European Union(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 7 February 2018 on the composition of the European Parliament(3),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (A8-0145/2018),

1.  Approves the Council draft;

2.  Recalls its proposal, attached to its resolution on the reform of the electoral law of the European Union, for the European Parliament to have the power, after consulting the Council, to determine the electoral period;

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 text approved by Parliament;

5.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, and, for information, to the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) Annexed to Council Decision 76/787/ECSC, EEC, Euratom of 20 September 1976 (OJ L 278, 8.10.1976, p. 1), as amended by Council Decision 93/81/Euratom, ECSC, EEC (OJ L 33, 9.2.1993, p. 15), and Council Decision 2002/772/EC, Euratom (OJ L 283, 21.10.2002, p. 1).
(2) OJ C 366, 27.10.2017, p. 7.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0029.


EU-Australia Framework Agreement ***
PDF 114kWORD 42k
European Parliament legislative resolution of 18 April 2018 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion on behalf of the Union of the Framework Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Australia, of the other part (15467/2016 – C8-0327/2017 – 2016/0367(NLE))
P8_TA(2018)0108A8-0110/2018

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (15467/2016),

–  having regard to the draft Framework Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Australia, of the other part (09776/2016),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 37 of the Treaty on European Union, and Article 207, Article 212(1), Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a), and Article 218(8), second subparagraph of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8-0327/2017),

–  having regard to its non-legislative resolution of 18 April 2018(1) on the draft decision,

–  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 Foreign Affairs (A8-0110/2018),

1.  Gives its consent to conclusion of the agreement;

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

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0109.


EU-Australia Framework Agreement (Resolution)
PDF 281kWORD 55k
European Parliament non-legislative resolution of 18 April 2018 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion on behalf of the Union of the Framework Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Australia, of the other part (15467/2016 – C8-0327/2017 – 2016/0367(NLE)2017/2227(INI))
P8_TA(2018)0109A8-0119/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (15467/2016),

–  having regard to the draft Framework Agreement (FA) between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Australia, of the other part (09776/2016),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Articles 207 and 212(1), and in conjunction with Article 218(6)(a) and the second subparagraph of Article 218(8), of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8-0327/2017),

–  having regard to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), as adopted by the General Assembly on 13 September 2007,

–  having regard to the EU-Australia Partnership Framework signed in October 2008, which is due to be replaced by the FA,

–  having regard to the Joint Declaration on relations between the European Union and Australia adopted in Luxembourg on 26 June 1997,

–   having regard to its resolution of 25 February 2016 on the opening of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with Australia and New Zealand(1) and to its resolution of 26 October 2017 containing Parliament’s recommendation to the Council on the proposed negotiating mandate for trade negotiations with Australia(2),

–   having regard to the joint statement of 15 November 2015 by the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull,

–   having regard to the joint declaration of 22 April 2015 by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Australian Foreign Minister entitled ‘Towards a closer EU-Australia Partnership’,

–  having regard to the Agreement between the European Union and Australia establishing a framework for the participation of Australia in European Union crisis management operations, signed in 2015(3),

–   having regard to the Administrative Agreement between Australia and the European Union, agreed in December 2014, establishing a programme for diplomatic exchange,

–  having regard to the Mutual Recognition Agreement on Standards Certification between the European Community and Australia, signed in 1998(4), and the EU-Australia Agreement amending that agreement in 2012(5),

–  having regard to the EU-Australia Passenger Name Record (PNR) Agreement signed on 29 September 2011(6),

–   having regard to the Agreement between Australia and the European Union on the security of classified information, signed on 13 January 2010(7),

–  having regard to the Agreement on scientific and technological cooperation between the European Community and Australia, signed in 1994(8),

–  having regard to the 38th EU-Australia interparliamentary meeting (IPM), held in Strasbourg from 4 to 5 October 2017,

–   having regard to the first EU-Australia Leadership Forum held in Sydney in June 2017, bringing together political and business leaders, academics, media and civil society;

–   having regard to the Foreign Policy White Paper published by the Australian Government in November 2017 which describes Australia’s priorities and challenges in the external scene and underlines the primary importance of the so-called Indo-Pacific region to Australia,

–   having regard to the fact that the Foreign Policy White Paper sets out the key roles played by the US and China in the Indo-Pacific region and in Australia’s foreign policy, while mentioning the importance of Australia’s relations with the European Union and its Member States,

–  having regard to the 2017 Review of Climate Change Policies which the Australian Government issued in December 2017,

–   having regard to the Australian Government document entitled ‘Australian climate change science: a national framework’, published in 2009,

–  having regard to its legislative resolution of 18 April 2018 on the draft decision(9),

–  having regard to Rule 99(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0119/2018),

A.  whereas the EU and Australia concluded an FA on 7 August 2017; whereas the close and strong relationship between Australia and the EU and its Member States has long historical roots and is based on common values and principles, such as respect for democracy, human rights, gender equality, the rule of law, including international law, and peace and security; whereas people-to-people links are deep and long-lasting;

B.  whereas the EU and Australia celebrated 55 years of cooperation and diplomatic relations in 2017; whereas this relationship has gained renewed dynamism in the last few years; whereas all Member States have diplomatic relations with Australia and 25 of them have embassies in Canberra;

C.  whereas the Australian Government’s Foreign Policy White Paper states that ‘a strong European Union remains vital to Australia’s interests and will be an increasingly important partner in protecting and promoting a rules-based international order’; whereas the White Paper underlines the need to cooperate closely with the EU and its Member States ‘on challenges such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), sustainable development and human rights’;

D.  whereas the EU and Australia are engaged in cooperation and dialogue with countries in Southeast Asia, including through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and the East Asia Summit (EAS); whereas Australia is a founding member of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and has a strategic partnership with ASEAN; whereas Australia hosted an ASEAN-Australia Special Summit from 17 to 18 March 2018;

E.  whereas the EU, as a global actor, should further strengthen its presence in the large and dynamic Asia-Pacific area, where Australia is a natural partner of the EU as well as an important actor itself; whereas a stable, peaceful and rules-based Asia-Pacific region, in line with our principles and standards, is useful for the EU´s own security and interests;

F.  whereas the EU and Australia are closely aligned on foreign policy issues, such as those relating to Ukraine, Russia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Middle East;

G.  whereas Australia has close political, security and defence links with the US, which are compatible with its growing ties with China, with which it maintains a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership;

H.  whereas in 2016 the EU was Australia’s second largest trading partner – its second source of imports (19,3 %) and third destination for exports (10,3 %) – and whereas the two sides share a wide range of economic interests; whereas in 2015 EU foreign direct investment stock in Australia amounted to EUR 117,7 billion and Australian direct investment stock in the EU was EUR 21,7 billion;

I.  whereas Australia is strongly committed to free trade and has concluded bilateral FTAs with important countries in East Asia – China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand – (as well as a regional agreement with ASEAN), and with New Zealand, Chile, the United States and Peru, and the PACER Plus agreement with the Pacific Islands;

J.  whereas on 23 January 2018 Australia and 10 other countries bordering the Pacific Ocean announced that they had reached an agreement on a trans-Pacific trade deal, the so-called Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which was signed in Chile on 8 March 2018; whereas Australia is currently negotiating a high number of trade agreements, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) launched at an ASEAN Summit in 2012;

K.  whereas Australia, a country committed to international global governance, has been a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) on five occasions and has been an active member of the G20 since its establishment, chairing its summit in Brisbane in 2014 in very good cooperation with the EU; whereas Australia was recently elected to the UN Human Rights Council;

L.  whereas Australia has deployed troops to join the Global Coalition against Daesh in Iraq and Syria; whereas in Afghanistan Australia was the largest non-NATO contributor of troops in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF);

M.  whereas Australia has contributed to numerous UN-backed peacekeeping missions across three continents as well as in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands;

N.  whereas in 2014 Australia contributed for the first time to an EU-led crisis management mission, EUCAP Nestor, in the Horn of Africa; whereas the Australian navy is carrying out anti-piracy and counter-terrorism operations within the Combined Maritime Forces in the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean;

O.  whereas Australian citizens inside and outside their country’s borders have suffered from a number of terrorist attacks of radical Islamist origin; whereas both the EU and Australia cooperate in counter-terrorism activities, including action to counter violent extremism, efforts to stop the financing of terrorist organisations and the coordination of specific capacity-building projects;

P.  whereas the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC), an Australian-Indonesian initiative, aims to enhance the expertise of Southeast Asian law enforcement agencies in the fight against terrorism and transnational organised crime and has also received EU funding;

Q.  whereas in October 2017 the Australian Government launched its international cyber engagement strategy with a view to addressing issues such as digital trade, cybercrime, international security and e-government;

R.  whereas Australia has supported the Philippines in promoting security and in the fight against jihadism;

S.  whereas the EU and Australia discuss migration matters at the yearly EU-Australia Senior Officials’ Dialogue on Migration, Asylum and Diversity Issues; whereas the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime is co-chaired by Australia;

T.  whereas Australia has a very high per capita income and an open, democratic and multicultural society; whereas one in four of its population was born overseas and around seven million permanent migrants, including many originating from Europe, have settled in Australia since 1945; whereas Australia is in a special geographical situation, occupying a vast area between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific;

U.  whereas Australia and the EU reaffirm in the FA their commitment to cooperating on climate change; whereas the 2017 Review of Climate Change Policies has reiterated Australia’s commitment to fighting this threat;

V.  whereas Australia faces significant environmental and economic impacts from climate change across a number of sectors, including water security, agriculture, coastal communities and infrastructure;

W.  whereas Australia, a member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), is particularly committed to supporting good governance and economic growth in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and other Pacific islands and Asian countries, where the EU and its Member States are also key donors;

X.  whereas the Australian Government is investing in programmes such as the Australian Climate Change Science Programme and the Natural Resource Management Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Research Programme to help decision-makers understand and manage likely climate change impacts;

Y.  whereas Australia has established a national framework and High Level Coordination Group to develop a plan for implementing climate change science, providing a coordinated approach to address the issue in communities across the country;

Z.  whereas on 10 November 2016 Australia ratified the Paris Agreement and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, reinforcing its commitment to action on climate change, and has developed a range of policies to reduce domestic emissions and support global action;

AA.  whereas the Australian Government’s climate change plan includes reducing emissions by 5 % below 2000 levels by 2020 and by 26-28 % below 2005 levels by 2030, and doubling the country’s renewable energy capacity by 2020;

AB.  whereas the Australian Government has played a leading role in supporting Pacific national meteorological services and regional organisations to deliver climate and weather early warning systems;

1.  Welcomes the conclusion of the FA, which will provide a legally binding instrument to upgrade and strengthen EU-Australia bilateral relations and to increase cooperation in areas such as foreign policy and security issues, human rights and the rule of law, global development and humanitarian aid, economic and trade matters, justice, research and innovation, education and culture, agriculture, maritime affairs and fisheries, and in the face of global challenges such as climate change, migration, public health, the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD);

2.  Stresses that the EU and Australia are strong and like-minded partners with a deep bilateral relationship that both share values and the principles of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, maintain increasingly strong political and economic ties and enjoy close and active cultural, academic and people-to-people connections;

3.  Highlights the special value for the EU and Australia, as partners with the same world vision, to cooperate bilaterally and multilaterally on regional and global issues; underlines the advantage of the EU and Australia acting together in the UN and in the WTO, as well as in bodies such as the G20, to preserve and strengthen a cooperative and rules-based global order in a complex and changing world facing great uncertainty;

4.  Welcomes the establishment of a joint committee under the FA to promote the effective implementation of the agreement and maintain overall coherence in EU-Australia relations;

5.  Supports the upcoming launch of negotiations for an EU-Australia free trade agreement, which must be conducted in a spirit of reciprocity, transparency, accountability and mutual benefit while taking into account the sensitivity of certain products, such as agricultural ones, due to the fact that Australia is a major agricultural exporter; encourages both partners to have a high degree of ambition in the area of services; underlines that in the negotiations the EU should take into account SMEs’ needs and requests, and not lower environmental, social and labour standards; points to the timely launch of these negotiations, given that Australia has already concluded several FTAs with important countries in East Asia and the Pacific and is about to conclude such agreements with other relevant countries;

6.  Underlines Australia’s active role in the EU’s higher education cooperation programmes through the EU-Australia Bilateral Education programme, and notes positively that since 2015 Australian universities have been able to enter into Erasmus+ mobility agreements; notes that this cooperation should be strengthened even further to promote mutual benefits for students and researchers and put them in a position to acquire multicultural and innovative skills;

7.  Recalls that the EU and Australia are important partners in research and innovation cooperation with a view to contributing to sustainable economic development and as a means of further building a knowledge-based society;

8.  Commends Australia for its support and for aligning its sanctions regime with the EU following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and military interventions in eastern Ukraine;

9.  Welcomes Australia’s support for targeted international sanctions against individuals and entities responsible for military aggression, terrorism and human rights abuses, including in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and occupied Crimea;

10.  Commends Australia’s Office of National Assessments for its support in the provision of international, political, strategic and economic analysis and its liaison with international partners to ensure responses to matters of common interest;

11.  Recognises Australia’s critical role in the ‘Five Eyes Intelligence Community’ and its support for the security of both EU Member states and transatlantic partners, commends Australia’s operational agreement with Europol and highlights the potential for further expansion of intelligence sharing and operational cooperation with the Australian Government;

12.  Recognises Australia’s role in co-sponsoring in 2014 the UNSC resolutions on condemning the downing of flight MH17 and on the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons; commends its key contribution in the Security Council to seeking to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria, managing the security transition in Afghanistan and addressing the human rights situation in the DPRK;

13.  Welcomes the strong commitment of both partners on cooperation in combating terrorism, as set out in the FA; underlines the importance of ever-closer bilateral cooperation on exchanging information on foreign fighters and their return; encourages both partners to continue to ensure effective implementation of the four pillars of the UN Counter-Terrorism Strategy; commends Australia’s role in the Global Coalition against Daesh and its significant work in the fight against international terrorism in Southeast Asia;

14.  Highlights Australia’s international cyberspace initiatives and commends the fact that, according to the FA, both partners will cooperate in cybersecurity matters, including the fight against cybercrime;

15.  Calls for steps to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation through joint-training exercises between Member State emergency response teams and EU agencies such as Europol and its European Counter-Terrorism Centre (ECTC) on the one hand and key elements of the Australian national security architecture such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Australian Defence Forces (ADF) and the Australian Federal Police on the other;

16.  Welcomes the engagement by the EU and Australia envisaged in the FA on intensifying their dialogue and cooperation on migration and asylum; underlines that the high level of global mobility requires a holistic and multilateral approach based on international cooperation and on shared responsibilities; welcomes the fact that both partners proactively are contributing to the ongoing negotiations on both the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees;

17.  Underlines the importance of regional cooperation frameworks – such as the Bali Process – with countries of origin, transit and destination in order to save lives, break smuggler networks and manage migration and refugee flows; welcomes Australia’s strong commitment vis-à-vis the UNHCR to resettling refugees and increasing in its global humanitarian funding; encourages Australia to continue to contribute to finding a positive solution to the situation of asylum-seekers and migrants retained in Papua New Guinea and Nauru;

18.  Welcomes the commitment of both partners to advancing the protection and promotion of human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, including in multilateral fora and with third partners, as envisaged in the FA; welcomes Australia's election to the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2018-2020; highlights the launch by Australia in 2008 of the Closing the Gap strategy on addressing indigenous disadvantages, such as the gap in life expectancy and other inequalities; underlines that this strategy enjoys bipartisan support and that an annual progress report is submitted by the Prime Minister to the Australian Parliament; highlights the fact that the Australian Government is working with the states and territories and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in order to refresh the Closing the Gap strategy;

19.  Reiterates that the fight against climate change requires the support of the international community as a whole; welcomes Australia’s ratification of the Paris Agreement and the commitment laid down in the FA to enhance cooperation and foreign policy endeavours in order to fight climate change; takes note of Australia’s target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 % below 2005 levels by 2030, which was reaffirmed in the 2017 Review of Climate Change Policies; highlights the fact that this review maintains the commitment to help other countries through bilateral and multilateral initiatives; welcomes Australia’s ongoing efforts on the provision of financial support through aid programmes to the Pacific region and to vulnerable developing countries in order to enable them to grow their economies in a sustainable manner and reduce emissions and to help them adapt to climate change; underlines Australia’s co-chairmanship and funding of the Green Climate Fund;

20.  Recalls that Australia, the EU and its Member States are important actors in development cooperation and humanitarian assistance in the Pacific region; highlights the fact that both sides focus their cooperation on areas such as economic growth, good governance and environmental resilience;

21.  Recalls its concern about tensions in the South China Sea; encourages both partners to continue to promote stability and freedom of navigation in this crucial international waterway; commends Australia’s position in favour of a peaceful settlement of disputes based on international law;

22.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European External Action Service, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Government and Parliament of Australia.

(1) OJ C 35, 31.1.2018, p. 136.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0419.
(3) OJ L 149, 16.6.2015, p. 3.
(4) OJ L 229, 17.8.1998, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 359, 29.12.2012, p. 2.
(6) OJ L 186, 14.7.2012, p. 4.
(7) OJ L 26, 30.1.2010, p. 31.
(8) OJ L 188, 22.7.1994, p. 18.
(9) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0108.


Council of Europe Convention on the prevention of terrorism ***
PDF 238kWORD 42k
European Parliament legislative resolution of 18 April 2018 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Union, of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (14494/2017 – C8-0450/2017 – 2017/0265(NLE))
P8_TA(2018)0110A8-0131/2018

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (14494/2017),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 83 (1) and Article 218 (6), second subparagraph, point (a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8‑0450/2017),

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (14445/2017),

–  having regard to Directive (EU) 2017/541 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2017 on combating terrorism and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA and amending Council Decision 2005/671/JHA(1),

–  having regard to Council Framework Decision 2006/960/JHA of 18 December 2006 on simplifying the exchange of information and intelligence between law enforcement authorities of the Member States of the European Union(2),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2008/615/JHA of 23 June 2008 on the stepping up of cross-border cooperation, particularly in combating terrorism and cross-border crime(3),

–  having regard to Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States(4),

–  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 Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0131/2018),

1.  Gives its consent to conclusion of the Convention;

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

(1) OJ L 88, 31.3.2017, p. 6.
(2) OJ L 386, 29.12.2006, p. 89.
(3) OJ L 210, 6.8.2008, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 190, 18.7.2002, p. 1


Council of Europe Convention on the prevention of terrorism (Additional protocol) ***
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 18 April 2018 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Union, of the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (14498/2017 – C8-0451/2017 – 2017/0266(NLE))
P8_TA(2018)0111A8-0132/2018

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (14498/2017),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 83 (1) and Article 218 (6), second subparagraph, point (a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8‑0451/2017),

–  having regard to the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (14447/2017),

–  having regard to Directive (EU) 2017/541 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2017 on combating terrorism and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA and amending Council Decision 2005/671/JHA(1),

–  having regard to Council Framework Decision 2006/960/JHA of 18 December 2006 on simplifying the exchange of information and intelligence between law enforcement authorities of the Member States of the European Union(2),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2008/615/JHA of 23 June 2008 on the stepping up of cross-border cooperation, particularly in combating terrorism and cross-border crime(3),

–  having regard to Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States(4),

–  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 Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0132/2018),

1.  Gives its consent to the conclusion of the Additional Protocol;

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

(1) OJ L 88, 31.3.2017, p. 6
(2) OJ L 386, 29.12.2006, p. 89
(3) OJ L 210, 6.8.2008, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 190, 18.7.2002, p. 1


Packaging and packaging waste ***I
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Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 18 April 2018 on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste (COM(2015)0596 – C8-0385/2015 – 2015/0276(COD))
P8_TA(2018)0112A8-0029/2017

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2015)0596),

–  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 (C8-0385/2015),

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

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

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 27 April 2016(1),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 15 June 2016(2),

–  having regard to the provisional agreement approved by the committee responsible under Rule 69f(4) of its Rules of Procedure and the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 23 February 2018 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 the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (A8-0029/2017),

1.  Adopts its position at first reading hereinafter set out(3);

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 18 April 2018 with a view to the adoption of Directive (EU) 2018/… of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Directive (EU) 2018/852.)

(1) OJ C 264, 20.7.2016, p. 98.
(2) OJ C 17, 18.1.2017, p. 46.
(3) This position replaces the amendments adopted on 14 March 2017 (Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0072).


End-of-life vehicles, waste batteries and accumulators and waste electrical and electronic equipment ***I
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Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 18 April 2018 on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles, 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators, and 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment (COM(2015)0593 – C8-0383/2015 – 2015/0272(COD))
P8_TA(2018)0113A8-0013/2017

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2015)0593),

–  having regard to Article 294(2) and Article 192(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8‑0383/2015),

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

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

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 27 April 2016(1),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 15 June 2016(2),

–  having regard to the provisional agreement approved by the committee responsible under Rule 69f(4) of its Rules of Procedure and the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 23 February 2018 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 the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (A8-0013/2017),

1.  Adopts its position at first reading hereinafter set out(3);

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 18 April 2018 with a view to the adoption of Directive (EU) …/… of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles, 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators, and 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Directive (EU) 2018/849.)

(1) OJ C 264, 20.7.2016, p. 98.
(2) OJ C 17, 18.1.2017, p. 46.
(3) This position replaces the amendments adopted on 14 March 2017 (Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0069).


Waste ***I
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Resolution
Text
Annex
European Parliament legislative resolution of 18 April 2018 on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste (COM(2015)0595 – C8-0382/2015 – 2015/0275(COD))
P8_TA(2018)0114A8-0034/2017

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2015)0595),

–  having regard to Article 294(2) and 192(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8-0382/2015),

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

–  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 French Senate and the Austrian Federal Council, asserting that the draft legislative act does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity,

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 27 April 2016(1),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 15 June 2016(2),

–  having regard to the provisional agreement approved by the committee responsible under Rule 69f(4) of its Rules of Procedure and the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 23 February 2018 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 the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (A8-0034/2017),

1.  Adopts its position at first reading hereinafter set out(3);

2.  Takes note of the Commission statements annexed to this resolution;

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

4.  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 18 April 2018 with a view to the adoption of Directive (EU) 2018/… of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Directive (EU) 2018/851.)

ANNEX TO THE LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

STATEMENTS OF THE COMMISSION

DECLARATION BY THE COMMISSION ON A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

The Commission is committed to ensuring full implementation of the EU action plan for the Circular Economy(4). To keep track of progress towards the circular economy, the Commission has adopted a monitoring framework(5) building on the existing Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials Scoreboards. The Commission also draws attention to its ongoing work on a footprint indicator for products and organisations.

Actions undertaken under the EU action plan for the Circular Economy also contribute to fulfilling the Union's objectives on sustainable consumption and production, in the context of Sustainable Development Goal 12. This is the case, for example, of the strategy on plastics(6) or the recently amended proposal on the legal guarantee for consumer goods(7).

As regards consistency between the Union's regulatory frameworks, the Commission has also recently adopted a Communication setting out options to address the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation(8). In 2018, the Commission will also examine options and actions for a more coherent policy framework of the different strands of work on EU product policy in their contribution to the circular economy. The interactions between legislation and industry cooperation on the use of by-products and the preparation for re-use and recycling of waste will also be considered in the framework of these initiatives and their follow-up.

As regards eco-design, the Commission, in line with the Eco-design Working Plan for the years 2016-2019(9), confirms its strong commitment to ensuring that eco-design makes a more significant contribution to the circular economy, for example by more systematically tackling material efficiency issues such as durability and recyclability.

DECLARATION BY THE COMMISSION ON INITIATIVES ON THE COLLABORATIVE ECONOMY

In line with the Circular Economy Action Plan(10), the Commission has launched a number of initiatives on the collaborative economy. As announced in its Communication on a European agenda for the collaborative economy(11) in June 2016, the Commission will continue to monitor the economic and regulatory developments of the collaborative economy, in order to encourage the development of new and innovative business models, while ensuring adequate consumer and social protection.

DECLARATION BY THE COMMISSION ON MICRO-PLASTICS

In the context of the recently adopted European Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy(12), the Commission has presented an integrated approach to address concerns about micro-plastics, including micro-bead ingredients. It focuses on preventive actions and aims at reducing the release of micro-plastics from all main sources – whether from products in which they are intentionally added (such as personal care products and paints) or originating from the production or use of other products (such as oxo-plastics, tyres, plastic pellets, and textiles).

DECLARATION BY THE COMMISSION ON reporting waste data in 2020

In view of monitoring progress towards the new targets for municipal and packaging waste and in view of relevant review clauses, in particular to set targets for food waste prevention and for the recycling of waste oils, the Commission underlines the importance of the common understanding reached between the co-legislators that Member States will ensure that the reporting of data under Directives 2008/98/EC on waste, 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste and 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste as amended, will cover the year 2020.

(1) OJ C 264, 20.7.2016, p. 98.
(2) OJ C 17, 18.1.2017, p. 46.
(3) This position replaces the amendments adopted on 14 March 2017 (Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0070).
(4) COM(2015)0614
(5) COM(2018)0029
(6) COM(2018)0028
(7) COM(2017)0637
(8) COM(2018)0032
(9) COM(2016)0773
(10) COM(2015)0614
(11) COM(2016)0356
(12) COM(2018)0028


Landfill of waste ***I
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Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 18 April 2018 on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste (COM(2015)0594 – C8-0384/2015 – 2015/0274(COD))
P8_TA(2018)0115A8-0031/2017

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2015)0594),

–  having regard to Article 294(2) and Article 192(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8-0384/2015),

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

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

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 27 April 2016(1),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 15 June 2016(2),

–  having regard to the provisional agreement approved by the committee responsible under Rule 69f(4) of its Rules of Procedure and the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 23 February 2018 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 the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (A8-0031/2017),

1.  Adopts its position at first reading hereinafter set out(3);

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 18 April 2018 with a view to the adoption of Directive (EU) 2018/… of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Directive (EU) 2018/850.)

(1) OJ C 264, 20.7.2016, p. 98.
(2) OJ C 17, 18.1.2017, p. 46.
(3) This position replaces the amendments adopted on 14 March 2017 (Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0071).


Procedural rules in the field of environmental reporting ***I
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Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 18 April 2018 on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 87/217/EEC of the Council, Directive 2003/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, Directive 2009/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, Regulation (EU) No 1257/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Directive 86/278/EEC and Council Directive 94/63/EC as regards procedural rules in the field of environmental reporting and repealing Council Directive 91/692/EEC (COM(2016)0789 – C8-0526/2016 – 2016/0394(COD))
P8_TA(2018)0116A8-0253/2017

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2016)0789),

–  having regard to Article 294(2) and Article 192(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8‑0526/2016),

–  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 22 February 2017(1),

–  after consulting the Committee of the Regions,

–  having regard to the provisional agreement approved by the committee responsible under Rule 69f(4) of its Rules of Procedure and the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 13 December 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 the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A8-0253/2017),

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 18 April 2018 with a view to the adoption of Decision (EU) 2018/… of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 1257/2013 and Directives 94/63/EC and 2009/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Council Directives 86/278/EEC and 87/217/EEC as regards procedural rules in the field of environmental reporting and repealing Council Directive 91/692/EEC

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Decision (EU) 2018/853.)

(1) OJ C 173, 31.5.2017, p. 82.


Integrity policy of the Commission, in particular the appointment of the Secretary-General of the European Commission
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European Parliament resolution of 18 April 2018 on the integrity policy of the Commission, in particular the appointment of the Secretary-General of the European Commission (2018/2624(RSP))
P8_TA(2018)0117B8-0214/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the statement by the Commission of 12 March 2018 on the integrity policy of the Commission, in particular the appointment of the Secretary-General of the European Commission,

–  having regard to the replies given by the Commission on 25 March 2018 to the written questions asked by members of the Committee on Budgetary Control and during the hearing held by that committee on 27 March 2018,

–  having regard to Article 14(1) of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to the Staff Regulations for European Union civil servants and in particular Articles 4, 7 and 29 thereof,

–  having regard to the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union,

–  having regard to the motion for a resolution of the Committee on Budgetary Control,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas it is fundamental that the European Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, acts in conformity with the letter and the spirit of the rules;

B.  whereas trust in the European project and in the European Union will only be maintained if the European Union institutions act as role models in the fields of the rule of law, transparency and good administration, and are seen to have sufficient internal checks and balances to react adequately whenever these fundamental principles are threatened;

C.  whereas, under the Treaties, all EU institutions are autonomous in matters related to their organisation and personnel policy, including when choosing their top civil servants on the basis of merit, experience and trust, in line with the Staff Regulations and their respective rules of procedure;

D.  whereas posts published externally frequently result in the selection of internal candidates who do not meet the requirements for applying under internal rules, thereby circumventing regular career progression;

E.  whereas appointments to high-level posts such as that of Secretary-General should be made independently of other appointments, thereby avoiding any suspicion of non-transparent package deals or trade-offs based on privileged information;

F.  whereas the European Ombudsman is currently conducting an inquiry into the appointment procedure in question, and Parliament is confident that the Ombudsman will inform the Commission and the Parliament of her views and of any possible instances of maladministration she has discovered which would need to be followed up;

G.  whereas the Commission acknowledged shortcomings in its communications relating to the appointment and recognised the need to strengthen its efforts in that field;

H.  whereas the staff committees, as elected representatives of the staff of the EU institutions, have requested transparent procedures for appointments to all management positions;

1.  Regrets that the procedure for the appointment of the new Secretary-General of the European Commission on 21 February 2018 was conducted in a manner which provoked widespread irritation and disapproval in public opinion, among Members of the European Parliament and within the European civil service; notes that the result of this procedure constitutes a reputational risk not only for the European Commission but for all the European Union institutions; calls on the Commission to acknowledge that this procedure and the communication about it towards the media, Parliament and the general public have negatively influenced its own reputation;

Factual elements

2.  Notes that:

   on 31 January 2018, the post of Deputy Secretary-General was published with the standard deadline of ten working days for applications (i.e. 13 February 2018);
   only two candidates applied, one man and one woman, both from the cabinet of the Commission President; the new Secretary-General was one of the applicants for the post; the second candidate applied for the vacancy on 8 February 2018, went through the full-day assessment centre on 12 February 2018, withdrew her application prior to the interview with the Consultative Committee on Appointments (CCA) scheduled for 20 February 2018, and was then appointed as the Commission President’s new Head of Cabinet;
   the new Secretary-General went through the procedure provided for in Article 29 of the Staff Regulations which included:
   a) a full-day assessment centre (15 February 2018);
   b) an interview (16 February 2018), assessment and opinion (20 February 2018) by the CCA;
   c) an interview with the Commissioner responsible for Budget and Human Resources, and the President of the European Commission (20 February 2018);
   no minutes were drafted for these interviews, nor was their length recorded;
   the College – by unanimous decision – appointed the Head of Cabinet of the Commission President as Deputy Secretary-General on 21 February 2018;
   subsequently, during the same meeting, the then Secretary-General announced his retirement having, on the morning of the same day, sent a formal letter to the President stating his intention to retire on 31 March 2018;
   the President of the European Commission and his Head of Cabinet had known since 2015 that the then Secretary-General intended to retire soon after March 2018, an intention which was reconfirmed in early 2018; the President had not, however, divulged this information in order not to undermine the authority of the then Secretary-General, but he had communicated with his Head of Cabinet;
   after the repeated failure of his efforts to persuade the then Secretary-General to extend his tenure, the President of the European Commission should, at the very minimum, have alerted the Commissioner responsible for Budget and Human Resources of the impending vacancy, so that steps to fill that vacancy could have been initiated in the normal, best-practice and timely manner;
   acting on a proposal from the President, in agreement with the Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, and without the appointment of a new Secretary-General having been placed on the agenda of the meeting, the College decided to transfer the newly appointed Deputy Secretary-General with his post, pursuant to Article 7 of the Staff Regulations, to the position of Secretary-General of the European Commission (reassignment without publication of the post);

Career path of the new Secretary-General

3.  Notes that:

   the new Secretary-General joined the European Commission as a grade AD6 official in November 2004, having passed the open AD competition COM/A/10/01; was promoted to grade AD7 in 2007, to grade AD8 in 2009, to grade AD9 in 2011 and to grade AD10 in 2013;
   as of 10 February 2010, and while still being in grade AD8 in his basic career, he was seconded as Head of Vice-President Reding’s Cabinet, where he occupied the function of Head of Cabinet at grade AD14, at Director level, in accordance with the Rules on the Composition of Cabinets in force at the time (SEC(2010)0104);
   the new Secretary-General took leave on personal grounds (CCP) from 1 April 2014 to 31 May 2014 in order to act as campaign manager for the EPP lead candidate for President of the European Commission;
   following his reintegration on 1 June 2014, he was assigned as an AD14 official as Principal Adviser to the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs;
   after having successfully completed a selection procedure, the new Secretary-General was appointed Principal Adviser to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development with effect as of 1 July 2014; with this appointment he became a grade AD14 official in his basic career;
   from 1 July 2014 to 31 October 2014, the new Secretary-General was seconded at grade AD14 as head of the transition team of the President-elect of the European Commission;
   on 1 November 2014, he was seconded as Head of the President’s Cabinet at grade AD15 in accordance with the Rules on the Composition of Cabinets in force since 2004 (see decisions SEC(2004)0185, SEC(2010)0104 and C(2014)9002);
   on 1 January 2017, he was promoted to grade AD15 in his basic (non-secondment) career as an official in the framework of the 10th Senior Officials Promotion Exercise, a decision taken by the College of Commissioners (PV(2017)2221); hence, prior to the meeting of 21 February 2018, in his basic career he was a Commission official in grade AD15, Principal Adviser in the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs;

4.  Draws attention to the extremely rapid career of the new Secretary-General who, over a period of slightly more than 13 years, has progressed from AD6 to AD15, during which time he spent eight years in different cabinets (after the first cabinet he was promoted from AD10 to AD14; after the second cabinet from AD14 to AD15);

Career paths of previous Secretaries-General

5.  Stresses that, according to the Commission, the three previous Secretaries-General became Director, Director-General and Head of Cabinet before being transferred to the function of Secretary-General, whereas the new Secretary-General has not performed any management tasks within the Commission services; points out, in particular, that on 21 February 2018 he was not Deputy Secretary-General in function and has served less than 14 months in the basic AD15;

Appointment procedure

6.  Notes that, according to the Commission, the new Secretary-General was transferred in the interest of the service under Article 7 of the Staff Regulations and that the position was not published because the post was not considered vacant; notes, hence, that no official could apply since the procedure was organised through a reassignment with post rather than as a transfer in the strict sense with proper publication of the vacant post;

7.  Notes that the Commission used the same procedure of transfer under Article 7 of the Staff Regulations for the three previous Secretaries-General (transfer with post rather than transfer in the strict sense); underlines, nevertheless, that none of the previous Secretaries-General were successively appointed Deputy Secretary-General and Secretary-General during the same College meeting; underlines also that all three previous Secretaries-General were proposed to the College during the very same College meeting at which their respective predecessors were transferred to a different post or announced their retirement;

8.  Stresses that the appointment by transfer was initiated by the President of the European Commission in agreement with the Commissioner responsible for Budget and Human Resources and after consultation of the First Vice-President (who was consulted about the name of the candidate but definitively not on the procedure);

9.  Acknowledges that it is not Commission practice to transfer Directors in grade AD15 to Director-General posts, but notes that the Commission considers that, legally, the College could have decided to transfer a principal advisor to the post of Secretary-General;

10.  Questions why the Commission used different procedures for the appointments of Deputy Secretary-General and Secretary-General for the same candidate and during the same College meeting;

Findings

11.  Stresses that the replies given by the Commission show that the President and his Head of Cabinet had been aware since 2015 of the intention of the former Secretary-General to retire soon after 1 March 2018, an intention which he reconfirmed in early 2018; underlines that this knowledge would have allowed for a regular appointment procedure for his successor by one of the two public procedures foreseen by the Staff Regulations: (1) appointment by the College following publication of the post and a selection procedure under Article 29 of the Staff Regulations; or (2) transfer in the interest of the service pursuant to Article 7 of the Staff Regulations, also upon publication of the post in order to allow any interested official to apply for such transfer;

12.  Takes note of the Commission’s view that the publication of a post need not be considered the rule under the Staff Regulations, notably with regard to the position of Secretary-General which requires not only special experience but also a particular level of trust by the President and the College of Commissioners;

13.  Underlines that, by opting for the transfer procedure under Article 7 of the Staff Regulations in the form of reassignment of the newly appointed Deputy Secretary-General with his post to the position of Secretary-General, it was not necessary to publish the post of the retiring former Secretary-General; notes that while the same procedure was used for the appointments of previous Secretaries-General, those persons had previously occupied Director-General posts with high management and budgetary responsibilities; stresses, however, that this tradition of non-publication has reached its limits insofar as it does not correspond to the modern standards of transparency by which the Commission, the European Parliament and other EU institutions should abide;

14.  Notes the Commission’s widespread practice of filling positions through internal transfers in the form of reassignment with post, a practice which is also used for senior positions; whilst recognising the wide margin of discretion open to the institutions in this regard, is concerned that this may undermine the principle of equality of opportunities and the selection of the best qualified candidates; calls on all Union institutions to fill positions through such transfers only with proper notification of staff, in line with the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and to give preference to open and transparent procedures aimed at selecting the best qualified candidates;

15.  Underlines that only the President, the Commissioner responsible for Budget and Human Resources, the First Vice-President and the former and new Secretaries-General knew in advance of the meeting of the College of Commissioners on 21 February 2018 that the proposal for the immediate appointment of the new Secretary-General would be made;

16.  States that this procedure seems to have taken all other members of the College by surprise and avoided a discussion being held among the Commissioners, since the appointment of a new Secretary-General did not appear on the agenda of the meeting of the College of Commissioners on 21 February 2018;

17.  Is deeply concerned that this way of proceeding with the appointment of the new Secretary-General could cast doubt on the preceding procedure for the appointment to Deputy Secretary-General insofar as it might not have served the purpose of filling this vacancy in the first place, but rather of allowing for the transfer of this post to the post of Secretary-General under Article 7 of the Staff Regulations without publication of the post; considers that, although such a way of proceeding might satisfy purely formal requirements, it nevertheless runs against the spirit of the Staff Regulations and prevents competition for the post by any other eligible staff;

Conclusions

18.  Is disappointed that not a single Commissioner seems to have questioned this surprise appointment, asked for this appointment decision to be postponed or requested a discussion of principle on the role of a future Secretary-General in the Commission and on how that role is understood, while noting that this item was not on the agenda;

19.  Recalls that Directors-General in the European institutions are in charge of hundreds of staff members and the implementation of substantial budgets as authorising officers, and also have an obligation to sign a declaration of assurance in their annual activity report at the end of each financial year; questions therefore the Commission’s claim that the Head of the President’s Cabinet could be considered as equivalent to a Director-General position in terms of management and budgetary responsibilities without having occupied such a position, as was the case of the previous Secretaries-General of the Commission; points out that the internal communication from the President to the Commission governing the composition of the private offices of the Members of the Commission and of the Spokesperson’s service of 1 November 2014 does not supersede or modify the Staff Regulations;

20.  States that the two-step nomination of the Secretary-General could be viewed as a coup-like action which stretched and possibly even overstretched the limits of the law;

21.  Stresses that Parliament cannot find any ‘serious and urgent situation’, as explained by the Parliament’s Legal Service, to justify the use of the procedure of reassignment under Article 7 of the Staff Regulations without publication of the post;

Required action

22.  Is aware that the revocation of a favourable administrative act is generally not possible due to legal constraints, but nevertheless asks the Commission to reassess the procedure of appointment of the new Secretary-General in order to give other possible candidates within the European public administration the possibility to apply and hence allow for a wider choice among potential candidates from the same function group and grade; calls on the Commission to conduct open and transparent application procedures in the future;

23.  Points out that in order to maintain an excellent and independent, loyal and motivated European civil service, the Staff Regulations need to be applied in letter and spirit; stresses that this requires notably that Articles 4, 7 and 29 of the Staff Regulations need to be fully respected so that all ‘vacant posts in an institution shall be notified to the staff of that institution, once the appointing authority decides that the vacancy is to be filled’ and that this obligation of transparency also needs to be respected for transfers under Article 7 of the Staff Regulations, apart from in very exceptional and duly motivated cases, as recognised by the Court of Justice;

24.  Recalls that only through the proper publication of vacant posts is it possible to secure a wide gender-balanced choice of the most qualified candidates, allowing for informed and optimal appointment decisions; stresses that publication procedures whose sole purpose is to fulfil the formal requirement for publication must be avoided by all European institutions and bodies;

25.  Recommends that the decision-making processes and procedures of the College of Commissioners need to be strengthened in order to avoid any indiscriminate waving-through of appointments or other important decisions, and that it is therefore necessary for all such items to be included in the draft agenda;

26.  Calls, in this context, on all institutions and bodies of the European Union to also put an end to the practice of ‘parachuting’ people into positions which runs the risk of damaging procedures and thus the credibility of the EU; stresses that political influence must not undermine the application of the Staff Regulations; is of the opinion that all vacant posts should be published in the interest of transparency, integrity and equal opportunities; stresses that should institutions nevertheless decide to deviate from this principle they should only do so within the narrow margins set by the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union;

27.  Proposes that officials from staff representative bodies sit on Parliament’s senior management selection panels;

28.  Asks the Commission and all other EU institutions concerned to revoke any decisions by which they consider the function of Head of Cabinet of the President as equivalent to the function of Director-General and the function of Head of Cabinet of a Commissioner as equivalent to the function of Director; also asks the Commission to ensure that the next revision of the Staff Regulations under the ordinary legislative procedure provides for valuable career options, both for officials who have followed the traditional career path and for members of cabinets:

   with regard to Article 7 by clarifying the transfer procedure of reassignment with the official’s post, which has only been developed by case-law,
   by integrating the relevant internal rules for members of private offices/cabinets, and
   by laying down fully transparent procedures for appointing Secretaries-General;

29.  Calls on the Commission to review, before the end of 2018, its administrative procedure for the appointment of senior officials with the objective of fully ensuring that the best candidates are selected within a framework of maximum transparency and equal opportunities, thereby also setting an example for the other European institutions;

30.  Acknowledges that Article 17 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure attributes particular management responsibilities to the Secretary-General who should have wide-ranging managerial experience and the confidence of the President; sees the need to update and clarify these Rules in order to guarantee the neutrality of the role of the Secretary-General in a (party) political environment; expects to be informed of such an update by September 2018;

o
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31.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to all the European institutions.


Progress on UN Global compacts for safe, orderly and regular migration and on refugees
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European Parliament resolution of 18 April 2018 on progress on the UN Global Compacts for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and on Refugees (2018/2642(RSP))
P8_TA(2018)0118B8-0184/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Charter of the United Nations,

–  having regard to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other UN human rights treaties and instruments,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,

–  having regard to the decent work agenda of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and in particular to ILO Convention No 189 (2011) concerning decent work for domestic workers,

–  having regard to resolution A/RES/71/1 of the UN General Assembly of 19 September 2016, the ‘New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants’(1),

–  having regard to Annex I to the New York Declaration, the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework,

–  having regard to Annex II to the New York Declaration, ‘Towards a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration’,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines of 6 March 2017 for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child and to the Commission Communication of 12 April 2017 on the protection of children in migration (COM(2017)0211),

–  having regard to resolution A/RES/71/280 of the UN General Assembly of 6 April 2017 on ‘Modalities for the intergovernmental negotiations of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration’(2),

–  having regard to the UN Human Rights Council report of 28 April 2017 entitled ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants on a 2035 agenda for facilitating human mobility’(3),

–  having regard to the UNHCR document of 17 May 2017 entitled ‘Towards a global compact on refugees: a roadmap’(4),

–  having regard to the report of the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, of 11 January 2018 entitled ‘Making migration work for all’(5),

–  having regard to the UNHCR zero draft of the global compact on refugees as at 31 January 2018(6),

–  having regard to the zero draft and the zero draft plus of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration of 5 February 2018(7) and 5 March 2018(8) respectively,

–  having regard to the Abidjan declaration of the 5th EU-AU Summit of November 2017,

–  having regard to resolution A/RES/70/1 of the UN General Assembly entitled ‘Transforming our world – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted on 25 September 2015 at the UN Summit in New York (9),

–  having regard to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/45/158 of 18 December 1990(10),

–  having regard to the Joint General Comment of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW) and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on the human rights of children in the context of international migration,

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 April 2016 on the EU in a changing global environment – a more connected, contested and complex world(11),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2016 on human rights and migration in third countries(12),

–  having regard to its resolution of 1 June 2017 on resilience as a strategic priority of the external action of the EU(13),

–  having regard to its resolutions of 5 April 2017 on addressing refugee and migrant movements: the role of EU external action(14) and of 12 April 2016 on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration(15),

–  having regard to the report adopted on 12 October 2017 by its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Union Resettlement Framework and amending Regulation (EU) No 516/2014 of the European Parliament and the Council (A8-0316/2017), and to the need for the EU to resettle at a minimum 20 % of the Annual Projected Global Resettlement Needs,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas in accordance with Article 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country’; whereas in 1999 the UN Human Rights Committee, in its General Comment No 273 (Paragraph 8), clarified that this right ‘may not be made dependent on any specific purpose or on the period of time the individual chooses to stay outside the country’;

B.  whereas at the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, hosted by the General Assembly in New York on 19 September 2016, UN member states unanimously adopted the ‘New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants’, on the basis of which two separate, distinct and independent – albeit in substance interrelated – processes were launched, with a view to adopting a Global Compact on Refugees in 2018, and a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which will be signed at a conference in Morocco in December 2018;

C.  whereas Annex I to the New York Declaration sets out a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), which is based on the principle of international responsibility-sharing and on the determination on the part of the UN member states to address the root causes of forced displacement; whereas the CRRF presents specific actions designed to ease pressure on host countries, to enhance refugee self-reliance, to expand access to third-country solutions, and to support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity;

D.  whereas the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has been requested to conduct consultations on a Programme of Action to complement the CRRF and to propose a Global Compact on Refugees in his annual report to the General Assembly in 2018;

E.  whereas the EU and its Member States were engaged in the preparatory process and the discussions that led to the presentation of the zero drafts; whereas with the start of the more critical phase of the process, and as a consequence of the US’s decision to exit the negotiations, it has become even more important that the EU and its Member States take a leading role in order to secure a strong people-centred and human rights-based text;

F.  whereas migration is a complex human phenomenon; whereas while refugees are specifically defined and protected in international law as people residing outside their country of origin because of a fear of persecution, conflict, violence, or other circumstances, and who require international protection as a result, refugees and migrants alike are bearers of human rights and often face increased vulnerability, violence and abuse throughout the migration process; whereas both the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration are complementary processes that will require joint actions for their implementation;

G.  whereas human mobility and migration is a growing reality, with approximately 258 million international migrants worldwide; whereas the number of migrants as a proportion of the global population increased from 2,8 % in 2000 to 3,4 % in 2017; whereas 48 % of migrants are women; whereas most migrants travel in a safe and orderly manner; whereas 85 % of migration takes place between countries of the same level of development; whereas in 2017 Europe was the source of the second-largest number of international migrants (61 million)(16);

H.  whereas according to UNHCR data, around 65 million people were living in forced displacement at the end of 2015, of whom 12 million were Syrians; whereas according to the World Bank, around 9 million people were displaced between 2012 and 2015, posing a serious challenge to the global humanitarian aid system; whereas 84 % of the world’s refugees and 99 % of its internally displaced persons are hosted by developing countries or regions, with the African continent hosting most of them, while just 10 % of all refugees are hosted by European countries, excluding Turkey; whereas according to the UNHCR’s projected Global Resettlement Needs for 2018, close to 1,2 million people are estimated to require resettlement; whereas since 2000, more than 46 000 migrants and refugees have died worldwide while seeking safety and dignity abroad, including a minimum estimate of 14 500 deaths in the Central Mediterranean since 2014(17);

I.  whereas Europe has historically been a region of destination and of origin alike; whereas Europeans have also migrated abroad for reasons of economic hardship, conflict or political persecution; whereas the ongoing economic and financial crisis has led a large number of Europeans to emigrate, including to emerging economies from the Global South;

J.  whereas many migrant children experience violence, abuse and exploitation; whereas over 100 countries are known to detain children for migration-related reasons(18); whereas refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than other children and less than one quarter of refugee adolescents are enrolled in secondary school;

K.  whereas migrant workers are often exposed to discrimination, exploitation and rights violations; whereas 23 % of the 24,9 million people in forced labour worldwide are international migrants;

L.   whereas experience has shown that migrants make positive contributions to the countries they live in, as well as to their home countries; whereas migrants contribute to the countries they live in by paying taxes and injecting around 85 % of their earnings into the economies of those countries; whereas in 2017 an estimated USD 596 billion was transferred in remittances globally, with USD 450 billion going to developing countries – up to three times the total of official development aid;

1.  Strongly supports the objectives of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the corresponding process for developing a global governance regime, for enhancing coordination on international migration, human mobility, large movements of refugees and protracted refugee situations, and for putting in place durable solutions and approaches to clearly outlining the importance of protecting the rights of refugees and migrants;

2.  Calls on the EU Member States to unite behind a single EU position and to actively defend and advance the negotiations on the important issue of the UN Global Compacts for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and on Refugees;

3.  Is convinced that in a highly interdependent world, the challenges related to human mobility can best be addressed effectively by the international community as a whole; welcomes, therefore, the opening of intergovernmental negotiations on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the start of the formal consultations on the Global Compact on Refugees on the basis of the zero drafts, to be completed by July 2018;

4.  Calls for the European Union, namely its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Commission, to utilise all its diplomatic weight and to mobilise the EU delegations, not only in New York and Geneva, but also in other key countries, notably developing countries, whose effective participation in the process is of critical importance as countries of origin and transit but also destination, and should be facilitated by the EU, in order to ensure the success of the process;

5.  Stresses that core international human rights treaties recognise the rights of all human beings, including migrants and refugees, regardless of their legal status, and obligate states to uphold them, including the fundamental principle of non-refoulement; calls for particular attention to be paid to people in vulnerable situations and in need of special medical or psychological support, including as a result of physical bias-motivated, sexual or gender-based violence, or torture; advocates the incorporation of concrete measures in the Global Compacts in this respect; recalls, furthermore, that vulnerabilities arise as a result of circumstances in countries of origin, transit and reception or destination, as a consequence not only of the person’s identity, but also of policy choices, inequality, and structural and societal dynamics;

6.  Recalls that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), contained in the 2030 Agenda, recognise that planned and well-managed migration policies can help achieve sustainable development and inclusive growth, as well as reduce inequality within and between states; urges that due attention be paid to the migration-related aspects of the SDGs and the Global Compacts; calls for the EU and the Member States to fulfil their commitment to achieving the SDGs relating to children, implementing the EU Guidelines of 6 March 2017 for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child;

7.  Calls on the UN member states to make a standalone commitment to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as a central element of the Global Compact, in line with SDG 5; recalls, furthermore, that migration can be an accelerator for women’s empowerment and equality, given that 48 % of migrants are women and two-thirds of them are in work;

8.  Calls on the UN member states to make a standalone commitment to ensuring the protection of children in migration; emphasises that all children, irrespective of their migration or refugee status, are first and foremost children, who are entitled to all the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and that their best interests must be the primary consideration of all decisions and actions concerning them; considers the Global Compacts as an opportunity to strengthen benchmarks for the protection of children affected by migration and forced displacement; welcomes the inclusion in the zero draft of clear commitments on specific, pressing issues, such as the call to put an end to child detention, improving action concerning missing migrants, strongly supporting family reunification and other regular pathways, preventing childhood statelessness, and including refugee and asylum-seeking children in national child protection, education and health systems; calls for the EU and its Member States to strongly advocate these proposals in order to ensure they remain in the final text for adoption in December;

9.  Emphasises that focus should be retained on addressing the diverse drivers of irregular migration and forced displacement (conflict, persecution, ethnic cleansing, generalised violence or other factors such as extreme poverty, climate change or natural disasters);

10.  Deplores the continued and widespread phenomenon of statelessness, which poses acute human rights challenges; calls for the EU and its Member States to ensure that this issue is adequately addressed in the current negotiations on the Global Compacts;

11.  Emphasises that the consultations and negotiations must be transparent and inclusive, and must involve all stakeholders, local and regional authorities and institutions and civil society, including migrant organisations, as much as possible, despite the intergovernmental nature of the negotiations; stresses the need to harness the role of parliaments in the final phase of the process leading to the adoption of the Compacts, and points out in particular the need to strengthen the parliamentary dimension of the EU’s position;

12.  Believes that a coordination mechanism should be developed to ensure complementarity between the two Compacts and coherence on cross-cutting issues;

13.  Stresses the importance of the collection and monitoring of disaggregated migration and refugee data, to be accompanied by migrant-specific indicators – which are vital for policy-making – based on realistic data and not on myths or false perceptions, while ensuring fundamental rights standards, including the right to privacy, and data protection standards, and preventing data subjects from being exposed to serious human rights violations;

14.  Underlines the need to reinforce the follow-up dimension of the implementation of both Global Compacts in the near future, particularly on account of their non-binding nature, in order to avoid à la carte approaches by the different states involved; calls, in this regard, for close monitoring through the establishment of benchmarks and indicators, when appropriate; stresses the need to ensure that the architecture of the UN and its relevant agencies are provided with the resources needed for any task that states decide to delegate to them in the implementation and follow-up of the Compacts;

15.  Acknowledges that managing migration requires major investments, adequate resources and flexible and transparent instruments, and that well-designed, flexible and streamlined instruments to address migration challenges will be necessary in the coming years; calls for EU funding instruments to play a greater role in the implementation of the Global Compacts; calls for the next multiannual financial framework (MFF) to include financial consistency and to review long-term budgetary support for migration and asylum policies and actions deriving from the Global Compacts; considers that development budgets need to remain focused on sustainable poverty eradication;

Global Compact on Refugees

16.  Welcomes the draft Compact on Refugees and its human rights- and people-centred approach; congratulates the UNHCR on its work and commitment to the most comprehensive implementation of its mandate; calls on all countries to make commitments to a more equitable sharing of responsibility for hosting and supporting refugees globally and urges the EU and its Member States to recognise and honour their own share of responsibility; calls for the adoption of a global responsibility-sharing mechanism, supporting a human rights-based approach for the proposed Compact;

17.  Stresses the need to ensure robust and sustained assistance to developing countries that host large numbers of refugees, and to ensuring that refugees are offered durable solutions, including by becoming self-sustainable and being integrated into the communities in which they live; recalls that the Compact provides a unique opportunity to strengthen the linkage between humanitarian aid and development policies and to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of protecting and finding solutions for refugees, building a comprehensive response and bringing together all stakeholders;

18.  Stresses the need to include refugees as active stakeholders in shaping the Compact and other international responses to refugee situations;

19.  Calls for the non-criminalisation of humanitarian assistance; calls for greater search and rescue capacities for people in distress, for greater capacities to be deployed by all states, and for the support provided by private actors and NGOs in carrying out rescue operations at sea and on land to be acknowledged;

20.  Calls for the robust development and reinforcement of the resettlement solutions in the negotiated Compact, as a key element for equitable responsibility-sharing, through specific and coordinated commitments that will establish or increase the scope, size, and quality of the resettlement programmes, in order to meet the annual global resettlement needs identified by the UNHCR; calls on the EU Member States in particular to do their part and to step up their commitment to this matter;

21.  Urges the right to family reunification to be fully respected and insists on the development of safe and legal avenues for refugees, in addition to resettlement, including humanitarian corridors, humanitarian international visas, regional resettlement regimes, and other complementary legal pathways (such as private sponsorship, study visas, refugee scholarship schemes and flexible visa arrangements), so that refugees can reach destinations with proper and dignified host conditions;

22.  Calls on all countries to sign, ratify and comply with the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (Geneva Convention);

23.  Stresses the need to take advantage of this opportunity to fully develop a renewed and horizontal gender perspective for a collective international response to refugees which addresses the specific protection needs of women, including combating violence against women, and which enhances women’s abilities and skills in the reconstruction and resilience of all societies, thereby overcoming the image of women as nothing more than victims; calls, in this context, for the full involvement of women, starting from childhood, with access to education for girls, including in emergencies and conflict areas, listening to their voices and taking into account their needs and realities through their participation in the design of policies on and solutions to the refugee crisis, in order to make them more sustainable, responsive and effective;

Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

24.  Insists that the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration should be people-centred and human rights-based, and should provide for long-term, sustainable and comprehensive measures, for the benefit of all parties involved, building on the principle of partnership and strengthened cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination;

25.  Considers the Compact a unique opportunity to put the nexus between development and migration on the global policy agenda; strongly believes that the SDGs provide a holistic and comprehensive framework to ground the migration-development nexus;

26.  Recalls that the UN Secretary-General’s report entitled ‘Making migration work for all’ highlights that there is a clear body of evidence showing that, despite real challenges, migration is beneficial for both migrants and host communities, in economic and social terms, and can be an engine for economic growth and innovation; strongly supports the perpetuation of a positive narrative on migration and calls for EU and international information campaigns that would draw attention to evidence and counteract racist and xenophobic tendencies in our societies;

27.  Calls on UN member states to minimise remittance transfer costs and to address this issue in the current Compact negotiations;

28.  Highlights that migration has been recognised as a proactive adaptation strategy, a livelihood scheme against poverty, a contributing factor to inclusive growth and sustainable development;

29.  Strongly believes that it is now time to bring together all elements of the UN’s architecture, including the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), to support international efforts to manage migration and consolidate cooperation; deeply regrets, therefore, the decision of the US administration to end its participation in the negotiations for a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration; calls for the EU to show leadership in this process and to condemn other countries which exit the negotiations or succeed in watering down the content of the final Compact; calls for the EU to live up to its responsibility as a global actor and to work to ensure the successful completion of the negotiations; insists on the need for EU Member States to demonstrate unity and to speak with one voice in support of an international human rights-based regime for managing migration;

30.  Considers that opening more legal pathways for migration, including on the basis of realistic analyses of labour market needs, would discourage irregular migration and lead to fewer deaths, less abuse of irregular migrants by smugglers and less exploitation of irregular migrants by unscrupulous employers;

31.  Calls on all countries to take appropriate measures to prevent the abuse of human rights and the exploitation of migrants on their own territories, including by employers; calls on UN member states, to this end, to sign, ratify and comply with the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families adopted by General Assembly Resolution 45/158 on 18 December 1990; stresses that the Compact should abide by and be in line with international labour standards, in particular the fundamental principles and rights at work and the relevant ILO and UN Conventions on the protection of migrant workers and their families;

32.  Underlines the importance of ensuring adequate support for voluntary return and for the reintegration of people returning to their homeland; stresses that children should be returned only when it is in their best interests, and in a safe, assisted and voluntary manner, using child-specific country of origin information reports and offering long-term support for their reintegration;

33.  Invites the UN member states to consider adopting detailed national or subnational action plans, promoting a whole-of-government approach for the implementation of the Compact recommendations in order to address the different dimensions of migration, including development, human rights, security, social aspects, age, and gender, and considering policy implications on health, education, child protection, housing, social inclusion, justice, employment, and social protection;

34.  Endorses the call of the New York Declaration for systematic follow-up and reviews of the commitments of Member States on migration; declares its readiness to be associated with this process at EU level and supports the inclusion of migrants and other stakeholders;

35.  Calls on the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to keep Parliament fully informed at all stages of the process leading to the adoption of the Global Compacts;

o
o   o

36.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organisation for Migration and the United Nations.

(1) http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/generalassembly/docs/A_RES_71_1_E.pdf
(2) https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/generalassembly/docs/A_RES_71_280.pdf
(3) A/HRC/35/25 https://daccess-ods.un.org/TMP/8451200.72364807.html
(4) http://www.unhcr.org/58e625aa7.pdf
(5) https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/SGReport
(6) http://www.unhcr.org/Zero-Draft.pdf
(7) https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/sites/default/files/180205_gcm_zero_draft_final.pdf
(8) https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/sites/default/files/2018mar05_zerodraft.pdf
(9) UN Resolution 70/1 http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E
(10) http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/45/a45r158.htm
(11) OJ C 58, 15.2.2018, p. 109.
(12) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0404.
(13) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0242.
(14) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0124.
(15) OJ C 58, 15.2.2018, p. 9.
(16) United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017). Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2017 revision (United Nations database, POP/DB/MIG/Stock/Rev.2017).
(17) https://missingmigrants.iom.int/latest-global-figures
(18) UNICEF report, Uprooted: the growing crisis for refugee and migrant children, September 2016, p. 39, https://www.unicef.org/videoaudio/PDFs/Uprooted.pdf


Implementation of the EU external financing instruments: mid-term review 2017 and the future post-2020 architecture
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European Parliament resolution of 18 April 2018 on the implementation of the EU external financing instruments: mid-term review 2017 and the future post-2020 architecture (2017/2280(INI))
P8_TA(2018)0119A8-0112/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 232/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing a European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI)(1),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 231/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing an Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II)(2),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 230/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing an instrument contributing to stability and peace (IcSP)(3),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2017/2306 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2017 amending Regulation (EU) No 230/2014 establishing an instrument contributing to stability and peace(4),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 234/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing a Partnership Instrument (PI) for cooperation with third countries(5),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 235/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing a financing instrument for democracy and human rights worldwide(6),

–  having regard to 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(7) (DCI Regulation),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 236/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 laying down common rules and procedures for the implementation of the Union’s instruments for financing external action(8),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2010/427/EU of 26 July 2010 establishing the organisation and functioning of the European External Action Service(9),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2017/1601 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 September 2017 establishing the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD), the EFSD Guarantee and the EFSD Guarantee Fund(10),

–  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(11) (the ‘Financial Regulation’),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of 18 April 2017 for the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Budgetary Control on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and amending Regulation (EC) No 2012/2002 and Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1305/2013, (EU) No 1306/2013, (EU) No 1307/2013, (EU) No 1308/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014 and (EU) No 652/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Decision No 541/2014/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council (COM(2016)0605 – C8-0372/2016 – 2016/0282(COD))(12),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 laying down the rules and general principles concerning mechanisms for control by Member States of the Commission’s exercise of implementing powers(13) (‘Comitology Regulation’),

–  having regard to Commission Decision C(2014)9615 of 10 December 2014 on the establishment of a European Union Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis, ‘the Madad Fund’, and to Commission Decision C(2015)9691 of 21 December 2015 amending Decision C(2014)9615,

–  having regard to Commission Decision C(2015)7293 of 20 October 2015 on the establishment of a European Union Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa, and Commission Decision C(2017)0772 of 8 February 2017 modifying Commission Decision C(2015)7293,

–  having regard to Commission Decision C(2015)9500 of 24 November 2015 on the coordination of the actions of the Union and of the Member States through a coordination mechanism — the Refugee Facility for Turkey(14), and to Commission Decisions C(2016)0855 of 10 February 2016(15) and C(2017)2293 of 18 April 2017(16) on the Facility for Refugees in Turkey amending Commission Decision C(2015)9500,

–  having regard to various reports of the European Court of Auditors on EU external financing, in particular Special Report No 18/2014 on EuropeAid’s evaluation and results-oriented monitoring systems,

–  having regard to the report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 15 December 2017 entitled ‘Mid-term review report of the External Financing Instruments’ (COM(2017)0720) and the accompanying staff working documents on evaluation of the Common Implementing Regulation (SWD(2017)0606), of the European Neighbourhood Instrument (SWD(2017)0602), of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (SWD(2017)0463), of the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (SWD(2017)0607), of the Partnership Instrument for cooperation with third countries (SWD(2017)0608), and of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) (SWD(2017)0604),

–  having regard to external evaluations of the External Financing Instruments(17),

–  having regard to ongoing European Parliament procedures on the future post-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF),

–  having regard to the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) European Implementation Assessment entitled ‘The EU external financing instruments and the post-2020 architecture’,

–  having regard to the report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 24 November 2015 entitled ‘2015 Annual Report on the European Union’s development and external assistance policies and their implementation in 2014’ (COM(2015)0578),

–  having regard to the report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 19 December 2016 entitled ‘2016 Annual Report on the implementation of the European Union’s instruments for financing external actions in 2015’ (COM(2016)0810),

–  having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the European Parliament and the Council of 7 June 2017 entitled ‘A Strategic Approach to Resilience in the EU’s external action’ (JOIN(2017)0021),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 December 2017 on the Annual Report on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy(18),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 February 2017 on the revision of the European Consensus on Development(19),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 April 2016 entitled ‘The EU in a changing global environment – a more connected, contested and complex world’(20),

–  having regard to its resolution of 3 April 2014 on the EU comprehensive approach and its implications for the coherence of EU external action(21),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 July 2015 on the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy(22),

–  having regard to its recommendation of 15 November 2017 to the Council, the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) on the Eastern Partnership, in the run-up to the November 2017 Summit(23),

–  having regard to its resolution of 6 July 2017 on the 2016 Commission Report on Turkey(24),

–  having regard to its resolutions of 15 February 2017 on the 2016 Commission Report on Albania(25) and on the 2016 Commission Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina(26),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 March 2017 on the 2016 Commission Report on Montenegro(27),

–  having regard to its resolutions of 14 June 2017 on the 2016 Commission Report on Kosovo(28), on the 2016 Commission Report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(29), and on the 2016 Commission Report on Serbia(30),

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 6 February 2018 entitled ‘A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans’ (COM(2018)0065),

–  having regard to its resolution of 22 October 2013 on local authorities and civil society: Europe’s engagement in support of sustainable development(31),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2017 on the Council position on the draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2018(32),

–  having regard to the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy presented in June 2016(33),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 19 June 2017 on EU engagement with civil society in external relations,

–  having regard to the EU’s Trade for All strategy,

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 9 November 2017 on the implementation of EU free trade agreements (SWD(2017)0364),

–  having regard to the competences of its Committee on Foreign Affairs as the committee responsible for all legislation, programming and scrutiny of actions carried out under the ENI, the IPA II, the EIDHR, the PI and the IcSP, and the policies underpinning them (Annex V(I) of its Rules of Procedure),

–  having regard to the declaration of the European Commission attached to the Regulations establishing the external financing instruments, in which it commits to engaging in Strategic Dialogues with Parliament on Commission programming,

–  having regard to the Rules of Procedure of the ENI, IPA II, EIDHR, IcSP, PI and DCI Committees,

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure, as well as Article 1(1)(e) of, and Annex 3 to, the decision of the Conference of Presidents of 12 December 2002 on the procedure for granting authorisation to draw up own-initiative reports,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the opinions and position in the form of amendments of the Committee on Development, the Committee on International Trade and the Committee on Budgets (A8-0112/2018),

A.  whereas the European Union remains the world’s biggest provider of external assistance;

B.  whereas external financing instruments are the main mechanism for supporting the EU’s action on the global scene, and whereas the EU’s external action is of increasing importance to European citizens;

C.  whereas, due to limited resources, the external financing instruments have often been stretched to their limits;

D.  whereas the Commission considers in its mid-term review report that the current external instrument architecture is generally fit for purpose;

E.  whereas a merger of instruments cannot be a goal in itself;

F.  whereas the EU has been facing numerous challenges not only in its close neighbourhood, but also on the global scene;

G.  whereas EU external action must give priority to addressing critical global challenges such as peace and sustainable development, and recognise that the promotion of human rights for all, the rule of law and democracy, with a particular focus on gender equality and social justice, as well as support for human rights defenders, are essential to achieving these goals;

H.  whereas the EU’s external financial assistance is a key instrument for supporting economic reforms, as well as for supporting democratic, political and institutional consolidation in partner countries;

I.  whereas no equal and robust parliamentary scrutiny of all instruments is in place;

J.  whereas there is an urgent need to enhance the visibility of EU assistance vis-à-vis both the citizens of partner countries and those of the European Union, in order to better communicate the benefits of EU support; whereas investing in favour of concrete and tangible projects, the visibility of which can be more easily accessed by the general public, while developing a comprehensive, effective and systematic communication strategy within each instrument, can be of significant value in this regard;

K.  whereas strategic communication is often confronted with external challenges, including misinformation campaigns against the EU and its Member States, which require further efforts; whereas promoting objective, independent and impartial information while also addressing the legal aspects of the media environment in which EU instruments and actions operate are therefore of fundamental importance;

L.  whereas international trade is a core EU tool for helping countries in their social and economic development, as well as for defending and promoting human rights, fundamental values and the rule of law;

M.  whereas, according to the Treaties, trade policy should contribute to the external objectives of the Union, including sustainable development;

N.  whereas the combined assistance programmed under the ENI (EUR 15,4 billion), the IPA II (EUR 11,7 billion), the IcSP (EUR 2,5 billion), the EIDHR (EUR 1,3 billion) and the PI (EUR 1 billion) amounts to EUR 32 billion for the period 2014-2020;

O.  whereas IPA II has been used in the management of migration;

P.  whereas the EIDHR and, in particular, the IcSP are subject to the legal basis of Articles 209 and 212 TFEU, both of which refer to Article 208 TFEU, which states that ‘Union development cooperation policy shall have as its primary objective the reduction and, in the long term, the eradication of poverty’;

Q.  whereas the Commission is responsible for the identification, formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of EU assistance under these instruments; whereas the EEAS has the responsibility to ensure the continuity and coherence of EU external policies, among other things through the instruments; whereas Parliament is responsible for democratic oversight and scrutiny and as co-legislator under the codecision procedure;

R.  whereas the dual nature of the office of Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy means that the holder must play a key role in the political coordination of the Union’s assistance under the instruments;

S.  whereas various projects and grants under the current instruments cannot be evaluated fully, as they remain in the early stages of implementation; whereas some objectives are qualitative in nature and are related to legislation, practices and attitudes that cannot be easily measured quantitatively;

T.  whereas the Commission states in its mid-term review that it is difficult to measure the overall effectiveness of the instruments in meeting their objectives, partly because of the difficulty in defining appropriate monitoring and evaluation systems at the instrument-level (p. 10); recalls that the Court of Auditors pointed to serious deficiencies in EuropeAid’s evaluation system in its Special Report No 18/2014;

U.  whereas the Common Implementing Regulation (CIR) contains key provisions on development and aid effectiveness principles such as untying of aid and the use of partner countries’ own institutions, systems and procedures;

V.  whereas current administrative procedures often entail excessive bureaucratic burdens for potential recipients, making it difficult for smaller civil society and social partner organisations to get involved in project design and implementation, as they often lack the know-how and administrative capacity to put forward eligible and successful proposals;

W.  whereas the Regulations setting up the external financing instruments (EFIs) provide that implementing powers be granted to the Commission in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 182/2011, and whereas these Regulations also provide that the Commission will be assisted in this by the ENI, IPA II, EIDHR, IcSP, PI and DCI Committees;

X.  whereas draft implementing acts must be sent to the Council and Parliament at the same time as they are sent to the ENI, IPA II, EIDHR, IcSP, PI and DCI committees’ members, and whereas the Rules of Procedure of these Committees provide that draft implementing acts must be sent to the ENI, IPA II, EIDHR, IcSP, PI and DCI committees’ members at least 20 calendar days before the relevant committee meeting; whereas draft implementing acts should therefore be sent to Parliament at least 20 calendar days before these meetings, and whereas written procedures for the adoption of draft implementing acts are an exception to this rule in duly justified cases;

Y.  whereas the drafting of implementing acts entails a preparatory phase internal to the Commission – including inter-service consultation – of significant length, which usually spans several months;

Mid-term review

1.  Notes that the Commission mid-term review (MTR) found the current instruments to be generally fit for purpose;

2.  Regrets that the quantity and lack of flexibility and coherence of the EU funding under Heading 4 of the current MFF have been indicative of the EU’s limited ambition to act as a genuine global player; notes, however, that many of the partner countries and themes addressed by the EU EFIs have seen positive progress, which is testament to the relevance and importance of the EFIs;

3.  Is concerned, however, about some findings, including the lack of political guidance and overarching vision, inconsistent implementation of EU values and partnership principles, the slow or non-existent progress in objectives related to social and legal reform in the wider neighbourhood, the absence of robust monitoring and evaluation and limited flexibility;

4.  Regrets the absence of a single clear vision document clarifying synergies between the instruments and how these feed into a global, overarching EU foreign policy strategy;

5.  Is concerned that the EU and its instruments face significant challenges, including political trade-offs between the promotion of values and rights and short-term security interests, the emergence of new actors in the field of global governance and international financial institutions, as well as numerous violent global conflicts around the world, including volatility in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood, both to the East and to the South, and an increasingly aggressive and assertive policy of Russia;

6.  Notes that EU Trust Funds were created to address the root causes of migration; regrets that the contributions from the EU budget to the EU Trust Funds and the Facility for Refugees in Turkey have reduced the overall coherence, long-term vision and impact of the Union’s action; stresses once again that new priorities must be financed with new appropriations; deeply regrets that Parliament was not formally consulted or asked to give its approval at any stage of the decision-making process in relation to the ‘Turkey statement’;

7.  Reiterates the need for the instruments to be complementary and adaptable to the local context, as well as able to respond to new and unforeseen challenges quickly and effectively without losing sight of their original objectives;

8.  Regrets that the instruments do not contain any explicit reference to the possibility of suspending assistance in cases where a beneficiary country (in particular where indirect management with the beneficiary country – IMBC – has been used) fails to observe such basic principles as democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights;

9.  Notes that EU development aid (official development assistance, ODA) has not reached the UN target of 0,7 %; calls, therefore, for an increase in the resources available for development aid in order to meet the Agenda 2030 commitments;

IPA II

10.  Encourages efforts to make IPA II more strategically relevant in the long term and deliver concrete results through beneficiary-specific planning and a sectoral approach; believes that such an approach could help in cutting down the huge backlog of unspent funds from IPA I and II in Turkey resulting from inefficiencies of IMBC as well as weak absorption capacities;

11.  Is deeply concerned about Turkey’s backsliding in terms of the rule of law and democracy, in spite of the EUR 4,5 billion programmed under the IPA II for the current MFF period; recognises that the current accession perspective for Turkey feeds into widespread uncertainty over the value of IPA II in the country; notes that IPA II funds have been used to finance commitments under the ‘Turkey statement’;

12.  Notes the varying stages of progress of several countries in the Western Balkans under the long-term assistance from the IPA II; notes that, in some cases, IPA II assistance has led to limited results in steering reforms, especially in the areas of the rule of law, public administration and the fight against corruption;

13.  Notes the remaining weaknesses in the quality of indicators in country programmes and action documents;

14.  Emphasises the need to be able to suspend or redirect IPA II funds in cases where a thorough analysis by the Commission finds that partner countries have systemically been failing to meet their commitments or are exhibiting severe political backsliding; regrets that such measures have in the past been hampered by a systemic and political inability to act;

15.  Notes the existence of the performance framework; regrets, however, that the performance rewards are yet to be considered and awarded; calls, in this context, for increased work to be undertaken to further improve the framework, also taking into account cases of negative performance and an ensuing decrease in funding;

16.  Reiterates the importance of IPA II as the main EU funding instrument for pre-accession financing of key social, economic, political and institutional reforms in priority areas in order to align countries with the EU acquis; notes that such reforms may also contribute to regional security in the long term; welcomes the increased strategic focus of IPA II, but underlines that funding under IPA II must be ambitious and forward-looking and must match the actual needs, obligations and aspirations linked to the accession process and EU membership; recalls, in this regard, that funding should be used in accordance with the specific objectives pertaining to the instrument;

17.  Acknowledges that the Civil Society Facility of IPA II provides crucial support to local civil society organisations (CSOs); emphasises that commitments do not match the real needs on the ground; calls, in this context, for more complementarity of IPA II with actions of other instruments, notably the EIDHR and the IcSP; notes that this requires more coordination during both the planning and the programming phases;

18.  Considers the sectoral approach valid, but regrets the lack of clear ownership of projects due to fragmented responsibilities; notes that indirect management has improved overall ownership of the programmes, but has also led to decreased efficiency through longer delays in implementation;

19.  Welcomes initiatives to set up systems to better monitor and measure performance, including through Sector Monitoring Committees, internal guidelines, and the development of a new information management system (OPSYS);

ENI

20.  Welcomes the support to structural reforms provided in the form of programmed assistance, and underlines the special nature of the ENI, enabling the EU to devise tailor‑made policies adapted to the specific needs of the partner countries;

21.  Shares the Commission’s assessment that the existence of a dedicated financing instrument for the neighbourhood has provided concrete evidence of the political importance attached by the EU to relations with its neighbours and to the deepening of political cooperation and economic integration with and within the region;

22.  Recognises that current challenges and needs in the neighbourhood, as well as discrepancies between objectives, interests and financial resources, have placed serious strain on the ENI budget and human resources, and highlights the need for more flexibility;

23.  Is concerned that ENI funding has been less effective among partners less committed to reforms and remains challenging but necessary in politically sensitive and conflict situations, especially with regard to the promotion of shared values of democracy and human rights; regrets that the ‘more for more’ and incentive-based approaches have not been used effectively, and that countries that are manifestly departing from their stated commitments to human rights and democratic reform have enjoyed increasing financial assistance over the most recent programming period;

24.  Reiterates that the neighbourhood has been confronted with unprecedented challenges since 2014, due to the increasing number of long-standing and newly emerging challenges, such as the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the Syrian crisis, the situation in Libya, radicalisation and terrorism, youth unemployment, and the challenge of migration;

25.  Is concerned that these developments, as well as discrepancies between the objectives, the interests of both the EU and partner countries and the financial resources available have stretched the financial capacity of this instrument to the limit, while highlighting the need for more flexibility;

26.  Underlines that EU values and principles, including democracy, the rule of law, human rights and efficient, accountable and transparent public institutions, are in the interests of neighbouring societies as much as of our own in terms of stability, security and prosperity; welcomes the support to structural reforms provided under programmed assistance; considers that the implementation of the principle of differentiation has allowed the EU to adapt its support to partner countries’ needs and ambitions;

27.  Takes note of the contributions under ENI to the Madad Fund and the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa;

28.  Underlines the need for greater coordination between regional and bilateral programmes and investment facilities to better support and foster private sector development; notes that shortcomings related to the lack of joint programming with Member States have slightly improved;

29.  Welcomes the monitoring of ENI assistance through Results-Oriented Monitoring (ROM); regrets that no consistent monitoring and evaluation systems exist at instrument level;

30.  Emphasises that the trade-related technical support and economic assistance provided by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) to the Union’s close partners on its southern and eastern borders make an important contribution to democratic evolution in those regions; observes that funds under the ENI may be used for trade facilitation and as such can be complementary to existing EU funding for the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which should better guarantee medium- and long-term political stability;

IcSP

31.  Recognises that the IcSP’s primary added value is its speed and flexibility when it comes to addressing conflict, and its broad range of civilian actors with whom the EU can partner up; recalls that the IcSP is the only EU instrument for civilian conflict prevention, including mediation, dialogue and reconciliation;

32.  Takes note of the complications involved in collecting data and measuring the results of IcSP actions, both of which may have proven challenging due to difficulties in assessing political outcomes and the attribution of results to IcSP actions when followed up by concurrent actions under other instruments, as well as to difficulties in accessing conflict‑affected areas;

33.  Notes that the need for conflict prevention and to address security challenges has drastically increased in the recent period; believes that there is a need for reconciliation, mediation and dialogue initiatives in many post-war crisis countries; underlines the need for prompt action in the context of crises and conflicts; stresses the need to significantly increase the funds available for such initiatives; notes that the amendment to the IcSP in November 2017 aims to strengthen the security capabilities of third countries in order to further promote stability, security and sustainable development; notes that the IcSP functions as a measure of last resort or a forerunner of longer-term actions funded by other instruments;

34.  Notes that the IcSP is in the early stages of countering cyber threats globally; urges that stronger emphasis be placed on cyber security, including through a coherent strategy applicable throughout all EU external actions; calls for an accompanying increase in the funds allocated to cyber security under the IcSP as the appropriate instrument for dealing with such threats;

35.  Notes that cooperation with Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) actions and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operations and missions as well as EU humanitarian aid provision has increased;

EIDHR

36.  Underlines the added value of the worldwide holistic approach of the EIDHR, despite its relatively small budget, and the importance of civil society organisations in achieving its objective, as well as its unique feature of being the only instrument through which the EU can support civil society actions, irrespective of interference by the authorities of the State concerned by such actions;

37.  Notes that, during the current period, the EIDHR has been used more flexibly and in a more complementary manner than in the previous period, reacting to emerging human rights and democracy crises more quickly; welcomes its complementarity with funding from other sources, such as the European Endowment for Democracy, which enhances the effectiveness of the EIDHR’s funding in urgent cases; welcomes the increased focus on human rights defenders, including through the emergency fund available at EU delegation level, and the establishment and successful operation of the EU’s Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) Mechanism ProtectDefenders.eu; highlights that the call for proposals process is long, inconvenient and over-competitive;

38.  Notes, furthermore, the benefits of the ProtectDefenders.eu mechanism, implemented by civil society, which has provided critical support to a large number of HRDs; urges the continued support of such mechanisms;

39.  Is concerned about the difficulties in mainstreaming human rights and democratic values through geographic programmes and about the reduced EU support to civil society organisations, leading to increased pressure on the EIDHR at a time of shrinking space for civil society worldwide;

40.  Believes that the EU must show leadership and ambition by deploying an overarching policy for mainstreaming its support to democracy in all its external relations; considers, therefore, that the funding allocated for democracy support must be increased accordingly, in particular in the light of the current attacks on democracy worldwide; insists on the need to ensure that the spending on Objective 1 of the Country‑Based Support Scheme (CBSS) effectively and efficiently reaches the human rights defenders who are most at risk; urges the EU delegations to deploy all necessary support in this regard;

41.  Recognises that the evaluation of EIDHR actions is challenging due to the absence of strategic and operational indicators; notes that the challenges in evaluation also arise due to significant levels of support to CSOs and human rights defenders being understandably delivered confidentially in order to protect the identities and safety of beneficiaries;

42.  Reiterates the added value of EU election observation missions, an area where the EU is leading globally; welcomes the fact that monitoring and follow-up missions to take account of election observation missions’ recommendations have increased in number;

PI

43.  Underlines that the PI is specifically intended to pursue thematic EU and mutual interests with third countries and to build alliances and foster cooperation with current and emerging strategic partners; notes that in practice, the PI is used as an instrument of last resort, deployed when it is considered to be the only instrument that can facilitate the pursuit of the EU policy agenda and tackle global challenges;

44.  Notes that in comparison with previous instruments, the PI has been able to engage in more cooperative ways with third countries, including strategic partners, countries graduated from bilateral development aid and various international fora, but is of the opinion that increasing the provision of resources and input by policy-making services is necessary to ensure they are fully involved in designing, programming and implementing the actions, as well as enhancing the active role played by EU delegations in the formulation of actions, and enhancing information sharing with Member States;

45.  Advocates improving the visibility of the objectives of the PI and knowledge and understanding of them, especially within the EU institutions;

46.  Notes with regret that the evaluation has been hampered by the fact that no central repository of action documentation has been created due to the late adoption of a results indicator framework and the unfinished nature of most projects;

CIR

47.  Recalls that the EU’s external financing instruments are a complex set of tools for the EU to support and enhance its action on the international scene, and that their complex structure is coordinated by the CIR; reiterates that the CIR needs to meet the criteria of budgetary scrutiny and democratic oversight; regrets that the high complexity and restrictive nature of the CIR have hampered the efficient use of Union resources and are preventing a timely response to new challenges and partner needs; regrets that the commonality of rules has not led to the joint programming of assistance between the instruments;

48.  Notes that the CIR was established for the purposes of harmonisation, the simplification of implementation, greater flexibility, coherence, consistency and efficiency of the use of the Union’s resources, and of a smooth and complementary approach to the implementation of all instruments;

49.  Considers that sufficient time is key to Parliament being able to properly and duly exercise its powers of scrutiny with regard to draft implementing acts; considers that, given the amount of time that the draft implementing acts are in preparation before reaching the ENI, IPA II, EIDHR, IcSP, PI and DCI Committees, non-compliance with the 20-day time limit for submission of documents to Parliament and the Council in the final phase of adoption of the implementing act cannot be justified; regrets, therefore, that the deadline of 20 calendar days is not always respected, and considers its right of scrutiny impaired; calls for the submission of all draft implementing measures at least 20 days in advance, and calls on the Commission to amend the Rules of Procedure of the ENI, IPA II, EIDHR, IcSP, PI and DCI Committees in order to extend this 20-day time limit for submission, thereby facilitating Parliament’s scrutiny powers;

50.  Regrets that visibility of the EU’s External Funding Policy remains limited in a context where third actors are actively seeking to undermine EU foreign policy through disinformation;

Recommendations for 2017/2018-2020

51.  Calls for EU and universal values and human rights to remain at the core of all EU external actions;

52.  Urges increased synergies and coherence between all instruments under Heading 4, as well as better coordination with bilateral assistance programmes of Member States and, where possible, other donors; calls, in this regard, on the Commission and the EEAS to strengthen their cooperation and coordination, including with CSOs and local actors, and to fulfil their responsibilities under Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU);

53.  Calls for the establishment of solid, consistent and transparent monitoring and evaluation mechanisms; reiterates that such mechanisms would allow for the tracking of tangible progress on crucial reform-related goals in neighbouring countries, which is particularly important where those reforms have stalled or otherwise been delayed;

54.  Calls for enhanced parliamentary control and scrutiny procedures and systems that are consistent for all instruments; recommends improving transparency through the creation of a single common transparent public database of projects and actions;

55.  Stresses the need to provide additional financial resources and training support to CSOs; insists that urgent measures are required to further diminish the bureaucratic burden and procedural obstacles encountered by CSOs, especially by local CSOs; calls for specific budget lines devoted to capacity building for CSOs in order to enhance their ability to access funding; regrets that the issue of the lack of CSO participation in programming and implementing external instruments has not been raised in the Commission’s mid-term review report; calls on the Commission to mainstream a more strategic involvement of CSOs in all external instruments and programmes, as requested by both the Council and Parliament;

56.  Is in favour of a more direct and active promotion of EU policies, its financial assistance and its visibility;

57.  Reiterates its position that the possibility to carry over unallocated ENI and IPA II funds should be introduced, within a limit of 10 % of the initial appropriations for each instrument, in order to increase the capacity to respond to unforeseen events, while maintaining the objectives set out in the relevant ENI and IPA II regulations;

IPA II

58.  Supports the principles listed in Article 21 TEU, and recommends a stronger emphasis on strengthening democratic institutions, the fight against corruption and public administration reforms, strengthening the rule of law and good governance and making improvements in the consistent implementation of human and minority rights; calls for more support for reforms in the sectors relevant to the accession process, as well as for stimulation of regional cooperation in order to complement the EU’s enlargement policy;

59.  Recommends enabling the transfer of funds to civil society when state authorities are unwilling to meet the EU’s stated objectives, or are unwilling to cooperate on the instrument’s objectives; calls on the Commission to moderate or suspend funding for countries that seriously breach EU fundamental values, including the basic Copenhagen criteria; calls for an easing of the administrative burden for recipients from civil society organisations applying for EU funding;

60.  Demands Parliament involvement should a suspension of funds or significant changes in maximum indicative allocations be considered;

61.  Insists on strong ownership on the part of the beneficiaries from programming to monitoring and auditing; calls on the Commission to provide targeted assistance to national audit authorities in terms of methodology, planning, recruitment, training and supervision;

62.  Recommends greater support for national authorities responsible for donor coordination, which have a weak capacity, but show a political willingness to meet the objectives; regrets the lack of transparency regarding the absorption capacity of these funds;

63.  Urges the channelling of funds into sectors with a proven track record, avoiding further chronic delays that have occurred under the IMBC, mainly in Turkey;

64.  Calls for increased visibility of the IPA II in the region given the crucial importance of enlargement policy for the EU, for example through appropriate targeted communication and information campaigns in national, regional and local media outlets, or any other means as may be deemed appropriate, with minimum requirements and the monitoring thereof defined by the Commission, in close cooperation with beneficiaries; supports targeted counter-propaganda and strategic communication efforts, especially in instances where the EU’s image and interests are actively targeted and undermined;

65.  Recommends making use of IPA II funds to create channels of communication for firms, particularly SMEs, in both the Member States and pre-accession countries, in order to create strong trade links between the respective areas, which would be very useful in preparing the recipient countries for accession to the single market;

66.  Reiterates the usefulness of the financial performance reward for countries making progress, as prescribed by the IPA II Regulation;

67.  Considers that flexibility and the use of funding to address specific crisis situations must be in line with the instrument’s key priorities and the fundamentals of the enlargement strategy and the accession process, which have to remain the main focus of IPA II;

68.  Calls for better coordination and additional synergies during the planning and programming phases of IPA II with the actions of other instruments, namely the EIDHR and the IcSP, in order to ensure coherence and to enhance complementarity, both internally between its own set of objectives and programmes and vis-à-vis other EFIs;

ENI

69.  Emphasises the need for an overall strategic document for ENI implementation aligning assistance with the larger political framework and for better coordination with other instruments; stresses that the priorities of ENI programming should also include socio-economic development, youth and the sustainable management of energy resources;

70.  Regrets that the multiannual programming already took place for the majority of the beneficiaries in the course of 2017, prior to the finalisation of the MTR of assistance in those countries; recalls that Parliament provided its recommendations on programming during a Strategic Dialogue with the Commission in April 2017;

71.  Stresses the political visibility and leverage that the ENI as a separate financing instrument grants to the EU in the neighbourhood, both in the East and the South;

72.  Calls for the existing balance in the allocation of funds between the Union’s southern and eastern neighbourhoods to be maintained;

73.  Underlines the interconnection between stabilisation, support for democratisation, conflict prevention and resolution, respect for human rights and the rule of law, education and socio-economic development; stresses the importance of projects that support young people in their education and employability;

74.  Reiterates the importance of the ability to respond more rapidly to challenges;

75.  Stresses that investment in stabilising and developing countries in the neighbourhood also addresses issues such as migration, terrorism, local conflicts and economic instability, which in the long run will be beneficial for the EU as a whole;

76.  Underlines that the specificity of the challenges in the neighbourhood requires an integrated and comprehensive approach based on beneficiaries’ various needs and situations, including through synergies with other EFIs and across policies of the Union; underlines that one of the primary tasks is that of swift and effective implementation of the Association Agreements (AAs) and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) and all related reforms, which must be backed up with adequate financial resources from the EU side;

77.  Reiterates the importance of deeper joint programming with the Member States, in addition to the good progress made on joint analyses, coordination and consensus-building on donor priorities; urges improvements in donors’ coordination, especially in pairing with funds from other EU instruments, fellow donors and international financial institutions, to underpin economic transition and stability in partner countries;

78.  Is concerned that the response and financial capacities of the instrument have been stretched to the limit; regrets that in-house expertise in the form of political and geopolitical risk analysis was not taken into account at the planning stage to a sufficient degree;

79.  Concludes that increasing the indicative financial allocations by means of legislative amendment may be necessary in the light of current challenges in the neighbourhood;

80.  Reiterates that the objectives of funds programmed under the ENI are to be adhered to when such funds are shifted to other modalities such as Trust Funds, and that scrutiny and oversight by parliament are needed and must never be circumvented;

81.  Calls for stronger involvement of civil society in the identification of needs;

82.  Calls for making full use of conditionality and incentives-based mechanisms that support political and economic reforms where needed, and which are related to reforms and strategic objectives; regrets that the ENI has not been able to provide sufficient incentives to those countries which are reluctant to engage in political reforms; calls for effective monitoring of the ENI at instrument level;

83.  Is concerned about the destruction and confiscation of EU‑funded assistance in third countries; calls for further efforts to improve the EU’s strategic communication and visibility in neighbourhood countries;

IcSP

84.  Calls for better efforts to leverage IcSP influence through regular strategic dialogues with partners and international organisations; asks, in this context, for co-financing to be ensured by other important donors with a stake in the outcomes of relevant actions;

85.  Calls for an improved strategic framework and synergies between IcSP and follow-up actions from other instruments and actors;

86.  Calls for increased cooperation between other international organisations, governments and EU institutions on countering emerging new threats, such as in the area of hybrid conflicts and cyber-security where the expertise of the EU Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) could be utilised;

87.  Recommends a more strategic use of IcSP mediation capacity not only in relation to conflicts of localised impact, but also to support the peace process and dialogue in existing or emerging conflicts with global significance, and calls for better early warning systems and conflict analysis tools that would allow for better prevention and peace-building;

88.  Stresses that this instrument will from now on enable the Union to fund training measures for and the supply of non-lethal equipment (such as IT systems, hospitals, etc.) to third-country armed forces in order to meet urgent, short- and medium-term needs, as part of the efforts to achieve sustainable development objectives;

EIDHR

89.  Reiterates the fundamental importance of supporting and promoting democracy and human rights in third countries, including the protection of human rights defenders, irrespective of interference by authorities of third countries;

90.  Notes the effectiveness and importance of the EIDHR in this regard, operating in a context of shrinking space for civil society; reaffirms the continued need for dedicated funding for human rights and democracy, without any decrease; calls, furthermore, for the consideration of increased funding for urgency assistance to HRDs, as well as the effective promotion of the availability of such funds;

91.  Reiterates that the EIDHR should not have its scope limited or be used as an instrument merely to fill gaps left by other instruments, but that the targeted promotion of democracy and human rights should be a clear and strategic goal in itself;

92.  Urges the Commission to find solutions to the issues of shrinking space for civil society, increased human rights violations and repression, for example by increasing the funds available for global, reactive programmes such as the EU HRDs Mechanism ProtectDefenders.eu; calls for the EU to continue funding HRDs, in particular those at risk, and civil society, as well as marginalised groups such as women, indigenous peoples, Roma, LGBTI, persons with disabilities, children and the elderly;

93.  Recommends increased strategic planning in conjunction with political guidance from EU authorities and coherence with the other instruments, especially in countries experiencing a decline in human rights and democratic standards, to counter the global trend of authoritarianism;

94.  Underlines the importance of focusing on internationally relevant thematic issues that may underpin, in the short-, medium- and/or long-term, the globalisation of human rights and the rule of international law and justice; calls for greater EIDHR support in a number of emerging thematic issues, notably the fight against corruption, businesses’ respect of human rights, environmental rights and rights of migrants;

95.  Welcomes support to international and regional human rights and accountability mechanisms, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Criminal Court (ICC);

96.  Recommends continued efforts to abolish the death penalty worldwide;

97.  Reiterates the Commission’s commitments on further supporting civil society and promoting a more conducive environment for CSOs in partner countries; insists that urgent work is required to further diminish the bureaucratic obstacles encountered by local CSOs; encourages EU delegations to actively seek out HRDs and CSOs working on sensitive issues requiring funding, to publish calls for proposals in local languages and to allow applicants to submit project proposals therein, thereby also strengthening local ownership and the long-term embeddedness of projects;

98.  Calls for an increased focus on the sustainability of EIDHR-funded actions, notably in the context of Election Observation Missions (EOMs), where there is significant scope for stepping up the transfer of knowledge to local actors and improving the follow-up to recommendations; calls for EOM planning to be better coordinated with Parliament’s election observation activities;

99.  Calls on the Commission to provide specific funding to projects targeting the increasing abuse of surveillance technology and online attacks by repressive governments and non-state actors;

100.  Calls for the establishment of monitoring and evaluation systems that involve input from HRDs;

101.  Encourages coordinated action with the IcSP in pursuit of actions preventing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide;

PI

102.  Welcomes the focus on the Union’s strategic interests;

103.  Recommends a more strategic and consolidated use of the scarce funds available under the PI, ensuring inclusive input and the identification of actions by all Commission departments and the EEAS, in close cooperation with Member States, and underscores the importance of a well-resourced PI for the proactive defence of EU values and interests in the context of a declining trans-Atlantic consensus and the growing number of middle-income countries whose strategic importance is rapidly increasing, including in Asia and Latin America;

104.  Recommends a review of the geographical allocations in the next Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) in order to adapt to challenges; suggests, in this context, enhanced coverage for cooperation with non-strategic third countries, such as middle-income countries which are currently not sufficiently covered;

105.  Recommends better alignment with CIR objectives and cross-cutting themes;

106.  Recommends that its monitoring and evaluation system, including relevant qualitative indicators, be finalised;

107.  Considers that the PI could be an important tool for supporting the implementation of free trade agreements, notably by supporting the work of the Domestic Advisory Groups; underlines the need to assess the use and distribution of funds, as well as the effectiveness of the PI and the Business Avenue and EU Gateway programmes, which should complement Member States’ competences in the area of foreign trade promotion;

108.  Notes that one of the objectives of the PI is public diplomacy in order to build trust and understanding in non-EU countries with regard to EU policies; stresses that civil society engagement is of the utmost importance, and welcomes the allocation of EUR 3 million to support the participation of civil society organisations in the Domestic Advisory Groups;

CIR

109.  Recommends a better use of the harmonised rules through possible joint calls for proposals and improved cooperation across Commission departments and the EEAS;

110.  Calls for the inclusion of gender mainstreaming among the provisions of the CIR;

111.  Calls for further stepping up of the efforts to increase the visibility of EU external policy funding through a comprehensive and coherent communication strategy which includes measures to tackle disinformation; calls for the introduction of conditionality mechanisms vis-à-vis implementing partners when measures to increase EU visibility are not complied with;

112.  Recalls the key importance of development and aid effectiveness principles in external action as highlighted in the CIR, and calls on the Commission to maintain these principles throughout all the measures it will take following the mid-term review report;

113.  Observes that EU SMEs should be taken into account with regard to access to the external financing instruments via less complex and more friendly regulation which can facilitate more agile use of the funds and at the same time help SMEs acquire international experience; asks the Commission to assess the existing tools aimed at promoting SME internationalisation regarding their coherence with other Union SME support instruments, such as COSME, as well as regarding subsidiarity, non-duplication and complementarity in relation to Member State programmes; calls on the Commission to make timely proposals for the mid-term review of those programmes in order to improve their efficiency and effectiveness; underlines the need to improve information and awareness among SMEs about the existing instruments, in particular at national level;

The post-2020 architecture

114.  Calls for funding of external relations instruments to reflect ambitious external actions, and for the budget for the EU as a global player to be increased while remaining based on values, fundamental and human rights and principles; reiterates that EU external actions also serve the common interests of EU citizens;

115.  Underlines that in the event of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union, the current budget ratio destined for external action should be increased or at least maintained at current levels, with the same rationale being applied to existing instruments, policies and priorities;

116.  Reiterates that reform of the current instrument architecture is required in order to provide more accountability, transparency and public oversight, and would also increase efficiency, coherence and responsiveness as well as effectiveness and flexibility; considers that reform could also increase cost-effectiveness, reduce overlaps and conflicts of interest between different actors and Commission services and contribute to tackling the current challenges related to strategy, programming and implementation;

117.  Recalls the essential role of Parliament as a co-legislator in the regulation establishing the next MFF; reiterates its willingness to work with the Commission, EEAS and Council to optimise the architecture of the external financing instruments; stresses, however, that the objective of any restructuring of the instruments should be increased transparency, accountability, efficiency, coherence as well as flexibility; stresses that these objectives cannot be achieved without a governance structure that allows for political control, is strategy driven, inclusive and accountable; stresses that Parliament will not accept any reform of the instruments without a solid governance structure; urges the Commission and EEAS to propose a plan for the reform of the instruments that includes such a governance structure; underlines the discrepancies between the findings of the mid‑term review and the Commission’s proposals to reform the current structure; underlines, furthermore, that robust democratic and transparent scrutiny by national parliaments and the European Parliament must be ensured;

118.  Calls for better integration of the EU Trust Funds and facilities into the budget in order to increase the transparency and democratic scrutiny of the EFIs; recalls the agreement, as part of the latest revision of the Financial Regulation, to consult with Parliament and the Council prior to setting up a new Trust Fund for thematic actions; calls, in addition, on the Commission to provide Parliament with detailed information about any significant autonomous transfer or decommitment under Heading 4;

119.  Highlights that EU delegations, together with Member States, could also help SMEs use these financial instruments with a view to creating medium-term relations between EU firms and the recipient countries’ economies;

120.  Stresses that no instrument can exist without the inclusion of clear and dedicated envelopes and allocations for the various goals, objectives and priorities of EU external action, including democracy, human rights, the rule of law, support to civil society, conflict resolution, fragile states, development policy and poverty eradication, economic and social development, and support to countries in various stages of EU accession and the countries of the EU neighbourhood;

121.  Appreciates the EU’s commitment to such issues as human rights, democracy and support to civil society, as well as various goals, objectives and the specific political and strategic value of the current instruments; underlines that reform should not undermine the policy goals of each instrument; understands the specificity in terms of objectives and implementation when it comes to the ENI, IPA II and EIDHR and considers, therefore, that these should remain independent due to strategic and political considerations;

122.  Recalls that, since 2006, the EIDHR has been the concrete expression of the EU’s commitment to support and promote democracy and human rights in third countries, and has allowed the EU to intervene without interference by governments in support of registered and non-registered NGOs and in areas not always covered by EU Member States;

123.  Stresses the need to establish common goals, including the necessity to enhance a rights-based approach and to mainstream human rights in order to give meaning to Article 21 TEU, which requires the EU to consolidate democracy, human rights and the rule of law as a necessary objective in external relations;

124.  Calls on the EEAS and the Commission to ensure clear communications to partner countries about any reforms;

125.  Calls for the setting up of solid, consistent evaluation and monitoring procedures that are able to provide qualitative and quantitative evaluation analysis and to track progress in achieving set objectives by means of EU funding via different instruments;

126.  Stresses the need for the predictability of long-term funding while also introducing set amounts to be used flexibly; reiterates that flexibility requires the possibility to transfer funds between envelopes; recalls that funds destined for external action objectives cannot be rerouted to serve other objectives, including migration management and internal security; stresses that the possibility to carry over unallocated funds within the total budget of the external action instrument should be introduced within a limit of 10 % of the initial appropriations of the instrument for flexible and/or urgent actions while maintaining the policy objectives of the instrument;

127.  Highlights that country aid allocations should not be dependent on migration deals with the EU, and there should be no diversion of finance from poor countries and regions to migrants’ countries of origin or of transit to Europe on the sole basis that these lie on the migration route;

128.  Recalls the difficulties beneficiaries currently experience in securing funding under the instruments; calls for a simplification of procedures, the easing of administrative burdens and, where possible, the adoption of unified procedures for the various Commission and EEAS services involved and the setting up of a one-stop-shop for organisations applying for EU funding and the use of digital solutions, where possible, to streamline and reduce bureaucratic burdens, but not at the expense of budgetary oversight, traceability and control;

129.  Underlines the need for all Commission services and the EEAS to work together, making EU external funding policy- rather than instrument-driven, in order to prevent discrepancies, incoherence, unnecessary costs, overlap and a waste of knowhow and to achieve the goals and objectives shared by EU external action as a whole;

130.  Stresses the need for more strategic political guidance and an overarching strategy and accompanying documents, developed in conjunction with and shared by all relevant Commission services and the EEAS, managed and monitored by the governance structure that is yet to be created, setting out the goals and objectives of EU external action for the coming period and the way in which the instrument will be deployed to achieve them; calls for the use of both internal and external expertise in the setting of such goals and objectives; recommends that all programming include conflict-sensitivity and political economy analysis and risk assessment, as well as mitigation measures that could be flexibly redeployed in cases in which such risks occur;

131.  Calls for the exploration of ways to increase coordination and coherence with external funding policies by EU Member States, including through the enhancement of joint programming;

132.  Calls for an enhancement of the funding opportunities for NGOs by clarifying and providing more opportunities for co-financing, through providing for multiannual partnerships and ensuring the sustainability of the activities;

133.  Calls for improved requirements for faster decision-making in order to increase the EU’s capacity to respond to rapidly evolving events;

134.  Underlines the importance of increasing the visibility and raising awareness of the EU’s external action – including through the utilisation of the EU’s Strategic Communication Task Force – and its influence around the world; calls for this to be seen as a policy objective; stresses, therefore, the urgent need for country- and/or region-specific strategic communication in the EU delegations and significantly increased coordination and information sharing between EU delegations and Member States;

135.  Emphasises that EU delegations play a key role in local programming and oversight of programming and eventual disbursement of funds, and in the identification of beneficiaries, particularly in the case of HRDs and CSOs active in sensitive areas; reiterates that EU delegations cannot be solely responsible for funding decisions due to their work and status in third countries;

136.  Emphasises that the programming of instruments must closely involve civil society in the respective countries and be based to a greater extent on decentralised cooperation in its conception, rollout and implementation, in order to establish solid and lasting partnerships, to meet the specific needs of populations and take the social realities of the people concerned into account;

137.  Recalls that in certain instances, EU political goals and objectives, such as human rights, the rule of law and development, are better served through the disbursement of several smaller grants to grass roots organisations, rather than one larger envelope to a single beneficiary;

138.  Underlines the importance of the ‘more-for-more’ and conditionality principles; considers that stronger conditionality mechanisms should be set up under which direct budget support to state authorities, or government bodies and non-state actors can be suspended or, when possible, redirected to civil society in cases where such institutions do not adhere to, or comply with the need to meet the objectives of the dispersed funding, or violate the rule of law and human rights;

139.  Requires transparency, accountability, scrutiny, development additionality, respect for aid/development effectiveness principles and strong environmental, human rights and social safeguards when using development aid to leverage private sector investment;

140.  Invites the Commission to consider earmarking funds through the external financing instruments for cooperation and technical assistance with third countries, especially developing countries, to foster membership in the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and to prevent human rights violations with regard to the ongoing recast of the Dual Use Regulation;

141.  Stresses that any future structure calls for proper checks and balances, transparency, right of scrutiny of implementation, including enhanced strategic policy input and scrutiny of implementation by Parliament, as well as the use of delegated acts for the revision of thematic priorities, if contained in Annexes to legislative acts, and for the adoption of additional substantial elements such as strategic and multiannual programming documents;

142.  Is convinced that the post-2020 generation of EFIs must respect the budgetary principles of sincerity and unity;

143.  Takes the view that mid-term review and budgetary control processes should be sufficiently rigorous and transparent to ensure the maximum absorption of funds possible and to enable appropriate modifications to increase absorption capacity where needed;

o
o   o

144.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Council.

(1) OJ L 77, 15.3.2014, p. 27.
(2) OJ L 77, 15.3.2014, p. 11.
(3) OJ L 77, 15.3.2014, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 335, 15.12.2017, p. 6.
(5) OJ L 77, 15.3.2014, p. 77.
(6) OJ L 77, 15.3.2014, p. 85.
(7) OJ L 77, 15.3.2014, p. 44.
(8) OJ L 77, 15.3.2014, p. 95.
(9) OJ L 201, 3.8.2010, p. 30.
(10) OJ L 249, 27.9.2017, p. 1.
(11) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(12) See report A8-0211/2017.
(13) OJ L 55, 28.2.2011, p. 13.
(14) OJ C 407, 8.12.2015, p. 8.
(15) OJ C 60, 16.2.2016, p. 3.
(16) OJ C 122, 19.4.2017, p. 4.
(17) Published on the Commission website: https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/public-consultation-external-financing-instruments-european-union_en
(18) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0493.
(19) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0026.
(20) OJ C 58, 15.2.2018, p. 109.
(21) OJ C 408, 30.11.2017, p. 21.
(22) OJ C 265, 11.8.2017, p. 110.
(23) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0440.
(24) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0306.
(25) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0036.
(26) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0037.
(27) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0094.
(28) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0262.
(29) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0263.
(30) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0261.
(31) OJ C 208, 10.6.2016, p. 25.
(32) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0408.
(33) https://eeas.europa.eu/archives/docs/top_stories/pdf/eugs_review_web.pdf


Annual reports 2015-2016 on subsidiarity and proportionality
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European Parliament resolution of 18 April 2018 on the Annual Reports 2015-2016 on subsidiarity and proportionality (2017/2010(INI))
P8_TA(2018)0120A8-0141/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union,

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

–  having regard to Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality,

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 16 December 2003 on better law-making, and to the most recent version, the Interinstitutional Agreement of 13 April 2016 on better law-making(1),

–  having regard to the practical arrangements agreed on 22 July 2011 between the competent services of the European Parliament and the Council for the implementation of Article 294(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in the event of agreements at first reading,

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 May 2017 on the Annual report 2014 on subsidiarity and proportionality(2) and to its resolution of 12 April 2016 on the Annual reports 2012-2013 on subsidiarity and proportionality(3),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report 2015 on subsidiarity and proportionality (COM(2016)0469), and to the Commission’s annual report 2016 on subsidiarity and proportionality (COM(2017)0600),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report 2015 on relations between the European Commission and national Parliaments (COM(2016)0471) and to the Commission’s annual report 2016 on relations between the European Commission and national Parliaments (COM(2017)0601),

–  having regard to all previous Commission communications on the need for better regulation in order to achieve better results for the benefit of EU citizens,

–  having regard to the decision of the President of the European Commission of 14 November 2017 on the establishment of a Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and ‘Doing Less More Efficiently’ (C(2017)7810),

–  having regard to the bi-annual reports of COSAC on Developments in European Union Procedures and Practices Relevant to Parliamentary Scrutiny, of 19 June 2014, 14 November 2014, 6 May 2015, 4 November 2015, 18 May 2016, 18 October 2016 and 3 May 2017,

–  having regard to the Cooperation Agreement signed on 5 February 2014 between the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions,

–  having regard to the Committee of the Regions’ Subsidiarity Annual Report 2015,

–  having regard to Rules 52 and 132 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and to the opinion of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (A8-0141/2018),

A.  whereas 2015 and 2016 were the two first full years of the Juncker Commission, which took office in November 2014; whereas President Juncker undertook to place subsidiarity at the heart of the European democratic process and ensure full compliance with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality throughout the legislative process;

B.  whereas the new Interinstitutional Agreement of 13 April 2016 on Better Law-Making, includes an undertaking by the three institutions to respect and implement the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;

C.  whereas in 2015 the Commission received eight reasoned opinions addressing three Commission proposals; whereas the total number of submissions received that year by the Commission was 350;

D.  whereas in 2016 the Commission received 65 reasoned opinions addressing 26 Commission proposals; whereas this constitutes 713 % more than the eight reasoned opinions received in 2015, and is the third highest in a calendar year since the subsidiarity control mechanism was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 (after 84 in 2012 and 70 in 2013); whereas the total number of submissions received that year by the Commission increased significantly to a total of 620;

E.  whereas on 19 May 2015 the Commission adopted a package of better regulation measures with new integrated Better Regulation Guidelines, including updated guidance for assessing subsidiarity and proportionality in the context of impact assessment of new initiatives;

F.  whereas, in 2015, the Commission launched the ‘Lighten the load – Have your say’ website(4), as well as the REFIT platform (for effective and efficient regulation), giving stakeholders additional opportunities to notify the Commission of any shortcomings regarding existing regulatory measures, including matters relating to subsidiarity and/or proportionality;

G.  whereas in 2015 the European Parliamentary Research Service produced 13 initial appraisals, one impact assessment of substantive parliamentary amendments and six ex post impact assessments; whereas it also produced four reports on the cost of non-Europe and two European added value assessments; whereas in 2016 the European Parliamentary Research Service produced 36 initial appraisals, one impact assessment of substantive parliamentary amendments and 14 ex post European impact assessments; whereas it also produced seven reports on the cost of non-Europe and five European added value assessments;

H.  whereas delegated powers in the Union’s legislative acts are conferred where flexibility and efficiency are needed and cannot be delivered by means of the ordinary legislative procedure; whereas the adoption of rules essential to the subject envisaged is reserved to the legislators;

I.  whereas subsidiarity and proportionality are key considerations in the context of impact assessments and retrospective evaluations, which assess whether actions at EU level are necessary, whether their objectives can be achieved more effectively by other means and whether they are actually delivering the expected results in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, coherence, relevance and EU added value;

J.  whereas in 2014, three national chambers (the Danish Folketing, the Netherlands Tweede Kamer and the UK House of Lords) issued reports with detailed proposals on how the role of national parliaments could be strengthened in the decision‑making process;

1.  Recalls the importance of the annual reports on subsidiarity and proportionality prepared by the Commission; observes that the Commission’s annual reports 2015 and 2016 are more detailed and exhaustive than those concerning previous years;

2.  Stresses the importance of the European Union only acting where it can add value in order to reduce the ‘democratic deficit’;

3.  Underlines that subsidiarity and proportionality are fundamental principles that the EU institutions should take into consideration when exercising EU competences in order to ensure that the Union’s actions add value; recalls that these principles are aimed at enhancing the functioning of the Union by ensuring that actions at Union level are necessary, that their objectives cannot be adequately achieved by the Member States acting individually, that their nature and substance do not exceed what is necessary to fulfil the objectives of the Treaties, and that they are always taken at the most appropriate level of government; draws attention to the fact that these principles can be misused to serve anti-EU ends and emphasises that the EU institutions should be vigilant in order to avoid and counteract this risk;

4.  Recalls that subsidiarity is a fundamental principle of federations as well as an indeterminate legal concept, which, consequently, should be subject to political interpretation;

5.  Understands that the principle of subsidiarity cannot be used to interpret the powers assigned to the Union by virtue of the Treaties restrictively;

6.  Considers that any reflection on subsidiarity and the control thereof should take place in the context of the growing calls by citizens for the Union to tackle major global challenges such as, inter alia, intercontinental financial flows, security, migration and climate change;

7.  Welcomes the reference to subsidiarity in the Rome Declaration of 25 March 2017; takes the view that subsidiarity should have a prominent place in reflection on the EU’s future;

8.  Notes the initiative announced by the President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker during his State of the Union Address 2017 to create a Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and ‘Doing less more efficiently’ headed by Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans; recalls that Parliament considered that participation in the task force set up by the Commission would disregard Parliament’s institutional role and standing as the only directly elected Institution of the European Union, representing the citizens at Union level and exercising functions of political scrutiny over the Commission, and that, consequently, it decided to decline the invitation to participate in the task force;

9.  Notes the Commission’s methodology in the 2015 and 2016 Annual reports, within which statistics are used to classify reasoned opinions submitted by national parliaments on a package of proposals as one single reasoned opinion, rather than a reasoned opinion on each of the individual proposals;

10.  Appreciates that the number of reasoned opinions (65) submitted by national parliaments in 2016 is the third highest in a calendar year since the introduction of the subsidiarity control mechanism in the Lisbon Treaty; notes the sharp increase (+ 713 %), with respect to the eight reasoned opinions received in 2015; acknowledges, in addition, the significant increase, from 350 to 620, in the number of opinions received by the Commission within the framework of the political dialogue; underlines that these trends emerged against the backdrop of a decrease in legislative activity, which also demonstrates that national parliaments’ participation has evolved in comparison with previous years; welcomes the marked interest in EU decision-making expressed by national parliaments;

11.  Welcomes the fact that more national chambers have issued reasoned opinions (26 out of 41 in 2016, compared with eight in 2015); notes the marked difference between chambers active within the framework of political dialogue and reasoned opinions; underlines that national parliaments continue to have more interest in influencing the content of EU legislation than in identifying cases in which subsidiarity may be an issue; notes that the power of national parliaments to monitor respect for the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality also encompasses a right to ask the European legislator to act at European level if necessary;

12.  Recognises the work done by the Impact Assessment Board (IAB) and its successor as of July 2015 the Regulatory Scrutiny Board (RSB); notes that the IAB and the RSB considered that 23 % of the impact assessments (IAs) reviewed by them in 2015 needed improvements on either subsidiarity or proportionality, or both; observes that in 2016 the percentage of IAs considered unsatisfactory by the RSB was of 15 %; welcomes the fact that these percentages have decreased compared with previous years; underlines that the Commission reviewed all of the IAs concerned taking into account the analyses from the RSB;

13.  Notes that the implementation of the better law‑making agenda has led the Commission to develop stronger internal instruments and procedures aimed at avoiding infringements of the principle of subsidiarity; underlines that impact assessments are a key instrument to ensure respect for the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and to promote accountability; highlights, in particular, the role of the RSB and welcomes the fact that subsidiarity and proportionality are now part of the quality check that the Board performs; stresses, nonetheless, that the independence of the RSB could be enhanced further;

14.  Welcomes the adoption by the Commission in May 2015 of a new Better Regulation package to ensure that EU legislation serves the public interest more effectively and guarantees respect for the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in a more comprehensive manner, which in turn will contribute to a higher degree of transparency in EU decision‑making; considers that the new Better Regulation framework should be a tool for the European Union to act in full compliance with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality; stresses, notwithstanding the above, that, while it should provide for tests assessing compliance with these principles to ensure that the Union only acts where it adds value, it should not give rise to unnecessary delays in the adoption of the relevant legislation;

15.  Welcomes the publication by the Commission, on 24 October 2017, of its communication entitled ‘Completing the Better Regulation Agenda: Better solutions for better results’, in which it sets out its efforts to increase the transparency, legitimacy and accountability of its work on better law-making, in particular as regards the consultation process and the possibilities for stakeholders to provide feedback on its proposals;

16.  Welcomes the introduction by the Commission, in 2015, of new consultation and feedback mechanisms for new policy initiatives;

17.  Underlines the importance of adequately explaining the need for legislative initiatives and their impact on all important sectors (economic, environmental, and social) with the aim of respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;

18.  Supports the Commission’s commitment to ‘evaluate first’ before considering potential legislative changes; considers, in this respect, that the European Union and the authorities of the Member States should work closely together to ensure better monitoring, measurement and evaluation of the actual impact of EU regulation on citizens, the economy, social structure and environment;

19.  Welcomes the signature by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission in 2016 of a new Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making; recalls that the Commission is committed to explaining in its explanatory memoranda how its proposals are justified in the light of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality; welcomes the fact that, through the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making, the Commission has committed itself to making the impact assessments of its legislative and non-legislative proposals available to national parliaments; recalls that this agreement also emphasised the need for more transparency in the legislative procedure and that the information provided to national parliaments must allow them to exercise fully their prerogatives under the Treaties;

20.  Invites national parliaments to clearly indicate from the outset that their submission is a reasoned opinion under Protocol No 2 to the Treaties and the legislative proposal(s) it refers to, to clearly state the reasons for which it considers that the proposal breaches the subsidiarity principle, to include a brief summary of the argumentation, and to respect the eight-week time limit from the date of transmission of the relevant draft legislative act; notes that this will facilitate a timely and adequate treatment of reasoned opinions by all the institutions involved;

21.  Is of the opinion that, since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the involvement of national parliaments in EU legislative procedures has developed significantly, through contacts with other national parliaments; encourages national parliaments to continue and further reinforce inter-parliamentary contacts, also on a bilateral basis, as a means of enhancing cooperation between Member States, and to do so with a democratic European vision, where the Union can add value, and in a spirit of solidarity, based on the rule of law and fundamental rights; underlines that these contacts can facilitate an exchange of best practices concerning the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;

22.  Welcomes the fact that Parliament increasingly and more regularly plays the role of interlocutor with and intermediary between the national parliaments with regard to the subsidiarity and proportionality mechanisms; considers that enhancing dialogue at political level with national parliaments could be a means to rationalise subsidiarity and proportionality checks by better addressing the substance of legislative proposals;

23.  Draws attention to the fact that in 2016 14 chambers of 11 national parliaments submitted reasoned opinions on the proposal for a Directive amending Directive 96/71/EC of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services (COM(2016)0128), thus reaching the threshold of one third of the votes required by Article 7(2) of Protocol No 2 to the Treaties to trigger the so-called ‘yellow card’ procedure; recalls that the arguments put forward by the national parliaments were widely debated in Parliament with the Commission; notes that the Commission engaged with national parliaments within the framework of COSAC; notes that the Commission issued a communication in which it gave extensive reasons for maintaining the proposal(5); considers that, in spite of the concerns raised by some national parliaments, the Commission, with the arguments set out therein, complied with its obligation to give reasons for its decision;

24.  Notes that, in relation to the above-mentioned Commission proposal, seven national chambers sent opinions in the framework of the political dialogue, which mainly considered the proposal as compatible with the principle of subsidiarity; observes that the Committee of the Regions’ Subsidiarity Expert Group considered that the objective of the proposal could be better achieved at EU level;

25.  Recalls that the ‘yellow card’ procedure has been triggered twice in the past (once in 2012 and once in 2013), which, together with this new ‘yellow card’ procedure, proves that the system functions and that national parliaments can easily and in a timely fashion participate in the subsidiarity debate when they wish to do so; considers, in any case, that increased awareness of the role of national parliaments and better cooperation between them could improve ex ante subsidiarity monitoring;

26.  Recalls that, according to Article 7 of Protocol No 2 to the Treaties, the European institutions should take account of the reasoned opinions issued by national parliaments or by a chamber of a national parliament; notes that some national parliaments have in the past expressed disappointment at the responses given by the Commission in instances where ‘yellow cards’ have been issued; observes, however, that the Commission has put in place procedures to ensure that it provides national parliaments with substantive and political responses to their concerns in a timely manner; calls on the Commission to systematically forward its replies to reasoned opinions to the European Parliament;

27.  Takes note of the changes proposed by some national parliaments to the subsidiarity control mechanism; welcomes the conclusion reached by COSAC that any improvement to the subsidiarity control mechanism should not entail Treaty change; notes that an extension of the eight-week time limit in which national parliaments can issue a reasoned opinion would require an amendment of the Treaties or the Protocols thereto; recalls the context of the letter of 1 December 2009 on the practical arrangements for applying the subsidiarity control mechanism sent by the President and Vice-President of the Commission to the Presidents of the national parliaments, in which the Commission stated that, in order to take account of national parliaments’ summer recesses, the month of August would not be taken into account when determining the deadline referred to in Protocol No 2; recalls the suggestion made by some national parliaments to the effect that the Commission should also consider the possibility of excluding the December recess of national parliaments from the calculation of the eight‑week deadline;

28.  Stresses that the adoption of legal acts requires the agreement of a large majority within the Council, comprising the national Ministers of all the Member States, who should be accountable to their national parliaments;

29.  Notes that a number of tools enabling national parliaments and citizens to participate in every step of the legislative process, which ensure monitoring of respect for the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, already exist; encourages, therefore, that full use of these existing tools be made, avoiding – where possible – the creation of even more complex administrative structures and lengthy procedures in times when the EU is struggling to make itself understood by its citizens, always with the aim of respecting and protecting their rights and interests; calls on the Member States to organise information campaigns and relevant seminars, to accurately inform citizens about the possibilities for them to participate in every stage of the legislative process;

30.  Highlights that legislation should be comprehensive and clear to allow affected parties to understand their rights and obligations, including appropriate reporting, monitoring and evaluating requirements, while avoiding disproportionate costs, as well as being practical to implement;

31.  Stresses the importance of promoting access to the impact assessments and roadmaps prepared by the Commission, of participating in public and/or stakeholder consultations organised by the Commission and/or the European Parliament, and of making suggestions through the REFIT platform ‘Lighten the load: Suggestions’; notes, in this context, the smooth functioning of the website and of the effective and efficient regulation programme (REFIT), which came into effect in 2016;

32.  Recalls the need to enhance existing formats for cooperation and establish options to improve the IPEX platform in order to foster awareness by national parliaments of their role in subsidiarity and proportionality checks, to assist them in dealing more efficiently with the information received under the early warning system and improve their cooperation and coordination; encourages national parliaments to give opinions on Commission proposals, all of which are available for consultation at any time on the internal database CONNECT; recalls that all of the information is available on the platform REGPEX;

33.  Encourages national and regional parliaments to develop further their relations with the Committee of Regions, which has a group of 12 experts who examine legislative proposals in light of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;

34.  Welcomes the interest shown by some national parliaments in playing a more positive and proactive role in European affairs through the use of a ‘green card’ procedure; observes that national parliaments have different views on the modalities of this procedure; considers that an informal mechanism based on inter-parliamentary cooperation can contribute to enhancing the political dialogue with national parliaments;

35.  Notes, in relation to the above, that in 2015 20 parliamentary chambers co-signed or supported the first ‘green card’ initiative on food waste, and that in July 2016 nine parliamentary chambers co-signed the second ‘green card’ inviting the Commission to submit a legislative proposal implementing corporate social responsibility principles at European level; observes that some of the suggestions in the first ‘green card’ initiative were subsequently reflected in the revised Circular Economy package adopted by the Commission in December 2015; observes, therefore, that national parliaments already play a constructive role in the institutional framework and that there is no need, at this point in time, to create new institutional and administrative structures, which would make the whole process unnecessarily complicated;

36.  Observes that in 2016 some regional parliaments informed the Commission directly of their opinions on certain Commission proposals; notes that the Commission has taken these views into account where appropriate; recalls that, according to Article 6 of Protocol No 2, it is up to each national parliament or each chamber of a national parliament to consult, where appropriate, regional parliaments with legislative powers;

37.  Takes note of the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union on subsidiarity and proportionality delivered in 2015 and 2016; emphasises that the Court has stated that the observance by the EU legislature of the obligation to state reasons as regards subsidiarity should be evaluated not only by reference to the wording of the contested act, but also by reference to its context and the circumstances of the individual case, and that the information provided should be sufficient and understandable by national parliaments, citizens and courts; emphasises, furthermore, that, in relation to proportionality, the Court has confirmed that the EU legislature must be allowed broad discretion in areas entailing political, economic and social choices, and in which it is called upon to undertake complex assessments;

38.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 123, 12.5.2016, p. 1.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0210.
(3) OJ C 58, 15.2.2018, p. 33.
(4) http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/refit/simplification/consultation/contributions_en.htm
(5) Commission communication of 20 July 2016 on the proposal for a Directive amending the Posting of Workers Directive, with regard to the principle of subsidiarity, in accordance with Protocol No 2 (COM(2016)0505).


Discharge 2016: EU general budget - Commission and executive agencies
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1. European Parliament decision of 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016, Section III – Commission (2017/2136(DEC))
P8_TA(2018)0121A8-0137/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0247/2017)(2),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2015 financial year (COM(2017)0379),

–  having regard to the Commission's 2016 Annual Management and Performance Report for the EU Budget (COM(2017)0351),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2016 (COM(2017)0497), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2017)0306),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016, 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 2016, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 20 February 2018 on discharge to be given to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016 (05940/2018 – C8‑0042/2018),

–  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 (A8-0137/2018),

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 2016;

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 2016, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 18 April 2018 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2016(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 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency for the financial year 2016 (2017/2136(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(7),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0247/2017)(8),

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency for the financial year 2016(9),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2015 financial year (COM(2017)0379),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2016 (COM(2017)0497), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2017)0306),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency for the financial year 2016, 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 2016, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 20 February 2018 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016 (05942/2018 – C8‑0043/2018),

–  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 (A8-0137/2018),

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 2016;

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 2016, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 18 April 2018 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2016(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 2016, 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 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises for the financial year 2016 (2017/2136(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(17),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0247/2017)(18),

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises for the financial year 2016(19),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2015 financial year (COM(2017)0379),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2016 (COM(2017)0497), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2017)0306),

–  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 2016, 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 2016, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 20 February 2018 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016 (05942/2018 – C8‑0043/2018),

–  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 (A8-0137/2018),

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 2016;

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 2016, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 18 April 2018 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2016(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 2016, 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 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency for the financial year 2016 (2017/2136(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(27),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0247/2017)(28),

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency for the financial year 2016(29),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2015 financial year (COM(2017)0379),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2016 (COM(2017)0497), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2017)0306),

–  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 2016, 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 2016, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 20 February 2018 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016 (05942/2018 – C8‑0043/2018),

–  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 (A8-0137/2018),

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 2016;

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 2016, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 18 April 2018 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2016(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 2016, 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 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Research Council Executive Agency for the financial year 2016 (2017/2136(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(38),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0247/2017)(39),

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Research Council Executive Agency for the financial year 2016(40),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2015 financial year (COM(2017)0379),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2016 (COM(2017)0497), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2017)0306),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the European Research Council Executive Agency for the financial year 2016, 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 2016, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 20 February 2018 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016 (05942/2018 – C8‑0043/2018),

–  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 (A8-0137/2018),

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 2016;

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 2016, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 18 April 2018 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2016(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 2016, 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 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Research Executive Agency for the financial year 2016 (2017/2136(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(48),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0247/2017)(49),

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the Research Executive Agency for the financial year 2016(50),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2015 financial year (COM(2017)0379),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2016 (COM(2017)0497), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2017)0306),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the Research Executive Agency for the financial year 2016, 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 2016, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 20 February 2018 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016 (05942/2018 – C8‑0043/2018),

–  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 (A8-0137/2018),

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 relation to the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2016;

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 2016, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 18 April 2018 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2016(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 2016, 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 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency for the financial year 2016 (2017/2136(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(58),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0247/2017)(59),

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency for the financial year 2016(60),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2015 financial year (COM(2017)0379),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2016 (COM(2017)0497), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2017)0306),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency for the financial year 2016, 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 2016, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 20 February 2018 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016 (05942/2018 – C8‑0043/2018),

–  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 (A8-0137/2018),

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 2016;

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 2016, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 18 April 2018 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial tear 2016(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 2016, 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 18 April 2018 on the closure of the accounts of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016, Section III – Commission (2017/2136(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(68),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0247/2017)(69),

–  having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2015 financial year (COM(2017)0379),

–  having regard to the Commission's 2016 Annual Management and Performance Report for the EU Budget (COM(2017)0351),

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2016 (COM(2017)0497), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2017)0306),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016, 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 2016, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 20 February 2018 on discharge to be given to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016 (05940/2018 – C8‑0042/2018),

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 20 February 2018 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016 (05942/2018 – C8‑0043/2018),

–  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 and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A8-0137/2018),

1.  Approves the closure of the accounts of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016;

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 2016, Section III – Commission and executive agencies, and in its resolution of 18 April 2018 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the Commission discharge for the financial year 2016(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 18 April 2018 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 2016, Section III – Commission and executive agencies (2017/2136(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 2016, 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 2016,

–  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 (A8-0137/2018),

A.  Whereas Union spending is a significant instrument for achieving policy objectives and on average represents 1,9 % of Member States’ general government expenditure;

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

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, and implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources;

D.  Whereas budgetary principles of unity, budgetary accuracy, annuality, equilibrium, universality, specification, sound financial management and transparency must be respected when the Union budget is implemented;

E.  Whereas expenditure under the Union budget aims to improve the living conditions and quality of life of its citizens and therefore needs to close the gaps in its social policies;

F.  Whereas the Union budget has to take into account the implementation of a social pillar;

G.  Whereas cohesion policy is a source of public investment aiming to bring a clear added value and improve the quality of life of Union citizens,

Political priorities

1.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to align the Union's policy objectives and financial cycles, the legislative period of the Parliament and the mandate of the Commission;

2.  Calls on the Commission to provide the Parliament with a mid-term evaluation of the current financial period and an evaluation of the past financial periods, to identify which programmes have not shown any clear added value and then carry out a spending review;

3.  Recalls that the Commission should take into account in its proposals for a new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) that some policy areas, like cohesion or research, often rely on longer-term programming and need more time to achieve political objectives than other policy areas; considers that nevertheless, suitable flexibility should be given in emergency situations;

4.  Insists that the Union budget, as a consequence of the “budget focused on results initiative”, be presented according to the Union´s political objectives for the MFF; reminds, also in the light of the post-2020 MFF, that the Union budget should be a true European added value budget, aimed for common Union objectives promoting sustainable economic and social development of the whole Union, which cannot be achieved by individual Member States on their own and therefore should not be seen merely as a net balance or benefit of single Member States;

5.  Expresses the need to establish an independent disclosure, advice and referral body in order to help whistleblowers use the right channels to disclose information on possible irregularities while protecting their confidentiality and offering needed support and advice;

6.  Calls on the Commission to commit itself to fundamentally reviewing the young farmers’ and greening schemes for the next MFF in light of the findings of the Court of Auditors (the “Court”);

7.  Calls on the Commission to include in its performance reports assessments on the quality of the data used and a declaration on the quality of the performance information;

8.  Calls on the Commission to provide the Parliament and the Court with more balanced reporting, by including in its performance reports more transparent information on challenges, pitfalls and failures;

9.  Calls on the Commission to speed up the delivery of cohesion policy programmes and related payments with a view to reducing the length of the implementation period, initially, to year n+2;

10.  Calls on the Commission to fulfil the original 20 % spending target in integrating climate action into the various Union spending programmes;

11.  Insists that the Commission finally instruct all its directorates-general to publish their proposals for country specific recommendations in their respective annual activity reports (AARs), as called for by Parliament;

12.  Calls on the Commission to improve the transparency of migration policy financing as recommended by the Court in its annual report for 2016 and to actively monitor public procurement procedures when they are held in emergency situations;

13.  Also calls on the Commission to improve the transparency of research and rural development policies with the aim of identifying and correcting the causes of particularly high and persistent error rates, as indicated in the Court’s annual reports;

14.  Calls on the Commission to improve transparency for trust funds and for the external assistance management reports, regularly providing all data at its disposal;

15.  Calls on the Commission to negotiate a reduction in the fees charged by the European Investment Bank for creating and administering financial instruments and to present information about the beneficiaries and the results achieved by means of these instruments regularly;

16.  Calls on the Commission to speed up the preparation of the Union accounts, to ensure that reliable information from Member States on shared management spending is obtained in a more timely manner and to present the management´s view on Union spending earlier and together with the accounts, with the view to adopting a discharge decision in year n+1, while ensuring high data quality and sound financial management;

The Court’s Statement of assurance

17.  Welcomes the fact that the Court has given a clean opinion on the reliability of the accounts for 2016, as it had done since 2007, and that the Court concluded that revenue was free from material error in 2016; notes with satisfaction that the commitments underlying the accounts for the year ended 31 December 2016 are legal and regular in all material respects;

18.  Welcomes the positive trend of the most likely error rate issued by the Court compared to that of recent years since the payments are affected in 2016 by a most likely error rate of 3,1 %; recalls that the most likely error rate for payments was estimated in the financial years 2015 at 3,8 %, 2014 at 4,4 %, 2013 at 4,7 %, 2012 at 4,8 %, 2011 at 3,9 %, 2010 at 3,7 %, 2009 at 3,3 %; 2008 at 5,2 %, and 2007 at 6,9 %; as the Court's s estimated error rate is not final, considers it important that Commission´s residual error rate be taken into account when assessing the efficiency of Union funding;

19.  Stresses that, due to the different methodology required for its calculation, the estimated level of error for cohesion does not include a quantification of 2016 disbursements to financial instruments amounting to EUR 2,5 billion that the Court considers to be outside the eligibility period defined in Article 56(1) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006(75); notes that if the Court had quantified this irregularity, the most likely error rate would have been considerably higher; deplores the Commission’s unilateral decision to accept expenditures up to 31 March 2017; points out that the Commission should have prepared the necessary legislative proposal to put an end to this irregularity;

20.  Regrets that the increased use of financial instruments to decrease the value of the Union budget involves higher risks for accountability and the coordination of Union policies and operations;

21.  Points out that there is not enough information available for an appropriate evaluation of financial instruments, in particular with regard to their social and environmental impact; emphasises that financial instruments can supplement grants but should not replace them;

22.  Notes with satisfaction that for the first time in 23 years, the Court has issued a qualified (rather than an adverse) opinion on the legality and regularity of the payments underlying the accounts, which means that in the Court’s view, there has been an important improvement in the management of Union finances, as well as that material error was confined mainly to reimbursement-based expenditure, representing around half of the audited payments;

23.  Regrets that for the 23rd year in a row, payments are materially affected by error because of the fact that the management and control systems are only partially effective at ensuring sound financial management and timely payment;

24.  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 3,1 % (i.e. the same level as in 2015; see Court’s annual report 2016, paragraph 1.34);

25.  Notes that the type of management has a limited impact on the level of error as the Court finds the same estimated level of error under shared management with the Member States and for all other forms of operational expenditure managed directly by the Commission, namely 3,3 %;

26.  Points out that the Court found the highest estimated levels of error in spending for rural development, environment, climate action and fisheries (4,9 %), for economic, social and territorial cohesion (4,8 %) and for competitiveness for growth and jobs (4,1 %), whilst administrative expenditure had the lowest estimated level of error (0,2 %);

27.  Notes that according to the findings of the Court, the different risk patterns of reimbursement schemes and entitlement schemes have had a major influence on the levels of error 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 4,8 % (5,2 % in 2015), whilst where payments are made on meeting conditions rather than reimbursing costs, the error rate is 1,3 % (1,9 % in 2015);

Annual Management and Performance Report (AMPR)(76): management achievements

28.  Points out that beyond the appearance of convergent conclusions made by the Commission and the Court, the statement made by the Court in its annual report and the analysis put forward by the Commission in its 2016 AMPR are partially divergent;

29.  Notes, in particular, that the Commission points out in its 2016 AMPRthat the reservations issued by the directors general in their AARs have increased and amount to EUR 35,3 billion, which corresponds to 26 % of the payments (in 2015 it was EUR 29,8 billion and 21 % of payments);

30.  Points out that according to the Commission, the actual financial impact in terms of amount at risk at reporting has also increased in 2016 to EUR 1,6 billion (in 2015 it was EUR 1,3 billion);

31.  Points out that the Commission notes in its 2016 AMPR a deterioration of the financial management indicators in terms of AARs reservations and explains it by the difficulties of putting in place new and more demanding schemes, notably greening(77), while the Court points out a clear amelioration in this very precise policy area;

32.  Notes in particular that the Court states that the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) “is at 1,7 % “free from material error”, which is a real improvement by comparison with 2015, when it was 2,2 %, and estimates the level of error for entitlement-based expenditure at 1,3 %, while observing that the biggest part of first pillar of the CAP is included in this kind of expenditure;

33.  Takes note of the Court's assertion that in expenditure the error is not “pervasive” (Court’s annual report 2016, paragraph 1.8); calls on the Commission and the Court to align their methods using the international audit standards before issuing the next annual report or AAR;

34.  Stresses that the Commission finds in its 2016 AMPR that spending is affected by a material level of error, given that the Commission's overall average error rate is estimated to be between 2,1 % and 2,6 % (having been in 2015 between 2,3 % and 3,1 %) of total relevant expenditure, and the related estimated overall amount at risk at payment is between EUR 2,9 and 3,6 billion (while in 2015 it was between EUR 3,3 and 4,5 billion);

35.  Notes that this decrease is, according to the Commission, mainly due to cohesion's lower inherent risk of error for programmes of the current MFF; is surprised by this explanation given the very low level of budget implementation in this area; calls on the Commission to further explain the matter;

36.  Points out that this low rate of implementation can be explained by the fact that in cohesion no expenditure was certified in the annual accounts submitted to the Commission in 2016, nor were any financial corrections imposed by the Commission following its audit activity(78);

37.  Notes that the Commission estimates that it will in the future years identify and correct errors for between EUR 2,0 and 2,1 billion, or between 1,5 % and 1,6 %;

38.  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 DGs’ estimations of the level of irregular spending are not based on a consistent methodology”; calls on the Commission to use the same methodology to estimate its amount at risk error for all DGs and to inform the discharge authority of its progress;

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

40.  Points out in particular that for more than three quarters of 2016 expenditure, Commission directorates general base their estimates of amount at risk on data provided by national authorities, whilst it - regrettably - appears from the AARs of the concerned Commission directorates-general (in particular DG AGRI and DG REGIO) that while Member States’ control reports reflect the error detected by the Member State, the reliability of some management and control systems remains a challenge; stresses the importance of Member States’ data reliability;

41.  Points out that, owing to the specificity of multi-annual programming and the fact that errors can be corrected more than 10 years after they have occurred, it is insufficient and artificial to base the estimated impact of future corrections upon recorded corrections over the last six years;

42.  Points out that in the Financial Statement Discussion and Analysis (FSDA) the Commission reports total implemented financial corrections and recoveries amounting to EUR 3,4 billion (3,9 in 2015), that around EUR 0,6 billion (1,2 billion in 2015) of the corrections and recoveries were at source (applied before the Commission accepted expenditure) and that of the remaining EUR 2,8 billion, around EUR 0,6 billion represents withdrawals by Member States applied after accepting expenditure by replacing ineligible amounts with new cohesion projects;

43.  Strongly reiterates its call 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 are 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;

Commission internal governance tools

44.  Recalls the opinion 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’ encompasses assuming responsibility for budget implementation for the directorates-general, or is distinct from it;

45.  Points out that the College of Commissioners does not produce an annual statement on governance, in line with best practice and the common practice of Member States; calls on the Commission to produce an annual statement on governance in order to provide for a higher transparency and accountability of its College;

46.  Asks the Commission to implement recommendation number 2 of the Court´s Special Report No 27/2016 and, in addition, accompany its financial statements with an annual statement on governance and on internal control covering in particular:

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

Political reservations

47.  Endorses the reservations issued by the directors general of DG REGIO, EMPL, MARE, HOME, DEVCO and AGRI, in their AAR; is of the opinion that those reservations demonstrate that the control procedures put in place in the Commission and the Member States can give the necessary guarantees concerning the legality and regularity of all the underlying transactions in the corresponding policy areas if necessary correction procedures are implemented successfully;

Budgetary and financial management

48.  Points out that the delays in the implementation of programmes in the first three years of the current MFF due to the late adoption of the 2014-2020 MFF and considerable novelties introduced for the 2014-2020 period which caused administrative difficulties despite efforts at simplification, led to the transfer of commitment appropriations from 2014, mainly to 2015 and 2016, and to low payments in 2016 (and implementation of the Union budget at 7 % in 2014-2016 period of the current MFF); however points out that 2017 was the first year when the implementation of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI funds) programmes accelerated; expects that this trend will continue in 2018 and 2019; believes that sufficient levels of payment and appropriations for commitments should be provided in order for implementation to proceed smoothly;

49.  Notes with concern the complicated web of arrangements within and around the Union budget as this hampers accountability, transparency, public scrutiny and democratic oversight of the Union budget and financial arrangements linked to it; regrets, in this regard, the lack of the unity of the Union budget, and fully shares the Court’s concern as regards the complexity of the Union budget;

50.  Fears that despite the extensive use of special instruments (the Emergency Aid reserve, the European Union Solidarity Fund, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund and the Flexibility Instrument) and margins, the amounts left may not be sufficient to fund unexpected events that may still occur before 2020;

51.  Notes with concern that a record level of outstanding commitments has been created, reaching by the end of 2016 an all-time high of EUR 238 billion, 72 % higher than in 2007 and equivalent to 2,9 years of payments compared to 2,2 years in 2007; considers that this has increased the amounts owed by the Union and thus the financial exposure of the Union budget;

52.  Regrets that the overall financial exposure of the Union budget has grown, with significant long-term liabilities, guarantees and legal obligations implying that careful management needs to be applied in the future;

53.  Recalls that the Union is making increasing use of financial instruments and regrets that the establishment of European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) creates new governance arrangements with a level of public scrutiny that remains unsatisfactory, thus requiring more careful surveillance by Parliament; highlights that any legislative proposal should improve significantly the geographical coverage of the EFSI; recalls that the EFSI should remain an additional tool for boosting investments as cohesion policy should remain the investment policy of the Union; notes, however, the successful implementation and the high amount of private capita leveraged by the fund, and acknowledges the further enhancements agreed on its transparency during negotiations for the extension of the duration of EFSI, referred to as EFSI 2.0; calls on the Court to strengthen its overview of the planning and the spending phase of the ESI funds;

54.  Recalls that the revision of the Financial Regulation represents a big step forward in this regard, as it proposes, thanks to input from the Parliament, a more efficient presentation of financial instruments and, for the first time, provides budgetary guarantees and financial assistance within that framework;

55.  Points out that, in line with the principles of cohesion policy, Union funds form a significant share of some Member States’ expenditure, and in particular that in nine Member States (Lithuania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Estonia, Slovakia,) outstanding commitments on ESI funds represent financial support of more than 15 % of general government spending; calls on the Commission to also prepare a positive advertising campaign with a view to informing  citizens of these countries in more detail about the direct benefits of their membership;

56.  Fears that Member States where ESI funds represent a significant percentage of general government expenditure may find it challenging to identify sufficiently high quality projects on which to spend the available Union funds or to provide co-financing; calls on the Commission and the Court to pay greater attention to the sustainability aspect of the proposed investment projects and to critically assess their adequacy;

57.  Is concerned at the reasons why, three years after the start of the 2014-2020 period, Member States had designated only 77 % of the programme authorities responsible for implementing ESI funds; is satisfied, however, that at present this figure stands at 99 %; questions the need to modify procedures at the beginning of each programming period; calls on the Commission to analyse carefully why some regions still have a low fund absorption rate and to take specific actions aimed at resolving the structural problems;

58.  Stresses that the volume of Union funds and timing of their receipt can have a considerable macro-economic impact, such as on investment, growth and jobs;

59.  Stresses that public investment is necessary in order to close the investment gap and to boost jobs and growth and to ensure social standards within the Union;

60.  Notes that the Commission mobilised various resources to deal with the refugee and migration crisis, but regrets that it did not establish a reporting structure to enable it to report comprehensively on the use of the funds involved; deplores the fact that it is currently impossible to know how much is spent on each migrant or refugee;

61.  Notes that – as to the financial instruments in cohesion policy – payments to final recipients were reported as EUR 15 192,18 million at closure (31 March 2017), out of which EUR 10 124,68 million were structural funds, reaching a disbursement rate to final recipients of almost 93 % of the operational programme amounts paid to financial engineering instruments, i.e. a 20 % increase compared to what was reported at the end of 2015;

62.  Notes that disbursement rates to final recipients reported varied widely between financial engineering instruments, with variations not only between Member States ranging from 60 % to 99 % but also between areas of intervention;

63.  Fears that a backlog of payments may develop towards the end of the current MFF and in the first few years of the next MFF; considers that financing the new MFF will require realistic budgetary appropriations to cover projected outstanding commitments;

Measures to be taken

64.  Calls on the Commission:

   (a) to take into account the growth in outstanding commitments in its forecast of payment appropriations for the next MFF, in order to help ensure an orderly balance between commitment and payment appropriations;
   (b) to make proposals to the Parliament and the Council, ensuring a consistent approach to the issue of whether or not special instruments are counted within the ceilings for payment appropriations in the MFF;
   (c) for management and reporting purposes, to establish a way of recording Union budgetary expenditure that will make it possible to report on all funding related to the refugee and migration crisis;
   (d) to provide the Parliament in the context of discharge with a comprehensive report about the indirect managed and implemented Union budget resources by the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group (EIB and European Investment Fund (EIF)) apart from its external mandate starting with financial year 2017;
   (e) in the context of the debate on the future of Europe, to consider how the Union budgetary system could be reformed to provide an adequate budget to guarantee funding for the planned policies, a better balance between predictability and responsiveness as well as how best to ensure overall funding arrangements are no more complex than necessary to meet Union policy objectives and guarantee accountability;
   (f) to consider as well the possibility to enable authorities designated or accredited to fulfil management, certification and audit functions during the period 2014-2020, which have proven their capacity, to continue implementing such functions in the next programming period without interruption or delay;
   (g) 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 de-commitments in order to better match payment needs and available funds;
   (h) to proactively assist Member States which encounter difficulties with timely and smooth absorption of available Union funding by using the available resources for technical assistance at the initiative of the Commission;

Getting results from the Union budget

65.  Notes with concern that the Commission uses two sets of objectives and indicators to measure the performance of its services and of spending programmes with hardly any cross-references, which hampers comparability between different types of performance documents; regrets the virtual non-existence of usable and efficient impact and outcome indicators to measure, and to distribute information about, the performance of Union expenditure;

66.  Points out that the AARs of the directors general report on the annual payments of directorates-general by type of activity or spending programme, whilst on performance they report on the achievement of general and specific objectives with no indication of the corresponding expenditure; disagrees with Commission's explanation that it is not possible to assess how much was spent on pursuing the set objectives; calls on the Commission to fully implement the performance-based budgeting principle of budget planning, implementation and reporting, which will allow ex post reporting on the funds spent in pursuit of objectives; 

67.  Recalls that, in 2016, the OECD carried out a performance budgeting survey in OECD countries and at the Commission; in this regard, welcomes the OECD’s acknowledgement of the quality of the data and of the implementation of the Union’s budget; recalls that the OECD considered the Commission’s performance framework to be the most extensive, which may partly be explained by the number of legal requirements in the Union;

68.  Notes that the OECD chart indicates that the use and consequences of the framework for decision-making do not reflect this higher level of specification (Court’s annual report 2016, paragraph 3.21);

69.  Notes that the programme statements for the Union’s 2017 draft general budget contain 294 objectives and 709 indicators, which are particularly highly concentrated under MFF headings 1a, 3, 4, and that through the ‘budget focused on results’ initiative, the Commission is currently undertaking a review of its indicators to provide input for the next generation of spending programmes; stresses that the Commission should mainly use results indicators that have a value relevant to performance ;

70.  Stresses the need for a transparent and democratic process of establishing performance indicators involving all the Union institutions, partners and stakeholders concerned in order to make the indicators adequate for measuring the implementation of the Union budget, as well as to meet the expectations of Union citizens;

71.  Calls on the Commission to consult academics with a view to defining the proper performance indicators needed for the ‘budget focused on results’ measurements and, on that basis, prioritise investment in public goods with the aim of addressing citizens’ concerns;

72.  Regrets that the AARs of the directors general of the Commission reviewed by the Court contained limited information on the performance shortfalls and challenges relating to the objectives of the directorates-general (Court’s annual report 2016, paragraph 3.26);

73.  Regrets that the AMPRs for 2015 and 2016 did not provide comprehensive coverage of performance and were overly positive, the only shortfalls to which they refer being implementation delays; regrets that the reports also:

   (a) provided limited insight into the results of the Europe 2020 strategy, whereas this was requested by the Parliament in its 2014 discharge decision;
   (b) did not always clearly explain the influence of external factors on results;
   (c) were published too late to be reviewed by the Court in its annual report;

74.  Endorses the view expressed by the Court (Court’s annual report 2016, paragraph 3.38) that the evaluators should make recommendations for consideration by the Commission including action plans addressing weaknesses;

75.  Deplores the fact that the Commission has not carried out a study on its use of evaluation results, or had one carried out, since 2005;

76.  Points out that the Commission has no documented institutional system for the regular follow-up of evaluations;

77.  Points out, in particular, that in practice the 2016 management plans of the directorates-general established no basis for monitoring the follow-up on evaluation;

78.  Furthermore, regrets that as the Commission does not have an overview of the conclusions, recommendations or action plans resulting from its evaluations, or track their implementation at institutional or directorate-general level, it cannot inform stakeholders about the positive impact of evaluations;

79.  Regrets that AARs do not include a declaration on the quality of the reported performance data, and that consequently in adopting the AMPR, the College of Commissioners takes overall political responsibility for the management of the Union budget but not for the information on performance and results;

80.  Welcomes and takes a careful note of the Court’s observations on performance frameworks and reporting by entities within and outside the Union, especially as regards performance data quality and declarations on the quality of performance data;

81.  Notes that there is no central performance website with information from all Commission departments on every area of the Union budget;

82.  Shares the opinion of the Court that the performance reporting framework applied by the Commission could benefit from adopting international good practices;

Measures to be taken

83.  Asks the Commission to:

   (a) streamline performance reporting by:
   further reducing the number of objectives and indicators it uses for its various performance reports and focusing on those which best measure the performance of the Union budget; in preparing the next MFF, the Commission should propose fewer and more appropriate outcome and impact indicators for the legal framework of the next generation of programmes; in this context, it should also consider the relevance of indicators for which information cannot be obtained until several years have elapsed;
   presenting financial information in a manner that makes it comparable with performance information so that the link between spending and performance is clear;
   explaining and improving the overall coherence between its two sets of objectives and indicators for programmes on the one hand and directorates-general on the other;
   (b) better balance performance reporting by clearly presenting information on the main challenges still to be achieved;
   (c) better demonstrate that evaluation results are well used by requiring in particular that evaluations always include conclusions or recommendations, which the Commission should subsequently follow up;
   (d) take overall political responsibility in the AMPR for the information on performance and results and indicate, to the best of its knowledge, whether the performance information provided is of sufficient quality;
   (e) make performance information more easily accessible by developing a dedicated web portal and search engine;

Presentation of the Union budget

84.  Notes that the budget of the Union is presented in sections corresponding to activities led by the institutions (activity-based budgeting); considers that this presentation does not ensure a clear and rapid understanding of the objectives pursued; by contrast notes that the MFF is presented by headings corresponding to policy areas;

85.  Notes that the operational programmes accompanying the draft budget make the link between each budget line and the political objectives pursued;

86.  Asks the Commission to present the Union budget according to the political objectives of the MFF;

Revenue

87.  Welcomes the fact that the Court’s overall audit evidence indicates that revenue is not affected by a material level of error and that the examined systems for revenue-related systems are overall effective; but notes that for the traditional own resources, the key internal controls in certain Member States visited by the Court were nevertheless only partially effective;

88.  Notes with concern that European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) concluded in early 2017 an investigation on a case of fraud in the United Kingdom which involves a possible loss of EUR 1,987 billion to the Union budget in terms of customs duties due on textiles and shoes imported from China through the United Kingdom in the period 2013-2016; points out that the investigation also revealed substantial VAT evasion in connection with imports through the United Kingdom through abuse of the suspension of VAT payments (customs procedure 42);

89.  Notes with concern that as to the revenue for 2016, the director general of DG Budget has issued a reservation for the traditional own resources revenue, in view of the OLAF’s fraud case related to United Kingdom customs duties;

90.  Points out that for 2016 the revenue affected by the quantified reservation is approximately EUR 517 million against a total amount of EUR 20,1 billion of traditional own resources: i.e. 2,5 % of traditional own resources or 0,38 % of all resources; calls on the Commission to provide precise information on this fraud case, which may also indirectly affect the Value Added Tax basis of some Member States and thus Value Added Tax-related resources plus the Gross National Income-related balancing of the Commission(79);

91.  Regrets the Commission's findings that by October 2017, the United Kingdom authorities had not introduced remedial measures to prevent continued traditional own resource losses; notes that from 12 October 2017 the United Kingdom authorities started to apply temporarily value thresholds at clearance to certain traders (so called Customs Operation Swift Arrow) with immediate result that the traditional own resources losses incurred in the United Kingdom decreased dramatically;

92.  Regrets the discrepancies in the level of customs checks between the various Member States; highlights the importance of harmonising checks at all points of entry into the customs union and calls on the Member States to ensure a coordinated, uniform and efficient implementation of the border system that discourages diverging practices between Member States to reduce the number of existing loopholes in customs check systems; calls on the Commission, in this respect, to examine different customs check practices in the Union and their impact on the deviation of trade, focusing in particular on Union customs practices at external borders, and to develop reference analyses and information on customs operations and the procedures used in the Member States;

93.  Calls on the Commission to develop an action plan to ensure the full and timely implementation of the VAT regulations in each and every Member State in order to secure this source of Union own resources;

94.  Recalls that the new decision on the Union’s own resources system(80), which entered into force on 1 October 2016, with retroactive effect from 1 January 2014, stipulated that when considering GNI for own resources purposes, the European system of national and regional accounts (ESA 2010) accounting framework should be used, and that this foresees that research and development spending be considered as an investment (instead of current expenditure under the preceding ESA 95 scheme); notes that in the case of other programmes with high added value for the Union such as the CEF, this same consideration should be applied;

95.  Notes that Ireland’s reported GNI increased very significantly in 2015 because of multinational companies relocating R&D assets to the country;

96.  Points out that the Commission has to carry out additional work to ascertain the potential implications of multinational activities for national accounts, in terms both of methodology and of the verification process and that it could trigger adjustments for the Member States’ GNI contributions;

97.  Points out, as to the management of traditional own resources, that the Court and the Commission found inefficiencies in the management of the amounts receivable (known as the B accounts) in some Member States;

98.  Stresses that the Court found that in Belgium, post-clearance controls were selected based on the characteristics of individual transactions instead of on the risk profiles of companies and that post-clearance audits were not generally carried out (Court’s annual report 2016, paragraph 4.18);

99.  Regrets that the Commission noted that six Member states – Belgium, Estonia, Italy, Portugal, Romania, and Slovenia – either did not carry out any post-clearance audits or did not provide any information on these audits;

Measures to be taken

100.  Requests that the Commission:

   (a) take all the necessary measures to ensure the recovery of Union own resources that have failed to be collected by the United Kingdom authorities as to the import of textiles and shoes from China and put an end to VAT evasion;
   (b) consider launching a timely infringement proceedings as to the United Kingdom customs duties case fraud;
   (c) analyse, in cooperation with Member States, all the potential implications of multinational activities on the estimation of GNI, and provide guidance to them on how to deal with these activities when compiling national accounts;
   (d) confirm, during the GNI verification cycle, that R&D assets have been correctly captured in Member States’ national accounts, paying particular attention to the valuation of R&D assets and to residency criteria in cases where multinational activities have relocated;
   (e) bring forward proposals for new own resources in order to ensure the stability of the Union budget;

Competitiveness for growth and jobs

The findings of the Court

101.  Notes that the Court issued, for the first time, a qualified opinion on the legality and regularity of payments underlying the accounts; stresses that reimbursement schemes remain more error prone than entitlement schemes; points out, however, that the data recorded under the chapter “Competitiveness for growth and jobs” did not fundamentally change compared to previous years;

102.  Recalls that research and innovation accounts for 59 % of spending, via the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development 2007-2013 (the ‘Seventh Research Framework Programme’) and Horizon 2020 - the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation 2014-2020 (‘Horizon 2020’);

103.  Notes that the Court estimated the error rate to be 4,1 %; that ineligible direct personnel costs accounted for 44 %, ineligible other direct costs for 12 %, indirect costs for 16 % and that ineligible projects or beneficiaries accounted for 16 %; observes, however, that in 19 cases where quantifiable errors were made by beneficiaries, the Commission or independent auditors had sufficient information to prevent, or to detect and correct the error before accepting the expenditure;

104.  Observes that if the Commission or independent auditors had made proper use of all the information at their disposal, the estimated level of error for this chapter would have been 1,2 % lower;

105.  Appreciates that the Commission has invested considerable efforts in simplification leading to reduction of administrative complexity, by introducing a new definition of additional remuneration for researchers, streamlining the Horizon 2020 work programme for 2018-2020, providing targeted support for start-ups and innovators and making wider use of simplified cost options; notes, however, that the Court sees both opportunities and risks in further simplifying the legal framework;

106.  Acknowledges that the Court looked into performance issues in research and innovation projects; is however of the opinion that the results, looking at outcome, costs and dissemination, should be considered preliminary;

The AAR of Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG R&I)

107.  Notes that, in line with the EU 2020 strategy, according to the “Strategic Plan for 2016-2020”, DG R&I pursued four objectives:

   (a) a new boost for jobs, growth and investment;
   (b) a connected digital single market;
   (c) a resilient energy union with a forward looking climate-change policy; and
   (d) becoming stronger global actor;

108.  Welcomes the fact that in pursuing these objectives, Commissioner Moedas has established three priorities, namely “open innovation”, “open science” and “open to the world”;

109.  Notes that in order to measure progress towards the fixed objectives, DG R&I used five key performance indicators (KPI):

   (a) the share of funds allocated to small and medium sized enterprises (SME) in Horizon 2020 to address societal challenges and promote enabling and industrial technologies and the share of the Union financial contribution being allocated through the SME instrument;
   (b) the share of newcomers among successful applicants in Horizon 2020;
   (c) climate-related and sustainability-related expenditure in Horizon 2020;
   (d) the share of third-country participation in Horizon 2020;
   (e) the share of grants signed with a time-to-grant within 245 days;

110.  Acknowledges that DG R&I, in its replies to written questions, published a list of countries concerned by DG R&I’s country specific recommendations; urges DG R&I to publish the directorate’s proposals for the country specific recommendation directly in its AAR, in line with Parliament’s repeated requests;

111.  Recalls that the evaluation of the Seventh Research Framework Programme was dealt with in the previous discharge resolution(81);

112.  Welcomes the progress made in achieving the directorate’s general KPIs for Horizon 2020:

   (a) 23,9 % of Union financial contribution went to SMEs (the target for 2020 being 20 %);
   (b) 55 % of successful applicants were newcomers (the target for 2020 being 70 %);
   (c) 26 % of Union financial contributions were climate related (the target for 2020 being 25 %);
   (d) 54,9 % of Union financial contributions were sustainability related (the target for 2020 being 60 %);
   (e) third countries participate in 3,6 % of the Horizon 2020 projects (the target for 2020 being 4,73 %);
   (f) in 91 % of the cases DG R&I respected the time-to-grant period of 245 days (the target for 2020 being 100 %);

113.  Pinpoints that the territorial distribution of Horizon 2020 is conspicuously limited given that 72,5 % (12 121 million) of Horizon 2020 funding goes to Germany (EUR 3 464 million), to the United Kingdom (EUR 3 083 million), to France (EUR 2 097 million), to Spain (EUR 1 813 million) and to Italy (EUR 1 664 million);

114.  Notes that 183 grant agreements for Horizon 2020 were signed with participants from third countries in 2016; points out that EUR 299,5 million have been committed to participants from Switzerland in grant agreements signed in 2016 while the contribution of Switzerland to Horizon 2020 amounted to EUR 180,9 million; refuses to grant a "net recipient status" to one of the wealthiest countries in the world; calls on the Commission to put forward regulation to compensate such an imbalance;

115.  Acknowledges the success of the common support centre and its contribution to delivering simplification and legal and technical advice; asks DG R&I which simplification measures it intends to propose for the period post-2020;

116.  Takes note of the payment appropriations for DG R&I in 2016:

Payment appropriations for DG R&I including EFTA contribution

Management mode

Execution

In EUR million

Percentage points

Co-delegated or sub-delegated to other DGs

161,20

5,34

DG R&I directly

1 878,28

62,17

DG R&I to Article 185 bodies

86,40

2,86

DG R&I to EIB

312,72

10,35

DG R&I to Joint Undertakings

582,37

19,28

Total

3 020,97

100%

117.  Highlights that 14,39 % of the budget equalling almost EUR 444 million was implemented via financial instruments;

118.  Highlights also that 39,36 % (against 28,14 % in 2015) of the DG R&I’s budget was entrusted to other entities outside the Commission, mostly to implement parts of the framework programmes under (indirect) grant management and financial instruments’ control systems;

119.  Was interested to learn that DG R&I has established a supervision strategy for financial instruments and would therefore like to know how DG R&I establishes whether financial and research-related objectives have been achieved;

120.  Notes that DG R&I estimated the overall detected error rate at 4,42 %, with a residual error rate of 3,03 %;

121.  Observes that the Commission estimated the overall amount at risk at closure to be between EUR 73,5 and EUR 104 million;

122.  Welcomes DG R&I’s examination of the cost-effectiveness of direct and indirect grant management;

123.  Regrets that DG R&I again issued a horizontal reservation concerning the rate of the residual error within cost claims in the Seventh Research Framework Programme, implemented directly by it;

124.  Recalls its view, expressed in paragraph 76 of its 2015 Commission discharge resolution, that the Commission should: “develop, at long last, a more meaningful, risk based approach and use specific reservations when needed”;

Measures to be taken

125.  Calls on DG R&I to publish the directorate’s proposals for country specific recommendations in its AAR;

126.  Calls on DG R&I to follow up the recommendations of the Internal Audit Service (IAS) which found weaknesses in ensuring a consistent project monitoring approach across the Horizon 2020 implementing bodies;

127.  Calls on DG R&I to report on the progress made by the Common Audit Service in increasing the maturity of its internal processes;

128.  Calls on DG R&I to report to Parliament’s competent committee on its supervision strategy for financial instruments and on how DG R&I establishes whether financial and research-related objectives were achieved;

129.  Calls on DG R&I to explain to Parliament’s competent committee which measures it has taken to avoid horizontal reservations concerning the rate of the residual error within cost claims;

130.  Considers that in research and innovation projects as well as coordination and support actions, standards and standardisation support the impact of research results on different technology readiness levels as they enhance the marketability and transferability of innovative products and solutions; notes furthermore that standards and related activities support the dissemination of Horizon 2020 project results by spreading knowledge even after projects are finished by making it publicly available; calls on the Commission to enhance the involvement of standardisation in upcoming calls and to develop KPIs which take standardisation activities into account;

Economic, social and territorial cohesion

Introduction

131.  Learnt from the “Seventh Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion”(COM(2017)0583 that, on the one hand, convergence is a fragile process which can easily be halted and reversed by economic crises, but that, on the other hand, public investments may reduce the impact of the crises;

132.  Is pleased that the employment rate in 2016 reached again the 2008 pre-crisis level of 71 %, but the situation varies markedly across the Union and this rate is well below the Europe 2020 target of 75 %; notes with concern that unemployment rates still remain too high, in particular among young people and long-term unemployed;

133.  Welcomes that in reply to Parliament’s questions, DG REGIO detailed its country specific recommendations;

134.  Is aware that some provisions of the revised Financial Regulation concerning cohesion policy are supposed to enter into force retroactively;

135.  Is concerned that such modifications may become a source of additional errors, as programmes and projects were selected on the basis of regulations which entered into force on 1 January 2014;

The findings of the Court

136.  Notes that the Court issued, for the first time, a qualified opinion on the legality and regularity of payments underlying the accounts; stresses that reimbursement schemes remain more error prone than entitlement schemes; points out, however, that the data recorded, under the chapter “Economic, social and territorial cohesion” did not fundamentally change compared to previous year ;

137.  Recalls that in 2016 the available amount under the chapter “Economic, social and territorial cohesion” amounted to EUR 51,25 billion, representing 33 % of the Union budget;

138.  Notes that the Court estimated the level of error in this policy area at 4,8 %; furthermore that the Court observed that the estimated level of error for cohesion did not include a quantification of 2016 disbursements to financial instruments, amounting to EUR 2,5 billion, that the Court considered to be outside the eligibility period defined in Article 56(1) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 (Court’s annual report 2016, paragraphs 6.20 to 6.21); observes that these disbursements would represent an estimated level of error of 2,0 % to overall Union expenditure (Court’s annual report 2016, box 1.2, footnote 1);

139.  Points out that the errors in cohesion contributed to 43 % of the overall estimated level of error of 3,1 %; notes that one of the reasons for the high error rate is the complexity of Union and Member States regulation;

140.  Notes that the Court analysed a sample of 180 transactions coming from 54 interim payments for 2007-2013, and related to 92 European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) projects, 36 Cohesion Fund (CF) projects, 40 European Social Fund (ESF) projects, 11 ERDF financial instruments and one ESF financial instrument;

141.  Calls on the Commission to duly take into account the remarks of the Court, which found inaccuracies in the analysis of the performance of at least four of the 12 ERDF and ESF financial instruments examined in the Court’s annual report 2016; shares the concern of the Court, which highlights that these errors have the effect of overstating performance and, if not corrected, could artificially increase the declared amount of eligible expenditure at closure, especially in the case of guarantee funds;

142.  Notes also that 42 % of the errors were caused by ineligible casts included in expenditure declarations, 30 % relate to serious failure to respect public procurement rules, and 28 % relate to ineligible projects, activities or beneficiaries;

143.  Notes with regret that one of the main sources of expenditure-related errors under the chapter ‘Economic, social and territorial cohesion’ continues to be breaches of the rules on public procurement; points out that 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;

144.  Welcomes that the Court emphasised that projects using the simplified cost options are less error-prone than reimbursements of actual costs;

145.  Is concerned that the sample comprised also three “major projects”, which required the approval of the Commission, and for which Member State authorities had not submitted the necessary application by the 31 March 2017 closure deadline; notes that the Commission should therefore recover the expenditures;

146.  Is dissatisfied that, as in previous years, the error rate could have been 3,7 points lower, that is to say 1,1 %, had Member States used the information available to them to prevent, or to detect and correct, the errors in first level checks before declaring the expenditure to the Commission;

147.  Is worried that years after the start of the 2014-2020 period, Member States have designated only 77 % of the programme authorities responsible for cohesion policy funds; as of 1 March 2017 the Commission received final accounts with expenditure covering just 0,7 % of the budget allocated for the entire programming period; as of mid-2017, the delays in budget implementation were greater than they were at the same point in the 2007-2013 period; notes that consequently, the outstanding commitments at the end of the current financing period could be even higher than in the previous one;

148.  Appreciates that the chapter on “Economic, social and territorial cohesion” also contains a section on performance of projects; regrets however that this section largely concentrates on quantitative information, i.e. the number of performance measurement systems in place;

Financial engineering instruments

149.  Recalls that the summary of data on the progress made in financing and implementing financial engineering instruments in 2016 was only published on 20 September 2017, and that therefore the Court could not comment on the document;

150.  Notes that the key figures for 2016 are the following:

   (a) there are 25 Member States using financial engineering instruments, with 25 using them for enterprise support, 11 for urban development and 9 for energy efficiency and renewable energies;
   (b) there are 1 058 financial engineering instruments across the Union, comprised of 77 holding funds and 981 specific funds;
   (c) 89 % of these financial engineering instruments are providing support for enterprises, 7 % for urban development, 4 % for energy efficiency and renewable energies;
   (d) payments into financial engineering instruments amount to EUR 16,4 billion, including EUR 11,3 billion in structural funds;
   (e) payments to final recipients amount to EUR 15,2 billion, including EUR 10,1 billion in structural funds, i.e. 93 % of total payments to financial engineering instruments;
   (f) based on the 81 % of financial engineering instruments that reported, management costs and fees totalled EUR 0,9 billion or 6,7 % of total payments to the financial engineering instruments concerned;
   (g) EUR 8,5 billion of resources were returned;
   (h) 314 000 final recipients were supported;

151.  Points out that over the years and financing periods the use of financial engineering instruments has increased dramatically, rendering structural fund funding more complex and thereby creating risks for democratic accountability; notes that it is expected that EUR 20,1 billion of ERDF and CF will be delivered through financial instruments by the end of 2020;

152.  Is concerned, in this context, that the national audit authorities did not sufficiently cover implementation of financial engineering instruments;

153.  Determines that 63 % (675) of the financial engineering instruments were launched in Poland (247), France (152), Hungary (139) and Italy (137);

154.  Regrets that 6,7 % of total payments to the financial engineering instruments concerned (EUR 900 million) went into management costs and fees; considers this amount to be inappropriately high;

155.  Notes that a number of errors and discrepancies remain in the reporting of data; these include small but significant amounts of operational programme resources committed in the funding agreements but not paid to financial engineering instruments at closure, an increase in both committed amounts payments to a number of financial engineering instruments after 31 December 2015 and, in some cases, higher amounts paid to final recipients than to the financial engineering instruments(82);

The AAR of the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO)

156.  Takes note that the ERDF-CF ex post evaluation indicates that although regional convergence over the 2007-2013 programming period was insufficient, without the cohesion policy there would have been divergence, because the financial crisis of 2007-2008 created a poor climate for investment and convergence;

157.  Underlines that any conclusions with regard to performance remain limited, as this would require a more comprehensive review of performance data reported by 2007-2013 programmes, which was supposed only to be finalised by August 2017; calls on the Commission to inform the Committee on Budgetary Control on the outcome of the review;

158.  Observes that the Commission reports, for the implementation of the 2014-2020 financing period, that more than 50 000 projects were selected corresponding to EUR 64,1 billion of total investment, that 45 000 cooperation projects of enterprises with research institutions have been created, that more than 380 000 SME have received support from cohesion funding, resulting in more than 1 000 000 jobs;

159.  Observes that the Commission reports also, for the same financing period, that more than EUR 75 billion from the ERDF and from the CF support energy union objectives and climate change adaptations; in addition, more than 5 000 projects were selected on the ground to support the low-carbon economy;

160.  Notes that the table below shows the total commitment and payment appropriations authorised in 2016:

2016 in EUR million

Commitment appropriations authorised

Payment appropriations authorised

Administrative expenditure of the 'Regional and urban policy' policy area

16,75

24,52

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and other regional operations

27 163,16

22 911,83

Cohesion Fund (CF)

8 775,98

7 456,71

Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance - Regional development and regional and territorial cooperation

54,14

522,95

Solidarity Fund

81,48

68,48

Total

36 091,51

30 984,47

161.  Remarks however that these statistical data give little information on the sustainability and performance of these projects;

162.  Recalls the great importance attributed to ex ante conditionalities for setting out sector-specific and horizontal conditions to ensure effective spending of ESI funds; once ex ante conditionalities are fulfilled and with the 10 % retention from payments foreseen by the revised regulation in place, implementation of projects should be easier and less error-prone; notes, however, the Court’s Special Report No 15/2017 questioning to what extent this has effectively led to changes on the ground;

163.  Regrets that only 87 % (181 of 209) of the certifying authorities had been designated by the end of 2016, and that no authority had been designated for 28 mainstream programmes (in Austria, an authority was designated for only 1 programme, in Belgium, for only 2, in Germany, for only 8, in Finland, for only 1, in France, for only 2, in Ireland, for only 2, in Italy, for only 6, in Romania, for only 4, in Slovakia, for only 1, in the United Kingdom, for only 1);

164.  Notes with surprise that the main difficulties identified in the designation process related to the set-up of IT systems to feature the new elements of the 2014-2020 period in terms of reporting and the design of procedures to ensure a robust supervision of managing authorities over intermediate bodies;

165.  Regrets furthermore that in general only 26,1 % of projects were selected, and only 3,7 % of the available structural funds absorbed at the end of 2016 and whereas the selection process accelerated in 2017; considers that the slow start may lead to a high number of outstanding commitments at the end of the current financing period; calls on the Commission to guarantee further efforts to strengthen the administrative capacity of national, regional and local authorities;

166.  Emphasises that project selection was particularly slow in Spain, Cyprus, Romania, Austria, in the Czech Republic, in Croatia and Slovakia;

167.  Notes that, consequently, for most of the operational programmes (247 out of 295) no amounts were certified in the accounts (there were "zero accounts") since no expenditure was declared until 31 July 2016;

168.  Is satisfied that the Commission, on the basis of preliminary audit opinions on the received assurance packages, detected no material inconsistencies;

169.  Is concerned however that 7 of 9 Commission audits into high risk operational programmes or areas revealed significant deficiencies (in Hungary, the transport, electronic administration and implementation operational programmes; in Italy, the Reti e mobilità, istruzione priority 3 and technical assistance operational programmes; in Romania, the competitiveness and environment operational programmes);

170.  Notes that 278 of 322 management and control systems received an unqualified or a “qualified with moderate impact” opinion; whereas in 40 cases the Commission issued a qualified opinion with significant impact;

171.  Notes that the Commission calculated the overall amount at risk at payment to amount to between EUR 644,7 and EUR 1 257,3 million, and that the Commission implemented financial corrections, as a result of its supervisory role, of EUR 481 million in 2016;

172.  Notes that the Commission estimated the overall average error rate for 2016 payments for the 2007-2013 ERDF/CF programmes to be in the range of 2,2 % to 4,2 %, and the residual error rate at closure to be approximately 0,4 %; stresses that once again, 'Cohesion' was the biggest contributor to the estimated level of error for 2016, followed by ‘Natural resources’, ‘Competitiveness’ and ‘Global Europe’; calls on the Commission to keep working with Member States to improve their management and control systems and to continue to use available legal supervisory tools to ensure that all material errors are corrected;

173.  Notes that the Commission recorded 68 reservations for the past and 2 reservations for the current financing period;

Specific issues

Greece

174.  Welcomes DG REGIO’s efforts to make progress with the priority project list in Greece;

175.  In this context, welcomes:

   (a) the establishment of four highway concessions (Athens-Thessaloniki, Korinthos-Tripoli-Kalamata, Korinthos-Patras and Patras-Ioannina; covering between them more than 1 000 km of road), which are now operational and very much appreciated by users,
   (b) the programme "energy savings in households" (combination of financial engineering instruments with grants), which improved energy efficiency in 46 000 households and created 6 000 jobs; demand was so high that a successor programme for 2014-2020 was immediately created,
   (c) financial instruments, notably JEREMIE, allowing the creation or safeguarding of more than 20 000 jobs,
   (d) the e-prescription for medicines project, which manages monthly more than 5,5 million electronic prescriptions and 2,4 million diagnostic referrals, with the involvement of 13 000 pharmacies and 50 000 doctors, and has led to considerable cost savings for the Greek public health budget;

176.  Regrets on the other hand that:

   (a) the metro projects in Athens (line 3 extension to Piraeus) and Thessaloniki (base line) have incurred serious delays which necessitated their phasing into the 2014-2020 programming period;
   (b) some key projects in the railway, digital and energy sectors were cancelled or are delayed, and that as a consequence they have been phased or transferred in their entirety to the 2014-2020 programming period;
   (c) a large part of the waste water and solid waste management infrastructures remain to be completed;

177.  Welcomes the fact that the OLAF has completed its administrative investigation into the Czech “stork nest” project; takes note that the OLAF case file has been publicised by the Czech media; regrets that OLAF found serious irregularities;

178.  Calls on DG REGIO to recover the Union co-financing involved, i.e. EUR 1,67 million, and to apply necessary sanctions;

179.  Notes that the “Stork Nest” project was withdrawn from Union funding by the Czech Republic as of 25 January 2018 and that, respecting the principle of subsidiarity, the project is already under judicial review in the Czech Republic;

180.  Is concerned at the Commission’s observation that the share of awarded contracts that received only a single bid is in Hungary at 36 %; notes that the Union average is 17 %; calls on the Commission to promote competition in bidding processes;

181.  Welcomes the positive assessment of the 10 years' Cooperation and Verifications Mechanism (CVM) for Bulgaria and Romania(83); is worried about the recent step backwards in the fight against high level corruption in Bulgaria and Romania; calls on the Commission to support and encourage the law enforcement and anti-corruption authorities in both Member States; highlights the impressive track record of the anti-corruption agency in Romania in terms of solving medium and high-level corruption cases; underlines that maintaining this effort is of upmost importance to consolidate the fight against corruption;

182.  Condemns the recent crime against a Slovakian journalist, which may be related to his investigative work; urges the Commission to inform the Parliament about Union agriculture funds in Slovakia;

183.  Notes that OLAF has also completed an administrative investigation into a loan granted to the Volkswagen Group by the EIB;

184.  Takes note of a statement made by the EIB President, Werner Hoyer, stating that: “We still cannot exclude that one of our loans, the EUR 400 million loan ‘Volkswagen Antrieb RDI’, was linked to emission control technologies developed at the time the defeat software was designed and used. We will now review OLAF’s conclusions and consider all available and appropriate action. [...]We are very disappointed at what is asserted by the OLAF investigation, namely that the EIB was misled, by Volkswagen about the use of the defeat device.”;

The AAR of Directorate General Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL)

185.  Notes that DG EMPL highlights as follows its contribution to the Union 2020 objectives:

   (a) the Union employment rate for 20 to 64 year-olds reached 71,2 % in the third quarter of 2016; this rate is now above that seen in 2008 (70,3 %) for the first time and the target rate of the Europe 2020 strategy may be reached if the trend continues;
   (b) total unemployment continues to decline and it is now below 10 % for both the Union and the euro area; however, youth unemployment and long-term unemployment remain major challenges for the Union, despite the respective observed decline from 19,5 % in December 2015 to 18,6 % in December 2016, and from 4,3 % in the third quarter of 2015 to 3,8 % in the third quarter of 2016;
   (c) the economic recovery that started in 2013 has also been accompanied by a continuous, albeit insufficient, reduction in poverty, measured by the rate of people at risk of poverty dropping from 24,7 % in 2012 to 23,7 % in 2015, however, the recovery is still not reaching all parts of society and there were 118 million people at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 2016 (1,7 million people above the 2008 level), which is far from reaching the Europe 2020 poverty and social exclusion target;
   (d) investments to improve the conditions for geographic and professional mobility while tackling risks of distortions and abuses have contributed to a progressive increase in the mobility rate within the Union, which reached 3,6 % of the population in 2015;

186.  Regrets however, that the disparity in income distribution increased between 2013 and 2014 and, even though it has remained stable since then, in some cases it has continued to grow; is concerned that the richest 20 % of the population possessed disposable income that was around five times higher than that of the poorest 20 % in 2016, with large disparities across countries (and an increase in inequality in some);

187.  Welcomes the ex post evaluation of the ESF 2007-2013 programming period, which was finalised on 12 December 2016; notes that it found that, at the end of 2014, at least 9,4 million European residents had found a job with support from the ESF, 8,7 million had gained a qualification or certificate and other positive results, such as increased skills levels, were reported by 13,7 million participants; notes that the ESF has also had a positive impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the 28 Member States (0,25 % increase) and productivity, according to macroeconomic simulations;

188.  Observes that such quantitative data do show indeed a positive trend but say little about performance and sustainability of the measures;

189.  Strongly criticises DG EMPL for not having published the directorate’s proposals for country specific recommendations, although Parliament has repeatedly asked for it to do so;

190.  Notes that the table below shows the total commitment and payment appropriations authorised in 2016:

2016 in EUR million

Commitment appropriations authorised

Payment appropriations authorised

The European Social Fund (ESF) and the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI)

12 438,2

8 132

The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD)

534,7

278

The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund

27,6

27,6

The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance – Human Resources Development (IPA-HRD)

0

82,3

Direct Management (Programme for Employment and Social Innovation, Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme, Erasmus+) and agencies

289

275

Total

13 290

8 795

191.  Welcomes the fact that the DG EMPL has developed a methodology to assess yearly the performance of programmes, but has doubts about the information value of criteria such as “good”, “acceptable” or “poor”;

192.  Is concerned that, by March 2017, only 87 % of certifying authorities had been designated;

193.  Welcomes the fact that DG EMPL had received, by 15 February 2017, a full assurance package including the accounts, the annual control report and the audit opinions on the accounts, the management and control system and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions, and the assurance declaration and annual summary for all programmes; notes that in general, DG EMPL had only minor observations and accepted the annual accounts;

194.  Welcomes also the fact that by the end of 2016, DG EMPL had completed its multiannual audit plan, as a result of which 89 audit authorities of 92 had been audited covering 115 of the 118 operational programmes;

195.  Notes that in 2016, DG EMPL implemented financial corrections amounting to EUR 255,8 million; that the total cumulative accepted or decided amount of financial corrections for the 2007-2013 programming period stands at the end of 2016 at EUR 1 454 million; and that for the same period Member States reported financial corrections worth EUR 2 253,8 million;

196.  Regrets that DG EMPL maintained or issued the following reservations, concerning:

   (a) management and control systems for one ESF operational programme in Italy for the programming period 2000-2006 (reputational reserve);
   (b) management and control systems for 23 specific ESF operational programmes for the 2007-2013 programming period; and
   (c) management and control systems for 3 ESF or YEI and 1 FEAD operational programmes for the programming period 2014-2020;

197.  Notes that the estimated overall amount at risk for the 2016 relevant expenditure is EUR 279 million;

Specific Issues

Youth Employment Initiative (YEI)

198.  Was informed of the first findings of a study into the implementation of the YEI, which reported that:

   (a) by end of 2016, the number of young persons not in employment, education or training (NEET) that have participated in YEI-supported projects that boost their skills or allow them to have a working experience tripled compared to end of 2015 (1,3 against 0,5 million people);
   (b) among them, 712 000 unemployed and inactive participants not in education or training have completed a YEI-funded intervention; more than half of them, (around 346 000 unemployed and inactive participants not in education or training) have achieved a positive outcome since they have moved into education/training, or gained a qualification, or are in employment (including self-employment), upon leaving the intervention;
   (c) in Italy, a counter-factual evaluation showed that new innovative policies largely supported by the YEI increased the occupational chances of young people by 7,8 %, despite significant regional differences which show there are greater difficulties in the areas with the highest youth unemployment rates;

199.  Notes furthermore, that:

   (a) Italy and Spain have mobilised a significant number of NEETs through YEI actions despite the still high youth unemployment in the countries;
   (b) Slovakia has shifted the focus away from public works schemes for young people towards more effective measures such as increased provision of professional training;
   (c) in Italy, a counter-factual evaluation showed that new innovative policies largely supported by the YEI increased the occupational chances of young people by 7,8 %, despite significant regional differences;
   (d) in Portugal, YEI co-financed entrepreneurship programmes proved more successful than higher education measures;
   (e) Greece has identified the need to review its voucher system for youth employment and training;
   (f) in Poland, 62 % of YEI participants received an offer of employment, training, or education, with an overall high level of participants' satisfaction;

200.  Regrets nevertheless that barely 30 % of the available funds have been used, which reflect initial pre-financing and interim payments;

201.  Welcomes that, by October 2017, all Member States to which the ex ante conditionality on Roma applied (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain) had fulfilled it and therefore had a national Roma integration strategy;

202.  Notes that for the 2014-2020 programming period, two ESF investment priorities address directly non-discrimination and Roma integration (see table below)

Investment priority (IP)

Member States who have selected the IP

Financial allocation

(EUR million)

Combating all forms of discrimination and promoting equal opportunity

11 Member States (BE, CY, CZ, DE, ES, FR, GR, IE, PL, PT and SK).

447

Socio-economic integration of marginalised communities such as Roma

12 Member States (AT, BE, BG, CZ, ES, FR, GR, HU, IT, PL, RO and SK).

1 600

The majority of funding (EUR 1,2 million EUR) is concentrated in the following countries: BG, CZ, HU and RO

203.  Notes that, while having a maximum annual budget of EUR 150 million, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund mobilised only EUR 28 million for commitments from the reserve in 2016, benefitting eight Member States;

Measures to be taken

204.  Calls therefore on Member States and the Commission to pay more attention, under the post 2020 financial period, to:

   (a) creating Union added-value with cohesion policy;
   (b) building stronger coordination between cohesion, economic governance and the European semester considering, among others, positive incentives to strengthen achievement of cohesion policy objectives for overcoming disparities and inequalities as spelled out in the Treaties, within its three dimensions - economic, social and territorial;
   (c) devising a system which allows concentration of cohesion funding on regions which need it most;
   (d) providing strategic administrative support for those regions finding it difficult to absorb the funding;
   (e) drafting a single set of rules for structural funds;
   (f) making progress towards implementing the single audit principle;
   (g) faster implementation of programmes and projects, with a view to respecting the seven year financial period (no n+3);
   (h) enabling national audit authorities to audit financial instruments under the Union budget, reduce the number of financial instruments, and introduce more stringent rules for reporting by funds managers, including by the EIB Group and other international financial institutions regarding performance and results achieved, thereby enhancing transparency and accountability;
   (i) taking into account lessons drawn from the current period and the need for more simplification in order to establish a balanced system ensuring achievement of results and sound financial management without an excessive administrative burden that would discourage potential beneficiaries and lead to more errors;
   (j) the geographic and social balance to ensure that investments are made where they are most needed;

205.  Insists that DG REGIO and DG EMPL publish their proposals for the country specific recommendations in their respective AAR, as repeatedly requested by the Parliament;

206.  Calls on DG REGIO:

   (a) to report back to Parliament’s committee responsible about the different pending OLAF files when related legal proceedings have been completed;
   (b) to report back to Parliament’s committee responsible, in the 2016 Commission discharge follow-up, on progress made with all above-mentioned projects;

207.  Calls on the EIB to review urgently the OLAF findings and draw the necessary conclusion; calls on the EIB to inform the Parliament of its conclusions and the measures taken;

208.  Calls on the Commission to encourage the use of the simplified cost options introduced by the revision of the Financial Regulation;

209.  Calls on DG EMPL to put in place the recommendation of the IAS with regard to the early implementation of the control strategy for the ESI funds and to inform the Parliament of its completion;

210.  Calls on the Commission to provide for further simplification of the rules and a reduction of the administrative burden in order to help decrease the error rate even more;

Natural resources

Key performance indicators (KPI) and fair CAP

211.  Points out that according to the AAR of DG AGRI (page 15 - KPI 1: agricultural factor income per full-time worker), the sector’s value added and productivity dipped slightly again in 2016 and that, for the DG AGRI, it is difficult “to pinpoint what exactly caused the overall decline in factor income since 2013”;

212.  Recalls that KPI 4 on the employment rate in rural development is not relevant, as the employment rate in rural development is not solely influenced by CAP measures;

213.  Regrets that the Commission did not follow up the recommendations issued by the Parliament in its resolution accompanying the discharge for the financial year 2015 to redefine KPI 4 “in order to stress the specific impact of the CAP measures on the employment in those areas”;

214.  Points out that in 2016 51 % of the beneficiaries of direct payments were granted less than EUR 1250 amounting to a total of 4 % of the total direct payments(84);

215.  Recalls its remarks(85) on the unsustainable structure of CAP expenditure: 44,7 % of all Union farms had an annual income of less than EUR 4000, and in 2016 on average the upper 10 % of the beneficiaries of CAP direct support received around 60 % of the payments(86); notes that the distribution of direct payment largely reflects the concentration of land, 20 % of farmers also owning 80 % of the land; (reply to written question 17 at the hearing of Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control with Mr Hogan on 28 November 2017); is concerned at the high concentration of beneficiaries and stresses that a better balance of large and small beneficiaries needs to be found;

216.  Notes that about 72 % of aid is paid to farms of between 5 and 250 hectares, which are generally family-owned;

217.  Asks that DG AGRI define objectives accompanied with indicators to reduce the income inequalities between farms in the next MFF;

218.  Reiterates its view that direct payments may not fully play their role as a safety net mechanism for stabilising farm income, particularly for smaller farms given the unbalanced distribution of payments;

219.  Is of the opinion that larger farm incomes 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, and thus recommends that the Commission should mandate a sliding scale to correct this imbalance, with subsidies decreasing as farm sizes increase;

220.  Calls on the Commission to provide for a genuine simplification of the procedure, including in the documentation requested in order to have access to funding, without neglecting the principles of control and monitoring; calls for special attention to be paid to administrative support for small-scale producers, for whom the funding is a vital prerequisite for their business survival;

Error rate

221.  Points out that the Court has estimated that the level of error for the natural resource chapter as a whole is 2,5 % (2,9 % in 2015 and 3,6 % in 2014); welcomes the positive evolution of the error rate whilst noting that the 2016 figure is above the materiality threshold;

222.  Welcomes the fact that the assessment of the Court as to the EAGF finds that market and direct support payments are free from material error in 2016, the most likely error rate being estimated by the Court at 1,7 % (2,2 % in 2015);

223.  Stresses that the Court noted fewer errors due to overstated or ineligible land claimed by the farmer which is due to the introduction of a new more flexible definition of permanent grassland, the achievement of action plans to improve the quality of data in Land Parcel Identification Systems (LPIS) and the new online geo-spatial system to submit applications;

224.  Notes that the greening payments have been a source of errors impacting 17 % of the level of error estimated by the Court and that the errors were found mainly to be related to the ecological focus area requirements, although the error rate for EAGF was below materiality; welcomes in this regard the fall in the error rate for EAGF to 1,7 %;

225.  Points out that the Court also found weaknesses in the protection of permanent grassland, the Czech Republic and Poland not having the historical data to check compliance with the obligation of having arable land covered with grass for five consecutive years whilst Germany, France, Italy, Portugal and the United Kingdom had not classified permanent grassland in a fully reliable way;

226.  Underlines the positive trend in the error rates issued by the Court despite the evolution of the amounts at risks reported by DG AGRI in its AARs, namely from 1,38 % in 2015 to 1,996 % in 2016 (the market measures with an error rate of 2,85 % being not included) and 4 % for both financial years in rural development; understands that this is not reflecting statistically significant deviations;

227.  Regrets that the payments in rural development, environment, climate action and fisheries are not free from material error in 2016, the most likely error rate being estimated at 4,9 % (5,3 % in 2015); notes that if all the information held by the national authorities had been used to correct errors the estimated level of error would have been 1,5 percentage points lower;

228.  Notes that in rural development, three of the largest eligibility errors involved beneficiaries who did not disclose that they were controlled by, applying jointly with, or purchasing from linked companies in breach of Union or national rules (Court’s annual report 2016, paragraph 7.26);

Management and control systems

229.  Points out that in its AAR, the director general of DG AGRI issued a reservation in direct payments concerning 18 paying agencies comprising 12 Member States and that the amount managed by the paying agencies with a reservation and put under reinforced scrutiny is EUR 13 618,6 million, the actual amount at risk for the expenditure under reservation being EUR 541,2 million;

230.  Stresses that weaknesses were detected in particular in the management and control system of Hungary (concerning late management declaration by the paying agency and deficiencies in greening payments), Bulgaria (concerning greening and the organic status of farmers), Poland (concerning greening payments) and Italy (concerning deficiencies in correctly establishing the eligibility of land and an active farmer);

231.  Regrets the recent cases of fraud relating to paying agencies in Italy; calls on the Commission to actively monitor the situation and provide the relevant details to Parliament in the follow-up to the discharge procedure;

232.  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 conflicts of interest concerning the State’s Agricultural Intervention Fund in the Czech Republic; takes note that a failure to remedy a conflict of interest may ultimately result in withdrawal of the accreditation of the paying agency by the competent authority or in the imposition of financial corrections by the Commission; asks the Commission to inform the 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 by OLAF to DG AGRI;

Reliability of the data communicated by the Member States

233.  Points out that since the management and control systems of some Member States are affected by deficiencies, DG AGRI adjusts the reported control statistics based mainly on the Commission's and the Court's audits carried out in the last three years as well as on the opinion of the Certification Body for the financial year in question;

234.  Points out that despite the fact that since 2015 the certification bodies of the Member States have a duty to check the legality and regularity of the transactions:

   (a) for market measures, DG AGRI has made adjustments to a total of 32 schemes (i.e. less than 20 % of the total number of schemes for which expenditure was declared in 2016);
   (b) for direct payments, adjustments were made in 52 cases (out of 69) whilst the majority of these adjustments were of less than 1 %, 7 were of between 1 % and 2 % and 9 were of more than 2 %;
   (c) for rural development, top ups have been applied for 39 paying agencies out of 72 with 21 adjustments of more than 1 % and 16 above 2 %;

Performance issues in rural development

235.  Welcomes the fact that the Court has examined performance related issues for sampled rural development transactions over the last three years; notes with satisfaction that 95 % of projects completed at the time of the audit had been carried out as planned, but regrets that there was insufficient evidence that the costs were reasonable;

236.  Stresses that almost all the projects audited by the Court used a system which reimbursed the cost incurred and notes that in the 2014-2020 programming period, Member States may, as an alternative, use a system of simplified cost options involving standard scales of unit costs, lump sums and flat -rate financing, which effectively limits the risk of excessive prices;

Greening

237.  Notes that the Court reported in its annual report 2016 (paragraph 7.17) in relation to the greening payments made to 63 farms visited by it that:

   (a) all those subject to the crop diversification requirement were compliant;
   (b) most of the greening errors concerned non-compliance with Ecological Focus Area (EFA) requirements whilst;
   (c) the parcels were correctly recorded in the LPIS as to the maintenance of existing permanent grassland;
   (d) not all permanent grassland had been properly recorded as such;

238.  Is however particularly concerned by the first conclusions drawn by the Commission in its staff working document on “Review of greening after one year” SWD(2016)0218 second part page 14 that: “ Overall farmers would have to change crops on less than 1 % of the total arable land in the Union in order to comply with the crop diversification requirement, and since the vast majority of arable land in the Union is subject to the crop diversification obligation this limited impact appears to reflect current practices by farmers who already are compliant”;

239.  Stresses that the Court confirms in its annual report (paragraphs 7.43 to 7.54) the analysis made by the Commission pointing out that the crop diversification and the EFA scheme led to no changes for the majority of the farms that it visited (89 % for the crop diversification and 67 % for the EFA);

240.  Is particularly concerned that according to the Court’s Special Report No 21/2017 entitled “Greening: a more complex income support scheme, not yet environmentally effective”; “Greening is unlikely to provide significant benefits for the environment and climate (...) because greening requirements are generally undemanding and largely reflect normal farming practice”;

241.  Furthermore, points out that the Court states that due to extensive exemptions, most farmers (65 %) are able to benefit from the green payment without actually being subject to greening obligations; as a result, greening leads to a positive change in farming practices on only a very limited share of Union farmland;

242.  Regrets that the greening schemes are more an instrument for supporting farmers’ income than to enhance the CAP’s environmental and climate performance; considers that for agricultural programmes to address environmental and climate needs, they should include performance targets and funding which reflect the costs incurred and the income lost as a result of activities going beyond the environmental baseline;

243.  Deplores the fact that, as they are part of area-based payments, the greening schemes in the actual design of the programme could increase the imbalances in the distribution of CAP support; calls in this direction on the Commission to consider following the recommendations made by the Court in Special Report No 21/2017;

244.  Notes that according to the Commission: “ the actual impact (of the greening schemes) on environmental outcomes depends on the choices made by Member States and farmers and that so far few Member States made use of the possibilities to limit the use of pesticides and fertilisers in the ecological focus areas”;

245.  Stresses that for public administration, the burden of greening essentially lies with the development of new management tools such as the EFA layer of the LPIS, which partly explains why DG AGRI has increased the number of reservations and action plans imposed on Member States;

246.  Takes note the fact that greening adds significant complexity to the CAP due to overlaps with the CAP’s other environmental instruments (cross-compliance and the Pillar II environmental measures); in this regard takes note of the Court’s Special Report No 21/2017 on greening, which states that “the Commission and Member States mitigate the related risk of deadweight and double funding”;

Young farmer scheme

247.  Points out that with huge disparities in the development of the farming sector across the Union, a major problem is the demographic challenge, requiring policies to address the shortage of young farmers in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of agriculture in the Union;

248.  Stresses that young farmers face specific difficulties in accessing finance and low turnover in the first years of business, combined with slow generational renewal and difficulty in accessing agricultural land;

249.  Points out that the falling number of young people in the sector makes generational renewal more difficult and can mean the loss of valuable skills and knowledge as older, experienced people, retire; as a consequence, insists that support is needed for both retiring farmers and young successors taking over a farm;

250.  Is particularly concerned by the fact that in its Special Report No 10/2017 on support for young farmers, the Court notes that for direct payments, the aid to young farmers:

   (a) is not based on a sound needs assessment;
   (b) does not reflect the general objective of encouraging generational renewal;
   (c) is not even always provided to young farmers in need; and
   (d) is sometimes provided to holdings where young farmers play only a minor role;

251.  Regrets that, as to the support to young farmers via rural development schemes, the Court concluded that the measures are generally based on a vague needs assessment and that there is no real coordination between Pillar I payments with Pillar 2 support to young farmers;

Measures to be taken

252.  Calls on:

   (a) the Commission to carefully analyse the causes of the overall decline in factor income since 2013 and to define a new key performance objective for the next MFF, accompanied with outcome and impact indicators, aiming at mitigating the income inequalities between famers;
   (b) the Member States to make further efforts to include more reliable and up-to date information in their LPIS database;
   (c) the Commission to review the approach taken by paying agencies to classifying and updating land categories in their LPIS and to perform the required cross-checks in order to reduce the risk of error in greening payments;
   (d) the Commission to take appropriate measures to require that Member States' action plans in rural development include remedial actions addressing frequently found cases of error;
   (e) the Commission to provide guidance and disseminate best practices among national authorities, and among the beneficiaries and their associations, to ensure that their checks identify links between applicants and other stakeholders involved in supported projects of rural development;
   (f) the Commission to continue to be vigilant as to the checks performed and the data communicated by the Member States’ authorities, and to take these findings into account when allocating its audit burden based on risk-evaluations;
   (g) the Member States as well as the beneficiaries and their associations to fully exploit the possibilities offered by the system of simplified cost options in rural development;
   (h) the Commission to prepare and develop, for the next CAP reform, a complete intervention logic for Union environmental and climate-related action regarding agriculture, including specific targets and based on an up-to-date scientific understanding of the phenomena concerned;

253.  Calls on the Commission to be guided by the following principles in the building of a new proposal concerning greening:

   (a) Farmers should benefit from CAP payments if they meet a single set of basic environmental norms including Good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAECs) and greening requirements which go beyond the requirements of environmental legislation; welcomes in this regard the logic of the Commission's "budget focused on results" approach; considers that a future delivery system should be more results-driven;
   (b) Specific, local environmental and climate-related needs can be appropriately addressed through more effective targeted programmed action regarding agriculture;
   (c) When Member States are given options to choose from in their implementation of the CAP, they should be required to demonstrate, prior to implementation, that the options they select are effective and efficient in terms of achieving policy objectives, and in particular those of food safety, food quality and their impact on health, greening, land and countryside management and the fight against depopulation in the Union;

254.  Calls on the Commission:

   (a) to perform a comprehensive evaluation of all the existing CAP policies and tools which can be combined to help young farmers and to identify the obstacles to providing access to existing farms or establishing new farms for young farmers which can be addressed in the future revision of the CAP;
   (b) to make sure that, as a component of agricultural reform, further improvements are made to the rural-development framework as set forth inter alia in the Cork 2.0 Declaration, with a view to ensuring that the support programmes for young farmers are a success;
   (c) to insert in the legislation for the post-2020 CAP (or require Member States to indicate, in line with the shared management provisions) a clear intervention logic for the policy instruments addressing generational renewal in agriculture; the intervention logic should include:
   a sound assessment of young farmers’ needs;
   an assessment of which needs could be addressed by Union policy instruments and which needs can be or are already better addressed by Member States’ policies as well as an analysis of which forms of support (e.g. direct payments, lump sum, financial instruments) are best suited to match the identified needs;
   awareness-raising measures, targeted at authorities, beneficiaries and their associations, concerning possible types of assistance for earlier transfer of a farm to a successor with accompanying advisory services or measures like a satisfactory retirement scheme based on national or regional income or revenues in the agricultural, food and forestry sector;
   a definition of SMART objectives, making explicit and quantifiable the expected results of the policy instruments in terms of the expected generational renewal rate and contribution to the viability of the supported holdings; in particular, it should be clear if the policy instruments should aim at supporting as many young farmers as possible or target a specific type of young farmers;
   (d) to ensure that through its proposed legislation for the post-2020 CAP, the Commission and the Member States (in line with the shared management provisions) improve the monitoring and evaluation system;

Global Europe

Error rates

255.  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 of 2,1 %, (2,8 % in 2015, and 2,7 % in 2014); welcomes the positive trend in the error rate in this policy area;

256.  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 2,8 % (3,8 % in 2015; 3,7 % in 2014);

257.  Points out that the Commission and its implementing partners committed more errors in transactions relating to grants as well as contribution agreements with international organisations than they did with other forms of support; points out, in particular, that the budget support transactions examined by the Court were free from errors of legality and regularity;

258.  Notes that if all the information held by the Commission and auditors appointed by the Commission had been used to correct errors, the estimated error rate for the Global Europe chapter would have been 0,9 % point lower, i.e. 1,4 %, and therefore below the materiality threshold;

259.  Points out that:

   (a) 37 % of the estimated level of error is attributable to expenditure for which essential supporting documentation was not provided;
   (b) 28 % of the estimated level of error is accounted for by two cases for which the Commission accepted expenditure that had not actually been incurred; regrets that this situation was already detected last year and points out that the transaction testing of the Court revealed some control weaknesses in the Commission’s systems;
   (c) 26 % of the estimated level of error concerns ineligible expenditure: i.e. expenditure related to activities not covered by a contract or incurred outside the eligibility period, non-compliance with the rule of origin, ineligible taxes and indirect costs wrongly charged as direct costs;

Declaration of assurance

260.  Is deeply concerned by the fact that according to the Court, DG NEAR auditors have detected weaknesses in the indirect management of the second instrument of pre-accession assistance (IPA II), more specifically, at the audit authorities of three IPA II beneficiary countries - Albania, Turkey and Serbia; and this despite the fact that the Albanian and Serbian audit authorities have made changes aiming to solve the problems detected; in the case of Turkey, there are some significant areas of the audit authority’s systems which might still limit the assurance it can provide to the Commission (Court’s annual report 2016, paragraph 9.24);

261.  Is concerned by the fact that the Court estimated that the DG NEAR corrective capacity has been overstated and consequently the total amount at risk at payment as well;

Performance

262.  Notes that DG DEVCO has defined in its AAR KPI relating to human development, climate change, gender and error rate but regrets that none of those indicators are able to measure the performance of the development cooperation policy as they only indicate the part of aid allocated to each of the objectives instead of measuring the actual impact, as well as the progress achieved to pursue the objectives;

263.  Is concerned by the fact that the IAS of the Commission stated that “in terms of reporting, the type of information on DG DEVCO’s performance provided by the different Strategic Planning and Programming-related reports (AAR, Sub-delegated Authorising Officers report, EAMR) is limited and does not give an actual assessment of whether objectives have been achieved or not”;

External assistance management reports

264.  Regrets once again that the external assistance management reports (EAMR) issued by the heads of Union delegations are not annexed to the AARs of DG DEVCO and NEAR as it 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";

265.  Takes note of the fact that in Commissioner Oettinger's response to the rapporteur's letter he indicated that the Commission is exploring a new format for reports enabling transmission to Parliament without the need for confidentiality procedures but in a way that is not detrimental to Union diplomatic policy;

266.  Welcomes the fact that DG DEVCO made public the list of the delegations involved in the EAMR and provided an analysis of DG DEVCO KPIs summary in its AAR; insists, however, that the Financial Regulation should be fully respected;

Trust funds

267.  Recalls that the possibility for the Commission to create and manage Union trust funds is meant:

   (a) to enhance the international role of the Union, as well as strengthen the visibility and efficiency of its external action and development assistance;
   (b) to provide for an accelerated decision-making process in the selection of the measures to be implemented, which is crucial in emergency and post-emergency actions;
   (c) to ensure the leverage of additional resources devoted to external action; and
   (d) via the pooling of resources, to increase coordination between different Union donors in selected areas of intervention;

268.  In the light of the recent experiences, expresses some concerns as to achievement of the main objectives pursued by the setting up of the trust funds and notes, in particular, that:

   (a) the leverage effect of this new tool is not necessarily guaranteed, the contribution of other donors being in certain cases very limited;
   (b) the visibility of the external action of the Union has not improved, despite the existence of different arrangements with the stakeholders, and that a better coordination of the action of all the stakeholders is not necessarily ensured;
   (c) the a priori preference for Member State agencies in some of the trust funds’ constitutive agreements leads to a conflict of interests rather than an incentive for Member States to provide more financial resources;

269.  Recalls in particular that the trust fund for Africa is worth over EUR 3,2 billion, with over EUR 2,9 billion coming from the European Development Fund (EDF) and EUR 228,667 million from other donors; considers unacceptable that the involvement of the EDF in trust funds further limits the possibility for the Parliament to scrutinise Union spending;

270.  Points out that pooling resources from the EDF, the Union budget and other donors should not have as consequence that money flagged for the ACP countries does not reach its normal beneficiaries;

271.  Highlights that the increasing use of other financial mechanisms such as trust funds to deliver Union policies alongside the Union budget risks undermining the level of accountability and transparency as reporting, audit and public scrutiny arrangements are not aligned (Court’s annual report 2016, paragraph 2.31); therefore stresses the importance of the Commission's commitment to keep the budgetary authority periodically informed of the funding of the trust funds and their scheduled and ongoing operations, including contributions made by Member States;

Funds to Palestinian authority

272.  Insists that teaching and training programmes that are financed from Union funds such as PEGASE should reflect common values such as peace, freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination within education, as was decided upon by Union education ministers in Paris on 17 March 2015;

Measures to be taken:

273.  Calls on DG NEAR (Court’s annual report 2016, paragraph 9.37):

   (a) to work together with the audit authorities in IPA II beneficiary countries to improve their competence;
   (b) to develop risks indices to improve the assessment based on internal control templates that the directorate general had rightly introduced so as to better measure the impact of errors;
   (c) to disclose properly the scope of the residual error rate study and the estimated lower and upper error limits in its next AAR;
   (d) to improve the calculation of the 2017 corrective capacity by addressing shortcomings identified by the Court;

274.  Calls on DG DEVCO and DG NEAR to consider defining in cooperation with DG HOME a key performance indicator related to the elimination of the underlying and root causes of irregular migration;

275.  Calls on the Commission to take the necessary measures to redress the deficiencies detected by its own IAS regarding DG DEVCO performance reporting and to transform the EAMR into a reliable and fully public document properly substantiating the declaration of assurance made by the heads of delegation and by the director general of DG DEVCO; asks DG DEVCO to define KPIs in such a way that make it possible to measure the performance of the development cooperation policy; and to do so without compromising Union diplomatic policy via its delegations;

276.  Regards it as essential that suspension of pre-accession funding should be possible not only in cases of proven misuse of funds, but also in cases where pre-accession countries violate in any way the rights laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

277.  Stresses that trust funds should be established only when their use is justified and the required action is not possible through other, existing financing channels; calls, in this regard, on the Commission, when establishing trust funds, to set up guiding principles for carrying out concise and structured assessment of the comparative advantages of trust funds relative to other aid vehicles and also to carry out analyses of what specific gaps the trust funds are supposed to fill; calls furthermore on the Commission to consider putting an end to trust funds that are unable to attract a significant contribution from other donors or that do not provide an added value as compared to “traditional” Union external instruments;

278.  Deeply regrets the acknowledged cases of violence, sexual abuse and totally improper behaviour on the part of workers providing humanitarian aid to civilians in conflict and post-conflict situations; notes that the Commission has stated its commitment to review and, where necessary, suspend funding to those partners that do not comply with the high ethical standards required; urges the Commission, in order to eradicate this scourge and avoid any repetition, to strengthen prevention mechanisms in staff selection procedures, and moreover to provide initial and continuous training in this regard; and calls for a policy to protect whistleblowers in these cases;

279.  Calls on the Commission to draft its strategy papers more carefully, so as to provide a more wide-ranging and accurate assessment of funding requirements and of the best instruments to use;

280.  Asks the Commission to ensure that Union funding is disbursed in accordance with the UNESCO standards of peace and tolerance;

281.  Considers it essential for the administrative capacity of the countries which receive funding to be actively supported by the Commission through appropriate technical assistance;

Migration and Security

282.  Notes that in Chapter 8 of its annual report regarding “security and citizenship”(87) the Court did not calculate an error rate on the basis of the 15 transactions that it examined, as this sample was not intended to be representative of spending under this MFF heading;

283.  Notes with concern the Court finding according to which “two years into the seven year programming period progress in making shared-management Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF(88)) and Internal Security Fund (ISF) payments are slow” (Court’s annual report 2016, box 8.2);

284.  Points out that the Court found several system weaknesses relating to SOLID, AMIF and the ISF at Commission and Member States level;

285.  In particular regrets that:

   (a) the Court stressed the high number of draft AMIF or ISF programmes prepared by the Member States and reviewed by the Commission prior to their approval, which may delay implementation;
   (b) according to the Court, the Commission’s assessment of Member States’ systems for AMIF and ISF was often based on insufficiently detailed information, particularly in the area of audit strategies;
   (c) that there were delays in the reporting of ex post conformity audits for SOLID programmes and insufficiently documented quality control procedures for outsourced audit work;

286.  Regrets that the Court also found the following deficiencies at the level of the Member States: insufficiently documented on-the-spot- checks, absence of a dedicated IT tool for the management and control of funds and some weaknesses in the audit performed by Member States audit authorities;

287.  Deplores the fact that the Court has noted in its annual report that "the overall amount of funds mobilised for the refugee and migration crisis was not reported by the Commission in 2016 and is difficult to estimate"(Court’s annual report 2016, paragraph.2.28);

288.  Regrets that the Court concluded as to the hotspots (Court’s Special Report No 6/2017) that:

   (a) despite considerable support from the Union, at the end of 2016, the reception facilities in Greece and Italy were still not adequate;
   (b) there was also a shortage of adequate facilities to accommodate and process unaccompanied minors in line with international standards;
   (c) the hotspot approach further requires that migrants be channelled into appropriate follow-up procedures, i.e. either a national asylum application or return to the country of origin and the implementation of these follow-up procedures is often slow and subject to various bottlenecks, which can have repercussions on the functioning of the hotspots;

289.  Deplores the fact that according to Human Rights Watch, women have reported frequent sexual harassment in hotspots in Greece;

290.  Shares the Court's assessment regarding a lack of transparency about the split of funding between public resources and migrants' resources in the issue of emergency assistance to transport non-Union migrants from Greek islands to the Greek mainland, referred to by the Court in its annual report (Court’s annual report 2016, box 8.4); recalls that Union legislation does not allow beneficiaries of Union grants to obtain profits from the implementation of a project; considers that this case raises some reputational issues for the Commission and questions its handling from an ethical point of view;

Measures to be taken

291.  Calls on:

   (a) DG HOME to consider defining, in cooperation with DG DEVCO and DG NEAR, a key performance indicator related to the elimination of the underlying and root causes of irregular migration;
   (b) the Commission to regroup the budget lines financing migration policy under a single heading with a view to enhancing transparency;
   (c) the Commission to define specific strategies with Union support teams to ensure the safety of women and accompanied minors at hotspots;
   (d) the Commission and the Member States to take the necessary measures to provide adequate reception facilities in Greece and Italy;
   (e) the Commission and the Member States to remedy the system weaknesses detected by the Court in the management of AMIF/ISF funds;
   (f) the Commission to provide an estimated cost paid per migrant or applicant for asylum country by country;
   (g) the Commission to provide for a monitoring system with a view to ensuring that the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers are respected;
   (h) the Commission to step up the checks carried out on funds for refugees, which are frequently allocated by the Member States in emergency situations without complying with the rules in force at the time;

Code of conduct of the Commissioners and procedures for the appointment of senior officials

292.  Appreciates that its calls on the Commission to review the code of conduct for Commissioners by the end of 2017, including 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 the President of the Commission, have received the required response; notes that the new code entered into force on 1 February 2018;

293.  Recalls the promise of President of the Commission Juncker to the European Ombudsman that the former President of the Commission Barroso would only be received as an interest representative; recalls the opinion of the Ad Hoc Ethical Committee on the new employment of Mr. Barroso, as an adviser to Goldman Sachs, that this would be reconcilable only with a commitment of Mr. Barroso not to lobby on behalf of Goldman Sachs;

294.  Points out the inconsistency created by multiple individual members of the Commission describing their meeting with Mr. Barroso as meetings with Goldman Sachs International, according to their meeting registry; concludes that either meetings with Mr. Barroso were not lobby meetings, in which case the promise to the European Ombudsman was not kept and the Commission meeting registry is not reflective of an actual transparency register or the meetings with Mr. Barroso were treated as meetings with an interest representative, in which case one of the conditions set by the Ad Hoc Ethical Committee was violated;

295.  Recalls that the absence of a conflict of interest must also be a prerequisite for the holding of Commissioner hearings and that therefore the declaration of financial interest forms must be completed and made available before the Commissioner is heard by the competent Parliament committee and must be updated at least once a year and each time the information changes;

296.  Is of the opinion that the Commission should make the Commissioner’s special advisers more accountable and their professional ties and background transparent and open to public scrutiny in order to prevent their potential conflicts of interest as they have unfettered access to the Commission; believes that these steps will help to limit the possibility of lobbying at the highest level through the back door;

297.  Calls, in this connection, for Commissioners to declare all their interests (as shareholders, company board members, advisers and consultants, members of associated foundations, etc.) in all the companies in which they have been involved, including close family interests, as well as the changes that took place at the time when their candidacy was made known;

298.  Points out that the extension of the cooling off period to three years should concern all members of the Commission as requested by Parliament on several occasions; insists that the opinions of the ethical committee should be made public when there are issued;

299.  Fears that the appointment processes of the independent ethical committee does not guarantee its independence and stresses that independent experts should not have themselves held the position of Commissioner, nor should they have held a position as a senior Commission official; asks the Commission to adopt new rules on the independent ethical committee in line with this remark;

300.  Requests the Commission to provide and publish an annual report by the independent ethical committee; reaffirms that the independent ethical committee can make any recommendation on the improvement of the code of conduct or of its implementation;

301.  Is deeply concerned by the lack of transparency, absence of any competition among the eligible staff and a possible misuse of the Union's Staff Regulations in the recent appointment of the Commission President's Head of Office as the new Secretary General of the Commission; notes that the Commission's answers to Parliament's Committee for Budgetary Control did not adequately explain the justification for the appointment of the Secretary General using Article 7 of the Staff Regulations to make the transfer without opening the post as vacant and inviting eligible staff to apply; expects the President of the Commission to present his plan to improve the damage done to Commission's public image due to the recent appointment of Secretary General to the Parliament;

302.  With a view to the recent appointment of the Commission's Secretary General and in the interests of ensuring an independent European public administration, calls on the Commission to present before the end of 2018 a proposal for a procedure for the appointment of senior officials, which ensures that the best candidates are selected in a framework of maximum transparency and equal opportunity, and is sufficiently broad for it to be applicable to all the other Union institutions including the Parliament and the Council;

303.  With a view to the future, asks the Commission to envisage introducing the following improvements:

   (a) acceptance of gifts from donors from Member States should be prohibited (Article 6(4) of the Code of Conduct for Members of the Commission;
   (b) the participation of Commissioners in national politics during their term of office should be suspended or limited to passive party membership;
   (c) clarification of the reference to “diplomatic or courtesy usage” (Article 6 (2) and (5) of the Code of Conduct for Members of the Commission), which suffers from a lack of precision and clarity and might be prone to abuse;
   (d) participation of Commissioners in national election campaigns should be aligned to participation in European election campaigning (Articles 9 and 10 of the Code of Conduct for Members of the Commission); in both cases, Commissioners should be obliged to take unpaid electoral leave;
   (e) more clarity should be provided on the criteria for such possible referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union under Article 245 or 247 TFEU;
   (f) Commissioners should declare all their relevant interests (as shareholders, company board members, advisors and consultants, members of associated foundations, etc.) rather than selecting only those they believe might be considered to be capable of giving rise to a conflict of interest;
   (g) declarations of interests should be improved in line with Parliament’s resolution of 1 December 2016 on Commissioners’ declarations of interests – guidelines(89) ;

Administration

The findings of the Court

304.  Notes that the institutions collectively cut the number of posts in the establishment plan by 4,0 % over the period from 2013 to 2017 (from 39 649 to 38 072 posts), and that the institutions reduced the number of staff (posts actually occupied by a staff member) by 1,4 % between 2013 and 2017 (from 37 153 to 36 657 posts);

305.  Also notes the Court’s additional conclusions:"

“30. However, during the same period, the budgetary authority granted new posts to the institutions, bodies and agencies in the framework of the annual budgetary procedure. These posts were made available mostly for the development of their activities (this explains the significant increase in the number of posts granted to agencies), the accession of Croatia and to the political groups in the European Parliament.

   31. As a consequence, the number of posts in the establishment plans decreased by 1,1 % between 2012 and 2017 with significant variations between the institutions (- 3,5 %), decentralised agencies (+ 13,7 %) and executive agencies (+ 42,9 %). The number of posts actually occupied from 1 January 2013 to 1 January 2017 increased by 0,4 % over the period (- 1,3 % for institutions and bodies and + 11,3 % for agencies, with 9,6 % in decentralised agencies and 33,7 % in executive agencies). The average vacancy rate decreased from 6,9 % on 1 January 2013 to 4,5 % on 1 January 2017 and reached a level below 2 % in some institutions and bodies.”(90);
"

306.  Notes with concern the continuing discrimination against Union staff based in Luxembourg, in spite of the judgment of the Court of Justice of October 2000 in the Ferlini case (C-411/98) and Directive 2011/24/EU which both condemn the practice; stresses that over-charging continues, use being made of two agreements with Luxembourg's Hospitals Federation (FH) and the Doctors' and Dentists' Association (AMD), which set a limit of 15 % for overcharging but allow for 500 % for treatment carried out in hospitals; deplores the fact that the 2000 Court of Justice ruling and Directive 2011/24/EU are violated not only by the agreements but also by a number of national healthcare operators; calls on the Commission to firstly, calculate the annual additional cost of the overcharging to the Union budget (JSIS) and justify it, secondly, determine an infringement procedure or similar legal action against the Grand Duchy;, thirdly, inform the Parliament of the outcome of Public petition No 765 submitted to the Chamber of Deputies of Luxembourg and of the public debate held there on 19 October 2017, fourthly, protest against the two agreements with the FH and the AMD.

307.  Welcomes the statements made by Commissioner Oettinger on the end of staffing policy restrictions with the aim of avoiding serious prejudice to the proper functioning of the European institutions and the quality of the public service the Union provides to European citizens; stresses the importance of having a strong European civil service, at the service of the citizen and able to respond to the challenges faced by the Union and to implement its policies with the highest possible standards of excellence and professionalism, and of providing this service with all the necessary legal and budgetary resources; stresses the importance of once more making the European civil service an attractive proposition for young Union professionals; calls on the Commission to draft a report on the consequences of the restrictions for the attractiveness of the Union civil service and on its current under-resourced state that proposes solutions to help bring the service closer to European citizens and increase their interest in joining it;

308.  Stresses the importance of finding a solution to the problem of the excessive, and in many cases abusive, billing of the medical expenses of the staff and members of the Parliament in some Member States; calls on the Commission to seek solutions to this problem which, in countries such as Luxembourg, costs some EUR 2 million a year (e.g. negotiations with Member State social security systems, public or private, the creation of a card similar to the European Health Insurance Card for foreign travel, etc.);

The Jean Monnet buildings (JMO I, JMO II) in Luxembourg

309.  Recognises that the construction of the new Jean Monnet building (JMOII) has encountered a considerable delay, linked to additional costs;

310.  Regrets the fact that it took the Commission and the Luxembourg authorities 15 years (1994 - 2009) to agree on the future arrangements for housing Commission departments in Luxembourg;

311.  Looks forward to receiving the full history of JMO I/JMO II between 1975 and 2011 as promised by the Commission in their written answers in preparation for the hearing with Commissioner Oettinger on 23 January 2018;

312.  Regrets the fact that even though a complete inventory of materials containing asbestos in JMO I was drawn up in 1997, the Commission did not leave the building until January 2014 and that it took AIB-Vinçotte Luxembourg until 2013 to revise its findings; notes that the sheets of asbestos in JMO I were of a lower density than had been previously thought and that they were therefore more sensitive to mechanical impact (basic friction being sufficient to release fibres into the air from where they could be inhaled); considers that the Commission, in view of the severe health risks resulting from the inhalation of asbestos, should have considered the expert's report and the qualified opinions of other experts in the field, especially after what happened in the Berlaymont building in Brussels; calls on the Commission to inform Parliament whether all workers were duly informed of the situation and of the serious health risks incurred, whether any illness was detected that might have resulted from the inhalation of asbestos particles and what measures were taken in such cases, and whether preventive measures were taken (screening and early detection tests, etc.); also calls on the Commission to report on whether it has initiated any proceedings against AIB-Vinçotte Luxembourg in this regard;

313.  Notes that in December 2015 the Commission and the Luxembourg authorities agreed on sharing the costs associated with the early move out of JMO I; notes that JMO II was originally supposed to have become available on 31 December 2014;

314.  Calls on the Commission to report in detail on the cost of renting the six buildings occupied by the Commission in the meantime (ARIA, LACC, HITEC, DRB, BECH and T2), arising from the delay in delivering JMO II, and the consequences of extending the lease agreements; calls on the Commission to ensure that working conditions are improved in these six buildings, in close cooperation with the Committee on Health and Safety at Work, and to conclude speedy negotiations with the Luxembourg authorities on improving the conditions for mobility and access to them; reminds it that medical offices should be established in each building in accordance with Luxembourg legislation;

315.  Has recently learnt that the first construction phase of JMO II will probably be handed over in early 2020 and the second phase in early 2024; notes the explanations given by the Commission on the causes of the delays:

   (a) the consortium of architects KSP requested to review certain clauses of the management contract;
   (b) a tender procedure for the earthmoving works faced administrative problems;
   (c) significant changes regarding the security measures;

and asks it to provide documents in support of those explanations and a detailed breakdown of the costs arising from the delay in the handover of the building;

316.  Wishes to receive the supporting documents for these explanations by 30 June 2018;

European Schools

317.  Recalls that the Commission paid 61 % (EUR 177,8 million) of the schools budget in 2016;

318.  Regrets that after more than 15 years(91) there is still not sound financial management system in place for European schools;

319.  Points in this context to the Court’s annual report on the annual accounts for the European Schools for the financial year 2016, which revealed the following weaknesses(92):"“27. The Court found significant weaknesses in the application of accruals accounting in the accounts of the Central Office and the Alicante and Karlsruhe Schools, in particular in the calculation and booking of provisions for employee benefits and the recording of payables and receivables. Material errors were corrected during the consolidation procedure. [...] 30. While the internal control systems of the Alicante and Karlsruhe Schools showed limited weaknesses, there are still significant weaknesses in the internal control system of the Central Office. The audit reports of the independent external auditor also revealed significant weaknesses in the recruitment, procurement and payment procedures. The Court is thus unable to confirm that financial management was performed in accordance with the General Framework.”"

320.  Acknowledges that the director general acted therefore only congruously when limiting her assurance declaration: “The Director-General, in her capacity as Authorising Officer by Delegation has signed the Declaration of Assurance albeit qualified by a reputational reservation concerning the effective management of some of the Commission funds assigned to the European Schools.”(93);

321.  Deplores the fact that the Court’s annual report on the annual accounts for the European Schools for the financial year 2016, revealed numerous weaknesses; believes that the financial accountability of the European Schools system should be raised to a proper level by means of a dedicated discharge process for the EUR 177,8 million put at its disposal;

322.  Reiterates Parliament's view that a 'comprehensive review' of the European Schools system is urgently required to consider "reform covering managerial, financial, organisational and pedagogical issues" and recalls its request that "the Commission submit annually a report giving its assessment of the state of progress" to Parliament;

323.  Asks the Commission when it expects a sound financial management system for European Schools to be in place; calls on the Commission to take all necessary measures to ensure that a good financial management system for European Schools can be introduced as quickly as possible;

European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)

324.  Is astounded that the development of a new case management system, devised in-house, will cost EUR 12,2 million; asks whether OLAF undertook any market research for cheaper solutions before engaging in this expense; expects that the Commission and OLAF present a thorough explanation of estimated costs and steps taken to find a more economic solution to the discharge authority;

325.  Has great misgivings about

   (a) creating posts for the sole purpose of serving as a spring-board for a secondment,
   (b) the high official not respecting a “cooling-off” period before accepting a position with close links to his prior employment,
   (c) the high official running the risk of being entangled in a conflict of interest between loyalty to his former and current employer;

Expert Groups

326.  Calls on the Commission to ensure a balanced composition of expert groups; takes note of the Corporate Europe Observatory report of 14 February 2017 “Corporate interests continue to dominate key expert groups” (94) ; is concerned with its conclusion, specifically as to the imbalance in the expert groups GEAR2030, Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information, Joint Transfer Pricing Forum, Platform for Good Tax Governance and the Working Group on Motor Vehicles subgroup Real Driving Emissions - Light Duty Vehicles; considers that the Parliament has still not received a formal answer to its resolution of 14 February 2017on “Control of the Register and composition of the Commission’s expert groups”(95); calls upon the Commission to provide a thorough response without delay;

Investigative journalism and fight against corruption

327.  Condemns the murder of Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová on 22 February 2018, is very much concerned by information according to which this assassination could be linked to the fraudulent payment of Union transfer funds to a resident in Slovakia and with alleged ties to the organised crime group 'Ndràngheta; asks the Commission and OLAF to closely examine this file and to report on it in the framework of the follow-up to the Commission discharge;

328.  Regrets the discontinuing of the country-by-country report in a second EU Anti-Corruption report by the Commission (ARES (2017)455202); calls on the Commission to start reporting again separately from the Economic Semester on the status of corruption in Member States, including evaluating the effectiveness of EU-supported anti-corruption efforts; strongly urges the Commission not to evaluate anti-corruption efforts only in terms of economic loss;

329.  Calls on the Commission to make a renewed effort to allow the EU to become a signatory to GRECO (group of states against corruption);

Transitional allowances

330.  Takes note of the findings and recommendations of Parliament’s Policy Department D’s study "Transitional allowances for former Union office holders - too few conditions?"; calls on the Commission to take these recommendations into account, and initiate a revision of transitional allowances for former EU office holders in order to enhance the transparency of the allowances, and the accountability of the EU budget towards the citizens; calls in particular on former EU office holders to refrain from lobbying activities at EU institutions as long as they receive a transitional allowance;

Executive Agencies

331.  Calls on the executive agencies concerned:

   (a) to follow up and implement the recommendations of the Internal Audit Service;
   (b) to avoid carry-overs as far as possible by introducing differentiated budget appropriations to better reflect the multiannual nature of operations;
   (c) to keep detailed and comprehensive records on public procurement and recruitment procedure.

Committee opinions

Foreign Affairs

332.  Takes note of the Final Report on the External Evaluation of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) issued in June 2017;welcomes indications that election observation is contributing to the overall and specific objectives of the EIDHR; underscores the importance of ensuring continued support among local populations for election observation missions; to this effect draws attention to the need to ensure cost effectiveness and introduce proportionality between the resources spent on EOMs and the follow up of its recommendations; calls on the Commission to consider proposals made in the Final Report on the External Evaluation of the EIDHR to further strengthen the follow up of recommendations that result from election monitoring;

333.  While welcoming the progress achieved, notes that 4 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 ECA's recommendation, allowing them to be entrusted with budget implementation tasks under indirect management;

Development and Cooperation

334.  Is very worried by a noticeable trend in recent Commission proposals to ignore legally binding provisions of Regulation (EU) No 233/2014(96) when it comes to Official Development Assistance eligible expenditure and eligible countries for Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) spending; recalls that the legality of Union spending is a key principle of sound financial management and that political considerations should not take precedence over clear legal provisions; recalls that DCI is first and foremost an instrument designed to fight poverty;

335.  Supports the use of budget support but urges the Commission to better define and clearly assess the development outcomes to be achieved 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;

336.  Is worried by the Court’s statement that there is a serious risk for the Union not to meet its aim of mainstreaming climate change throughout the Union budget and that the goal of spending 20 % of its expenditure for climate-related action will not be met;

337.  Is worried by the Court’s finding that the Union certification system for the sustainability of biofuels is not fully reliable(97); underlines the potential negative consequences for developing countries as stated by the Court: "the Commission did not require voluntary schemes to verify that the biofuel production they certify does not cause significant risks of negative socioeconomic effects, such as land tenure conflicts, forced or child labour, poor working conditions for farmers and dangers to health and safety"; requests the Commission to address this issue;

338.  Looks forward to being fully informed and consulted on the mid-term review of the DCI which is supposed to take into account Agenda 2030 and a new European Consensus on Development;

339.  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; on the other hand, strongly condemns any attempt to make aid conditional on border control;

Employment and Social Affairs

340.  Is concerned that in the course of the Court’s review of 168 completed projects under the ‘Economic, social and territorial cohesion’ spending area, only one-third had a performance measurement system with output and result indicators linked to the objectives of the operational programme and that 42 % had no result indicators or targets, making it impossible to assess the specific contribution of those projects to the overall objectives of the programme;

341.  Notes the Court’s recommendation that when reconsidering the design and delivery mechanism for the ESI funds post-2020, the Commission should strengthen the programme focus on performance and simplify the mechanism for payments by encouraging, as appropriate, the introduction of further measures linking the level of payments to performance instead of simply reimbursing costs;

342.  Welcomes the results achieved under the three axes of the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) in 2016; draws attention to the importance of EaSI support, and, in particular, of its Progress and European Employment Services network (EURES) axes, for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights; notes with concern that the thematic section Social Entrepreneurship within the EaSI Microfinance and Social Entrepreneurship axis continues to underperform; calls on the Commission to insist that the European Investment Fund commits to full utilisation of the resources under the Social Entrepreneurship thematic section;

Environment, Public Health and Food Safety

343.  Stresses that an action plan was set up in 2016, following comments from the Court, in order to ensure improvements on payments delays under the LIFE programme; notes that the rate of delayed payments for 2016 reached 3,9 %;

344.  Regrets that there is no specific reporting framework managed by the Commission in relation to the identification and the measurement of the undesired implications of Union policies that make a negative contribution to climate change, and in relation to the quantification of the share of this expenditure in the total Union budget;

345.  Stresses that internal audits also showed that there were delays in the implementation of one very important IT security-related recommendation (on the management of the security of the EU ETS IT system), which exposes the Commission services to the risk of security breaches;

346.  Notes that the ex post evaluation of the second Health Programme initialised in July 2016 found that while the programme delivered valuable outputs with a clear link to Union and national health policy priorities, there was still room for improvement concerning the dissemination of action outputs and synergies with other Union funding instruments such as the structural funds;

Transport and Tourism

347.  Regrets that, at a time when the next MFF is under preparation, the Court did not provide any comprehensive information regarding the audits performed for the transport sector under the area of “Competitiveness for growth and employment”, in particular regarding the CEF;

348.  Notes that by the end of 2016, CEF had provided support to 452 transport projects for a total of EUR 19,4 billion in investments across Europe; reiterates the importance of the CEF funding instrument for the completion of the TEN-T network and for achieving a Single European Transport Area; stresses that the budgetary cuts to the CEF made in the past, due to the funding of the EFSI initiative, should be avoided in the future;

349.  Notes that in 2016 EFSI provided EUR 3,64 billion financing 29 operations: 25 transport projects and 4 multi-sectors funds with an expected 12,65 billion of total investments; regrets that the Commission and the EIB did not provide comprehensive information sector by sector on an annual basis of the projects supported by EFSI;

350.  Takes note of the launch in 2016 of the Green Shipping Guarantee Programme through the new CEF debt instrument and EFSI, which will potentially mobilise EUR 3 billion of investment in equipping vessels with clean technology; asks the Commission to provide detailed information on the implementation of this programme, including on the financial, technological aspects as well as on the environmental and economic impacts;

351.  Notes that the number of financial instruments has increased considerably which allows for new blending opportunities in the transport sector, while at the same time creating a complex web of arrangements around the Union budget; is concerned that these instruments alongside the Union budget could risk undermining the level of accountability and transparency, as reporting, audit and public scrutiny are not aligned; regrets furthermore that with the use of the EFSI funds, implementation powers are delegated to the EIB with more limited public scrutiny than for other instruments supported by the Union budget;

352.  Calls upon the Commission to clearly present for the sector of transport an assessment of the impact of EFSI on other financial instruments, in particular with regard to the CEF as well as on the coherence of the CEF Debt Instrument with other Union initiatives in good time before the proposal for the next MFF and for the next CEF; requests that this assessment presents a clear analysis of the geographical balance of investments in the transport sector; recalls, however, that the amount of money spent under a financial instrument should not be considered to be the only pertinent criteria to be used when assessing its performance; invites, therefore, the Commission to deepen its assessment of the achievements completed under Union funded transport projects and measure their added-value;

353.  Reiterates its request that the Commission, in view of the multiple sources of funding, provide an easy access to projects -in form of a one-stop-shop- in order to allow citizens to clearly follow the developments and funding of infrastructures co-financed by Union funds and by the EFSI;

354.  Calls on the Commission to evaluate the financial effectiveness of the agreement with Eurocontrol regarding the Performance Review Body ( PRB ) and to advance the proposal to establish PRB as a European economic regulator under the supervision of the Commission; moreover, taking in account the necessity to implement as soon as possible the Single European Sky and in order to increase the competitiveness of aviation industry, calls on the Commission to advance the proposal to designate the Network Managers as a self-standing service provider set up as an industrial partnership;

355.  Calls on the Commission to present an assessment of the impact of the projects financed by the Member States, in the area of transport under the Danube Strategy and to make a proposal to increase the added value of the future projects in order to contribute to the completion of this important transport corridor;

356.  Deeply regrets that, due to the lack of a specific budget line for tourism, there is a lack of transparency regarding the Union funds used to support actions for tourism; reiterates its request to add a budget line in future budgets of the Union dedicated to tourism;

Regional Development

357.  Draws attention to the role administrative capacities play in the regular use of the ESI funds; considers that an exchange of good practices could effectively contribute to enhancing Member States' capacities in this field;

358.  Is deeply concerned that the major delay in implementing the policies of economic, social and territorial cohesion has exacerbated the multiple inequalities both throughout the Union and within Member States and regions, thus jeopardising the integrity of the Union;

359.  Takes note of the strategic report 2017 on the implementation of the ESI funds(98), stressing that the ESI funds’ project selection has reached an overall EUR 278 billion, or 44% of the total investment planned for 2014-2020, which have been delivered to Europe's real economy since the beginning of the funding period; considers that the implementation of the 2014-2020 programmes has now reached full speed, proving the added value of cohesion policy investment for all regions in the Union but also the need for further efforts to strengthen the administrative capacity of national, regional and local authorities;

Agriculture and Rural Development

360.  Welcomes the fact that the LPIS saw further improvement and enhanced precision, which makes it a great tool for reducing the error rate as well as the administrative burden for farmers and paying agencies;

361.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to monitor the significant price volatility of agricultural products, which has adverse effects on farmers’ incomes, and to react promptly and effectively when needed;

362.  Notes that the first full year of ´greening´ implementation has not apparently had an impact on the error rate, which can be considered a major achievement on the part of farmers and paying agencies given the complex nature of the greening rules; shares the Commission´s view that it is still too early to draw conclusions on the precise environmental outcomes; notes that, notably, other factors, apart from greening, also influence the environmental performance of the agriculture sector; underlines that 'greening' serves as an example of the increased need for performance auditing also in the field of agriculture;

363.  Welcomes the greening scheme and its aim to make Union farms more environmentally friendly through the practices of crop diversification, the maintenance of existing permanent grassland and the establishment of ecological focus areas on arable land, as outlined by the Court’s annual report;

364.  Recalls that there is a significant difference in types and scale of error, i.e. between unintentional omissions, administrative in nature and cases of fraud, and that omissions do not as a rule cause any financial damage to the taxpayer, which should also be taken into account when estimating the actual error rate; reminds the Commission that the risk of unintentional errors owing to complex regulation is in the end borne by the beneficiary; regrets that, even if the investment was effective, expenditure is still judged 100 % ineligible by the Court in the event of public procurement errors; stresses therefore that further rationalisation in the error calculation method is desirable;

365.  Notes that access to data and good monitoring especially of environmental aspects is essential, considering that certain natural resources underpin long term agricultural productivity, such as soil and biodiversity;

366.  Hopes that the Court is adjusting its supervisory approach so as to give the same importance to the use of funds as to their allocation;

Fisheries

367.  Urges the Court, in its future reports, to present a separate error rate for fisheries and maritime affairs to eliminate the distortions that result from including other areas under the same chapter; notes that maritime affairs and fisheries are not covered in sufficient detail in the Court’s annual report and that a proper evaluation of financial management in those areas is therefore difficult;

368.  Congratulates the Commission on the particularly high rate of implementation of Section III, Title 11 of the 2016 budget (Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) in respect of both commitment appropriations (99,2 %) and payment appropriations (94,7 %); points out that under Article 13 of Regulation (EU) No 508/2014(99), budgetary resources are broken down in accordance with their area of allocation, and that it would therefore be appropriate for the Commission, in its report, to detail the rate of implementation according to budgetary lines;

369.  Takes note of the reservation expressed in DG MARE’s activity report, affecting eight Member States, with regard to the detection of ineligible expenditure under the European Fisheries Fund (EFF);

370.  Encourages DG MARE’s efforts in controlling jointly managed appropriations, and particularly its measures with regard to the EFF and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF);

371.  Notes that the figure for risk of loss of funds is EUR 5,9 million and that the Commission has taken the requisite measures to evaluate the 2017 expenditure and, if necessary, to recover monies allocated;

372.  Notes that the level of implementation of the 2014-2020 EMFF, three years after its adoption on 15 May 2014, remains unsatisfactory, as by September 2017 only 1,7 % of the EUR 5,7 billion available as jointly managed funding had been used; notes that the rate of take-up of the EMFF is a matter for the Member States; points out that under Article 13 of Regulation (EU) No 508/2014, budgetary resources are broken down in accordance with their area of allocation, and that it would therefore be appropriate for the Commission, in its report, to detail the rate of implementation according to budgetary lines;

373.  Considers it necessary to provide all possible support for the Member States with a view to ensuring proper and full use of EMFF resources, with high implementation rates, in line with their respective priorities and needs, in particular as regards the sustainable development of the fisheries sector;

Culture and Education

374.  Welcomes the fact that Erasmus+ enabled 500 000 people to study, train or volunteer abroad in 2016 and is on track to achieve its target of 4 million participants by 2020; stresses that Erasmus+ students tend to develop a large set of transferable skills, competences and knowledge and enjoy better career prospects than non-mobile students and that the programme delivers as a strategic investment in Europe’s young people; points out, however, the need to ensure wider accessibility of the programme in particular for young people with fewer opportunities;

375.  Welcomes the fact that the Erasmus+ funding application procedure has largely been transferred online; believes, however, that the procedure could be simplified further by abolishing the requirement for project partners' letters of accreditation to be signed by hand;

376.  Points out that there are still problems as regards access to Erasmus+ funding in the 'youth' sector because the programme is managed on a decentralised basis by national agencies; calls on the Commission to take the necessary steps, for instance by centralising part of the funding within the executive agency; calls on the Commission, in addition, to provide the means necessary for all programme beneficiaries to become more involved, one example being to set up permanent sector-specific subcommittees, as provided for under Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013(100);

377.  Maintains that, to date, the key to the success of Erasmus+ has been university exchanges and that, in order to prevent this from being eroded, none of the funding should be used for another programme, nor should the scope of Erasmus+ be widened to encompass other recipients, for example migrants;

378.  Is alarmed by the chronically low project success rates under the Europe for Citizens programme and the Creative Europe Culture sub-programme (16 % and 11 % respectively in 2016); stresses that low success rates cause frustration among applicants and are symptomatic of inadequate levels of financing, which does not correspond to the ambitious goals of the programmes;

379.  Points out that the Commission's own Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) says that the Europe for Citizens programme reached full maturity in 2016, in its third year of implementation; calls, therefore, on the Commission and Council to allow properly for the long time-frames that have proved necessary for full implementation of new programmes within the 2014-2020 MFF in order to prevent similar delays from occurring within the financial framework to be established after 2020;

380.  Commends EACEA’s role in implementing the three culture and education programmes, as evidenced by the positive evaluation of the Agency’s work completed in 2016; welcomes EACEA’s greater use of e-reporting for funded projects, which should improve data collection and project monitoring, help feed into the Commission’s policy work and assist beneficiaries; is pleased to note that EACEA makes 92 % of its payments within the Financial Regulation deadlines; given that education and culture programme beneficiaries are often very small organisations, calls on EACEA to strive for better results, potentially through an average time-to-pay indicator;

381.  Notes the 2016 launch of the Cultural and Creative Sectors Guarantee Facility, with a budget of EUR 121 million up to 2022, and the initial interest shown by the sector and financial intermediaries; calls for quick implementation of the planned EUR 60 million frontloading of the Facility from the EFSI; recalls that loans complement other essential sources of funding to the sector, such as grants;

382.  Is concerned by the very low level of EFSI funding that reached the education and cultural and creative sectors in 2016;considers that tailored, sector-specific support is essential to ensure that the cultural and creative sector benefits from EFSI loans;

383.  Reiterates its support for independent media coverage of European affairs, notably through budgetary assistance for television, radio and online networks; welcomes the continuation of the grant for Euranet+ until 2018 and urges the Commission to find a more sustainable funding model for the network;

Civil liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

384.  Recalls that special instruments were used extensively in 2016 to respond to the humanitarian situation faced by asylum-seekers in the Union and that there is therefore a risk that the amounts left until the end of the current MFF may not be sufficient to respond to unexpected events that may occur before 2020; requests the Commission to solve this structural issue in the next MFF and to properly inform the Parliament;

385.  Urges the development of a coherent and systematic strategy with clearer, stronger and long-term political and operational priorities for protecting fundamental rights and freedoms, while ensuring its effective implementation also by granting sufficient funds for this purpose;

Women's Rights and Gender Equality

386.  Stresses that equality between women and men should be ensured in all policy areas; reiterates therefore its call for the implementation of gender budgeting at all the stages of the budgetary process, including the implementation of the budget and assessment of its implementation;

387.  Regrets that the budget lines under the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (REC) 2014 – 2020 do not specify the resources allocated to each of the objectives of the programme linked to gender equality; welcomes the fact that, in 2016, the Women Against Violence Network and the European Women’s Lobby received grants in the field of combating violence against women and gender equality;

388.  Reiterates its call to keep a separate budget line for the Daphne specific objective, with increased resources to reverse the decrease of funds dedicated to Daphne during the 2014-2020 period;

389.  Deplores the fact that the European Fund for Strategic Investments does not include a gender perspective and stresses that a successful process of recovery is not possible without addressing the impact of the crises on women;

390.  Highlights that gender mainstreaming is also among the founding principles of the AMIF; deplores, however, the lack of targeted actions on gender equality with specific budget lines despite Parliament’s reiterated calls to take into account the gender dimension also within migration and asylum policies;

391.  Reiterates its demand to include in the common set of result indicators for the implementation of the Union budget gender-specific indicators, with due regard to the principle of sound financial management, namely in accordance with the principles of economy, efficiency and effectiveness;

392.  Calls for gender impact assessment as part of general ex ante conditionality for Union funds, and for the collection of data disaggregated when possible by sex on beneficiaries and participants;

393.  Welcomes the relatively balanced participation by gender (52 % women versus 48 % men) in ESF interventions in 2016;

394.  Calls for a renewed commitment by Parliament, the Council and the Commission to gender equality in the next MFF, by means of a joint declaration attached to the MFF, including a commitment to implement gender budgeting and an effective monitoring of the implementation of this declaration in the annual budgetary procedures by including a provision in a review clause of the new MFF Regulation.

(1) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(2) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0122.
(7) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(8) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(9) OJ C 384, 14.11.2017, p. 2.
(10) OJ C 417, 6.12.2017, p. 63.
(11) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(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, P8_TA(2018)0122.
(17) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(18) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(19) OJ C 384, 14.11.2017, p. 11.
(20) OJ C 417, 6.12.2017, p. 74.
(21) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(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, P8_TA(2018)0122.
(27) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(28) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(29) OJ C 384, 14.11.2017, p. 2.
(30) OJ C 417, 6.12.2017, p. 52.
(31) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(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, P8_TA(2018)0122.
(38) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(39) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(40) OJ C 384, 14.11.2017, p. 9.
(41) OJ C 417, 6.12.2017, p. 171.
(42) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(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, P8_TA(2018)0122.
(48) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(49) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(50) OJ C 384, 14.11.2017, p. 12.
(51) OJ C 417, 6.12.2017, p. 252.
(52) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(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, P8_TA(2018)0122.
(58) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(59) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(60) OJ C 384, 14.11.2017, p. 11.
(61) OJ C 417, 6.12.2017, p. 247.
(62) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(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, P8_TA(2018)0122.
(68) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(69) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(70) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(71) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(72) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(73) OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.
(74) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0122.
(75)Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006 laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999 (OJ L 210, 31.7.2006, p. 25).
(76) COM(2017)0351, Section 2.2.
(77) 2016 AMPR, Section 2.2, DG AGRI, AAR annex 10, p.140.
(78) 2016 AMPR, annex 4, p. 20.
(79) See 2016 AMPR, Section 2.2.
(80)Council Decision 2014/335/EU, Euratom of 26 May 2014 on the system of own resources of the European Union (OJ L 168, 7.6.2014, p. 105).
(81) Paragraphs 120 and 121 of its 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 (OJ L 252, 29.9.2017, p. 28).
(82) 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, p. 11.
(83) Study "Assessment of the 10 years’ Cooperation and Verification Mechanism for Bulgaria and Romania; commissioned by DG IPOL, Policy department D: Budgetary Affairs.
(84) See DG AGRI AAR 2016, p. 17.
(85) See paragraph 207 of Parliament’s resolution of 27 April 2017.
(86) See the Indicative figures on the distribution of aid, by size-class of aid, received in the context of direct aid paid to the producers according to Council Regulation (EU) No 1307/2013 (financial year 2016).
(87) MFF heading 3 covers a range of policies; the most significant area of expenditure is migration and security; but funding is also provided for Food and feed, and cultural and creative activities and as well as programmes covering justice, rights, equality and citizenship, and consumers and health.
(88) AMIF replaces the Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows programme (SOLID).
(89) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0477.
(90) European Court of Auditors, Rapid case Review on the implementation of the 5 % reduction of staff posts, p 27.
(91) Paragraphs 276, 281, 282 of Parliament’s resolution of 27 April 2017.
(92) Report on the annual accounts of the European Schools for the financial year 2016 together with the Schools’ replies, 29 November 2017.
(93) DG HR, AAR, p. 6.
(94) https://corporateeurope.org/expert-groups/2017/02/corporate-interests-continue-dominate-key-expert-groups.
(95) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0021.
(96) 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).
(97) Special Report No 18/2016: The EU system for the certification of sustainable biofuels.
(98) http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/policy/how/stages-step-by-step/strategic-report/.
(99) Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2328/2003, (EC) No 861/2006, (EC) No 1198/2006 and (EC) No 791/2007 and Regulation (EU) No 1255/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 149, 20.5.2014, p. 1).
(100) Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing ‘Erasmus+’: the Union programme for education, training, youth and sport and repealing Decisions No 1719/2006/EC, No 1720/2006/EC and No 1298/2008/EC (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 50).


Discharge 2016: Court of Auditors' special reports in the context of the 2016 Commission discharge
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European Parliament resolution of 18 April 2018 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the 2016 Commission discharge (2017/2188(DEC))
P8_TA(2018)0122A8-0130/2018

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 2016(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0299/2017)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016, 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 2016, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to its decision of 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016, 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 20 February 2018 on discharge to be given to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016 (05940/2018 – C8‑0042/2018),

–  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 (A8-0130/2018),

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 (the ‘Court’) 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 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016, Section III – Commission;

Part I – Special Report No 21/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled "EU pre-accession assistance for strengthening administrative capacity in the Western Balkans: A meta- audit"

1.  Welcomes the Court’s special report, which is in the form of a meta-audit presenting an overview of the Commission’s management of pre-accession assistance in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, and sets out its observations and recommendations below;

2.  Acknowledges that the Commission has to operate in a difficult political context and encounters many weaknesses within beneficiaries’ public institutions such as excessive bureaucracy, a high staff turnover, low efficiency, lack of accountability and corruption;

3.  Calls on all stakeholders both to pay particular attention to the definition of qualitative national strategies and national and regional programmes that would include clear, realistic and measurable objectives and to better link the design of programmes in the beneficiary country to these strategies and respective needs assessments;

4.  Supports the efforts of the Western Balkans countries’ authorities to pursue efforts in key areas of good governance and towards reform of their public administration, including in the area of financial control in the context of public finance management; invites all actors to intensify efforts for developing or consolidating strategies to coordinate the implementation of public finance management reform;

5.  Considers it crucial to reinforce the application of the principle of conditionality, particularly by verifying in advance the beneficiary’s capacity to do what is required for a high-quality project and in specific measurable terms;

6.  Regrets that about half of the Union funded projects for strengthening public administration reform and the rule of law were not sustainable; stresses the importance of developing sustainability, especially for projects dedicated to the reinforcement of administrative capacity; regrets that sustainability was not ensured in many cases due to inherent factors such as a lack of budgetary means, staffing and above all the beneficiary’s lack of political will to reform institutions; calls on the Commission to build on the achievements of successful projects with quantifiable added value and to secure the sustainability and viability of the projects by setting it as a pre-condition of the projects when implementing IPA II;

7.  Believes that there is still room for improvement to bring certain key sectors up to Union standards such as adherence to the rule of law, public administration reform and good governance; is of the opinion that the assistance provided in these areas should be increased, more effective and sustainable due to the close link with the enlargement strategy and political criteria;

8.  Calls on the Commission to focus on the fight against corruption and organised crime and to encourage public prosecution and the development of transparency and integrity requirements within public administration as a matter of priority; reiterates the need for a more continuous and stringent strategy and greater political commitment by national authorities in order to ensure sustainable results in this respect;

Part II – Special Report No 24/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled "More efforts needed to raise awareness of and enforce compliance with State aid rules in cohesion policy"

9.  Welcomes the Court’s special report and endorses its recommendations;

10.  Notes with satisfaction that the Commission will implement the vast majority of the recommendations;

11.  Underlines that all directorates-general concerned, and in particular DG COMP and DG REGIO, must have access to all databases held by Commission services to enable them to effectively assume their responsibilities;

12.  Calls on the Commission to review its refusal to implement recommendation 4(b), as this may endanger the protection of the Union’s financial interests;

13.  Can accept the Commission’s reticence to put in practice recommendation 4(d), for as long as alternative methods chosen by Member States are as effective as a central register for monitoring “de minimis” aid; calls on the Commission to ensure that this is the case;

14.  Is convinced that it is of prime importance for Member States to have legal certainty of applicable State aid rules before undertaking major projects as clear and coherent rules can contribute to bring down the error rate in this area;

15.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that national audit authorities are familiar with and verify applicable state-aid rules before filing their annual control report;

16.  In that context welcomes DG COMP’s and DG REGIO’s agreement on a common state aid action plan in March 2015; notes that the action plan originally comprised six actions intended to raise awareness and improve knowhow in the field of state aid in all Member States: identification and dissemination of good practice, training courses for state aid specialists, country-specific workshops, seminars for specialists, the further development of a question-and-answer database (the ECN-ET network86) and the development of a state aid information database; as of 2016 the Commission also offered a dedicated training module;

17.  Welcomes also that, by January 2016, DG COMP had organised training courses on state aid and infrastructure in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia;

18.  Supports the Court in its call for a central Union-wide database in which relevant Member State authorities can consult the identity of undertakings subject to state aid recovery orders as well as the status of recovery proceedings; considers that such a data base could be important for future risk analyses;

Part III – Special Report No 29/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Single Supervisory Mechanism - Good start but further improvements needed"

19.  Recalls the following legal bases:

   (a) Article 287 (1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU): “1. The Court of Auditors (the “Court”) shall examine the accounts of all revenue and expenditure of the Union. It shall also examine the accounts of all revenue and expenditure of all bodies, offices or agencies set up by the Union in so far as the relevant constituent instrument does not preclude such examination.

The Court shall provide Parliament and the Council with a statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions which shall be published in the Official Journal of the European Union. This statement may be supplemented by specific assessments for each major area of Union activity.”

   (b) Article 27 of the Statute of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) and of the European Central Bank (Protocol No 4 annexed to the TEU and the TFEU): “27.1. The accounts of the ECB and national central banks shall be audited by independent external auditors recommended by the Governing Council and approved by the Council. The auditors shall have full power to examine all books and accounts of the ECB and national central banks and obtain full information about their transactions.

27.2. The provisions of Article 287 of the TFEU shall only apply to an examination of the operational efficiency of the management of the ECB.”

   (c) Articles 20(1) and (7) of Council Regulation (EU) No 1024/2013(7) conferring specific tasks on the ECB concerning policies relating to the prudential supervision of credit institutions: “1. The ECB shall be accountable to Parliament and to the Council for the implementation of this Regulation, in accordance with this Chapter. 7. When the Court examines the operational efficiency of the management of the ECB under Article 27.2 of the Statute of the ESCB and of the ECB, it shall also take into account the supervisory tasks conferred on the ECB by this Regulation.”

20.  Supports the Court’s conclusions and welcomes the ECB’s acceptance of the Court’s recommendations(8);

21.  Is, however, concerned by a report by the Contact Committee of the Supreme Audit Institutions of the European Union (SAI) comparing the audit rights of 27 of the 28 national SAIs across the Union over banking supervisors; regrets that the resulting statement pointed out that an audit gap has emerged in those countries where previous audit mandates of national SAIs over banking supervisors are not being replaced by a similar level of audit by the Court over the ECB’s supervisory activities(9);

22.  Underlines that it already expressed this concern in its resolution of 10 March 2016 on the Banking Union - Annual Report 2015(10);

23.  Regrets the limited transparency of information for the supervised entities as the result of the approach adopted by the ECB with regard to disclosure, which had the result that supervised entities were not able to fully understand the outcome of the review process and prudential assessment; stresses that the Court has expressed concern about the lack of transparency, which in its opinion could increase "the risk of arbitrariness in supervision";

24.  Points out that the lack of any supervisory scrutiny on a bank’s exposure to illiquid “level 3 activities”, including toxic assets and derivatives, resulted in an asymmetric exercise of the supervisory function; considers that the strong bias against credit risks relative to market and operational risks stemming from speculative financial activities had the result of penalising commercial banks in favour of big investment banks, putting into question the validity and reliability of the comprehensive assessments conducted so far; is concerned at the recent statements by the Chair of the Supervisory Board Danièle Nouy concerning the difficulties and inability of the ECB to proceed with a proper valuation of positions related to these complex and risky products;

25.  Notes with concern the findings of the Court on the lack of an effective organisational separation between the ECB’s monetary policy and supervisory functions as well as of clear and stringent governance rules to prevent conflicts of interest, which reinforces concerns over the inherent conflict of interest between the ECB’s role in preserving the stability of the euro and its prudential supervision of big European credit institutions;

26.  Supports the finding of the Court on the necessity to provide a risk analysis concerning the use of shared services on tasks related to the ECB’s monetary policy and supervisory functions;

27.  Is worried, in this context, by the Court’s observation that the level of information provided by the ECB was only partly sufficient to assess the efficiency of operations linked to the SSM’s governance structure, the work of its joint supervisory teams and its on-site inspections; stresses that important areas were therefore left unaudited;

28.  Finds it unacceptable, from a point of view of accountability, that the auditee, i.e. the ECB, wants to decide single-handedly to which documents the external auditors may have access(11); calls therefore on the ECB to fully cooperate with the Court as external auditor and to provide full access to information to the Court in order to comply with the abovementioned rules;

29.  Calls on the Court to inform Parliament’s competent committee whether a solution to the problem of access to information is found before November 2018;

30.  Acknowledges the existing reporting arrangements between the ECB and Parliament(12); considers that these arrangement cannot, however, replace the Court’s audit;

31.  Recalls that the Commission should have published, by 31 December 2015, a review of the application of Council Regulation (EU) No 1024/2013 conferring specific tasks on the ECB concerning policies relating to the prudential supervision of credit institutions; regrets that this did not happen;

32.  Calls therefore on the Commission to finalise this report as swiftly as possible;

Part IV – Special Report No 30/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled "The effectiveness of EU support to priority sectors in Honduras"

33.  Welcomes the Court’s special report, endorses its recommendations and sets out its observations and recommendations below; also takes note of the Commission’s replies;

34.  Notes with satisfaction that the Court’s report has been very well received, both by the government of Honduras and by the Commission, and that the challenges identified by the Court, as well as its conclusions, have been very useful in strengthening political dialogue between Honduras and the Union;

35.  Points out that at present, relations between Honduras – as part of Central America – and the Union are principally based on the Association Agreement signed in 2012, which is a strong, long-term link forged on the basis of mutual trust and the protection of shared values and principles; points out that the agreement lays down three central pillars for action: political dialogue, cooperation and trade; points out, in particular, that, in the agreement, both parties undertook to implement measures to foster economic development, taking into account mutual interests such as poverty eradication, job creation, and fair and sustainable development;

36.  Emphasises that, to date, 21 Member States have ratified the agreement; hopes that those countries that have not yet signed it will do so as soon as possible, as the full implementation of the three pillars will strengthen the development of political dialogue, allow for the efficient allocation of funding, and ensure, once and for all, that Union assistance will be effective in rebuilding and transforming Honduras;

37.  Points out that Honduras is the Central American country that receives the most development assistance from the Union, and that the Union’s contribution is the fourth largest among the 12 main donors to Honduras, representing 11 % of the total amount of official development assistance that the country receives; emphasises that the total figure has increased from EUR 223 million in the period from 2007-2013, to EUR 235 million in the period from 2014-2020;

38.  Notes with concern, however, that the Union’s financial contribution over the period under consideration represented just 0,2 % of the country’s GDP, a proportion far lower than that of other donors, particularly the USA;

39.  Notes, in a similar vein, that according to data from the World Bank, in the wake of the global economic crisis, Honduras has experienced a moderate recovery, economically speaking, driven by public investment, exports and high levels of income from remittances, paving the way for growth figures of 3,7 % in 2016 and 3,5 % in 2017;

40.  Emphasises, nevertheless, that although the economic prospects are encouraging, and despite efforts on the part of the government and donors, Honduras still has the highest levels of poverty and economic inequality in Latin America, with around 66 % of the population living in poverty in 2016, according to official data, and with persistent, widespread violence, corruption and impunity; notes that, although the murder rate has fallen in recent years, it is still among the highest in the world, and is the highest in Latin America; emphasises, furthermore, that there are still major problems and challenges as regards access to basic needs, job opportunities, natural resources such as land and means of survival, and that women, indigenous people and people of African descent are the sections of the population that are most vulnerable to human rights violations as a result of inequality;

41.  Emphasises, with particular concern, that Honduras is still one of the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders and environmental rights activists, two areas that are often closely linked; points out that, according to data from Global Witness, at least 123 land and environmental defenders have been murdered in Honduras since 2009, many of whom were members of indigenous and rural communities opposing megaprojects on their land, as was Berta Cáceres, whose murder remains unsolved; calls on the Commission to ensure that Union cooperation in Honduras does not in any way undermine the human rights of the Honduran people, and to conduct rigorous monitoring on a regular basis to ensure that remains the case; with that in mind, reiterates the importance of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) in providing urgent direct financial and material support for human rights defenders who are at risk, and of the emergency fund that enables Union delegations to award them direct ad-hoc grants; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to promote the effective implementation of Union guidelines on human rights defenders via the adoption of local strategies to ensure the guidelines are fully put into practice, in cooperation with civil society organisations which already have experience in this area;

42.  Notes with great concern the serious incidents that occurred in Honduras following the elections held on 26 November 2017; points out that European and international human rights and media networks have condemned the disproportionate and sometimes deadly use of force by the state security forces against demonstrators, as well as other attacks on human rights defenders in the post-election crisis, with human rights organisations registering 30 killings (21 at the hands of the military police (PMOP)), 232 people injured and 1 085 detained; points out that the Office of the UN High Commissioner in Honduras has documented more than 50 cases of intimidation and harassment against human rights defenders, community leaders and journalists; notes that in response to the situation the Honduran government has announced the establishment of a Ministry for Human Rights, to operate independently of the current Ministry for Human Rights, Justice, Governance and Decentralisation, which became operational on 27 January 2018; calls on the EEAS to step up Union support for human rights defenders and promotion of political dialogue, and to insist that the Honduran government fulfil its responsibilities and obligation to keep the peace and guarantee the security of its citizens;

43.  Points out how important it is that the private sector in Union countries also undertake to uphold human rights and the very highest social and environmental standards, with European standards in those areas being met as a minimum; calls on the Union and its Member States to continue playing an active role in the UN’s ongoing efforts to draw up an international treaty on holding corporations to account for any involvement in human rights violations;

44.  Recalls that the 2009 coup had disastrous consequences for the country: there was a marked slowdown in social and economic growth, international assistance no longer got through, and Honduras was suspended from the Organization of American States; notes that Union activities in Honduras could nevertheless be continued during that period, although implementation delays did occur in all priority sectors, and some, such as harmonisation of the legal framework, could not be completed; emphasises that if the Union had not provided and maintained support for priority sectors for cooperation, conditions in those areas would have been even more difficult;

45.  Notes that the government of Honduras has stated that it is willing to accept international scrutiny and to cooperate with international organisations (establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the recent opening of the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras, auditing of State accounts by Transparency International, etc.); points out, nevertheless, how important it is to take on board and apply lessons and best practices that have been learned, and not to depend indefinitely on those organisations in order to exercise the key responsibilities of state; notes with grave concern the fact that, on 18 February 2018, the head of the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) resigned because the Organization of American States (OAS) had not given him sufficient backing to pursue the task it conferred on him two years ago to combat corruption in Honduras (lack of resources, wastage on the organisational side, failure to provide suitable facilities, etc.); notes that despite this lack of support the MACCIH has achieved significant results in the fight against corruption since 2017, with major cases against government officials involved in serious corruption and investigations involving Honduras’ political class; is concerned that these circumstances will thwart the first major regional efforts to combat corruption and impunity in one of the countries most in need of such action, calls on the Honduran government and the OAS to provide unconditional support and facilitation for MACCIH’s work, and calls on the EEAS to continue working with the MACCIH with a view to achieving shared goals;

46.  Notes that the audits carried out by the Court focused on the period between 2007 and 2015, when Union payments amounted to EUR 119 million, and that the priority sectors under consideration were poverty reduction, forestry, security and justice, which received 89 % of the bilateral support paid out; takes the view, nevertheless, that the period covered by the Court in its report is too long, in that it is longer than the Commission’s term of office and also includes extremely difficult and disparate political and economic situations; takes the view that in order to make them more effective, the audit periods ought to be shortened, or that interim assessments should be carried out, given the fact that there are too many instances in which the report identifies issues or shortcomings which have been rectified in the meantime, meaning that some of the report’s conclusions and recommendations are no longer relevant; emphasises, furthermore, that in its report, the Court does not give an account of the interviews it conducted in Honduras, in particular those with beneficiaries, other donors and civil society organisations;

47.  Notes that in its report the Court concludes that, although some progress was made, Union assistance to the priority sectors had only been partially effective, mainly owing to the country’s circumstances, as well as a series of management problems that reduced the impact of the assistance, and notes that although the Commission’s strategy was relevant and coordinated, it was not specific enough, and funding was spread over too many areas, meaning that despite the Honduran government’s requests, it was not possible to meet the significant needs of the priority sectors, which did not receive support from other donors either;

48.  Although it shares the concern expressed by the Court, agrees with the Commission that, in many cases, a certain degree of flexibility was necessary in order to adapt in the face of the crisis caused by the coup, and that there was a need to respond to extremely urgent situations and meet the basic needs of the people; calls on the Commission to press ahead with its efforts to achieve an effective balance between the flexibility required to adapt to the country’s changing circumstances, needs and requirements, the need to address the most pressing challenges, including human rights, the right to life and the right to a decent life, and the need to respond and enhance the potential impact of Union assistance;

49.  Notes that in the past, Union cooperation was focused on social cohesion and economic growth, while the new programming exercise responds to needs arising from the principal development challenges the country is facing: reducing poverty and inequality, food security, education and health, security and human rights, tax reform, combating impunity and corruption, creating jobs with social protection, competitiveness, managing natural resources, and vulnerability owing to climate change;

50.  Emphasises that, given the specific situation the country is in, it is vital to strengthen and launch comprehensive anti-poverty programmes (specifically targeting the most vulnerable groups such as women, children and indigenous peoples, as the government of Honduras has requested) and comprehensive education, training and vocational programmes aimed at children and young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, to ensure they are offered opportunities to develop their skills and abilities and protect them against the risks of getting caught up in violence and organised crime;

51.  Highlights, in addition, the critical role played by women and women’s rights organisations in social progress, including youth-led movements; calls for the Union to insist on the need to support women’s empowerment and the creation of a safe and enabling environment for women’s civil society organisations and women’s rights defenders, and to address specific gender-based forms of repression, particularly in conflict-affected regions; highlights the importance of actively helping to support policies and actions relating to women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights;

52.  Takes the view that the Union must continue to make a special effort with regard to cooperation, in order to enhance the transparency, credibility and accountability of state institutions, and with regard to dismantling the edifice of corruption and impunity that undermines citizens’ trust and represents one of the chief obstacles to the country’s development;

53.  Expresses its concern at the lack of policy dialogue identified by the Court in certain critical areas receiving assistance under the Support to the National Plan (objectives in the areas of education, national statistics and civil service reform); given that the Commission’s policy dialogue facilitates the implementation of Union action and is leading to tangible improvements, calls on the Commission to step up policy dialogue, particularly in strategic and priority sectors, and to remain firm in those areas in which the government does not show much interest or responsiveness, as was the case with the national security and justice policy and the Judiciary Observatory;

54.  Calls on the Commission to continue improving joint programming with the government of Honduras, and with the Union Member States, and, alongside the other donors, to make a special effort with regard to internal coordination in order to ensure that the division of labour is as efficient as possible, to achieve complementarity where possible, and especially to prevent the problems identified by the Court: the proliferation of identical or similar projects (same sectors, same beneficiaries), contradictory or overlapping action or lack of action, particularly in the priority sectors; points out that the Commission should also, alongside the other donors, come up with a quick and effective operational approach in order to reduce time frames, make things more dynamic, and improve efficiency and results;

55.  Notes that approximately half of the Union’s bilateral assistance in Honduras is channelled through budget, general and sector-specific support; emphasises with concern the substantial risks relating to providing budget support, which are principally the result of the significant macroeconomic instability in the country, technical shortcomings and problems with fraud and corruption in the management of public finances;

56.  Notes with concern that although the Court’s report points out that budget support was allocated to relevant and credible national strategies, in some priority sectors the government’s strategies were unclear or fragmented and were not given specific budgets, and the institutions concerned were unable to develop policies and reforms;

57.  Acknowledges that the Commission identified these risks and tried to mitigate them; however points out once again to the Commission that budget support is not a blank cheque and that government promises that reforms will be forthcoming are not necessarily a sufficient guarantee; with that in mind, calls on the Commission, in order to mitigate any risks, to continue to make every effort to ensure that the budget support guidelines are followed and complied with at all stages of the procedure; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to avoid budget support in sectors in which a credible and relevant response from the government cannot be assured;

58.  Agrees with the Commission that suspending various budget support payments over a certain period – as was the case in 2012 owing to the general macroeconomic situation and the fact that no agreement had been reached between Honduras and the IMF – need not be a contradictory message to send that might be detrimental to aid effectiveness, as the Court suggests, but might, on the contrary, be a way of making it crystal clear that the government needs to resolve the problems encountered swiftly and effectively;

59.  Notes with great interest that Honduras is the first country in which results-oriented budget support has been used; expresses concern, however, at the fact that the Court concluded that weaknesses in the monitoring tools hindered the assessment of the results achieved, that there were many shortcomings in the monitoring of those results, and that the recommendations made had not been consistently followed; calls on the Commission to draw up a detailed report, including the objectives, indicators and benchmarks that were used, the calculation and verification methods, etc., and to assess their effectiveness and impact for the purposes of measuring the results achieved and, at the same time, improving communication, visibility and the impact of Union action; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to place more emphasis on the results as regards the objectives set in its policy dialogue strategies with the Honduran government and in dialogue with civil society and other donors;

60.  Given that the sound management of public finances is an essential prerequisite for disbursements of budget support to be made, and that it is one of the most significant shortcomings in Honduras, despite the successive plans drawn up by the government and the support from the Commission, takes the view that the Commission should place particular emphasis on continued improvement in that area; with that in mind and taking into account the role that the Honduran Court of Auditors ought to play in managing state resources, calls on the Commission to come up with specific programmes for cooperation with the Court with a view to providing technical assistance and training in the area concerned;

61.  Calls on the Honduran government to provide all the necessary means and funding to ensure that the Honduran Court of Auditors can carry out its duties independently, effectively and in accordance with international auditing, transparency and accountability standards;

62.  Notes with concern the Court’s observation that the Union office in Honduras has a shortage of staff specialised in managing public finances and macroeconomic issues surrounding budget support transactions, and points out that this is particularly risky given the chronic economic instability of a country which, despite those serious circumstances, is still being granted budget support; in the light of the risks pointed out by the Court, calls on the Commission to take urgent action to shore up staffing at the Union office in Honduras;

63.  Notes that Union cooperation in Honduras is providing support to civil society organisations in order to promote food security, human rights and gender equality, and that some 35 thematic projects are ongoing, involving funds of over EUR 9 million; notes, furthermore, that as regards engagement with civil society in Honduras, the Union delegation drew up a roadmap, which was approved in 2014 and includes political dialogue and support activities specifically designed for Honduras; considers it paramount that civil society organisations be involved not only in the consultation process leading to the drafting of roadmaps, but also in their implementation, monitoring and review;

64.  Is gravely concerned by the fact that there is less and less room for civil society in developing countries; notes with grave concern that, in the first three months of 2014 alone, the department responsible for the registration and monitoring of civil society associations revoked the licences of more than 10 000 NGOs for failing to submit reports on their finances and programmes to the government, and that despite some positive developments in recent years, some of the legislation and administrative measures that have recently been adopted in Honduras are impeding associations’ activities, and restricting the space within which they are able to operate, meaning that many are being forced to close down;

65.  Welcomes the support and commitment that the Union has been providing to civil society in developing countries for some time now; takes the view that, in the context of policy dialogue and the development of cooperation programmes, the Commission must focus on the development of strategies to establish the legal, administrative and political environment required to enable civil society organisations to carry out their roles and operate effectively, advise the associations, provide them with regular information about funds and financing opportunities, and encourage them to sign up to international civil society organisations and networks;

66.  Takes the view that the Court ought to have devoted a chapter of its report to Union cooperation with civil society organisations in Honduras, given the key role they play in society in general and in local development in particular, and especially since the Union is the largest donor to those organisations in the developing countries and has taken a leading role in protecting civil society representatives and human rights defenders through the use and implementation of a raft of instruments and policies; hopes that the Court will bear that in mind for future reports;

Part V – Special Report No 31/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled " Spending at least one euro in every five from the EU budget on climate action: ambitious work underway, but at serious risk of falling short"

67.  Welcomes the Court’s special report and sets out its observations and recommendations below;

68.  Welcomes the ambitious commitments of the Union to cut its emissions by at least 20 % compared to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 40 % by 2030, and to spend at least 20 % of its budget on climate related action for the 2014-2020 budgeting period; welcomes the overall progress made; however regrets that according to the Court, there is a serious risk of falling short of the 20 % budget target;

69.  Considers it of high importance for the Commission to continuously demonstrate sufficient leadership and commitment to climate change issues through an effective implementation of the Paris Agreement as well as to consolidate its international credibility and tools for shaping conditions for the Union's climate policy and green diplomacy in future years;

70.  Welcomes the implementation of the pledge into already existing policies in place of establishing new financial instruments; considers that this should contribute to greater coherence between various Union policy areas; invites the Commission and the Member States to draft a coordinated plan on sustaining a maximum cohesiveness and continuity of the various programmes;

71.  Calls on the Commission to develop a concrete overall strategy on reaching the set target that will entail area-specific action plans pointing out detailed measures and instruments, methodology of measurement and reporting, and performance indicators employed in the climate-related actions of specific policy areas; calls on the Commission and Member States to further develop common, unified standards for the implementation of adequate monitoring, evaluation and verification systems, notably with respect to the application of the Rio Markers and reporting on the disbursement of climate related spending;

72.  Regrets that weaknesses in the Union´s tracking system were identified by the Court, which substantially increases the risk of overestimating climate action related spending; calls on the Commission to systematically respect the conservativeness principle in order to avoid overestimates; calls on the Commission to review the estimates and correct the climate coefficients where a risk of overestimation applies;

73.  Calls on the Commission to prioritise development of an action plan in certain areas with a massive potential, namely the Horizon 2020 programme, agriculture and fisheries, in cooperation with the Member States; furthermore calls on the Commission to coordinate closely activities concerning the development of new technologies and innovations on environmental protection together with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT);

74.  Points out the particular need for the Commission to deliver on the climate-related benchmarks by mainstreaming its various programming instruments in order to favour a high level of coherence and possibly enhanced coordination among Member States to be able to reach the overall objective of addressing at least 20 % of the Union budget to low carbon and climate resilient society;

75.  Regrets the absence of specific targets in substantial parts of the Union budget; calls on the Commission to draft an overall plan outlining which funding instruments could contribute, and to what extent, to reaching the 20 % budget target; notes with concern that the missing plan is a sign of the low compatibility of different budget areas;

76.  Notes with concern that there is little information on how much is spent on climate mitigation and adaptation and on the extent to which the Union climate-related action will contribute to CO2 emissions reduction, while the available data may not be comparable across the Member States; asks the Commission to further develop reporting on the extent to which the target of spending 20 % of the Union budget over 2014 to 2020 on climate related action is implemented in all policies, by specifying in addition to what has been committed and disbursed, what relates to mitigation or adaptation areas while also identifying the areas where climate deliverables need to be improved;

77.  Believes that mainstreaming of the funding programmes needs to be further refined by defining clear adaptation or mitigation strategies and related action plans, including adequate tools of quantification of investment and climate incentives needed and, better estimates tracking methods for getting right projections on the progress achieved across Union programmes and Member States’ actions;

78.  Calls on the Commission to develop swiftly an environment conducive to the transition to a low carbon economy by adapting its investment conditions, spending frameworks and instruments for innovation and modernisation in all key relevant sectors;

79.  Notes with regret that there is no tool for providing a multiannual consolidated update on the situation across the Union budget; considers that there is a need for ex post evaluation and recalculation of projected climate funding contributions;

80.  Regrets that there is no specific reporting framework conducted by the Commission on detecting and measuring the counter-implications of Union policies that negatively contribute to climate change and on measuring how big a share of the Union budget is spent in this opposite direction; is concerned that without this data the Commission does not fully portray to what extent the Union contributes to the mitigation of climate change; calls on the Commission to identify systematically potentially counter-productive actions and project them into the final calculations on climate action mitigation;

Part VI – Special Report No 32/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled "EU assistance to Ukraine"

81.  Notes that Union financial and expert assistance to reforming Ukraine was necessary; emphasises nevertheless that implementation of the reforms lags far behind what was expected;

82.  Regrets that old structures which are resistant to reform, modernisation and democratisation persist, while forces willing to reform face severe difficulties to prevail;

83.  Welcomes the Union assistance to Ukraine; is however of the opinion, that it should be tied with tangible efforts by the Ukrainian government aiming to improve the situation in its own country; namely to improve the own resources system through an efficient and transparent tax scheme, which does not only account for the income of citizens but also the assets of oligarchs;

84.  Calls for an efficient fight against the still widespread corruption and for effective support of the organisations committed to combatting it;

85.  Calls for a strengthening of judicial power in the country as an independent instrument committed to the rule of law;

86.  Demands a stricter control of the banking sector, in order to avoid capital drains to third countries causing insolvencies of banking institutions; points out the necessity in this regard of granting budget support only under the condition that financial assistance is disbursed in a transparent and comprehensive way;

87.  Is of the opinion that any financial aid should generally be preceded by a prior assessment of its prospects of success;

88.  Is convinced that more attention needs to be paid to the creation and education of competent, decentralised administrative structures;

Part VII – Special Report No 33/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled " Union Civil Protection Mechanism: the coordination of responses to disasters outside the EU has been broadly effective"

89.  Welcomes the Court’s special report; endorses its recommendations and approves of the Commission’s readiness to take them into account;

90.  Stresses the high significance of a prompt and coherent reaction to natural and man-made disasters in order to minimise their human, environmental and economic impact;

91.  Takes note of the Court’s overall satisfaction with the Commission’s way of handling the process of disaster response;

92.  Encourages the Commission to build on its resources, including budgetary, mobilisation and expert selection procedures so that the affected countries are provided with an immediate, needs-based delivery of Union assistance; stresses the importance for ‘civil protection focal points’ to be designated within the ECHO Field Network national and regional offices and among staff in the Union’s delegations in at-risk countries;

93.  Welcomes the launch of the “European Medical Corps” in February 2016 that substantially expanded the EU Civil Protection Mechanism’s “voluntary pool” with a “reserve” of medical and public health teams available to deploy lessons learnt from the Ebola crisis; considers that this approach, of having a reserve of medical teams and other specialised assessment and support teams, must be continued and further improved;

94.  Suggests removing all unnecessary administrative burdens that hinder both the participating states and the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) from replying more instantaneously, notably at the outset of a crisis;

95.  Asks the participating states to register more assets in the voluntary pool in order to enhance preparedness to react to disasters;

96.  Highlights the importance of information exchange and cooperation between the Commission, other Union bodies and the United Nations in facilitating a structured response in the case of emergency; welcomes the cooperation agreements signed with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the World Food Programme (WFP), and urges the Commission to sign further cooperation agreements with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and other involved actors;

97.  Recalls that quality and interoperability requirements are defined and expanded in accordance with the new WHO standards for medical modules and as well as with other strategic partners and their framework conditions to ensure early action associated with a more thorough coordination in international missions; considers that to guarantee the immediate availability or mobilisation of capacities from the outset of an emergency and to avoid financing errors, provisioning processes need to be optimised and largely standardised;

98.  Urges the continued exploitation of potential synergies with the other involved actors and instruments, in particular with humanitarian and development aid, and avoidance of duplication of actions that have already been undertaken;

99.  Calls on the Commission to improve the functionality of ERCC’s communication platform, CECIS, so that the information can be retrieved more easily by stakeholders, including a mobile access for the EUCP teams deployed in the field;

100.  Is of opinion that humanitarian aid and civil protection should be followed by other activities aimed at fostering a culture of prevention as well as building the capacity and resilience of vulnerable or disaster affected communities;

Part VIII – Special Report No 34/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Combating Food Waste: an opportunity for the EU to improve the resource-efficiency of the food supply chain"

101.  Welcomes the Court's special report scrutinising the efficacy of the Union in combating food waste; endorses the Court´s recommendations and calls on the Commission to take these recommendations into account;

102.  Notes with deep concern that according to estimates, around one third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted or lost globally; deplores the fact that the Union does not combat food waste effectively and that so far it has provided only incoherent and fragmented action;

103.  Stresses that the Union has great potential to address the problem of food waste by adjusting its existing policies without incurring additional costs and should aspire to do so; however notes with regret that despite the hopeful rhetoric, there has been a lack of political will to translate commitments into policy measures;

104.  Deeply regrets that the ambitions of the Commission in combating food waste have demonstrably decreased over time; deplores the lack of a targeted policy action in the area of food waste and that positive effects arising in policy areas are rather coincidental; looks forward to assessing the results of the Circular Economy Package in the area of combating food waste;

105.  Considers it to be a sign of the inconsistent approach of the Commission firstly, that while the Union is regarded as a leader in combating climate change, it is insufficiently committed to combating food waste that directly contributes to negative climate effects, and secondly, that while the Union invests hundreds of millions of euros annually in development aid, the fight against hunger and compliance with fair trade, it does not sufficiently address the issue of combating food waste that is one of the direct driving forces behind those very problems;

106.  Reiterates its call on the Commission to take immediate action against food waste; calls on the Commission to deliver on its commitments with regard to relevant policy documents related to combating food waste;

107.  Calls on the Commission to provide close coordination at the Union and national level in order to unify the different approaches of various Member States with regard to food waste prevention, food donation, food safety and good hygiene practices; calls on the Commission to establish a platform for sharing best practices in combating food waste that would better align its work with the activities of the Member States;

108.  Regrets that the Commission´s action at a technical level has been limited to establishing working and expert groups, which have nevertheless not delivered any applicable input; calls on the Commission to improve its action at a technical level and to deliver concrete results; invites the Commission to establish closer cooperation with the European Environment Agency and EIT, which are able to provide solid expert and technical assistance;

109.  Regrets that the Commission does not consider it necessary to create a common definition of food waste and does not consider it necessary to lay down a specific food waste hierarchy; calls on the Commission to prepare a common definition of food waste, a common methodology for measuring and monitoring food waste, and guidelines on waste hierarchy in the case of food waste in cooperation with the Member States;

110.  Calls on the Commission to draft an action plan that would identify policy areas with potential to address food waste, with an emphasis on prevention and donation, and to define the opportunities that could be exploited within the framework of these policies; calls on the Commission to draft action plans that would include measurable targets and performance indicators and to draft impact assessments in specific policy areas;

111.  Regrets that although food donation represents the second most preferred option in preventing food waste, there have been many obstacles on various levels that mean it is underutilised; draws attention to the difficulties faced by Member States’ authorities, particularly in making food donation comply with the current legal framework; calls on the Commission to create a specific platform for exchange of good practices among the Member States in order to facilitate food donation; invites the Commission to take into account local and regional authorities’ contributions in revising the relevant legal provisions;

112.  Invites the Commission to finalise and publish guidelines on food redistribution and donation, including tax arrangements for donors, that would be based on best practices shared between the Member States that currently take active action in combating food waste; encourages the Commission to draw up guidelines on overcoming various obstacles in food donation and on tax concessions for chains and companies that donate food;

113.  Regrets that the concepts ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ are generally unclear to participants at all levels of the food supply chain; calls on the Commission to clarify these concepts and make the guidelines on its usage binding in order to avoid any misconception;

114.  Encourages the Member States to educate the general public in the areas of food management and food waste;

115.  Deplores the fact that, despite individual and limited initiatives in some of the Union institutions, the European bodies have neither the legislative framework nor common guidelines that would regulate the handling of unconsumed food provided by the institutions´ catering services; calls on the Commission to draft common provisions addressing the issue of food waste within the European institutions, including guidelines on food waste prevention and rules on food waste donation, in order to minimise the food waste caused by the European institutions;

Part IX – Special Report No 35/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled "The use of budget support to improve domestic revenue mobilisation in sub-Saharan Africa"

116.  Welcomes the Court’s special report; endorses its recommendations; expresses satisfaction with the Commission’s willingness to put them into practice; regrets that the Commission’s answers are quite vague and lack ambition;

117.  Stresses the importance of domestic revenue mobilisation (DRM) in the less-developed countries as it reduces dependence on development aid, leads to improvements in public governance and plays a central role in state-building;

118.  Stresses that, according to the Court, the Commission has not yet effectively used budget support contracts to support DRM in low- and lower-middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa; however notes that the Commission’s new approach increased the potential of this form of aid to support DRM effectively;

119.  Points out that strengthening tax systems contributes not only to raising more predictable revenue, but also to accountability of governments by creating a direct link between taxpayers and their government; supports the explicit inclusion of DRM improvement on the Commission’s list of key development challenges addressed through budget support;

120.  Regrets that the Commission gave insufficient consideration to DRM when designing its budget support operations; stresses that key risks related to tax exemptions and to the collection and transfer of taxes and non-tax revenues from natural resources were not evaluated;

121.  Recalls the importance of revenue mobilisation in developing countries while pointing to challenges related to tax avoidance, tax evasion and illicit financial flows; encourages the strengthening of financial and technical assistance for developing countries and regional tax administration frameworks, and the adoption of principles for the negotiation of tax treaties;

122.  Points out that the audit revealed a lack of appropriate monitoring tools to assess the extent to which budget support contributed to overall improvements in DRM;

123.  Believes that it is crucial to continue promoting fair and transparent domestic tax systems in the tax policy field, to scale up support for oversight processes and bodies in the area of natural resources, and to continue to back governance reforms promoting sustainable exploitation of natural resources and transparency; stresses that free-trade agreements reduce the tax revenue for the low- and lower-middle-income countries and might be counter-productive for those countries; demands that the Commission ensure that the fiscal consequences of free-trade agreements with low- and lower-middle-income countries are taken into account in risk assessments when negotiating free-trade agreements;

124.  Calls on the Commission to stick to its guidelines when conducting macroeconomic and public financial management assessments of DRM aspects in order to obtain a better overview of the most problematic issues e.g. the scale of tax incentives, transfer pricing, tax evasion;

125.  Underlines that in order to improve the design of budget support operations, the procedure of identifying risks threatening the achievement of the set objectives should be more comprehensive and make use of the Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool wherever available;

126.  Emphasises the necessity of applying DRM-specific conditions more often as they clearly associate the disbursement of budget support payments with the partner country’s progress in DRM reforms; asks the Commission to choose the conditions that are relevant and will have the broadest impact on DRM;

127.  Acknowledges that the Commission has to operate in a complicated political and institutional context; recalls the significance of a structured policy dialogue, involving interlocutors from the national government and other donors, in order to determine crucial areas of interest and to conceive a tailored aid strategy;

128.  Encourages the Commission to extend the capacity-building component of budget support as it lays firm foundations for a long-term economic and social transformation, and addresses major obstacles to the efficient collection of public revenues;

129.  Points out that confirming a direct influence of budget support efforts on the mobilisation of domestic resources requires a more detailed evaluation of specific areas of a tax system that would allow attribution of the advances made to individual parts of the provided assistance;

Part X – Special Report No 36/2016 of the Court of Auditors entitled "An assessment of the arrangements for closure of the 2007-2013 cohesion and rural development programmes"

130.  Welcomes the Court’s special report and endorses its recommendations;

131.  Notes with satisfaction that the Commission provided adequate and timely support to help Member States prepare for the closure of 2007-2013 programmes;

132.  Welcomes the Commission’s readiness to seek further harmonisation of regulatory provisions between the funds, including on terminology, assurance and closure processes, whenever it improves the management of Union funds and contributes to a simpler and more effective implementation in Member States and regions;

133.  Notes that six major project decisions for the 2007-2013 period are still outstanding;

134.  Notes with astonishment the Commission’s refusal to consider specific commitments in relation to legislative proposals for the post 2020 period, knowing that they can already build on the experience of two complete financial periods (2000-2006 and 2007-2013); is however reassured by the fact that this refusal was induced rather by the Commission’s concerns about their legal prerogatives than by disagreement on the content;

135.  Supports the Court’s call for further alignment of the regulatory provisions for closure between cohesion and for the investment-related measures under rural development;

136.  Considers that calculated residual risk rates remain an unknown quantity based on experience and can at best be used as pointers;

137.  Notes the Court’s demand that eligibility periods should no longer overlap with the subsequent programme period after 2020 and its concern that extended eligibility periods (i.e. n+2, n+3) are one of the reasons for financial backlogs and the late start of the subsequent programming period along with delays in finalisation of revised programming and funding legislation and associated implementation rules, particularly in 2014-2015; emphasises in this regard the importance of ensuring maximum absorption and the smooth running of multiannual projects;

138.  Notes that the final closure of the financial period only occurs every seven years; shares therefore the Court’s opinion that the Commission should inform the budgetary authority and Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control of the final outcome of the closure procedure in a separate document; considers that such a document should not only confirm the legality and regularity of the expenditures but also measure the result and impact of the programmes (performance approach);

Part XI – Special Report No 1/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "More efforts needed to implement the Natura 2000 network to its full potential"

139.  Welcomes the Court’s special report and endorses its recommendations;

140.  Underlines the importance of biodiversity for mankind; notes that the Natura 2000 network established under the Birds(13) and Habitats(14) Directives (the Nature Directives) is the centrepiece of the Union´s biodiversity strategy; however notes with concern that its full potential has not been exhausted;

141.  Notes that the Commission´s general role is to provide guidance to the Member States; regrets that the Member States did not take the Commission´s advice into account sufficiently;

142.  Regrets that the Court concluded that the Member States did not manage the Natura 2000 appropriately and that the coordination between national authorities and stakeholders in the Member States was not adequate;

143.  Recalls that due to its cross-border character, implementing Natura 2000 requires strong coordination among Member States; calls on the Member States to establish a strong structure at a national level to promote cross-border cooperation; invites the Commission to provide improved guidance to the Member States for building up a cooperation platform;

144.  Notes with deep concern that the conservation objectives were often not specific enough and not quantified, while management plans were not precisely defined and lacked milestones for their completion; reiterates that this might hinder the added value of Natura 2000; calls on the Commission to harmonise the rules on an effective approach towards setting up conservation objectives and management plans in the next programming period; further calls on the Commission to follow up on whether the Member States follow the guidance and to provide them with further advisory support where needed;

145.  Calls on Member States to conduct the necessary conservation measures in a timely manner in order to ensure their added value and to update the management plans accordingly; calls on the Commission to check on potentially delayed conservation projects thoroughly;

146.  Notes that in order to make the Natura 2000 network effective, involvement of key stakeholders such as land users and owners is essential; regrets that in most Member States effective communication channels are missing; calls on the Member States to improve the coordination between national authorities and various stakeholders;

147.  Is concerned that the Member States failed to adequately assess projects negatively impacting on Natura 2000 sites, that the compensatory measures were not utilised sufficiently and that the approach among the Member States varies widely; calls on the Commission to provide the Member States with a more structured guidance on how and when to apply compensatory measures in practice and to supervise their utilisation;

148.  Regrets that the 2014-2020 programming documents did not fully reflect funding needs and the Commission did not address the shortcomings in a structured manner; calls on the Commission to prepare for the next programming period more thoroughly;

149.  Regrets that the monitoring and reporting systems for Natura 2000 were not adequate to provide comprehensive information on the effectiveness of the network; is concerned that no specific performance indicator system for the use of Union funds was developed to reflect on the performance of Natura 2000 network; is of the opinion that this hinders the efficacy of Natura 2000 network; welcomes the Commission’s introduction of a set of compulsory comprehensive indicators for all projects for the 2014-2020 programming period under LIFE; invites the Commission to apply the same approach to other programmes in the next programming period;

150.  Notes with concern that at site level the monitoring plans were often not included in the site management documents and that they were not detailed or time-bound; is further concerned that the standard date forms were not updated and the data provided by the Member States for the State of Nature report were incomplete, inaccurate and incomparable; calls on the Member State and Commission to remedy this issue in the intended action plan;

151.  Welcomes the Commission’s development of a central registry for recording complaints and enquiries related to Natura 2000; notes that a majority of the cases were closed without further procedural steps; invites the Commission to follow up all complaints and enquiries rigorously;

152.  Welcomes the establishment of the Biogeographical Process providing a mechanism for cooperation among stakeholders on management of Natura 2000 and a corresponding networking opportunity; however invites the Commission to resolve a language barrier issue that hinders its reach;

153.  Deeply regrets that the Prioritised Action Framework (PAF) presented an unreliable picture of the costs of the Natura 2000 network and that the data presented by the Member States were inaccurate and limited; notes with concern that funding estimates were not reliable and comparable, thus hindering precise monitoring of the amount of the Union funds devoted to Natura 2000; regrets that this had the result that the PAFs had a limited usefulness in ensuring the consistency of Union funding for biodiversity protection under Natura 2000; encourages the Commission to provide the Member States with more structured guidelines on reporting and monitoring and on PAF completion; calls on the Member States to ensure that the data provided are accurate;

154.  Is of the opinion that financial allocations for Natura 2000 must be identifiable and its use traceable, otherwise the impact of investments cannot be measured; to the extent Natura 2000 is co-financed by ERDF/CF and EAFRD, calls on the respective Commission directorates-general to add a specific chapter on Natura 2000 to their annual activity reports;

155.  Welcomes the establishment of the expert group and ad hoc working groups on harmonising practices and invites the Commission to utilise the outputs of their activities in the next programming period;

156.  Calls on the Commission to inform Parliament’s relevant committees about the action plan to improve the implementation of the Nature Directives(15);

Part XII – Special Report No 2/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "The Commission's negotiation of 2014-2020 Partnership Agreements and programmes in Cohesion: spending more targeted on Europe 2020 priorities, but increasingly complex arrangements to measure performance"

157.  Welcomes the Court’s findings, conclusions and recommendations in its special report ; considers the Court’s analysis of the 2014-2020 programming phase of ESIF implementation to be useful and timely in assisting the legislators and the Commission to draw appropriate conclusions for the post-2020 period;

158.  Notes the Commission’s replies and that the Commission accepts five of the Court’s recommendations fully and two recommendations partially; welcomes the Commission’s readiness to implement them and calls on it and Member States to implement the recommendations fully and in a timely manner;

159.  Disagrees with the Court’s and the Commission’s opinion that Parliament’s enhanced powers in themselves were a factor for undue delay in adoption of the relevant regulations for the 2014-2020 period;

160.  Regrets the delay in the presentation by the Commission of its proposal for the post-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF) which creates the prospect of a significant delay in the negotiations and adoption of the corresponding legislation on the MFF and the financial programmes and instruments, thus endangering their timely implementation in the post-2020 period;

161.  Stresses that the proposal for new regulations for post-2020 cohesion policy consisting of a single set of rules or otherwise must ensure in practice simplification, enhanced accessibility to funds and successful implementation of the objectives of this policy;

162.  Stresses the need to avoid the repetition of the delay in adoption of the operational programmes, as well as the problems identified by the Court such as more complex, demanding and long negotiations of the ESIF regulations for the 2014-2020 period, late adoption of secondary legislation and guidelines and the need for multiple rounds of operational programme approvals by the Commission; regrets that these shortcomings run counter to the objective of simplification of the cohesion policy management system;

163.  Notes that in Special Report No 2/2017 the Court concludes that the Partnership Agreements (PAs) have proven to be an effective instrument for ring-fencing ESI funding for thematic objectives and investment priorities and for supporting the focus on the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy for growth and jobs; underlines, however, that the successful implementation of the objectives requires an adequate budget for cohesion policy post-2020;

164.  Observes that, unlike in previous periods, the Commission’s observations on the draft operational programmes were required to be adopted by the College of Commissioners while in the previous programing period only the final operational programmes needed to be adopted by the College; urges the Commission to reconsider the added value of such a procedure when drafting its proposal for the post-2020 programing period;

165.  Calls on the Commission to carefully analyse the problems indicated above and to take measures for avoiding them in the post-2020 period, including all necessary improvements and allowing swift and quality programming;

166.  Calls on the Member States and the Commission to enhance their consultation in the drafting of the operational programmes which should facilitate a speedy process of their approval;

167.  Underlines the importance of the use of precise and harmonised terminology which allows proper measurement of cohesion policy achievements; regrets that the Commission has not proposed common definitions of “results” and “output” in its proposal for the new Financial Regulation; calls on the Commission to introduce clear common definitions of terms like ‘output’, ‘results’ and ‘impact’ as soon as possible and well before the beginning of the post-2020 period;

168.  Recalls that adequate administrative capacity especially at national and regional level is crucial for smooth management and implementation of operational programmes, including for monitoring and reporting of objectives and results achieved through relevant indicators; insists, in this regard, that the Commission and Member States use the available technical assistance for improvement of administrative capacity at different levels;

169.  Calls on the Commission to strengthen and facilitate sharing of “best practices” at all levels;

170.  Is concerned at Member States’ application of a multitude of additional outcome and result indicators in addition to the indicators provided by the basic legal acts; fears a “gold plating” effect, which could render the use of structural funds more cumbersome and less effective; calls on the Commission to discourage Member States from following such an approach;

171.  Highlights the relevance of measuring the mid- and long-term impact of programmes, as only when impact is measured can decision-makers ascertain whether political objectives have been accomplished; calls on the Commission to explicitly measure ‘impact’ during the post-2020 programming period;

Part XIII – Special Report No 3/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "EU assistance to Tunisia"

172.  Welcomes the Court’s special report assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of Union assistance delivered to Tunisia; endorses its recommendations and sets out its observations and recommendations below;

173.  Notes that Union funding was generally well spent as it contributed significantly to the democratic transition and the economic stability of Tunisia after the revolution;

174.  Notes that Union actions were well coordinated with the main donors and within the EU institutions and departments; calls on the Commission to make sure that joint programming with Member States is achieved, in order to improve the focus and coordination of the aid;

175.  Acknowledges that the Commission and the EEAS had to work in a volatile political, social and security context, which accounted for a major challenge in the delivery of comprehensive aid;

176.  Calls on the Commission to further fine-tune the approach for sectoral budget support by outlining the country’s priorities, the design of conditions and thus facilitate a more structured and targeted Union approach and reinforce the overall credibility of the Tunisian national strategy;

177.  Notes that Union funding made a significant contribution to the democratic transition and to the economic stability of Tunisia; asks the Commission and the EEAS, however, to narrow down the focus of their actions to a smaller number of well-defined areas in order to maximise the impact of Union assistance;

178.  Calls on the Commission to follow best practice concerning the budget support programmes and to apply relevant disbursement conditions that will stimulate the Tunisian authorities to undertake essential reforms; expresses its concern at a lenient allocation of ‘more for more’ funds that was usually unrelated to the fulfilment of further requirements and was not preceded by a thorough measurement of the progress made;

179.  Stresses the significance of an extensive assessment of Public Finance Management, preferably with the use of PEFA(16), in order to identify potential weaknesses in Union aid provision and to address them;

180.  Asks the Commission to improve the design of the programmes and projects by establishing a set of precise baselines and indicators that will enable proper evaluation of the extent to which objectives are achieved;

181.  Highlights the necessity of focusing on long-term, sustainable economic development rather than actions which bring about only temporary recovery on the job market;

Part XIV – Special Report No 4/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Protecting the EU budget from irregular spending: The Commission made increasing use of preventive measures and financial corrections in Cohesion during the 2007-2013 period"

182.  Welcomes the Court’s findings, conclusions and recommendations in its special report;

183.  Acknowledges the importance of implementing the objectives of cohesion policy, namely to reduce development disparities between regions, restructure declining industrial areas and to encourage cross‐border, transnational and interregional cooperation, thereby contributing to the achievement of the Union’s strategic objectives; considers that this importance justifies its significant share of the Union budget; emphasises the importance of its sound financial management, of the prevention and deterrence of irregularities and of financial corrections;

184.  Notes the Commission’s acceptance of all the Court’s recommendations and calls on it to implement them fully and in good time;

185.  Notes that, overall, the Commission made effective use of the measures at its disposal during the 2007-2013 programme period to protect the Union budget from irregular expenditure;

186.  Welcomes the fact that in the 2007–2013 programming period the Commission started implementing corrective measures and financial corrections much earlier than in the 2000–2006 period and with a greater impact; stresses, however, that such corrective measures must ensure the protection of Union’s financial interests while at the same time recognising the importance of timely and effective implementation of the affected operational programmes;

187.  Calls on the Commission to remain vigilant when examining the closure declarations submitted by Member States for the 2007-2013 programming period, as well as in the future;

188.  Calls on the Commission to present an analytical and consolidated report on all preventive measures and financial corrections imposed during the 2007-2013 programming period, building on the report for the preceding period;

189.  Underlines that payment interruptions and suspensions represent a significant financial risk for Member States and can also lead to difficulties for the Commission in its budgetary management; calls on the Commission to ensure balanced efforts to protect the budget and the achievement of the objectives of cohesion policy;

190.  Underlines that if Member States themselves detect irregularities and undertake preventive measures this will result in less time spent on establishing the problems and leave more time for resolving them; considers that it will also mean that the management and control systems in Member States work effectively and thus that the level of irregularities could be below the materiality threshold; calls, therefore, on the Member States to be more proactive and responsible and to detect and correct irregularities based on their own control and audits, and to improve management and control systems at national level in order to avoid further net financial corrections and loss of funds;

191.  Calls on the Member States to provide the Commission with sufficient information in volume and in quality in cases of financial corrections triggered by Commission audits in order to ensure swift procedures;

192.  Stresses, in this regard, the importance of regulatory certainty and proper Commission guidance and technical assistance for Member States’ authorities, including sufficiently specific formulation of its requirements; calls also on the Commission to work in close cooperation with Member States’ authorities in order to improve the efficiency of first and second level controls;

193.  Calls on the Commission to provide Member States with guidance for harmonised reporting on implementation of financial corrections which will facilitate monitoring and evaluation of the impact of financial corrections executed by Member States;

194.  Supports the Court’s conclusion that the legal framework as regard financial corrections for the post-2020 programming period should be reinforced but the primary focus must remain on the prevention of irregularities and fraud;

195.  Calls on the Commission to set up an integrated monitoring system, which allows the information in the databases to be used for comparative analysis, covering both preventive measures and financial corrections for the 2014-2020 period as soon as possible and to provide timely access to information to Parliament, to Council and to the relevant Member States’ authorities;

196.  Calls on the Court to focus more in its future audit activity on systematic weaknesses and provide recommendations to both the Commission and the Member States on improving the functioning of the overall system for financial management and control;

Part XV – Special Report No 5/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Youth unemployment - have EU policies made a difference? An assessment of the Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative"

197.  Welcomes the Court's special report and is pleased that the Commission accepts some of the Court’s recommendations and will consider them;

198.  Notes that the youth unemployment rate in the Union has decreased in the past few years; regrets though that in mid-2016, it still affected 18,8 % of young people; strongly encourages Member States to utilise available Union support to tackle this long standing situation;

199.  Is strongly concerned that the NEET population (not in employment, education or training) is disconnected from the education and the labour market; understands that this population is the hardest to reach through the existing operational programmes implementing youth unemployment financial schemes; considers that for the 2017-2020 period the focus should be put on this population to ensure the achievement of the main objectives of the Youth Guarantee (YG);

200.  Stresses that integration of the NEET population requires significantly more Union financing and Member States should also mobilise additional resources from their national budgets;

201.  Emphasises that the YG has made a positive contribution to tackling youth unemployment since 2012 but that the youth unemployment rate remains unacceptably high, and therefore calls for the Youth Employment Initiative to be extended until 2020;

202.  Regrets that none of the visited Member States was able to provide all NEETs with an opportunity to take up an offer within four months of entering the YG scheme;

203.  Welcomes in particular the Court’s recommendation that more attention needs to be paid to improving the quality of offers;

204.  Notes that the Commission concludes in its communication published in October 2016(17) that there is a need to improve its effectiveness;

205.  Notes the persistent challenge of skills mismatches in meeting labour-market demands; asks the Commission, within the framework of the Council’s Employment Committee (EMCO), to promote the exchange of best practices between the Member States in order to raise this issue in the employment agenda;

206.  Welcomes the Commission’s cooperation with Member States in identifying and diffusing good practice in monitoring and reporting based on the existing systems across Member States; reminds the Commission that the comparability of data remains fundamental for these purposes;

207.  Notes that in order to achieve the goal of a quality, continuing employment offer for all young people under 24 in identified regions, considerably more resources would be required;

Part XVI – Special Report No 6/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled " EU response to the refugee crisis: the “hotspot” approach"

208.  Welcomes the Court’s special report; endorses its recommendations and sets out its observations and recommendations below;

209.  Notes the Commission reply and its commitment to supporting the Italian and Greek authorities; welcomes that the Commission accepts all recommendations made by the Court in order to further develop specific aspects of the hotspot approach;

210.  Regrets that in its special report, the Court could not deal with the broader picture, including relocation of applicants to other Member States; emphasises that the bottlenecks in the follow-up procedures caused a constant challenge for the proper functioning of the hotspots;

211.  Acknowledges the importance of implementing the European agenda on migration; stresses the need to continue developing short-term measures as well as long-term ones to better manage borders and address the root causes of illegal migration;

212.  Calls on the Commission, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Europol, Frontex (in light of its new mandate as European Border and Coast Guards), national authorities and other international organisations to continue and increase their support to the hotspots; notes that only a more intensified co-operation between the Commission, the agencies and Member States can in the long run ensure a more successful development of the concept of hotspots;

213.  Stresses in this regard that, especially in the case of Italy, the continued arrival of migrants continues to pose enormous challenges, for which support from the Union and its Member States is vital;

214.  Stresses the importance of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF); calls for the possibility to apply the financial rules of the emergency assistance to the AMIF and ISF; insists that the only way to increase the hotspots’ efficiency in supporting frontline Member States is to increase financial resources to improve and create reception and accommodation infrastructures, which are essential when enormous numbers of migrants are arriving;

215.  Welcomes the results of the Court’s audit on the situation of migrant minors in the hotspots and stresses the importance of developing an integrated approach for their reception, while always taking into consideration their best interests; calls for a better use of financial resources for the reception of minors and for the training of staff who will closely work with the most vulnerable subjects; recalls that after the publication of this special report, the Commission published a communication completely focused on migrant minors(18); underlines the importance of this communication and calls on Member States to fully implement the recommendations included in the document;

216.  Calls therefore on the Commission and the Council to step up their efforts for supporting the hotspots through more effective relocation and, if there are no grounds for admission, return procedures;

217.  Is alarmed by the continued reports of trafficking of children; calls for additional measures to protect children, especially unaccompanied minors, from their arrival onward; considers it unacceptable that traffickers should continue to pose a direct threat to children;

218.  Calls on Europol to continue its efforts in fighting illegal migration, trafficking in human beings and the fight against the criminal organisations involved and to support national authorities in dealing with possible criminal investigations into the management of the hotspots;

219.  Welcomes the Italian and Greek national authorities’ efforts to register the highest possible number of migrants arriving on their shores, with a registration rate in Greece of 78 % in 2016 compared to 8 % in 2015 and of 60 % in 2015 compared to an average of 97 % for 2016 in Italy; underlines that the only way to have an efficient reception system is to have a precise picture of the situation on the ground;

220.  Calls upon the Commission and the Council to ensure the quality of the examination of asylum applications in the hotspots; recognises the difficult circumstances under which the applications have to be processed but emphasises the need to avoid accelerated procedures that result in mistakes being made; further stresses that the frontline Member States should be responsible only for the registration and taking of fingerprints of all migrants, but that follow-up procedures should be a common responsibility of all Member States in a spirit of solidarity; calls for asylum seekers to be adequately informed about the relocation procedure as such, about their rights and about possible countries of destination;

221.  Calls upon the Council to ensure that the persistent lack of experts is remedied by support from EASO as well as from Member States without further delay; is convinced that, especially in the case of Italy, additional support will also prove to be necessary in the future; calls upon the Commission and Council to agree on a plan to make such additional capacity readily available upon request from Italy and Greece;

222.  Underlines that hotspots are places dedicated to the registration of incoming migrants and should not therefore become overcrowded, nor detention centres; calls upon Member States to continue their efforts in putting in practice all necessary measures to fully comply with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union;

223.  Is concerned at the many different stakeholders currently being involved in the establishment and functioning of the hotpots and requests that the Commission and the Member States submit proposals which will make the structure more transparent and accountable;

224.  Recommends that the Court consider a quick follow-up report on the functioning of the hotspots with a broader scope that includes an analysis of asylum, relocation and return procedures;

Part XVII – Special Report No 7/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "The certification bodies’ new role on CAP expenditure: a positive step towards a single audit model but with significant weaknesses to be addressed"

225.  Welcomes the Court's special report, and endorses its remarks and recommendations; notes with satisfaction that the Commission accepts most of the recommendations and will consider, or has already begun to implement them;

226.  Acknowledges the positive progress made in the CAP expenditure audit model; regrets however that the single audit scheme is still not functioning at its full potential;

227.  Reminds the Commission of its ultimate responsibility over the efficient use of CAP expenditure; encourages the Commission furthermore to ensure that the application of control methods is sufficiently similar throughout the Union, and that all the certification bodies (CBs) apply the same criteria in their work;

228.  Notes that the CBs have been independently auditing their respective country’s paying agencies since 1996; welcomes in this regard the fact that in 2015, for the first time, the CBs were required to ascertain the legality and regularity of the related expenditure; considers this to be a very positive development as it could help Member States strengthen their controls and reduce audit costs, and enable the Commission to obtain independent additional assurance on the legality and regularity of CAP expenditure;

229.  Regrets however that the Commission can use the work of the CBs only to a limited extent, since according to the Court's report, there are significant design weaknesses in the current framework, due to which the CBs’ opinions do not fully comply with audit standards and rules in some important areas;

230.  Notes with concern from the Court's report that there were weaknesses in both methodology and implementation, inter alia audit strategies are often inappropriate, inadequate sets of samples are being drawn, and the CBs auditors often lack a sufficient level of skills and legal expertise; acknowledges, however, that 2015 may have been a challenging year for the Member States, as the relevant Union rules and guidelines were in a kick-off period at the time, and the CBs may not have been provided with enough information and training on their practical implementation, or given enough guidance on the required number of samples;

231.  Calls on the Commission to make further efforts to tackle the weaknesses pointed out in the Court's report, and to achieve a truly efficient single audit model in CAP expenditure; encourages the Commission to monitor and actively support the CBs in improving their work and methodology on the legality and regularity of expenditure;

232.  Points out in particular the need to develop more reliable working methods in the guidelines relating to the risk of inflating the assurance deriving from internal controls and endorses the Court’s remarks as to the inappropriate representativeness of samples and the type of testing allowed, the unnecessary calculation of two different error rates and how the rates are used, and the unreliable opinions that are based on an understated error;

233.  Notes also from the Court’s report that despite the often unreliable nature of the control statistics of the Member States, the Commission continues to base its assurance model on this data, and that in 2015 the CBs' opinion was merely one factor taken into account;

234.  Regrets that the consequences resulting from this unreliability are clear; notes, for instance, that in direct payments DG AGRI granted top ups for 12 out of 69 paying agencies with an error rate above 2 %, while only one paying agency had initially qualified its declaration, and that in 2015 DG AGRI also issued reservations for 10 paying agencies; notes also that in rural areas, DG AGRI granted top ups for 36 out of 72 paying agencies and in 14 cases the adjusted error rate was above 5 %, and that in 2015 DG AGRI also issued reservations for 24 paying agencies from 18 Member States;

235.  Calls on the Commission to focus on this unreliability and to develop measures in order to achieve a reliable basis for its assurance model; believes that the Commission should in this regard actively guide the CBs to carry out adequate opinions, and take advantage of the information and data provided as a result;

236.  Encourages the Commission also to require the CBs to put in place appropriate safeguards to ensure the representativeness of their samples, to allow the CBs to carry out sufficient on-the-spot testing, to require the CBs to calculate only one single error rate for legality and regularity, and to ensure that the level of error reported by the paying agencies in their control statistics is properly included in the CBs’ error rate;

237.  Recommends, in particular, that the Commission place an emphasis in opinions on the legality and regularity of CAP expenditure that is of a quality and scope which enable the Commission to ascertain the reliability of the paying agencies' control data, or where appropriate, estimate the necessary adjustment of the paying agencies’ error rates on the basis of the opinions provided by the CBs;

238.  Notes that, regarding the Court’s recommendation number 7, the Commission has to make sure that the paying agencies’ error rate does not inappropriately cumulate in the CBs’ overall error rate; believes that the guidelines in this regard should be as clear as possible in order to avoid misunderstandings in financial corrections;

239.  Notes also from the Court’s report that the safeguard that is the paying agencies’ lack of advance notice of which transactions will be subject to re-performance, was compromised in the case of Italy, where the CB had given the paying agency an advance notice of which beneficiaries would be scrutinised before the paying agency carried out the majority of its initial on-the-spot checks; stresses strongly that the adequate application of the claim-based selection method has to be secured in all cases, and advance notices cannot be given without consequences;

240.  Points out that for non-IACS transactions (both EAGF and EAFRD), there is a significant disparity between the period for which the on-the-spot checks are reported (the calendar year) and the period for which expenditure is paid (from 16 October 2014 to 15 October 2015 for the 2015 financial year); notes that as a result, some of the beneficiaries subject to on-the-spot checks performed during the 2014 calendar year were not reimbursed in the 2015 financial year, and the CBs cannot include the results of such transactions in their calculation of the error rate for the financial year concerned; calls on the Commission to come up with an appropriate solution for the synchronisation of these calendars;

241.  Points out that the control schedules for the paying agencies can be very tight, especially in Member States with a short growing season, and providing the relevant information to the CBs in good time may often prove to be very challenging; notes that this may result in the use of multiple different control methods and duplicated error rates, as the CBs cannot fully follow the paying agencies’ control procedure; believes that this issue could be resolved, for example by means of satellite based monitoring measures;

242.  Considers that new technology could be better taken advantage of in general in the control of CAP expenditure: where a sufficient level of reliability can be achieved e.g. by satellite control, the beneficiaries and the auditors should not be burdened with excessive on-the-spot audits; stresses that while securing the financial interest of the Union funding in CAP expenditure, the ultimate aim of the single audit scheme should be to provide efficient controls, well-functioning administrative systems and a lessening of bureaucratic burdens;

243.  Stresses furthermore that the single audit model should include fewer layers in the control system and involve less expense for the Union, the Member States and the beneficiaries; considers that more emphasis should be put on the reliability of the overall control system of the Member State, instead of focusing merely on supplementary checks for the beneficiaries; considers the control system still to be too burdensome for beneficiaries, that in those Member States where irregularities and frauds are less common, the overall audit system has proven to be sufficient, and that reliability can be secured by other methods than excessive on-the-spot checks;

244.  Calls on the Commission to take careful note of the Court's report and Parliament’s recommendations and to develop further the control system of CAP expenditure towards a truly single audit approach;

245.   Highlights that many of the shortcomings identified by the Court were raised and addressed by the Commission in its 2018 guideline; welcomes the constant progress made by certification bodies;

Part XVIII – Special Report No 8/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "EU fisheries controls: more efforts needed"

246.  In order to improve the accuracy of information of fishing capacity asks the Member States, by 2018, to establish procedures to verify the accuracy of the information recorded in their national fleet registers;

247.  In the context of any future amendment to the Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009(19) (“the Control Regulation”), and in order to improve the accuracy of information on fishing capacity, asks the Commission to include in its legislative proposal detailed rules for the regular documentary and on-the-spot verifications of both gross tonnage (GT) and engine power (kW) indicators used to calculate fishing capacity;

248.  In the context of any future amendment to the Control Regulation, and in order to improve the monitoring of activities of small fishing vessels, calls on the Commission to include in its legislative proposal:

   (a) the removal of the VMS(20) exemptions for vessels between 12 and 15 metres long;
   (b) the requirement for the installation of smaller and cheaper localisation systems for vessels under 12 metres long;

249.  In order to ensure the transparency of the distribution of fishing quotas asks the Member States, by 2019, to inform the Commission of their quota allocation system in line with Article 16 of the CFP Regulation(21), including how transparent and objective criteria have been incorporated into the distribution of fishing quotas among stakeholders;

250.  In order to improve the completeness and reliability of fisheries data asks the Member States, by 2019, to:

   (a) review and improve the process for recording and verification of paper-based data of fishing activities; introduce gradually processes to record and verify the electronic data on fishing activities sent by vessels of less than 10 meters long; ensure that these systems are compatible and allow the exchange of data between Member States, the Commission and the European Fisheries Control Agency;
   (b) ensure that they have reliable data on the activity of vessels under 10 metres long through the gradual introduction of appropriate, cheaper and user-friendly recording and reporting requirements, and that they apply the rules established by the Control Regulation to collect them;
   (c) complete the validation and cross checking of fisheries activities data;

251.  Asks the Commission, by 2020, to:

   (a) establish an information exchange platform to be used by the Member States to send validated data in standard formats and contents, so that the information available to the different Commission services matches the Member States’ data;
   (b) promote the development of a cheaper, simpler and user-friendly system to facilitate the electronic communication of fishing activities for vessels less than 12 metres long; introduce for vessels between 10 and 12 meters’ long the obligation to use electronic recording and reporting systems (e-logbooks) instead of paper-based ones; introduce gradually for vessels less than 10 metres long the obligation to record and report their catches through a cheaper, simpler and user-friendly electronically-based system;
   (c) analyse the remaining problems in data completeness and reliability at Member State level and decide appropriate actions with Member States where necessary;

252.  In the context of any future amendment to the Control Regulation, and in order to improve the completeness and reliability of fisheries data, calls on the Commission to include in its legislative proposal:

   (a) the removal of the Electronic Reporting System and electronic declaration exemptions for vessels between 12 and 15 metres long;
   (b) a review of the catch data reporting obligations of the Member States under the Control Regulation, in order to include the details of fishing area, size of vessels and fishing gear;

253.  In order to improve inspections calls on the Member States to develop and use standard inspection protocols and reports more adapted to the specific regional and technical conditions of the fisheries than those provided under Annex XXVII of Regulation (EU) No 404/2011(22); calls on Member States to do so in consultation with the European Fisheries Control Agency and by 2019, when the new regulation on technical measures(23) is expected to enter into force;

254.  In the context of any future amendment to the Control Regulation, asks the Commission to include in its legislative proposal the mandatory use of the Electronic Inspection Report System by the Member States in order to ensure exhaustive and up-to-date national inspection results; calls on the Commission also to include in the proposal an obligation on Member States to share the results of inspections with other Member States concerned;

255.  In order to ensure the effectiveness of the system of sanctions, calls on the Member States, by 2019:

   (a) to take due account of recurrent infringements or persistent offenders when setting sanctions;
   (b) to fully implement the point systems and ensure its consistent application in their respective territories;

256.  In the context of any future amendment to the Control Regulation, asks the Commission to include in its legislative proposal a provision foreseeing a system to exchange data on infringements and sanctions in cooperation with the European Fisheries Control Agency and the Member States;

Part XIX – Special Report No 9/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "EU support to fight human trafficking in South/South-East Asia"

257.  Welcomes the Court’s special report; endorses its recommendations and sets out its observations and recommendations below;

258.  Acknowledges that despite the challenging environment it had to operate in, the Union made a tangible contribution to the fight against human trafficking in South and South-East Asia;

259.  Welcomes the progress made in the fight against human trafficking through measures such as the appointment of European migration liaison officers to specific countries; requests that the work in this line continue;

260.  Encourages the Union to intensify its cooperation with national and regional governments, as well as other organisations present in the area (such as the UN, ASEAN and relevant NGOs) and civil society, in order to obtain a better overview of the remaining priorities and thus prepare a more targeted action plan;

261.  Stresses the importance of eradicating extreme poverty and minority and gender discrimination in South and South-East Asian countries, as well as of consolidating their democratic and human rights’ foundations with the aid of EIDHR;

262.  Calls on the Commission to develop a comprehensive, coherent and reliable database on anti-trafficking financial support so that the distribution of funds is more justified and reaches the recipients that actually have the most pressing needs; agrees with the Council on the necessity of elaborating an updated list of regions and countries affected by human trafficking and inclusion of that list in the database;

263.  Welcomes the Commission’s communication entitled ‘Reporting on the follow-up to the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of trafficking in human beings and identifying further concrete actions’ (COM(2017)0728) published by the Commission in December 2017; calls on the Commission to propose specific measures to be developed for each region;

264.  Welcomes the fact that trafficking in human beings will continue to be a priority in the upcoming Union policy cycle on organised and serious international crime for 2018-2021;

265.  Considers it essential to strengthen the law enforcement agencies in South and South-East Asian states so that they are more effective in detecting and dismantling human trafficking networks; demands that the punishments for the criminals involved in people trafficking be toughened;

266.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to continue the fight against human trafficking inside the Union with political and judicial cooperation so as to tackle the mafias that use the Union as a final destination for the victims of human trafficking, as noted in the communication of December 2017;

267.  Believes that a better linkage between the timing of mitigating actions, resources allowed to the issue is required as well as an increased cooperation among the EEAS, the Commission, ASEAN and the United Nations for allowing a more efficient fight against human trafficking;

268.  Invites the EEAS and the Commission to also address the issue of human trafficking by exploring other channels of action like bilateral and multilateral agreements;

Part XX – Special Report No 10/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "EU support to young farmers should be better targeted to foster effective generational renewal"

269.  Is of the opinion that with respect to existing CAP policies:

   (a) a comprehensive evaluation is needed of all tools and measures which can be combined to help young farmers, to focus on comparability across the Union, consistency or inconsistency in result indicators, and obstacles to market entry for young farmers which can be addressed in the future revision of the CAP;
   (b) objectives should be better defined in terms of generational renewal, with possibly a quantified target, and information should be gathered on levels of success in generational renewal and the factors which contribute or hinder it;

270.  Is of the opinion that for the post-2020 CAP, legislation should be framed such that the Commission indicate (or require Member States to indicate, in line with the shared management provisions) a clear intervention logic for the policy instruments addressing generational renewal in agriculture; considers that the intervention logic should include:

   (a) a sound assessment of young farmers’ needs which investigates the underlying reasons why young people willing to become farmers face barriers in establishing farms and the degree of diffusion of such barriers across geographical areas, agricultural sectors or other specific holdings’ characteristics;
   (b) an assessment of which needs could be addressed by Union policy instruments and which needs can be or are already better addressed by Member States’ policies as well as an analysis of which forms of support (e.g. direct payments, lump sum, financial instruments) are best suited to match the identified needs;
   (c) awareness-raising measures of possible types of assistance for earlier transfer of a farm to a successor with accompanying advisory services or measures like a satisfactory retirement scheme based on national or regional income or revenues in the agricultural, food and forestry sector;
   (d) notwithstanding the long period of planning transfers of agricultural holdings, ensure a definition of SMART objectives, making explicit and quantifiable the expected results of the policy instruments in terms of expected generational renewal rate and contribution to the viability of the supported holdings; considers in particular that it should be clear if the policy instruments aim at supporting as many young farmers as possible or target specific types of young farmers (e.g. the most educated, those establishing farms in less favoured areas, those introducing energy or water savings technologies in the holdings, those increasing the profitability or productivity of the holdings, those employing more people);

271.  When implementing the post-2020 CAP measures, calls on the Member States to improve the targeting of the measures by:

   (a) applying criteria to ensure the selection of the most cost-effective projects, such as projects delivering the highest increase in sustainable productivity or viability of the supported holdings, or the highest increase in employment in the areas with highest unemployment or in less favoured areas with lowest generational renewal;
   (b) applying clear criteria for assessing how young farmers can be supported in the case of joint control of legal holdings (e.g. by defining what percentage of voting rights or shares the beneficiary should have or indicating a period during which a shift in the balance of the shares takes place, what minimum percentage of her or his revenues should come from his or her activity in the supported holding) to direct the aid towards young farmers making farming in the supported holdings their main activity;
   (c) applying sufficiently high minimum thresholds of points that projects should reach and adequately split the budget of the measures to provide equal availability of funds to young farmers establishing farms during the entire duration of the programming period;
   (d) improve the use of business plans as a tool to assess both the need for public funding by assessing – at the application stage – the likely viability of the holdings without the aid and – at the end of the projects – the impact of the aid on the viability of the holding or on other clearly specified objectives (e.g. employment, introduction of energy or water savings technologies);

272.  Is of the opinion that legislation for post-2020 CAP measures should ensure that the Commission and Member States (in line with the shared management provisions) improve the monitoring and evaluation system; considers in particular that:

   (a) the Commission should define output, result and impact indicators allowing assessment of the progress, effectiveness and efficiency of the policy tools against objectives, by drawing on best practices, such as useful indicators developed by Member States in their monitoring systems;
   (b) the Member States should regularly collect actual data on the structural and financial characteristics of the supported holdings (e.g. revenues, income, number of employees, innovations introduced, farmers’ educational levels) allowing assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of the measures in achieving the desired policy objectives;
   (c) the Commission and the Member States should require evaluations to provide useful information on the achievements of the projects and measures based on actual data on the evolution of the structural and financial characteristics of the supported holdings, by drawing on best practices (e.g. benchmarking, counter-factual analyses, surveys) such as those identified in this audit (see box 5 of the Court’s special report on the case of Emilia Romagna at paragraph 75);
   (d) ensuring that young farmers have ready access to advice and tools that help them to react efficiently and effectively against threats of market disturbances or market saturations as well as price volatility; considers that in this way, competiveness and market orientation could be enhanced and crisis-related fluctuations in producers’ income could be reduced;

Part XXI – Special Report No 11/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "The Bêkou EU trust fund for the Central African Republic: a hopeful beginning despite some shortcomings"

273.  Welcomes the Court's special report, and endorses its remarks and recommendations;

274.  Welcomes the establishment of the Bêkou European Trust Fund and its contribution to the international response to the crisis in the Central African Republic; recognises that this first trust fund can be considered as a major pilot project in a number of ways and that it is necessary to develop more precise guidance on the systemic issue of donor coordination, monitoring and evaluation according to a more systemic approach to obtain guarantees;

275.  Notes that trust funds were part of an ad hoc response in the context of a lack of resources and flexibility needed for a rapid and comprehensive approach to major crises; believes that more time is needed to prove its effectiveness and to further learn from operational implementation;

276.  Considers also that particular attention should be paid to the effectiveness and political governance of trust funds as well as to a lack of guarantees and oversight of the final use of the allocated funds;

277.  Believes that the Court’s observations referring to the fund’s limited influence on coordination amongst stakeholders should be given special attention and that the Commission should do everything in its power to use already gained experiences in the activities of the European Development Fund (EDF) in areas such as implementation and coordination of multi-party investments and results-ownership management;

278.  Stresses that any new financial instruments and blended financial instruments should remain in line with the overarching objectives of Union development policy and focus on areas where added value and strategic impact are the highest;

279.  Notes that Member States’ contributions to the trust fund have, to date, been relatively low; calls for Member States to become more involved in order to ensure that this fund delivers the expected policy objectives;

280.  Believes that due care should be devoted to controlling management and administrative costs relative to total contributions; favours the coherence and complementarity of such new development tools with the EDFs strategy and policy goals;

281.  Calls on the Commission to implement comprehensive control mechanisms to ensure political scrutiny from Parliament of 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;

Part XXII – Special Report No 12/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Implementing the Drinking Water Directive: water quality and access to it improved in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, but investment needs remain substantial"

282.  As access to good quality drinking water is one of the most basic needs of citizens, stresses that the Commission should do its utmost to better monitor the situation, especially in regards to small water supply zones, which are closest to end-users; recalls that poor quality drinking water can lead to health risks for European citizens;

283.  Urges the Member States to deliver more information to citizens as regards the quality of drinking water supplied to them, as in a number of Member States citizens are not aware that the tap water is drinkable;

284.  Deplores the fact that Member States are not obliged to report on the quality of water of small water supply zones; hopes that the revised Drinking Water Directive(24) remedies this situation;

285.  Underlines the importance of the sustainability of water infrastructure and stresses the significance of keeping citizens involved in the maintenance of water infrastructure;

286.  Emphases the crucial fact that water pricing policies must foster efficiency and recover the costs of water use; notes that it is in the responsibility of the Member States to provide affordable and high quality drinking water for all their citizens, on the understanding that water is a common good and human right;

287.  Reminds the Commission that ongoing discussions and growing trends towards liberalisation and privatisation of water services in several Member States have become a major issue of concern to citizens;

Part XXIII – Special Report No 13/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "A single European rail traffic management system: will the political choice ever become reality?"

288.  Welcomes the Court's special report, and endorses its remarks and recommendations;

289.  Notes that the Commission did not assess properly the impact of the legislative packages that it has launched since 2000 on the rail sector; regrets that the Union funds invested in the several projects cannot be considered cost-effective;

290.  Notes that railway sector is generally very corporative which may affect the perception of the market liberalisation more as a threat than as an advantage;

291.  Notes that the interest of Member States to enhance interoperability must be accompanied by an estimation of costs and required funding; encourages Member States to set realistic targets when allocating Union financial support to the ERTM system and advises the Commission to set deadlines for implementation that can be met;

292.  Welcomes the Commission’s undertaking to draw up a dismantling timetable in conjunction with the Member States, with legally binding objectives; therefore welcomes the fact that the Commission has decided to work with the industry to promote the use of a common tendering system drawn up by the Community of European Railways;

293.  Considers that the costly investments required by this system accompanied by the deferred benefit for those that bear the costs demands a strategic assessment of priorities set within the Council and Member States; welcomes the European deployment plan and the associated detailed ERTMS action plan, the objective of which is to ensure a steady flow of aid; encourages Member States to focus on better coordination of the European deployment plan and make sure Union commitments are considered within their national priorities; welcomes the Commission’s undertaking to set interim objectives in the national deployment plans to improve the monitoring of individual sections;

294.  Is concerned at the high rate of decommitment related to TEN-T support for ERTMS projects mainly motivated by the fact that Union financial provisions are not aligned with the national implementation strategies; welcomes the fact that the Commission is adapting CEF financing procedures where possible; calls on the Commission to consider and assess the situation and to take the necessary measures to overcome these shortcomings;

295.  Regrets that Union funding for on-board units is mostly taken up by domestic traffic and that freight transport cannot be supported by cohesion funds; recalls that the rail freight transport is one key aspects of the single market;

296.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that shortcomings related to incompatibilities of the system are effectively overcome within the next programming period;

297.  Considers that, in order to be operational, the single rail market will require the full involvement of the market operators concerned prior to the allocation of Union funding; is of the opinion that Union policy on the rail sector requires a realistic shift of strategy, which should include a cost-benefit estimate, and the development of an economic model in the Member States, if no such model exists, with the aim of guaranteeing appropriate financing and making it possible to identify sources in an effective manner;

Part XXIV – Special Report No 14/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Performance review of case management at the Court of Justice of the European Union"

298.  Welcomes the Court of Auditors’ special report; endorses its remarks and recommendations;

299.  Criticises the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for refusing the access of the Court of Auditors to some of the documents they requested for the performance review of the CJEU; reminds the CJEU that Court of Auditors Members as well as its auditors are bound by confidentiality and professional secrecy in the performance of duties(25) ; regrets that référendaires could not be interviewed despite their crucial role in the CJEU’s work;

300.  Notes with regret that from 2012 onwards the General Court has repeatedly exceeded the reasonable period of time within which a litigant is entitled to expect judgement to be delivered; invites the General Court to report to Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control to clarify the situation;

301.  Notes that following reform of the CJEU’s judicial structure, the allocation of judges to the chambers is made according to the caseload in different areas; is interested to know how this allocation is made, whether specialised chambers are in place for certain areas; requests statistical data on the progress of files under the new system;

302.  Regrets that the Court of Auditors excluded from the sampling the cases which took longer than twice the average duration; is of the opinion that not only typical cases are relevant to assessing performance;

303.  Suggests that the working languages of the CJEU, in particular those in which it conducts deliberations, be enlarged to English, French and German, which are the working languages in the Union institutions; encourages the CJEU to look for best practices in the Union institutions to implement this reform of its language practices;

304.  Notes that référendaires are very influential in the decision-making process of the CJEU but that their role and the rules governing their conduct remain unknown to the outside world;

305.  Is concerned that in the overview of the most frequent factors affecting the duration of the written procedure at the General Court, the reception and processing of procedural documents by the registry counts for 85 % of the time required; enquires whether the registry has sufficient resources;

306.  Is concerned at the length of cases in the General Court where confidentiality issues are raised;

307.  Takes note of the process for assigning cases referred to the courts; asks the CJEU to provide the rules stipulating the procedure of assignment in both courts;

308.  Notes that in 2014 and 2015 around 40 % of cases in the General Court were assigned outside of the rota system, which puts the system itself into question; at the same time, raises doubts about the discretionary allocation of files within the General Court; regrets the lack of transparency surrounding the procedure;

309.  Is concerned that judicial vacations are one of the most frequent factors affecting the duration of the handling of cases in the CJEU; proposes that hearings and deliberations on a broader range of cases - other than those with specific circumstances - be permitted during that period;

310.  Notes that the sickness, maternity or parental leave or departure of the référendaires also have an impact in the duration of cases; asks the CJEU to consider possible alternative methods to overcome temporary absences and ensure the smooth progress of work;

311.  Is of the opinion that resources are not shared proportionately among the courts taking into account their respective workload; suggests that the “cellule des lecteurs d’arrêts” in the General Court intervene at a later stage in the case;

312.  Calls on the Member States to make sure that nomination decisions for new judges are taken well in advance of their predecessors’ date of departure, to ensure a smooth handover of the workload;

313.  Is concerned at the CJEU’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to applying various procedural steps; advises the CJEU to adapt the deadlines it sets to take into account the typology and complexity of cases;

314.  Notes that intellectual property issues are involved in a significant number of cases in both courts; encourages the CJEU to analyse ways of simplifying the procedures for these cases and consider a pre-review by the research and documentation services of the CJEU;

Part XXV – Special Report No 16/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Rural Development Programming: less complexity and more focus on results needed"

315.  When preparing the post-2020 programming period, in order to enhance the focus on performance and results, increase integration between rural development programs (RDP) and other programmes and to improve assessments of the RDPs’ contribution towards the strategic objectives, calls on:

   (a) the Commission to ensure that its policy proposals indicate how consistency between individual programmes will be enhanced through further development of requirements;
   (b) the Member States to specify by 2022 how coordination, complementarity and synergy mechanisms will be implemented, followed up and reported on in the context of overarching Union objectives and rules;

316.  Asks the Commission to review the design of programming documents by the end of 2020 with a view to simplifying their content and reducing the number of requirements for the post-2020 programming period; considers in particular, that it should limit programming documents’ structure to those elements and options that are essential for correct planning, implementation and monitoring of RD expenditure;

317.  Calls on the Commission to take measures with the Member States by the end of 2018 to ensure that enhanced annual implementation reporting in 2019 provides clear and comprehensive information on programme achievements and that the required answers to common evaluation questions provide an improved basis for the next programming period;

318.  When preparing the post-2020 programming period, calls on the Commission to define more accurately, in the context of overarching Union objectives for agriculture and rural development, the types of indicators to be set in order to assess the results and impact of rural development interventions; considers that the Commission could benefit in this process from the experience and solutions already developed by other international organisations (e.g. the WHO, the World Bank and the OECD) in focussing on performance and results;

319.  Is of the opinion that the Commission needs to ensure the continuity of the type of investment currently carried out under the second pillar of the common agricultural policy, which is an essential financing instrument for boosting economic growth promoting competitiveness, innovation and employment in lagging regions’ rural and mountainous areas and ensuring sustainable rural development;

320.  Asks the Commission to promote and facilitate national cooperation and networking in order to disseminate good performance measurement practices developed at national level by the end of 2020;

321.  For the post 2020 programming period, asks the Commission to review and take stock of the experience from the implementation of the current system by the end of 2020, including:

   (a) the impact of the performance reserve and what alternative mechanisms could better improve performance;
   (b) the appropriateness and measurability of result indicators used to access the performance reserve and;
   (c) the use made of financial sanctions to address underperformance;

322.  Calls on the Council and the Commission to consider, prior to adopting further legislative proposals in mid 2018, aligning its long-term strategy and policy-making with the budgetary cycle and conducting a comprehensive spending review before a new long-term budget is set;

323.  Considers that in order to allow approval of RDPs at the start of the next programming period, the Commission should indicate in its legislative proposals what changes in the timing of policy design, programming and implementation are included to ensure that RDPs can be approved at the start of the next programming period to allow for timely implementation from 2020;

324.  Is of the opinion that the decision on the duration of the MFF should strike the right balance between two seemingly conflicting requirements: on the one hand, the need for several Union policies – especially those under shared management, such as agriculture and cohesion – to operate on the basis of the stability and predictability of a commitment of at least seven years, and, on the other hand, the need for democratic legitimacy and accountability that results from the synchronisation of each financial framework with the five-year political cycle of Parliament and the Commission;

Part XXVI – Special Report No 17/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "The Commission's intervention in the Greek financial crisis"

325.  Thanks the Court for preparing a comprehensive report on a very significant topic, which is closely linked to the activities of the Committee on Budgetary Control; regrets that it took three years to draft the audit report; underlines the importance of rightly timed reports as this would facilitate the work of the Commission and Parliament considerably;

326.  Deplores the fact that the Court had only a limited mandate in auditing the Union financial assistance to Greece that was managed by the troika consisting of the Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF and did not receive adequate information from the ECB; encourages the ECB, in the spirit of mutual cooperation, to provide information allowing the Court to have a broader picture of the use of Union funds;

327.  Recognises the complicated economic situation throughout Europe and especially the challenging political situation in Greece during the implementation of the Union financial assistance, which had a direct impact on the efficiency of the implementation of the assistance;

328.  Underlines the vital importance of transparency in use of Union funds in different financial assistance instruments implemented in Greece;

329.  Asks the Commission to improve the general procedures for designing support programmes, in particular by outlining the scope of the analytical work needed to justify the content of the conditions and where possible by indicating the tools which could be drawn upon in relevant situations;

330.  Underlines the need for the Commission to improve its arrangements for monitoring the implementation and roll-out of reforms so as to identify better administrative or other impediments to the effective implementation of the reforms; considers additionally that the Commission needs to ensure that it has the necessary resources to undertake such assessments;

Part XXVII – Special Report No 18/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Single European Sky: a changed culture but not a single sky"

331.  Points out the lack of full implementation of the Single European Sky due to resistance of certain air professions, which defend their own prerogatives, and due to lack of strong political will of the Member States to fulfil the needs for implementation of this initiative;

332.  Deplores the fact that although the Union has managed to eliminate land borders between the Schengen Member States, it has not been so far been able to eliminate borders in the air among the same Member States, which leads to common losses of the value of EUR 5 billion annually;

333.  Points out that there is a need to revise and update the indicators in order to streamline the air traffic performance scheme; welcomes the fact that the Commission has said that they are being revised; emphasises that accurate, appropriate data are required in order to ensure that the review of the indicators is effective;

334.  Points out that the implementation of the Single European Sky would reduce the CO2 emissions of the aviation industry by up to 10 %, which would significantly help in reaching the targets in the Paris Climate Agreement;

335.  Asks the Commission to look further into the details of the deliverables of the SESAR Joint Undertaking as they might not be applicable to the current situation where the Single European Sky has not been implemented and they risk being applied in air systems which are not able to cooperate with each other;

336.  Asks the Commission to present details of its contract with Eurocontrol in order to monitor the spending of Union taxpayers’ money;

337.  Points out to the need for the national supervisory authorities to be independent and tasked with sufficient financial and organisational resources;

338.  Asks the Commission to inform Parliament’s responsible committee why it has not launched infringement procedures on the non-implementation of the Functional Airspace Blocks, which were supposed to be operational in 2012 but have not been functioning until now;

Part XXVIII – Special Report No 21/2017 of the Court of Auditors entitled "Greening: a more complex income support scheme, not yet environmentally"

339.  Welcomes the recommendations proposed by the Court and invites the Commission to follow up on the recommendations and remarks outlined in the special report;

340.  Notes the considerably high spending on the new green payment representing 30 % of all CAP direct payments and almost 8 % of the whole Union budget; notes with concern that this amount does not correspond to the level of ambition that the green payment offers; invites the Commission to take this into account when preparing a CAP reform;

341.  Regrets the fact that it remains unclear how greening is expected to contribute to the broader Union targets on climate change; calls on the Commission to create a specific action plan for greening as a part of a new CAP reform that would clearly outline the intervention logic and also a set of specific, measurable targets;

342.  Is concerned that the greening instrument remains an income support measure that allows farmers to increase their income by up to 1 %, while not necessarily imposing any obligations or costs related to the implementation in many cases, thus bring the raison d´étre of the financing into question; calls on the Commission to develop more stringent rules on farmers, while avoiding overuse of exemptions;

343.  Is concerned by the level of complexity and transparency of greening and the CAP itself; calls on the Commission to streamline the greening programme and the entire CAP in order to raise the level of transparency and to avoid the high risk of abuse and double funding;

344.  Is particularly worried by the conclusion of the Court that greening is unlikely to provide significant benefits for the environment and climate and calls on the Commission to reconsider the existence of the instrument and the possibility to re-invest the considerable greening funds into already existing, often overlapping programmes that have proven to be more effective and justified;

o
o   o

345.  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 48, 24.2.2016.
(2) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0121.
(6) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(7) OJ L 287, 29.10.2013, p. 63.
(8)1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.9.10.11.12.13. The ECB should:Further streamline the decision-making process and delegate certain decisions to lower levels in order to enable the Supervisory Board to focus on more demanding issues;Assess the risks entailed and implement the necessary safeguards, including managing possible conflicting requests and dedicated compliance monitoring to overcome concerns about the use of shared services;Assign sufficient internal audit skills and resources to ensure that high and medium risk areas are covered as and when appropriate;Fully cooperate with the Court in order to enable it to exercise its mandate and thereby enhance accountability;Formalise its current arrangements for measuring and publicly disclosing information on supervisory performance to enhance its external accountability;Amend the SSM Framework Regulation in order to formalise commitments by participating NCAs and ensure that all participate fully and proportionately in the work of the JSTs;Develop, in collaboration with the NCAs, role/team profiles and methods for assessing both the suitability of the staff that the NCAs intend to assign to the JSTs and their subsequent performance;Establish and maintain a centralised, standardised and comprehensive database of the skills, experience and qualifications of JST employees, both ECB and NCA staff;Implement a formal training curriculum for both new and existing supervisory staff in JSTs;Develop and implement a risk-based methodology to determine the target number of staff and the composition of skills for JSTs;Review periodically the clustering mode in the important supervisory planning process and update it as necessary;Supplement or redeploy its staff to allow it to substantially strengthen its presence in on-site inspections of significant banks based on a clear prioritisation of risks;Closely follow up on the weaknesses in the IT system for on-site inspections and pursue its efforts to increase the qualifications and skills of on-site inspectors from NCAs.
(9) Statement ‘Ensuring fully auditable, accountable and effective banking supervision arrangements following the introduction of the Single Supervisory Mechanism’ of the Contact Committee of the Heads of the Supreme Audit Institutions of the EU Member States and the European Court of Auditors.
(10) OJ C 50, 9.2.2018, p. 80.
(11) For limits on access to information see annex II of the special report.
(12) For the existing reporting arrangements between the ECB and the European Parliament see annex IX of the special report.
(13) Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds (OJ L 20, 26.1.2010, p. 7).
(14) Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7).
(15) An Action Plan for nature, people and the economy (COM(2017)0198).
(16) Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability assessment.
(17) The Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment Initiative three years on (COM(2016)0646).
(18) The protection of children in migration (COM(2017)0211).
(19) Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 of 20 November 2009 establishing a Union control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy, amending Regulations (EC) No 847/96, (EC) No 2371/2002, (EC) No 811/2004, (EC) No 768/2005, (EC) No 2115/2005, (EC) No 2166/2005, (EC) No 388/2006, (EC) No 509/2007, (EC) No 676/2007, (EC) No 1098/2007, (EC) No 1300/2008, (EC) No 1342/2008 and repealing Regulations (EEC) No 2847/93, (EC) No 1627/94 and (EC) No 1966/2006 (OJ L 343, 22.12.2009, p. 1).
(20) Vessel monitoring systems.
(21) Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1954/2003 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2371/2002 and (EC) No 639/2004 and Council Decision 2004/585/EC (OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, p. 22).
(22) Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 404/2011 of 8 April 2011 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (OJ L 112, 30.4.2011, p. 1).
(23) See Commission proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the conservation of fishery resources and the protection of marine ecosystems through technical measures, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1967/2006, (EC) No 1098/2007, (EC) No 1224/2009 and Regulations (EU) No 1343/2011 and (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 894/97, (EC) No 850/98, (EC) No 2549/2000, (EC) No 254/2002, (EC) No 812/2004 and (EC) No 2187/2005 (COM(2016)0134).
(24) See Commission proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the quality of water intended for human consumption (recast) (COM(2017)0753).
(25) Please see the Code of Conduct for Members of the European Court of Auditors, in particular Article 6 thereof, and the Ethical guidelines for the European Court of Auditors applying to the staff, in particular Section 4 concerning professional secrecy.


Discharge 2016: EU general budget - 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th EDFs
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Decision
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Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2016 (2017/2146(DEC))
P8_TA(2018)0123A8-0123/2018

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 2016 (COM(2017)0364 – C8‑0257/2017),

–  having regard to the financial information on the European Development Funds (COM(2017)0299),

–  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 2016, 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 2016, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendations of 20 February 2018 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 2016 (05078/2018 – C8-0053/2018, 05079/2018 – C8-0054/2018, 05080/2018 – C8-0055/2018, 05082/2018 – C8-0056/2018),

–  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 (Benin) 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 (A8-0123/2018),

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 2016;

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 18 April 2018 on the closure of the accounts of the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2016 (2017/2146(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 2016 (COM(2017)0364 – C8‑0257/2017),

–  having regard to the financial information on the European Development Funds (COM(2017)0299),

–  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 2016, 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 2016, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendations of 20 February 2018 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 2016 (05078/2018 – C8-0053/2018, 05079/2018 – C8-0054/2018, 05080/2018 – C8-0055/2018, 05082/2018 – C8-0056/2018),

–  having regard to the Commissions’ report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2015 financial year (COM(2017)0379),

–  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 (Benin) 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 (A8-0123/2018),

A.   whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the Parliament wishes to stress the special importance of further strengthening of the democratic legitimacy of the EU institutions through improving on transparency and accountability, implementing the concept of the Performance-Based Budgeting (PBB) and good governance of human resources;

1.  Approves the closure of the accounts of the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2016;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Council, the Commission, the Court of Auditors and the European Investment Bank, and to arrange for its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

3. European Parliament resolution of 18 April 2018 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 2016 (2017/2146(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 2016,

–  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 (A8-0123/2018),

A.  whereas the main goal of the Cotonou Agreement as the framework of the Union’s relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and overseas countries and territories (OCTs) is to reduce and eventually eradicate poverty, in line with the objectives of sustainable development and the gradual integration of ACP countries and OCTs into the world economy;

B.  whereas the European Development Funds (EDFs) are the Union’s main financial instrument for providing development cooperation aid to ACP countries and OCTs;

C.  whereas the history of the Member States confers obligations on the Union regarding development in ACP countries and cooperation with OCTs, which are tied to the Union’s future due to geopolitics, globalisation and global challenges such as the effects of climate change and demographic change;

D.  whereas the Commission, as the implementing body, is accountable for the discharge of the EDFs;

E.  whereas the emergence of new global challenges is thoroughly changing the patterns of delivery aid leading all development stakeholders to reflect on a new aid approach and reorientation of the current external aid framework;

F.  whereas sustainability, policy coherence and effectiveness principles are crucial for developing a new and cross-cutting Union development approach in view of enhancing the positive impact of its development aid and deliverables;

G.  whereas transparency and accountability are prerequisites for both democratic scrutiny and the consistency of Union development action with the objectives of other actors such as Member States, international organisations, international financial institutions or multilateral development banks;

H.  whereas effective coordination is central to limiting the risk of aid fragmentation and maximising impact coherence and partners’ ownership of development priorities;

I.  whereas joint development financing and programmes should be translated into better targeting of objectives, identifying synergies and sharing of information from the various organisations’ results frameworks;

J.  whereas the design of new modes of intervention such as blending, investment capacities or platforms and dedicated trust funds is a way to leverage financing beyond official development assistance but in compliance with conditions related to transparency, bringing additionality and making a positive impact on the ground;

K.  whereas mobilising the private sector and attracting further investments is key, given the funding gap required to reach ambitious development goals, to secure the best building blocks for sustainable development in the recipient countries under their own administrative capability and within their own societal structure;

L.  whereas budget support, while being a key driver for change and addressing the main development challenges, carries a significant fiduciary risk and should only be granted if it provides sufficient transparency, traceability and accountability and is accompanied by a clear commitment from partner countries to reform policies;

M.  whereas aid development is implemented in a complex and fragile geopolitical context, impacted by issues such as weak governance frameworks, corruption, social and economic instability, armed conflicts, crisis or post-crisis situations triggering migrations or forced displacements, or health crises;

N.  whereas Parliament has reiterated its call for inclusion of the EDFs in the general budget of the Union;

Statement of assurance

Key findings in the 2016 financial implementation

1.  Welcomes the continuous efforts made by the Commission’s services to ameliorate the overall financial management of the EDFs with regard to old outstanding pre-financing commitments and payments;

2.  Notes, in particular, that the fixed target of a 25 % reduction has been slightly overridden for the old open commitments by reaching 28 % and 36 % with regard to old unspent commitments;

3.  Notes also the actions to diminish and close open expired contracts as delays exceeding the 18 months after the end of their operational period constitute a significant risk for the occurrence of regularity errors insofar as supporting documentation might not be available anymore and staff in charge of the management of those contracts might also not be there anymore to ensure adequate continuity of operations;

4.  Observes that the overall share of expired contracts in the portfolio of the Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) represented 15,15 % at the end of 2016 compared to the 15 % target; regrets that 1 058 (or 56 %) out of 1 896 expired contracts are related to the management of EDF operations and that the operational period of 156 EDF expired contracts out of those 1 058 expired more than 5 years ago, the latter representing a financial value of EUR 323 million;

5.  Regrets, however, that, according to the Court of Auditors (the “Court”), the supervisory and control systems were still assessed as only partially effective;

Reliability of the EDF accounts

6.  Welcomes the Court’s opinion that the final annual accounts of the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th EDFs for the year 2016 present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the EDFs as at 31 December 2016 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;

7.  Urges the Commission to act to solve the issue of recoveries of unspent pre-financing incorrectly recorded as operational revenue as this incorrect recording of operational revenue has led to corrections amounting to EUR 3,2 million;

8.  Regrets the fact that these encoding errors have been present since 2015 in the context of the management of recovery orders; notes, however, that in 2016 DG DEVCO issued detailed instructions to its staff on the correct encoding of recovery orders of this type;

Legality and regularity of the EDF operations

9.  Welcomes the Court’s opinion that the revenue underlying the accounts for the year 2016 is legal and regular in all material aspects;

10.  Reiterates its concern about the Court’s assessment of the legality and regularity of payments underlying the accounts which are materially affected by error;

11.  Notes that, according to the Court’s estimation in its annual report, the estimated level of error rate for expenditure underlying the accounts from the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th EDFs is 3,3 %, which indicates a slight decrease compared to 3,8 % in 2014 and 2015, 3,4 % in 2013 and 3 % in 2012;

12.  Notes and regrets that 24 % of the transactions under review (35 out of 143) were affected by error; notes the results of the sampling with regard to projects, whereby 35 out of 130 payments (27 %) were affected by error and, in particular, the fact that 26 payments out of those 35 (74 %) were qualified as quantifiable errors, with 9 final transactions authorised after all ex ante checks had been performed;

13.  Notes with concern that for two cases of quantifiable error, the Commission’s services had enough information from its management systems to prevent, detect or correct the error before accepting the expenditure, which had a direct positive effect on the estimated level of error, which would have been 0,7 percentage points lower, and that five transactions with errors were not detected by external auditors or supervisors;

14.  Observes that for budget support and for the implementation of multi-donor projects by international organisations, with the application of the notional approach, their nature of funding and modalities of payments limit the extent to which transactions are prone to error; reiterates its recurrent concern both on the pooling of Union funds with other donors’ funding, particularly the fact that Union funds are not earmarked for specific identifiable items of expenditure, and on the limits of the Court's audit work arising from the application of the notional approach;

15.  Is concerned by the recurrence and persisting typology of errors, in particular in the area of public procurement, despite consecutive corrective action plans, i.e. non-compliance with procurement provisions with a case of services contracts awarded without a competitive selection procedure, expenditure not incurred, ineligible expenditure or lack of supporting documents; observes that those errors were also related to transactions linked to programme estimates, grants and contribution agreements between the Commission and international organisations; calls on the Commission to address the shortcomings in contract management, selection procedures, document management and the procurement system as a matter of urgency;

16.  Reiterates that the Commission should intensify its efforts in those specific areas of cooperation by refining its existing corrective action plan, in particular when quantifiable errors point to shortcomings in the checks by international organisations on compliance with contractual provisions, as a part of the general effort to improve risk management methods, the overall reinforcement of the monitoring systems and business continuity;

17.  Invites DG DEVCO to pay due attention to the encoding and monitoring of payments in order to respect the set deadlines in the financial circuit and workflows;

Effectiveness of the control framework

18.  Welcomes DG DEVCO’s continuous efforts to improve the implementation of its control framework, in particular the targeting of high-risk areas related to funds under indirect management through international organisations and development agencies and grants under direct management; notes the extension of the reservation to grants and programme estimates under indirect management;

19.  Acknowledges that development aid is often implemented in difficult, unstable or critical contexts which are error-prone;

20.  Repeats its call for unwavering attention to be paid to the recurrent weaknesses observed within the running of key control steps, namely the vulnerability of ex ante checks carried out before project payments are made and external audit verifications on expenditure; notes that DG DEVCO is currently revising the terms of reference of audits and verifications to obtain information allowing for a quality assessment;

21.  Welcomes the fact that a residual error rate (RER) study was carried out for the fifth year in compliance with the RER methodology, thus constituting henceforth a building block of DG DEVCO’s assurance building;

22.  Welcomes the fact that DG DEVCO addressed all weaknesses reported in 2013 by the Court but notes, however, that the RER-specific estimation method still leaves too wide a margin for individual error rates;

23.  Notes with interest that, for the first time, the 2016 RER study estimated the RER at 1,7 %, which is below the materiality threshold of 2 %, confirming a downward trend since 2014, corresponding to an amount at risk of EUR 105 million (or 1,9 % of 2016 expenditure) with a corrective capacity - or estimated future corrections - of EUR 25 million (24 %), while bearing in mind, however, the shortcomings identified in the recording of recovery orders in the accounting system; considers, however, that specific attention should be continuously paid to budget support transactions in view of their high inherent risk;

24.  Reiterates its support for the shift from a general reservation to the issuance of differentiated reservations as requested by Parliament in its previous EDF resolutions to progressively reinforce the assurance mapping of the different operational processes, with (i) a reservation based on error rates on the four following highest risks areas identified namely for grants under direct and indirect management, indirect management with international organisations and development agencies and programme estimates and (ii) a specific and renewed reservation for the African Peace Facility (APF); encourages the Commission to continue refining its management processes according to risk and financial volumes and, if appropriate, add additional conditionalities;

25.  Supports the fact that the Commission has maintained its reservation concerning the APF related to governance and reporting on corrective measures in the management of funds; reiterates its call on the Commission to continue its efforts within the pillar assessment exercise towards reinforcing the control system for the management and operational monitoring of the APF in view of protecting the EDFs against illegal and irregular expenditure; asks the Commission to continue to reinforce the design and effectiveness of the remedial measures at contract level;

26.  Notes that EUR 14,16 million was recovered for the reimbursement of undue payments due to irregularities and errors;

27.  Observes that the cost of controls amounted to EUR 280,17 million or 4,26 % of the total payments made by DG DEVCO in 2016; believes, in this regard, that work on the overall effectiveness of the framework of control activities and their complementarity with good governance principles should be regularly carried out to secure sufficient guarantees;

28.  Considers it necessary to maintain a consistent control strategy ensuring a balance between the absorption capacity of partner countries, respect for compliance provisions and targets related to performance, which should be duly reflected in the management of the different aid operations and delivery modes;

29.   Considers that for infrastructure projects financed through the EDFs, 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;

Monitoring and reporting on DG DEVCO's performance towards achieving its objectives

30.  Invites DG DEVCO to improve significantly its monitoring and performance reporting arrangements to ensure that key indicators established in the different performance systems are systematically and regularly monitored and that appropriate and reliable information is provided to senior management on a timely basis; reiterates that social and environmental aspects, as well as economic aspects, have to be taken into account when assessing development objectives;

31.  Considers that the frequency of the monitoring and reporting should be established taking into account the nature of the objectives to be monitored, the type of indicator and the collection methods as well as the monitoring and reporting needs;

32.  Calls on DG DEVCO, along with other external affairs stakeholders, to further develop its communications strategy and tools by highlighting the main results achieved, and to further strengthen the overall visibility of EDF-supported projects in order to reach out to a wider public by providing relevant information on the Union’s contribution to global challenges;

33.  Considers the 86 progress External Assistance Management Reports (EAMRs) from Union delegations as a useful contribution both to the assurance chain and performance measurement of each Union delegation, while insisting on the reliability of data used in that reporting; notes the positive trend for DG DEVCO for the performance of Union delegations with 21 out of 24 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) meeting targets in 2016 (compared to 20 in 2015 and 15 in 2014), except for three KPIs related to ‘the accuracy of financial forecasts for decisions’, ‘percentage of payments done within the thirty days deadline’ and ‘the respect of flexibility arrangements for the use of staff in EU Delegations’;

34.  Is concerned, however, that 980 projects out of 3 151 (31 %) were qualified as problematic and that six Union delegations are still below the benchmark of 60 % of green KPIs; calls on the Commission’s services to closely monitor those Union delegations which have recently reached the target of 60 % or which stand just above the 60 % target in order to refine and consolidate the trend analysis of Union delegations;

35.  Invites DG DEVCO to consider the possibility of rescheduling or upgrading the benchmark of 60 %; reiterates that the definition of certain KPIs could also be reviewed, depending on the typology of issues identified or the risk environment of each Union delegation, in order to find new margins of improvement;

36.  Points out that it is important to ensure that programmes are calibrated and not overly ambitious, which would jeopardise the expected results of the assistance; invites DG DEVCO, as a result of the monitoring of the performance of Union delegations, to maintain realistic pipelines of projects in Union delegations;

37.  Considers it essential that the heads of delegation continue to be regularly reminded, during ad hoc or regional seminars, of their key role in the consolidation of the DG DEVCO assurance chain and their overall accountability for managing the portfolios of projects, requiring an adequate assessment and weighting of various components likely to trigger the issuance of a reservation, in addition to their political duties; notes that no Union delegation issued a reservation in its EAMR in 2016;

38.  Asks the Commission to report immediately on the specific remedial actions taken when a project has been classified as ‘red’ for two consecutive years in order to rapidly re-examine the initial design of the project, eventually reallocate funds to more viable projects and needs, or even consider the possibility of stopping the project;

Oversight and management of Union trust funds

Complementarity and impact

39.  Stresses that coherence and complementarity of development financial instruments with the EDFs’ strategy and overarching objectives of Union development policy should be continuously ensured;

40.  Recognises that Union trust funds were designed to provide a rapid political response in the context of a lack of resources to certain critical situations or major crises, such as the migration crisis, or the need to link relief, rehabilitation and development;

41.  Understands that, in such circumstances, dedicated Union trust funds offer flexibility and a range of possibilities combining geographic and thematic interventions via different windows;

42.  Stresses, however, that the Commission must ensure that such trust funds add value to existing actions, contribute to increased visibility of the Union’s external action and soft powers, and avoid duplication of other financial tools;

43.  Notes that out of the total pledges for all of the Union trust funds (EUR 5 026 million as of the end of November 2017), EUR 2 403 million comes from the EDFs, with EUR 2 290 million pledged for the Union emergency trust fund for Africa (Africa trust fund) and EUR 113 million for the Union trust fund for the Central African Republic (Bêkou trust fund);

44.  Recalls, however, the high inherent risks incurred by those development instruments and, for the time being, the mixed experience in their implementation; reiterates the need for ensuring maximum transparency in, and accountability of, the utilisation of those instruments;

45.  Welcomes Special Report No 11/2017 of the Court on the Bêkou trust fund; recognises that despite some shortcomings the Bêkou trust fund was a hopeful beginning and observes that setting up a trust fund was a rapid response to the need to link relief, rehabilitation and development; calls on the Commission to follow the Court’s recommendations in order to prepare guidance on the choice of aid vehicle (trust fund or other); is of the opinion that such guidance must reflect the possible risks posed by, and disadvantages of, trust funds and take into account the mixed experience in their use so far; regrets that the Bêkou trust fund has not significantly improved general donor coordination;

46.  Calls for the identification of best practices in order to contribute to a better coordination of the various donors’ bilateral aid and aid vehicles;

47.  Recalls that the scope of Union trust funds is to be anchored to the provision of additionality, particularly to respond appropriately to post-conflict or post-disaster partner countries’ needs and priorities while focusing on areas where added value and strategic impact are the highest;

48.  Takes the view that both single-country Union trust funds and Union trust funds supporting programmes for multiple countries are more effective when they have a formal and coherent governing structure that can foster stakeholders’ voices, values and shared results frameworks;

49.  Considers it essential that the Union’s trust funds aim at mobilising additional funds from the Member States, private sector and other donors;

50.  Highlights the fact that the selectivity, oversight and accountability of results generated by Union trust funds must be deepened within partnership programmes and need to rely on a preliminary assessment of the comparative advantages of Union trust funds compared to other aid channels; points out that it is necessary to ensure full transparency and access to data, as well as to clear rules governing control and monitoring;

The Bêkou trust fund

51.  Welcomes the establishment of the Bêkou trust fund and its contribution to the international response to the crisis in the Central African Republic; recognises that this first trust fund can be considered as a major pilot project in a number of ways and that it is necessary to develop more precise guidance on the systemic issues of donor coordination, monitoring and evaluation according to a more systemic approach to obtain guarantees;

52.  Is of the opinion that more time is needed to properly evaluate the effectiveness of the Bêkou trust fund and to further learn from its operational implementation;

53.  Considers that particular attention should also be paid to the effectiveness and political governance of Union trust funds as well as to a lack of guarantees and oversight of the final use of the allocated funds;

54.  Believes that the Bêkou trust fund’s limited influence on coordination amongst stakeholders should be given special attention and that the Commission should do everything in its power to use the experience it has gained in the activities of the EDFs in areas such as the implementation and coordination of multi-party investments and result-ownership management;

55.  Expresses its concerns that Member States’ contributions to the Bêkou trust fund have, to date, been relatively low; calls on Member States to become more involved in order to ensure that the Bêkou trust fund delivers its expected policy objectives;

56.  Believes that due care should be devoted to the management of administrative costs against total contributions, to calculating the full management costs and to finding ways to maximise the share of the allocated aid that goes to the final beneficiaries;

57.  Calls on the Commission to implement comprehensive control mechanisms to ensure political scrutiny 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 Union trust funds, with specific objectives, targets and reviews;

Implementation of budget support activities

Eligibility and inherent risks

58.  Notes that budget support payments financed by the EDFs in 2016 corresponded to EUR 644 million; notes that the number of ongoing budget support operations in the EDFs was 109 in 2016 with 56 disbursements;

59.  Acknowledges the Commission’s flexibility in assessing whether the general eligibility conditions have been met to make the payments to the partner country (differentiation and dynamic approach to eligibility) due to a broad interpretation of the legal provisions and is concerned by the final use of the funds transferred and the lack of traceability when the Union’s funds are merged within the partner country’s budget resources;

60.  Urges the Commission to expand result-oriented budget support by better defining the development outcomes to be achieved in each budget support programme and sector, and above all to enhance control mechanisms concerning recipient states’ conduct in the areas of corruption, the respect for human rights, the 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 or freedoms for civil society and the media or due to a lack of capacity of oversight bodies; calls for a corruption-free expenditure chain to be set up; considers it a priority to tie this support to corruption being fought effectively in countries benefiting from budget support;

61.  Recalls that the risks that resources are diverted away remain high and risks of corruption and fraud are often linked to public financial management and reforms; reiterates that deeper attention should be paid to those risks in the framework of the policy dialogue and strategy design for future budget support contracts, in particular to assess a government’s responsiveness and ability to enforce reforms; points out that the risks and results of ex ante and ex post controls need to be carefully followed;

62.  Calls on the Commission, however, to ensure that budget support and disbursement of funds is revised, withheld, reduced or cancelled when clear and initial objectives and commitments are not achieved and/or when the Union’s political and financial interests are at stake;

63.  Recalls the need for the EDFs to offer maximum openness and transparency; supports the public disclosure of relevant budget information related to budget support programmes in order to enhance transparency and accountability of and towards all the stakeholders, including citizens;

Budget support to improve domestic revenue mobilisation in Sub-Saharan Africa

64.  Stresses the importance of domestic revenue mobilisation in less-developed countries as it reduces dependence on development aid, leads to improvements in public governance and plays a central role in state-building; calls for the use of disbursement conditions specific to domestic revenue mobilisation to be strengthened in good governance and development contracts;

65.  Points out that the Commission has not yet effectively used budget support contracts to support domestic revenue mobilisation in low and lower-middle income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa; notes, however, that the Commission’s new approach increased the potential of this form of aid to effectively support domestic revenue mobilisation; invites the Commission to provide more information in its budget support reports concerning the use of budget support contracts for domestic revenue mobilisation;

66.  Underlines the fact that strengthening tax systems contributes not only to raising more predictable revenue but also to the accountability of governments by creating a direct link between taxpayers and their government; supports the explicit inclusion of domestic revenue mobilisation improvement on the Commission’s list of key development challenges addressed through budget support;

67.  Points out challenges related to tax avoidance, tax evasion and illicit financial flows; calls on the Commission to adhere to its guidelines when conducting macroeconomic and public financial management assessments of aspects related to domestic revenue mobilisation in order to obtain a better overview of the most problematic issues, e.g. the scale of tax incentives, transfer pricing and tax evasion;

68.  Further invites the Commission to increase its commitment in the fight against tax evasion and tax abuse by decreasing its financial support for blacklisted tax havens through the means of the EDFs in order to create an incentive for those listed countries that encourage abusive tax practices to comply with the Union´s fair tax criteria;

69.  Points out that there is a lack of appropriate monitoring tools to assess the extent to which budget support contributed to overall improvements in domestic revenue mobilisation;

70.  Believes that it is crucial to continue promoting fair and transparent domestic tax systems in the field of tax policy, to scale up its support for oversight processes and bodies in the area of natural resources, and to continue backing governance reforms that promote the sustainable and transparent exploitation of natural resources;

71.  Emphasises the need to apply conditions specific to domestic revenue mobilisation more often as they clearly associate the disbursement of budget support payments with the partner country’s progress in domestic revenue mobilisation reforms;

72.  Encourages the Commission to extend the capacity building component of budget support as it lays firm foundations for a long-term economic and social transformation and addresses major obstacles to the efficient collection of public revenue;

73.  Invites the Commission, for all existing and future budget support contracts with a capacity development component earmarked for domestic revenue mobilisation, to increase partner countries’ awareness of the availability of this support and facilitate its use, in particular to address capacity development needs not yet covered by other donors;

Need for increased cooperation with international organisations

74.  Observes that EDF payments to multi-donor projects implemented by international organisations in 2016 amounted to EUR 914 million;

75.  Believes that multilateral financial institutions for development should work to make the use of blended finance more effective, particularly with regard to additionality;

76.  Emphasises that multilateral development banks should contribute in a coordinated and harmonised way to achieve the sector funding of the United Nations’ ambitious Sustainable Development Goals set for 2030, in particular by using effectively blended finance and leveraging private finance to increase the efficiency and impact of aid financing;

77.  Encourages the Commission to make an increased use of the micro financing instrument, which is considered to be a significant and effective tool in the fight against poverty and in lifting up local economies;

78.  Recalls the need for EDF financial tools to attract further investments from the private sector; encourages the Commission to draw up an action plan that would address this need and to inform the discharge authority on the progress made;

79.  Calls on the Commission to provide for the double purpose of transparency and Union visibility and to provide further information on projects managed with Union funds in the next Commission’ reporting; believes that deepening the dialogue with the United Nations and the World Bank Group should be intensified for the purpose of enhanced transparency and simplification of joint cooperation instruments;

80.  Calls on the Commission to make available to the public not only the data concerning the financing of NGOs but also detailed reports on the projects funded; expresses concern about the recent allegations of misconduct made against certain NGOs; calls on the Commission to monitor actively the development of the situation and, where necessary, to reassess the funding granted;

Addressing new global development priorities

Operational challenges and new drivers

81.  Recognises the necessity to develop new patterns for designing development assistance instruments and related conditionalities, in line with the commitments of the Sustainable Development Goals and the new European Consensus on Development, in order to respond to new critical features such as the development and humanitarian nexus, the development, migration and mobility nexus, the climate change nexus and the peace and security nexus;

82.  Stresses that, given the funding gap required to reach the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, the private sector might play a crucial role; notes that blending might be a useful vehicle for leveraging additional resources, provided that its use is duly justified, its added value is demonstrated and it meets development effectiveness principles;

83.  Underlines, however, that the EDFs should not go beyond their scope and that the creation of a new nexus to face new challenges should not undermine the achievement of other development goals and their establishment must be accompanied by accurate, clear and transparent rules laid down on the basis of objective and non-discriminatory criteria set by the Commission;

84.  Considers that improved coordination and synergies of support by different donors and aid instruments is crucial; calls on various stakeholders to improve the quality of operations results frameworks and development results on the ground;

85.  Recognises the operational difficulties or challenges encountered, in particular for the purpose of consensus building especially when the coordination of a large number of donors is at stake in an evolving, complex context and in light of changing needs;

86.  Considers that investing in fragile countries remains a key priority of Union intervention, while maintaining a sober monitoring approach could lead, when required, to the cessation of financing; believes that the practice of outcome ratings and their sharing in relation to fragile or conflict countries must be strengthened;

87.  Supports the efforts to tackle the issues of sustainability of development results when domestic revenue mobilisation, ownership and political economy is at stake;

88.  Recalls the fact that climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the Union and governments across the globe; strongly calls on the Commission to fulfil its commitments based on the Paris Agreement to strengthen the climate conditionalities of Union funding to finance only climate-compatible projects reflecting the Union’s climate objectives, which will require an increased consistency in selection criteria;

89.  Is worried by the Court’s finding that the Union certification system for the sustainability of biofuels is not completely reliable(27); underlines the potentially negative consequences for developing countries since, as stated by the Court, “the Commission did not require voluntary schemes to verify that the biofuel production they certify does not cause significant risks of negative socioeconomic effects, such as land tenure conflicts, forced/child labour, poor working conditions for farmers and dangers to health and safety”, and therefore requests the Commission to address this issue;

90.  Encourages the integration of the ethical dimension in the design of policy interventions;

91.  Insists that educational material financed by Union funds, including PEGASE (Mécanisme Palestino-européen de Gestion de l’Aide Socio-économique), comply with the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education adopted by education ministers of the Union in Paris on 17 March 2015; asks the Commission to ensure that Union funds are spent in line with Unesco-derived standards of peace and tolerance in education;

Operationalising the development-migration nexus

92.  Observes that 106 projects worth a total of EUR 1 589 million were approved, with EUR 594 million contracted and EUR 175 million of paid amounts in 2016 for the better management of migration flows and to address the root causes of irregular migration through the Africa trust fund and related regional windows; notes that one of the agreed targets refers to ‘well-managed migrations policies’;

93.  Invites the Commission to report in a structured manner on the impact of the programmes launched under the Africa trust fund, particularly on the basis of Union result-oriented monitoring and the Africa trust fund results framework to highlight the collective achievements;

94.  Notes also in that context that the new European Fund for Sustainable Development, as part of the European External Investment Plan, will target Sub-Saharan African countries, with EUR 400 million provided by the EDFs;

95.  Supports increasing the ACP impact financing envelope, a separate window of the ACP investment facility, by EUR 300 million to reach a total capacity amount of EUR 800 million to deal with targeted projects directly tackling the root causes of migration, and turning it into a revolving fund;

96.  Notes that the European Investment Bank (EIB) with the ACP investment facility mainly supports projects promoting the development of the private sector while eligible public sector projects are also considered under the ACP migration package; welcomes the development of new partnerships in the context of the ACP investment facility managed by the EIB; calls on the EIB, however, to provide further information on the components of the leverage effect, namely the respective parts coming from the equity part and from Union public funding or other multilateral development banks as well as the reflows reinvested in the functioning of the ACP investment facility;

97.  Supports the Commission in the creation of a migration code within the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in order to increase the effective use and traceability of the related funding;

Towards a new partnership ACP

98.  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;

o
o   o

99.  Reiterates its call for the inclusion of the EDF Funds in the general budget.

(1) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 281.
(2) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 289.
(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 322, 28.9.2017, p. 281.
(15) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 289.
(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) Special report No 18/2016: The EU system for the certification of sustainable biofuels.


Discharge 2016: EU general budget - European Parliament
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016, Section I – European Parliament (2017/2137(DEC))
P8_TA(2018)0124A8-0105/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0248/2017)(2),

–  having regard to the report on budgetary and financial management for the financial year 2016, Section I – European Parliament(3),

–  having regard to the Internal Auditor’s annual report for the financial year 2016,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2016, 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 2016, 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 (A8-0105/2018),

A.  whereas the President adopted Parliament's accounts for the financial year 2016 on 28 June 2017;

B.  whereas the Secretary-General, as principal authorising officer by delegation, certified, on 10 July 2017, 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 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 the 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 2016;

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 18 April 2018 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 2016, Section I – European Parliament (2017/2137(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 2016, 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 (A8-0105/2018),

A.  whereas in his certification of the final accounts, the European Parliament's accounting officer stated his reasonable assurance that the accounts present fairly, in all material aspects, the financial position, the results of the operations and the cash-flow of the Parliament;

B.  whereas, in accordance with the usual procedure, 141 questions were sent to Parliament's administration and written replies were received and discussed publicly by the Committee on Budgetary Control, in the presence of the vice-president responsible for the budget, the Secretary-General and the internal auditor;

C.  whereas there is permanent scope for improvement in terms of quality, efficiency and effectiveness in the management of public finances, and scrutiny is necessary to ensure that political leadership and Parliament's administration are held accountable to Union citizens;

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:

   the certification of the final accounts by Parliament’s accounting officer;
   the annual reports of the internal auditor and his opinion on the internal control system;
   the assessment of administrative and other expenditure for all the Union institutions, including Parliament, by its external auditor, the Court of Auditors (the “Court”);
   the discharge procedure prepared by the Committee on Budgetary Control resulting in a decision of Parliament on granting the President of Parliament discharge;

2.  Welcomes the fact that the Court has increased the sample relating to the number of Parliament´s transactions, and encourages the Court to continue on this path, as the reputational risk is relatively high, given that financial and budgetary errors might impact negatively on the standing of the institution;

3.  Encourages the Court to consider issuing more special reports on specific areas of Parliament’s operations, such as its communication policies and its management of the grants for European political parties and foundations with a special focus on performance based budgeting;

4.  Welcomes the follow-up that is given by the administration to strengthen in-house expertise on accounts and auditing by setting up an additional service for Members involved in the discharge procedures relating to Union institutions thus providing help and support on how to understand and interpret the outcome of annual accounting and audit reports;

The Parliament’s budgetary and financial management

5.  Notes that Parliament's final appropriations for 2016 totalled EUR 1 838 613 983, or 19,39 % of heading 5 of the Multiannual Financial Framework(8) (MFF) set aside for the 2016 administrative expenditure of the Union institutions as a whole, representing a 2,4 % increase over the 2015 budget (EUR 1 794 929 112);

6.  Notes that total revenue entered in the accounts as at 31 December 2016 was EUR 183 381 513 (compared to EUR 176 367 724 in 2015), including EUR 30 589 787 in assigned revenue (compared to EUR 27 988 590 in 2015);

7.  Emphasises that four chapters accounted for 69,92 % 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), indicating a high level of rigidity for the major part of the Parliament’s expenditure;

8.  Observes the figures on the basis of which Parliament's accounts for the financial year 2016 were closed, namely:

(a)  Available appropriations (EUR)

appropriations for 2016:

1 838 613 983

non-automatic carry-overs from financial year 2015:

-

automatic carry-overs from financial year 2015:

289 323 907

appropriations corresponding to assigned revenue for 2016:

30 589 787

carry-overs corresponding to assigned revenue from 2015:

103 055 269

Total:

2 261 582 946

(b)  Utilisation of appropriations in the financial year 2016 (EUR)

commitments:

2 225 465 435

payments made:

1 900 199 164

appropriations carried forward automatically including those arising from assigned revenue:

324 909 094

appropriations carried forward non-automatically:

-

appropriations cancelled:

36 094 295

(c)  Budgetary receipts (EUR)

received in 2016:

183 381 513

(d)  Total balance sheet at 31 December 2016 (EUR)

1 574 480 381

9.  Points out that 99,2 % of the appropriations entered in Parliament’s budget, amounting to EUR 1 823 844 172, were committed, with a cancellation rate of 0,8 %; notes with satisfaction that, as in previous years, a very high level of budget implementation was achieved; notes that the payments totalled EUR 1 538 531 527, resulting in an implementation rate of 84,4 % and representing an increase of 0,7 % compared to the previous year;

10.  Underlines the fact that the cancelled appropriations for the year 2016, amounting to EUR 14 769 811, were mainly related to remuneration and other entitlements, as well as, once more, to the expenditure related to buildings;

11.  Notes that in the 2016 financial year, seven transfers were approved in accordance with Articles 27 and 46 of the Financial Regulation (9), which amounted to EUR 66 655 000 or 3,6 % of final appropriations; observes with concern that the majority of such transfers were, once more, related to the Parliament’s buildings policy, and in particular to the Konrad Adenauer building project; considers that level of the ‘mopping-up’ transfer continues to be very high; is of the firm belief that effective budget management should be able to reduce such transfers to the bare minimum necessary; urges that Parliament’s buildings policy be laid down with sufficient clarity, as part of the budgetary strategy;

The Court’s opinions on the reliability of the 2016 accounts and on the legality and regularity of the transactions underlying those accounts

12.  Recalls that the Court performs a specific assessment of administrative and other expenditure as a single policy group for all the European institutions; points out that administrative and related expenditure comprises expenditure on human resources (salaries, allowances and pensions), accounting for 60 % of total administrative expenditure, and expenditure on buildings, equipment, energy, communications and information technology;

13.  Recalls that the audit involved an examination of a representative sample of 100 payment transactions, including a risk-based sample of 20 commitments which have been approved close to the end of the 2016 financial year and automatically carried over to 2017, in order to check the usage of the budget according to the principle of annuality;

14.  Acknowledges from the Court that the overall audit evidence indicates that the spending on ‘administration’ is not affected by a material level of error; notes that, on the basis of the 12 quantified errors, the estimated level of error present in heading 5 of the MFF on administration is 0,2 % (down from 0,6 % in 2015);

Management of funds by the political groups

15.  Recalls that the political groups are responsible to the Parliament for managing the funds allocated to them, within the powers conferred upon them by the Bureau; notes with concern that the Court found weaknesses in checks on the authorisation and settlement of expenditure related to the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group and that payments were being made without being covered by contracts resulting from a procurement procedure; highlights that the external auditor ‘‘Ernest and Young’’ issued a qualified opinion; calls on the Bureau to take appropriate measures, including possible reimbursement, concerning the ENF group;

16.  Notes the specific findings concerning Parliament contained in the annual report of the Court for 2016; notes that for one payment to a political group, the Court found weaknesses in checks on the authorisation and settlement of expenditure made in 2015 but cleared in 2016; notes, in addition, that the Court found that payments were made without being covered by contracts resulting from a procurement procedure; notes, finally, that the Court detected similar shortcomings in a transaction relating to another political group 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 review the framework for monitoring the implementation of budget appropriations allocated to political groups and monitor more effectively how they apply the rules for authorising and settling expenditure, and how they carry out procurement procedures;

18.  Encourages the Parliament’s Secretariat to continue its additional efforts in assisting the political groups in improving their internal financial management and in providing them with better guidance; calls on the political groups to further improve the application of relevant rules for authorising and settling expenditure, as well as to improve and further harmonise how they carry out procurement procedures;

The internal auditor's annual report

19.  Notes that at the competent open committee meeting with the internal auditor held on 23 January 2018, the internal auditor presented his annual report and described how in 2016 he had performed audits on the following subjects:

   Review of the project for the new Financial Management System (FMS) - Phase 3;
   Follow-Up of Open Actions from Internal Audit Reports;
   Audiovisual Sector;
   Recruitment Process for Officials and Temporary Staff;
   External expertise on works’ projects in the Directorate-General for Infrastructure and Logistics (DG INLO);
   Activity Reporting Process;
   Recruitment Process for Contract Staff;
   IT Infrastructure & Operations: Data Centre Inventory and Management of External Expertise;

20.  Recalls that the annual activity report is a cornerstone of the Parliament’s governance structure; emphasises that following the audit of the activity reporting process, which focused on the effectiveness of the annual activity reports as a tool for reporting on accountability and performance, the internal auditor made the following recommendations:

   an integrated framework for planning and reporting should be adopted; it should cover both the setting of strategic objectives and each directorate-general’s annual operational objectives, establish key result indicators, and enhance reporting on performance in the annual activity reports;
   the Secretary-General should appoint a service with an expanded mandate for the coordination and monitoring of the activity reporting process;
   the assessment of the Internal Control Framework and the reporting thereon should be enhanced, by appointing an Internal Control Coordinator in each directorate-general, providing suitable guidance and tools to the directorates-general, and ensuring coherent reporting on internal controls in the annual activity reports;
   Parliament-specific guidelines for drawing up the Declaration of Assurance and assessing the need for making possible reservations should be adopted;

21.  Notes that the 2016 follow-up process resulted in the closure of 22 of the 48 validated open actions, as well as that the risk profile of the overdue actions continued to be progressively reduced in 2016; notes in particular that at year-end, 10 of the 26 open actions were in the “significant risk” category, and the remaining 16 in the “moderate risk” category;

Follow-up to the discharge resolution for the financial year 2015

22.  Acknowledges the written answers to the discharge resolution for the financial year 2015 provided to the Committee on Budgetary Control on 4 October 2017, as well as the presentation by the Secretary-General on the various questions and requests of Parliament’s discharge resolution for the financial year 2015 and the exchange of views with Members that followed; stresses the importance of having more frequent discussions with the Secretary-General on issues concerning Parliament’s budget and its implementation in the Committee on Budgetary Control;

23.  Stresses once more, in the interests of greater transparency within the institution, and especially concerning its decision-making procedure, the need to facilitate and make more accessible the work of Parliament’s internal decision-making bodies, especially the Bureau and, above all, the decision-making procedure; calls for Bureau agendas to be published on the Intranet in a timely manner 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 before publishing them; congratulates the College of Quaestors on the progress made in this regard, especially as regards its new policy of disclosing its decisions;

24.  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 include the results in the annual monitoring document; asks the Secretary-General to report in good time to the Budget and Budgetary Control Committees on all projects with a significant budgetary impact that have been submitted to the Bureau;

25.  Regrets, however, that many of the recommendations in the discharge resolution(10) for the financial year 2015 have not been followed up and that no reason or justification has been given; expresses its deep concern that neither the Bureau, nor the Secretary-General has published a progress report or made sufficient progress on several requests for action or for a decision to be taken by them;

26.  Reiterates its call on the Bureau to follow-up all discharge decisions as follows from Rule 25 and Annex IV of the Rules of Procedure and Articles 6 and 166 of the Financial Regulation;

27.  Recalls that both Parliament’s discharge resolution for the financial years 2014(11) and 2015 asked for a technical solution that allows Members to use their individual page on the Parliament’s website for the voluntary publication of meetings with interest representatives; urges the Parliament’s Bureau and the Secretary-General to make this possible without further delay;

28.  Calls on the Secretary-General to inform the Members of progress made with regards to the iPACS Project (whose aim is to strengthen and modernise the security of people, buildings and assets of the Parliament); notes that this project was adopted by Bureau decision on 9 March 2015; underlines the importance of ascertaining whether a project of such prime importance to the Parliament – and that has cost such a large sum of money – is on track;

29.  Calls on the Secretary-General to institute measures to deal with significantly increasing hotel prices in Strasbourg, prices that have increased dramatically from one year to the next with an especially marked peak during the plenary session; recommends facilitating transport between Strasbourg and the German side of the border, where prices are significantly lower (possibly by means of a shuttle bus service between Kehl and the Parliament building);

30.  Welcomes the initiatives of the Secretary-General regarding the review of the Crisis and Business Continuity Strategy in order to build up the resilience of the Parliament to better face any potential major incident (of any nature, but concerning for example IT, security or premises) impacting Parliament’s activities, reflected in a Bureau Decision of 3 May 2016;

Parliament's 2016 discharge

31.  Notes the exchange of views between the vice-president responsible for the budget, the Secretary-General and the Committee on Budgetary Control in the presence of the internal auditor, on 23 January 2018 in the context of the Parliament discharge for the financial year 2016;

32.  Notes that, following the referendum held on 23 June 2016 in the United Kingdom the Bureau discussed the consequences in its meeting of 4 July 2016; notes that the position of the President is that, as long as the United Kingdom remains a full member of the Union, British Members and Parliament staff enjoy exactly the same rights and obligations as all other Members and staff of the house; notes that this arrangement needs to be flexible and remain in line with any possible outcomes of the Brexit negotiations; notes that the situation of British Members and Parliament staff might change during the yet to be defined transition period;

33.  Acknowledges that the referendum result had a considerable impact on committee secretariats, research units and horizontal services of the political directorates-general; notes that the Parliament’s services prepared analytical material based on fact-finding work to consider the impact of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal on the policy areas and legislation in their respective fields; acknowledges moreover that future work on this issue is of a very complex legal nature, as well as that the expertise built up in committee secretariats and policy departments is ready to be mobilised during the subsequent phases of the withdrawal process based on the political decisions taken;

34.  Welcomes the improved cooperation in the security field between the Parliament and the national authorities of its host countries, in particular the Belgian authorities;

35.  Encourages the Secretary-General to negotiate with the Belgian railways to offer more direct trains between Brussels-Luxembourg railway station and Zaventem Airport at peak arrival and departure times for Members in order to save travelling time and lower Members’ carbon footprint; asks the secretariat to promote train travel for Members;

36.  Recalls that openness to the public is a hallmark of the Parliament; supports the reorganisation and improvement of entrances to all Parliament buildings at the three places of work on the basis of a new security concept which guarantees a safe working environment for parliamentary activities while retaining Parliament’s openness; notes that these entrances, modernised in 2015, were equipped with new access control systems and have been incorporated into the new central integrated physical access control system; stresses that the entrance of the Louise Weiss building in Strasbourg (LOW) is one of the entrances most used by the Members, Union staff and visitors during the plenary sessions; stresses it is de facto the most visible entrance in Strasbourg; regrets that the ‘‘temporary’’ security check at entrance of the LOW building has become de facto permanent; urges the Secretary-General to propose an alternative to facilitate entrance into the LOW building while keeping the level of security and the attractiveness of this entrance;

37.  Notes that attention paid to performance-based budgeting still varies between the directorates-general, and is still at a preliminary stage in parts of the administration; calls upon the Secretary-General to ensure that clear, measurable targets are set and monitored throughout the administration;

38.  Regrets that, according to the Court, the costs of the geographic dispersion of Parliament amount to EUR 114 million per year; notes the finding, in its resolution of 20 November 2013 on the location of the seats of the Union’s institutions(12), 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; notes with regret that in 2016 the total cost of reimbursements solely for Members’ travel expenses for plenary sessions in Strasbourg amounted to as much as EUR 21 352 262; calls on the Council to find a solution toward a single seat for the European Parliament in order to not waste taxpayers’ money;

39.  Notes the publication of seven “Cost of Non-Europe” reports, as well as five “European Added Value Assessments” which were completed in 2016;

40.  Notes the revision of allowance rates for accredited parliamentary assistants (APAs) with respect to their duty travel between Parliament’s three places of work; notes that for officials and other servants of the Parliament, the hotel ceiling for Strasbourg missions is set at EUR 180 and daily allowance at EUR 102, making a daily total of EUR 282; whereas for APAs this amount is reduced to EUR 137, EUR 160 or EUR 183 per day for the same expenses, at the Member’s discretion; recalls, however, that APAs are entitled to the same subsistence allowance as officials and other Parliament staff for missions to destinations other than Strasbourg; calls on the Bureau, for the third year running and for the purposes of equal treatment of workers, to take swift action to bring the daily subsistence allowance for APAs on mission in Strasbourg into line with that for officials and other staff; calls again for the Bureau to fully align allowances between officials, other servants and APAs;

41.  Welcomes the willingness of the Secretary-General to find a solution and reiterates its call to find a workable solution for those APAs who, having worked without interruption for two parliamentary terms, will not be entitled to access the European pension rights scheme when they will reach the pension age at the end of the current Parliamentary term, owing to circumstances beyond their control and that of the Members employing them, since they will not have reached the ten years' service required due to early elections in 2014 and delays in the validation of their new contracts because of the heavy human-resources workload after the elections of 2009 and 2014; therefore requests that two legislative terms be considered ten years of active service; calls on the Secretary-General to instruct the Directorate-General for Personnel (DG PERS) to seek possible solutions without delay and keep representatives of the APAs informed of, and involved in, the process; requests that the Commission submit a legislative proposal before 1 September 2018 to solve this issue;

42.  Notes that some missions’ reimbursements are subject to very long delays and suggests that solutions as to bring them within a reasonable timeframe should be explored;

43.  Considers it appropriate to keep the small increase in budget line 422 ‘Expenditure related to parliamentary assistance’, taking into account the higher workload through Brexit, growing number of trilogues and increasing number of temporary and special committees, which has reached a historical record of 25 standing and temporary committees, and the coincidence of the end of legislature with the complex package of legislative MFF proposals;

44.  Asks the Secretary-General to transmit to the Commission the Report on the evaluation of the new Statute of APAs drawn up following the resolution adopted on 28 April 2016 on the discharge for the financial year 2014 and referred to in Article 3 of Council Regulation (EC) No 160/2009(13);

45.  Encourages the Bureau, when assessing the new rules on visitors’ groups introduced last year, to delete the possibility to appoint APAs as head of a group as it poses professional, legal, ethical and data protection concerns;

46.  Observes that trainees employed by Members have a private-law contract with the Member, which does not entitle them to the same status in Parliament as that of other categories of Parliament staff, or to have scholarships from the Parliament itself (Schuman scholarships); regrets that there is no facility or legal framework within the Directorate-General for Finance (DG FINS) to arrange a scheme for direct advance payments to such trainees prior to missions – although such arrangements are in place for all other staff – given the fact that, for obvious reasons, they can barely afford to pay these expenses up front out of their own pockets; underlines that Members may find an agreement on advance payments with the trainee and the paying agent on a case-by-case basis; however notes that many Members do not use the services of a paying agent to remunerate the trainees they employ, asks the Parliament to evaluate as soon as possible whether such a direct payment scheme could be implemented;

47.  Notes with concern that at this advanced stage in the parliamentary term, the CVs of more than half of the Members are still yet to appear in their profiles on the Parliament’s official website; calls on the Secretary-General to take swift action to ensure that the CVs of all Members appear on the official website;

48.  Recalls that the mandate of the Members of the Parliament is incompatible with a number of offices, including that of a mandate of a national parliament; asks that the necessary rules be drawn up for the next parliamentary term to exclude the possibility for Members to have an additional mandate in a regional parliament of a Member State with legislative powers that requires its members to make similar commitments in terms of working time to a national parliament;

49.  Is of the opinion that in order to receive more independent and reliable opinion and studies there is a need to create rules on conflict of interest for experts hired by the Parliament’s committees;

50.  Recalls that the discharges for the financial years 2014 and 2015 had noted that the Parliament website is not particularly user-friendly and, in this light, calls on the Directorate-General for Communication (DG COMM) to improve its website and to institute a more efficient search engine as a matter of urgency; stresses that progress still needs to be made with regard to the attractiveness and appeal of the website and that an effort is still required in order to diversify the available social media platforms; calls for a new strategy to be implemented, one that reflects the full capacity of social media in its various manifestations;

51.  Takes note of the updated mission statement for the information offices, from now on “liaison offices” (adopted by the Bureau in November 2017); strongly underlines that their main function is to inform and communicate locally on behalf of the Parliament, in order to provide information about the Union and Union’s policies through the activities of external stakeholders at a local, regional and national level; underlines the need to optimise the use of new communication technologies and models, and take advantage of the liaison offices’ privileged geographical position close to citizens to further intensify activities at local level, such as organising debates with Members and civil society, with a view to listen to people and engage with them; points out that online debate and media attention triggered by these events should contribute to further increasing outreach to citizens; calls for an improvement in the strategy adopted with regard to the information offices of the Parliament and urges DG COMM to confront the problem of the imbalance between the amount of money spent on the building and staff costs as opposed to the key functions of these offices, which is direct communication with local stakeholders and citizens;

Directorate-General for Communication

52.  Recalls that the key performance indicator of DG COMM is the total outreach or exposure attained across the entire range of Parliament’s communication platforms and channels; notes that, with regards to the Parliament’s presence in the media and average coverage per month, there was a 12 % increase compared to 2015, and 7 % increase compared to the election year 2014; acknowledges the improvement in the Parliament’s use of social media, as well as actions related to raising awareness among young people; points out, however, that the Parliament’s communication activities should continue to improve, in particular by increasing outreach on social media, which is currently below the standards expected of a parliamentary institution; underlines that, particularly in light of the European elections in 2019, a comprehensive social media strategy needs to be developed and implemented; stresses that this strategy needs to reflect the amount of work the Parliament accomplishes while taking into account the multi-facetted interests, worries and ideas for the future of Europe that citizens express;

53.  Notes that DG COMM launched a new multi-annual work programme for grants in the area of media and events organisation covering the period 2016-2019; acknowledges that for the award of a grant in the media category, 102 framework partnership agreements were established and 48 grant applications were successful, with a total value of EUR 3,99 million; notes that in the area of events organisation, 18 projects were selected for the award of a grant with a total value of EUR 0,8 million; calls on DG COMM to concentrate on a more active approach towards those who are not automatically interested in Parliament’s activities or who may even be sceptical about its functioning;

54.  Takes note of the major technical and editorial changes made to the Parliament’s public website, particularly with regard to search engine optimisation of the website; congratulates DG COMM on this progress but adds that the rate of progress remains excessively slow; notes that the Responsive Web Design project and the live streaming and video-on-demand platform renewal project - which aim to redesign the website to make it adaptive to all kinds of devices - were launched in 2016 and successfully implemented to parts of the website; calls for a continuation of these projects and their implementation across all sections of the Parliament’s website; notes that much still needs to be done in order to bring an effective website and communication tool into being; underlines that the renewal needs to be accomplished in a timely manner, as visibility of and accessibility to the Parliament should be in place well before, but at the very latest by, the up-coming European elections in 2019; stresses that a transparent and accessible website is key to the involvement of citizens;

55.  Notes a significant increase in the volume of requests submitted to the Citizens’ Enquiries service (AskEP) since 2014, mainly as a result of seemingly coordinated ‘write-in’ campaigns on topical issues; suggests that the Parliament’s replies be advertised to Members who might be unaware of their existence;

56.  Draws attention to the latest Eurobarometer survey commissioned by the Parliament, where a specific question on the image of the Parliament was posed; is pleased that, according to the survey the percentage of citizens who have a positive view of the Parliament is on the rise from 25 % (2016) to 33 % (2017); notes with satisfaction that the increase of Parliament’s positive image directly corresponds to a decline in the ‘negative opinion’ by 7 percentage points from 28 % (2016) to 21 % (2017); points out that, despite clear signs of improvement, much still needs to be done;

57.  Encourages the Bureau, when assessing the new rules on visitors’ groups introduced last year, to delete the possibility to appoint APAs as head of a group;

58.  Calls for a review of the system for calculating the reimbursement of travel expenses for groups of visitors sponsored by Members, with a view both to ensuring equal treatment of all Union citizens and to promoting the use of more environmentally friendly means of transport, given that the current system, based on calculating mileage, fails both to take account of the isolation and geographical barriers afflicting certain areas of the Union and to cover the cost of travelling to places where faster and more environmentally friendly means of transport are available;

59.  Notes that, by 31 December 2016, a total of 5 375 officials and temporary staff were employed within the Secretariat (a decrease of 16 compared with 31 December 2015) and a total of 806 officials and temporary staff were employed within the political groups (an increase of 35 compared with 31 December 2015); notes that, together with contract agents, DG PERS was responsible for 9 617 staff (an increase of 264 compared with 31 December 2015);

60.  Notes that at 1 January 2016, 57 posts were deleted from Parliament’s establishment plan in accordance with the 2014 revision of the Staff Regulations and the MFF for 2014-2020;

Directorate-General for Personnel

61.  Welcomes the fact that promoting equal opportunities remains a key component of Parliament's human resource management policy; notes that the action plan for the promotion of gender equality and diversity, approved by the Bureau in 2015, continued to be implemented during 2016 together with its specific objectives and all other related measures;

62.  Welcomes the fact that a roadmap for “Gender Equality in the European Parliament Secretariat” has been adopted; notes that the roadmap outlines concrete actions and a clear timeline for specific measures regarding management, professional training, awareness-raising on gender equality, work-life balance measures and a regular monitoring of gender balance through statistics;

63.  Welcomes the fact that gender equality among heads of unit appointed by the Secretary-General increased from 21 % in 2006 to 36 % in 2016 and that the posts that women have obtained tend to show a satisfactory improvement in the quality of the posts attributed to women;

64.  Regrets that the gender balance at the level of director-general fell from 33,3 % / 66,7 % in 2015 to 16,7 % / 83,3 % in 2016; notes that the gender balance at director level remained steady from 2015 to 2016 at 29,2 % / 70,8 % and 29,8 % / 70,2 % respectively; considers this move in contradiction with the road map for “Gender Equality in the European Parliament Secretariat”;

65.  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 directorates-general, the number of external staff on Parliament’s premises may even exceed the number of officials;

66.  Reiterates the opinion that external staff should not be used to compensate for the reduction of the number of posts agreed in the context of the 2014 revision of the Staff Regulations and the current MFF;

67.  Notes that, at the end of 2016, there were 1 924 APAs working at the Parliament, compared to 1 791 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;

68.  Reiterates its concern at 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, given that 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 Secretary-General to investigate this alleged practice and to report on this by the end of the year;

69.  Reiterates its call on the Conference of Presidents and the Bureau 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; calls on the Secretary-General to investigate the budgetary consequences, and the organisation and logistics of these missions;

70.  Notes that Parliament is providing a budget to the Staff Committee, calls for a similar budget for the Accredited Parliamentary Assistants Committee , since they fulfil tasks provided by the Statute for Members of the European Parliament and its Implementing Measures which are useful to all institutions and Members;

71.  Calls on the administration to involve the Accredited Parliamentary Assistants Committee in the decision making process of all rules that might concern Accredited Parliamentary Assistants Committee exclusively or commonly with all the other categories of staff represented by the Staff Committee;

72.  Welcomes the interest in keeping staff with British citizenship who have become European civil servants, asks the Secretary-General to report on the potential risks for British staff and on how to ensure that British staff do not become victims of Brexit, and that their statutory, contractual and acquired rights be fully safeguarded;

73.  Acknowledges that, in accordance with the Interinstitutional agreement on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management(14), 57 posts were removed from the Parliament’s establishment plan for 2016, in line with the requirement for a 5 % reduction in staff posts; notes that two further posts were removed with a view to them being transferred to the Commission in connection with interinstitutional IT projects; notes moreover that the Parliament was to reduce its establishment plan by a further 76 posts as of 1 January 2017 following the decision of the budgetary authority;

74.  Is of the opinion that in reaction to the #metoo-campaign, the Parliament should achieve zero-tolerance towards violence in any form be it structural, sexual, physical or psychological; demands therefore:

   complete accountability of the perpetrators with full exhaustion of available penalties and sanctions;
   creation of a central complaints office for reporting harassment cases;
   access for all to an independent harassment committee in the Parliament that does not reproduce the internal structures of power by having Members on board;
   protection for victims and those reporting such violence which grants them full anonymity and discretion;
   psychological support for victims provided by a central office of the Parliament with doctors, social workers, and counsellors;
   mandatory training on sexual harassment and mobbing for Members and officials in positions of power;
   training and information for staff to help them recognise sexual harassment and to ensure that they know their rights;

75.  Considers that the relatively low number of harassment complaints brought forward in 2016 both to the Advisory Committee on Harassment for staff and by APAs could imply a lack of appropriate channels; stresses that there are two kinds of harassment recognised by the Staff Regulations (psychological and sexual harassment); is of the opinion that the fight against any kind of harassment should be one of the utmost priorities of the Secretary-General; welcomes in this regard the proposal of the Secretary-General to introduce a network of independent confidential counsellors who can be contacted by APAs, trainees working for Members, group staff and all other staff and trainees; acknowledges that these counsellors will be selected for their expertise and inter-personal skills, and will undergo targeted training; encourages revision of the composition of the advisory committees dealing with harassment complaints to ensure equal representation of Members, APAs and staff, and gender balance; invites the Bureau to examine the possibility of appointing an external auditor in order to further improve the internal processes;

76.  Expresses the need to establish an independent disclosure, advice and referral body with sufficient budgetary resources, in order to help whistle-blowers use the right channels to disclose information on possible irregularities affecting the financial interests of the Union, while protecting their confidentiality and offering needed support and advice;

77.  Reiterates the vulnerable position APAs and interns employed by Members hold in respect to internal whistle-blower protection rules; cautions the Secretary-General against potential financial consequences for the Parliament’s continued failure to provide the requisite whistleblower protection for APAs who report wrongdoing by Members; urges the Secretary-General to address this situation immediately;

78.  Calls for weeks to be set aside for external parliamentary activity, to be used for training courses, particularly for Members’ assistants, including intensive language courses;

79.  Points out once again that Parliament is practically the only institution that has not introduced flexitime in its working arrangements, something that almost all the institutions, particularly the Commission, did years ago, with the proven outcome of increased productivity and improved quality of life for staff; calls for flexitime to be incorporated into Parliament’s working arrangements as soon as possible and for the Committee on Budgetary Control to be kept informed of progress made towards achieving this objective;

80.  Reiterates - as adopted in the Parliament’s discharge resolution for the financial year 2015 (paragraph 90) - that, in light of their income, scholarship students should be entitled to greater price reductions in Parliament’s restaurants;

81.  Notes with great concern the fall in demand from Members for individual language courses in French and, especially, Spanish and Italian, particularly since 2009; notes that only in English and German classes have numbers remained steady, and even improved; reminds the Secretary-General of the importance of multilingualism in the process of European integration and the role that the administration should play in promoting language learning among Union citizens’ elected representatives given that languages are also an essential tool for understanding and communication in the exercise of their parliamentary duties; calls on the administration to keep Members regularly informed by appropriate means, in addition to the existing brochure and the information available online, of all the opportunities offered to them by Parliament, with particular emphasis on classes with in-house language teachers in Brussels and Strasbourg, since this is the most flexible and compatible solution with their needs and working conditions and also offers the best value for money; further urges the Secretary-General to come up with the necessary means to promote multilingualism in this area, including by improving the availability of in-house language teachers and putting an end to the job insecurity that they face; notes the transfer of the Members’ Professional Training Unit from DG FINS to DG PERS with a view to creating greater synergy with the staff training unit already within DG PERS; asks the Secretary-General to keep it informed of the specific results it intends to obtain from this development;

82.  Calls on the Secretary-General to develop a voluntary and transparent mobility policy that takes interests and skills of staff into account in the framework of a genuine career development strategy;

Directorate-General for Infrastructure and Logistics

83.  Notes that the updated proposal for the Parliament’s medium-term building strategy, taking into account recent developments on the Luxembourg and Strasbourg premises, should be focused on the Brussels premises and in particular on the future of the Paul-Henri Spaak building; invites in addition the Bureau to evaluate the age of the infrastructure in the Salvador de Madariaga building in Strasbourg; notes in addition that crucial Brexit-related factors defining the future of the building policy, such as the potential consequences of Brexit on multilingualism, on the number of posts for officials in the establishment plan and on the number of Members, are still unknown; acknowledges that reliable planning can be done only after the Brexit process has come to its conclusion; invites the Bureau to develop risk mitigating strategies, taking into account the need to counteract any possible disruptions that may be caused by future developments in the Brexit negotiations; asks the Secretary-General to propose a detailed plan on where staff housed in the buildings will be handled in the case of the buildings’ renovation or reconstruction;

84.  Urges the responsible services to clarify how they plan to implement the statement by the Parliament, the Council and the Commission on the exemplary role of their buildings(15) in the context of the Energy Efficiency Directive, given the approaching 2020 deadline;

85.  Acknowledges that the Bureau mandated the Secretary-General to work out detailed proposals on possible options for the refurbishment of the Paul-Henri Spaak building; notes in addition that these proposals should address all possible options, including no action, renovation or reconstruction, and that the proposals should be accompanied by detailed assessments on the feasibility of the projects and address any relevant legal matters; notes that the detailed proposals being prepared by DG INLO were to be presented to the Bureau at the beginning of 2018;

86.  Notes that most of Parliament’s buildings were not designed and constructed taking into account the Eurocodes requirements for structural integrity, as those norms did not exist at the time of their construction; notes that the only buildings compliant with Eurocodes standards for structural integrity are the Willy Brandt and the Wilfried Martens buildings; acknowledges that the risk generated by the potential vulnerability of the structures of the different buildings is mitigated partly by operational measures taken by DG INLO and the Directorate-General for Security and Safety (DG SAFE), and that further organisational changes are foreseen to address this issue;

87.  Recalls that the Bureau adopted a proposal for bringing the Members’ transport service in-house at its meeting of 11 April 2016; notes with satisfaction that the procedure for bringing the drivers’ service in-house resulted in a qualitative and quantitative increase of the services provided to Members, as well as for an effective and efficient response to unforeseeable emergency situations or sudden increases in demand; regrets that the principle of gender balance was not respected in the recruitment process for the transport service at the Parliament; calls on the Secretary-General to come up with a proposal to improve the current situation; is, moreover, concerned by the diverging remuneration grades among drivers and asks the Bureau whether it plans to consider a harmonisation to counteract possible unfair remuneration schemes;

88.  Welcomes the introduction of the test project for digital transmission of supporting documents between DG INLO’s initiating service and the ex ante service for the expenditure commitments of the Strasbourg Maintenance Unit; notes with satisfaction that, on the basis of positive experiences, the project was extended to the Strasbourg Projects Unit; encourages DG INLO to continue with the implementation of the digital transmission of documents wherever possible, in order to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of related services;

89.  Notes that the revision of prices in Parliament’s self-service canteen was required in order to move away from subsidised services and towards a concession type of contract, where the catering provider bears the full economic and commercial risk; welcomes the fact that trainees in the Parliament continue to be entitled to a discount of EUR 0,50 on the main dishes in all self-service restaurants in Brussels and Luxembourg and EUR 0,80 in Strasburg; asks DG INLO to monitor future price increases to ensure the services remain appropriately and fairly priced;

90.  Takes note of the rules of 13 December 2013 on parking facilities in the European Parliament, and of the European Parliament’s increased commitment to the environment; considers therefore that the policy on parking for employees’ own bicycles at all the Parliament’s places of work ought to offer more benefits than the aforesaid rules do at present; asks the Secretary-General to take steps along these lines and, particularly in the case of Strasbourg, allow bicycles owned by employees seconded there to be parked in Parliament’s car park outside part-session periods, as well as during them, and for a suitable safe area to be set aside for bicycle parking;

91.  Reiterates its deep regret regarding the decision to change the furniture in the offices of Members and their assistants in Brussels; 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, and that 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 to avoid a health risk in the workplace of a specific or general nature (such as the possible development of more ergonomic office desks or chairs);

92.  Reminds the Secretary-General of the outcome of the survey of the Staff Committee, regarding shared offices for staff, that resulted in 3 000 reactions and 80 % of the staff expressing that they are against shared offices; calls on the Secretary-General to prepare a plan for the consultation of staff and to follow up on the results of the survey;

Directorate-General for Interpretation and Conferences

93.  Acknowledges that, in relation to the new output benchmarks for interpreters, an average of 11 hours per week was set as the lowest delivery and 17 hours as the highest average delivery; notes that the overall average number of hours per week staff interpreters spent delivering interpretation services in their booth increased from 11 hours and 54 minutes in 2014 to 13 hours and 25 minutes in 2016; notes that 2014 was an electoral year with less need for interpretation; underlines that the increase from 2014 to 2016 is due to the Parliament returning to its regular rhythm of committee, group, Strasbourg and turquoise weeks; recalls that, when the Staff Regulations were revised in 2013, the weekly working time for all staff of the European institutions increased from 37,5 to 40-42 hours which resulted in an increase in the weekly working time in the interpretation service as well; encourages future cooperation between the trade unions and the Secretary-General that should focus on fair working conditions, while ensuring the smooth running of parliamentary work at the same time; points out that on-going conferral between the Secretary General and the Staff Committee is underway and urges all parties to come to an agreement; notes that the increase in the committed appropriations for ´other staff´ was partly explained by the increased need for external interpretation in 2016 (EUR 2,2 million up over 2015); notes moreover, that for meetings of political groups and committee meetings, there is a lack of interpretation for all languages due to the assignments rules; observes, finally, that changes to the scheduling of committee meetings which have resulted in many being held at irregular hours is partly caused by limited flexibility in the efficient use of interpretation capacity;

94.  Notes with satisfaction that the Bureau adopted a “Strategy for the Modernisation of Conference Management” in the Parliament, submitted to it by the Secretary-General; acknowledges that the strategy foresees a single point of contact and support for conference organisers and should be supported by an integrated conference service using a customised IT platform; acknowledges furthermore that one-stop assistance while an event is in progress and one-stop management and support are to be progressively put in place for technical meeting room facilities;

Directorate-General for Finance

95.  Recalls that the Bureau endorsed at its meeting of 26 October 2015 a new approach with the goal of enhancing client orientation and reducing the administrative burden for Members by introducing two new instruments, “the MEP’s Portal” and the “e-Portal”; welcomes the implementation of “the MEP’s Portal”, a single front desk integrating all services related to financial and social entitlement formalities, which became fully operational in July 2016; notes that the electronic on-line version of ”the MEP’s Portal”, “the e-Portal”, has been accessible since January 2015 with concise information regarding the rules in force and the status of Members’ rights; underlines that any administrative simplification should not only be achieved by shifting part of the work from the administrative staff to Members and their offices;

96.  Calls for the simplification of recruitment procedures and reimbursements for missions and travel costs for local assistants; regrets that these processes are often complex and lengthy resulting in significant delays; calls on DG FINS to address this issue as a priority;

97.  Notes that the current contract with the Parliament’s travel service expires at the end of 2018 and that an open call for tender is under preparation with a view to selecting a new travel agency to assist the Parliament in the handling and organisation of work-related travel; requests that the new contract contain strengthened conditions, in particular with regard to ticket pricing and the availability at all times of the travel service’s call centre, including at weekends; underlines the importance of a simple and user-friendly complaints mechanism to quickly highlight shortfalls, which allows for a speedy improvement of any problems; emphasises that greater attention needs to be paid to the specific requirements of Members and their need for tailor-made services;

98.  Encourages the successor travel agency to strive to achieve the most competitive prices for the Parliament’s work-related travels;

Voluntary Pension Fund

99.  Notes that the voluntary pension fund was established in 1990 by the Bureau's Rules governing the additional (voluntary) pension scheme and Members were able to join it until the end of the sixth parliamentary term (13 July 2009); notes that the fund was set up to provide Members with a pension scheme because one had previously been lacking;

100.  Recalls that the Court of Justice ruled in 2013 that the Bureau 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;

101.  Notes that the voluntary pension fund has increased its estimated actuarial deficit from EUR 286 million at the end of 2015 to EUR 326,2 million at the end of 2016; further notes that at the end of 2016, the value of net assets to be taken into account and of the actuarial commitment amount to EUR 146,4 million and EUR 472,6 million respectively; observes that these projected future liabilities are spread over several decades but notes that the total amount paid in 2016 by the voluntary pension fund amounts to EUR 16,6 million;

102.  Points out that for the next five years, of the number of Members who will reach the age of retirement and who will be entitled to pay-outs given that they have contributed to the fund, and assuming that no beneficiary is (re)elected in 2019 or otherwise takes up a vacant European mandate, the number of new pensioners will be 21 in 2018, 74 in 2019, 21 in 2020, 12 in 2021 and 17 in 2022;

103.  Regrets that an assessment of the current situation of the voluntary pension fund is still unavailable; recalls paragraph 109 of the discharge resolution for the financial year 2015 and paragraph 112 of the discharge resolution for the financial year 2014 which call for an assessment of the current situation of the voluntary pension fund; calls on the Bureau to make an assessment as soon as possible and at the latest by 30 June 2018 of the current situation of the voluntary pension fund;

104.  Reiterates the continuing problems regarding the voluntary pension fund and asks the Bureau and the Secretary-General to take action, in order to prevent its early insolvency while avoiding any impact on the budget of the Parliament;

105.  Notes that Parliament is the guarantor for the payment of pension rights when and if this fund is unable to meet its obligations; welcomes the Secretary-General’s announcement that he has submitted to the Bureau a plan of action;

106.  Observes that, considering the fund’s current level of financial assets, combined with its future yearly payment obligations and the evolution of the rate of return of its investments on the financial markets, the estimated date of insolvency of the voluntary pension fund is estimated to occur between 2024 and 2026;

General Expenditure Allowance

107.  Welcomes the decision of the Bureau to create an adhoc working group for defining and publishing the rules concerning the use of the general expenditure allowance; recalls the expectations articulated by Parliament in its resolutions of 5 April 2017(16) and of 25 October 2017(17) on the 2018 budget, which call for greater transparency regarding the general expenditure allowance and a need to work on a definition of more precise rules regarding the accountability of the expenditure authorised under this allowance, without generating additional costs to Parliament; reiterates its call on the Bureau to make the following concrete changes concerning the general expenditure allowance swiftly:

   that the general expenditure allowance be handled in all cases in a separate bank account;
   that all receipts pertaining to the general expenditure allowance be kept by Members;
   that the unspent share of the general expenditure allowance be returned at the end of a Member’s mandate;

108.  Recalls the principle of the independence of a Member’s mandate; underlines that it is the responsibility of elected Members to use the expenditures for parliamentary activities and that it is possible for Members - who wish to do so - to publish their spending record of the general expenditure allowance on their personal webpages;

109.  Believes that any revision of the general expenditure allowance should take into account previously adopted plenary recommendations concerning transparency and financial accountability;

Directorate-General for Innovation and Technological Support

110.  Recalls that a key strategic pillar for Parliament in a world of open communication is strengthening ICT security; acknowledges that, in the framework of the cybersecurity action plan, the “cybersecurity culture” pillar focuses on awareness-raising and training activities to ensure that the Parliament’s ICT users are informed of the risks and contribute to its first line of defence in this regard; takes note of the awareness-raising campaign concerning cybersecurity risks, which includes visual reminders throughout the Parliament’s premises, articles published on the Parliament’s internal newsletter concerning cybersecurity and information sessions for Members, assistants and staff; however, expresses its concern regarding the threats against cyber security; welcomes the appointment of the chief information security officer, the creation of an ICT Security Unit with a security management and a security operations team; calls on the Secretary-General to investigate the possibility of adopting a 100 % in-house expertise system, also in order to avoid a high turnover rate;

111.  Considers that the first priority for the IT services should be to secure good access to the internet, and that there are currently too many crashes;

112.  Takes note of the project “ICT3MEPs” which should improve ICT services offered to Members and their staff while working in their constituencies; observes that the first phase of the project was implemented in October 2016, providing access management for local assistants; notes however, that the project still leaves room for improvement; calls on the relevant services to continue with the implementation project taking into account the needs of the users;

113.  Welcomes the implementation of Wi-Fi access for the Parliament’s visitors, which is another step towards a digitally more inclusive Parliament; points out, however, that ICT security should remain paramount and that the Parliament’s internal network should be shielded from potential malicious external attacks; stresses the need for dramatic improvement in the nature of the service provided, particularly in Strasbourg, and looks forward to the necessary measures being taken in the near future;

114.  Invites the Bureau, in cooperation with the Directorate-General for Innovation and Technological Support (DG ITEC), to come up with risk mitigating measures to ensure a smooth running of parliamentary work in the case of system damages or blackouts; underlines the importance of a priority list of services, according to which order services must be restored as quickly as possible so a skeleton service is still functioning in the case of a cyber attack; invites the Bureau to develop a contingency plan for long-time system blackouts; recommends that data centres diversify the sites on which their servers are located to improve security and continuity of the IT systems of the Parliament;

115.  Reiterates the call in its discharge resolutions for the financial years 2014 and 2015 for the creation of an emergency rapid alert system which allows DG ITEC, in collaboration with DG SAFE, to send swift communications by SMS or e-mail to Members and staff who agree to their contact details being included on a communication list for use in specific emergency situations;

Directorate-General for Security and Safety

116.  Acknowledges the new optimised system for organising security tasks which the Secretary-General presented to the Bureau in January 2018; acknowledges moreover that this new system takes into account the specificity of the role and function of security agents; hopes that an open dialogue can be maintained in order to remain attentive to the requirements of this group of staff working in a very tense security context;

117.  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 reiterates its call on the Secretary-General to ensure that staff are correctly trained and able to perform their tasks professionally, including in emergency situations;

118.  Calls on DG SAFE’s security staff to carefully check the entire building for which they are responsible in the case of evacuations, to ensure that is has been evacuated and to provide assistance to persons who are hearing-impaired or who have any other form of disability, when people have to be evacuated;

Environmentally-friendly Parliament

119.  Recalls that the Bureau launched the Environmental Management System project in Parliament on 19 April 2004; notes that a revised environmental policy was adopted by the Bureau in 2016 which retains and reaffirms the commitment of Parliament to continuous environmentally-focused improvements;

120.  Commends the Parliament’s commitment to green public procurement; notes that the “EP Implementation Guide on Green Public Procurement”, which is designed to help authorising officers at the Parliament to successfully launch green purchasing policy and procedures, was approved in June 2016; welcomes the installation of the inter-institutional Green Public Procurement Helpdesk; calls for an evaluation of the introduction of criteria for a mandatory consultation of the Green Public Procurement for public tenders above a certain financial threshold and for specific product categories; notes the construction of a plant wall in the Altiero Spinelli building and takes the view that its benefits in no way justify its cost; calls on the Environmental Management System to seek solutions that, in addition to the ecological dimension, take account of cost-benefit ratios;

121.  Welcomes the installation of water fountains and the new system of reusable glass jars; notes that the water fountains are poorly advertised and not yet installed in office areas; regrets, despite tender specifications to reduce plastic waste, that an increased number of meals in disposable packaging were sold by Parliament’s catering facilities; calls for transparency on plastic waste generated by catering facilities; notes that the brand of bottled drinking water distributed in Parliament meetings has changed three times in less than two years, which does not seem in line with earlier announced tender durations and is still plastic based; recognises that the Commission has scrapped plastic bottles for drinking water and calls on the Parliament to lay out a plan to follow it, especially given its exemplary role and in the light of a European Plastic Strategy policy initiative;

122.  Notes that the Bureau endorsed a road-map, proposed by the Secretary-General, to move towards an electric car fleet; acknowledges that by the end of 2017, half of all cars and minibuses in the Parliament’s car fleet should be electric vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles, as well as that from 2018, any car newly acquired for the Parliament’s car fleet should be a plug-in hybrid or electric; notes that in 2020, all cars in the Parliament’s car fleet should be electric vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles, while in 2021 this should also apply to all of the Parliament’s minibuses; strongly underlines that a cost-benefit analysis should be conducted before every major renewal of the car fleet and that the Budgetary Control Committee should be familiarised with the cost-benefit analysis that proceeded the implementation of the road-map towards an electric car fleet; calls for increased efforts for the promotion of active mobility, including by offering more attractive, accessible and secured bike parking spaces;

123.  Calls on the Bureau to not limit itself to electric cars as a more environmentally-friendly solution since there are concerns regarding their production (including the sufficient availability of the necessary resources) and the disposal of batteries at the end of their life-cycle; regrets that Members were not informed of an analysis regarding alternative fuels such as bio fuels, synthetic fuels or hydrogen fuel cells; underlines that diversification of an environmentally friendly car-fleet would lessen dependence on one supplier and could counteract possible future supply shortages;

124.  Notes that the Parliament has to conform with applicable regional and local laws and calls on the Parliament services to detail how it has implemented the Brussels regional law, the Code Bruxellois de l’air, du climat et de la maîtrise de l’énergie, especially in the area of car parking spaces offered to employees;

125.  Welcomes, in the context of the energy and climate policy of the Union for 2030 and beyond, additional measures to offset unavoidable emissions; calls on the Parliament to develop further CO2 offsetting policies;

Annual report on contracts awarded

126.  Recalls that the Financial Regulation and its Rules of Application(18) lay down the information to be provided to the budgetary authority, and to the public, concerning the award of contracts by the institution; notes that the Financial Regulation requires publication of the contracts awarded with a value of more than EUR 15 000, a value that corresponds to the threshold above which a competitive tendering becomes compulsory;

127.  Notes that of a total of 219 contracts awarded in 2016, 77 were based on open or restricted procedures, with a value of EUR 436 million, and 141 on negotiated procedures, with a total value of EUR 64 million; notes that the total number of contracts awarded by negotiated procedures was 14 % lower in 2016 (141 against 151 in 2015) with a reduction in value of 29 % (EUR 64 million against EUR 90 million in 2015);

128.  Notes the following breakdown of contracts by type awarded in 2016 and 2015:

Type of contract

2016

2015

Number

Percentage

Number

Percentage

Services

Supply

Works

Building

169

36

13

1

77 %

16 %

6 %

1 %

194

34

18

8

77 %

13 %

7 %

3 %

Total

219

100 %

254

100 %

Type of contract

2016

2015

Value (EUR)

Percentage

Value (EUR)

Percentage

Services

244 881 189

49 %

539 463 943

70 %

Supply

155 805 940

31 %

78 424 245

11 %

Works

97 640 851

19 %

92 889 168

12 %

Building

1 583 213

1 %

55 804 154

7 %

Total

499 911 194

100 %

766 581 510

100 %

(Annual report on the contracts awarded by the European Parliament, 2016, p. 6)

129.  Notes the following breakdown of contracts awarded in 2016 and 2015 by type of procedure used:

Type of procedure

2016

2015

Number

Percentage

Number

Percentage

Open

Restricted

Negotiated

Competition

Exceptional

70

7

141

-

1

32 %

3 %

64 %

-

1 %

93

10

151

-

-

37 %

4 %

59 %

-

-

Total

219

100 %

254

100 %

Type of procedure

2016

2015

Value (EUR)

Percentage

Value (EUR)

Percentage

Open

Restricted

Negotiated

Competition

Exception

406 408 732

29 190 756

64 284 705

-

27 000

81 %

6 %

13 %

-

0 %

636 333 284

40 487 367

89 760 859

-

-

83 %

5 %

12 %

-

-

Total

499 911 194

100 %

766 581 510

100 %

(Annual report on the contracts awarded by the European Parliament, 2016, p. 8)

Political groups (budget item 4 0 0)

130.  Notes that, in 2016, the appropriations entered under budget item 4 0 0, attributed to the political groups and non-attached Members, were used as follows:

Group

2016

2015

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

EPP

17 400

8 907

18 303

105,19 %

8 005

17 440

10 198

17 101

98,06 %

8 745

S&D

15 327

5 802

15 713

102,51 %

5 417

15 256

5 748

15 379

100,81 %

7 633

ECR

6 125

2 518

5 835

95,25 %

2 809

5 959

1 614

5 065

84,99 %

2 779

ALDE

5 759

2 366

6 448

111,98 %

1 676

5 692

2 517

5 865

103,03 %

2 839

GUE/NGL

4 340

1 729

4 662

107,43 %

1 407

4 305

1 256

3 832

89,02 %

2 156

Greens/EFA

4 180

1 557

3 921

93,82 %

1 815

4 153

1 293

3 890

93,67 %

2 078

EFDD

3 820

1 873

2 945

77,10 %

1 910

3 843

1 643

3 629

94,45 %

1 919

ENF**

-

-

-

-

-

1 587

0

827

52,09 %

793

Non-attached Members

772

216

616

79,90 %

257

1 627

533

1 001

61,51 %

214

Total***

57 723

24 968

58 443

101,25 %

23 296

59 860

24 803

56 588

94,53 %

29 155

* all amounts in thousands EUR

** the final amounts of eligible expenses relating to the ENF group will be established at a later stage

*** the total does not include amounts related to the ENF group

131.  Notes with concern that, in the case of one political group, the independent external auditor issued a qualified audit opinion; is particularly concerned that the auditor identified non-compliance with the “Rules on the use of appropriations from budget item 400” in the instances of costs for which adequate supporting documentation could not be obtained, as well as in the instance of procurement obligations not having been met for 10 service providers;

132.  Expresses its concern at the reputational risk for Parliament that 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;

European political parties and European political foundations

133.  Notes that, in 2016, the appropriations entered under budget item 4 0 2, attributed to the political parties were used as follows(19):

Party

Abbreviation

Own resources

EP grant

Total revenue(20)

EP grant as % of eligible expenditure (max. 85 %)

Revenue surplus (transfer to reserves) or loss

European People's Party

EPP

1 734

6 918

10 650

85 %

304

Party of European Socialists

PES

1 408

7 154

9 512

85 %

12

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party

ALDE

611

2 337

3 162

85 %

88

European Green Party

EGP

502

1 795

2 587

85 %

78

Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists

AECR

472

2 292

3 232

85 %

-240

Party of the European Left

EL

335

1 594

2 119

85 %

25

European Democratic Party

PDE

107

518

625

85 %

4

EUDemocrats

EUD

54

238

341

85 %

11

European Free Alliance

EFA

158

777

1 008

85 %

5

European Christian Political Movement

ECPM

109

493

665

85 %

0

European Alliance for Freedom

EAF

68

391

459

85 %

-40

European Alliance of National Movements

AEMN

61

229

391

85 %

0

Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy

MENL

189

785

1 020

85 %

0

Alliance for Peace and Freedom

APF

62

329

391

85 %

-5

Total

 

5 870

25 850

36 160

85 %

242

134.  Notes that, in 2016, the appropriations entered under budget item 4 0 3, attributed to the political foundations were used as follows(21):

Foundation

Abbreviation

Affiliated to party

Own resources

EP final grant

Total revenue

EP grant as % of eligible expenditure (max. 85 %)

Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies

WMCES

EPP

965 665

4 878 174

5 843 839

85 %

Foundation for European Progressive Studies

FEPS

PES

1 041 910

4 430 253

5 472 163

84 %

European Liberal Forum

ELF

ALDE

248 996

1 126 430

1 375 426

85 %

Green European Foundation

GEF

EGP

204 866

1 090 124

1 294 990

85 %

Transform Europe

TE

EL

217 209

901 484

1 118 693

85 %

Institute of European Democrats

IED

PDE

50 690

272 033

322 724

85 %

Centre Maurits Coppieters

CMC

EFA

71 952

318 411

390 362

85 %

New Direction - Foundation for European Reform

ND

AECR

316 916

1 503 964

1 820 880

85 %

European Foundation for Freedom

EFF

EAF

41 923

226 828

268 751

85 %

Organisation For European Interstate Cooperation*

OEIC

EUD

21 702

126 727

148 429

99 %

Christian Political Foundation for Europe

SALLUX

ECPM

61 024

326 023

387 047

85 %

Identités & Traditions européennes

ITE

AEMN

37 896

184 685

222 581

85 %

Foundation for a Europe of Nations and Freedom

FENL

MENL

96 726

549 357

646 084

85 %

Europa Terra Nostra

ETN

APF

37 461

151 403

188 864

85 %

Total**

 

 

3 414 937

16 085 895

19 500 832

85 %

(*) the final grant for OEIC represents 99% of the expenditure, because some of them were reclassified to non-eligible expenditure thereby lowering the total eligible expenditure.

(**) the table does not include the figures for the IDDE due to 2016 grant termination procedure. Grant decision ongoing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

135.  Is concerned at the recently identified irregularities which have occurred in relation to the expenditure and own resources of a number of European political parties and foundations;

136.  Expresses its concern at 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 modest number of political parties and foundations; is of the opinion that these irregularities should not bring into question the financial management of the other political parties and foundations; takes the view that Parliament’s internal control mechanisms need to be strengthened;

137.  Calls on the Secretary-General to report, by 1 May 2018, to the committees responsible on all measures taken to combat the abuse of granted subsidies;

138.  Requests that the newly established Authority for European Political Parties and European Political Foundations submit a progress report to Parliament after its first year of activity, namely 2017; calls on the Secretary-General to ensure that the authority will have at its disposal all necessary resources to fulfil its tasks;

139.  Considers that, where people are employed by parties and foundations, the labour law and social legislation of the Member State where the work is carried out must be fully complied with; calls for internal audits to include analysis of this aspect;

(1) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(2) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 266, 11.8.2017, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(5) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, 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) 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 (OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1).
(10) OJ L 252, 29.9.2017, p. 3.
(11) OJ L 246, 14.9.2016, p. 3.
(12) OJ C 436, 24.11.2016, p. 2.
(13) Council Regulation (EC) No 160/2009 of 23 February 2009 amending the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of the European Communities (OJ L 55, 27.2.2009, p. 1).
(14) OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1.
(15) OJ C 353 E, 3.12.2013, p. 177.
(16) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0114.
(17) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0408.
(18) 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 (OJ L 362, 31.12.2012, p. 1).
(19) All amounts in thousands of EUR
(20) Total revenue includes previous year’s carry-over in accordance with Article 125(6) of the Financial Regulation
(21) All amounts in thousands of EUR


Discharge 2016: EU general budget - European Council and Council
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016, Section II – European Council and Council (2017/2138(DEC))
P8_TA(2018)0125A8-0116/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0249/2017)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2016, 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 2016, 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 (A8-0116/2018),

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 2016;

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 18 April 2018 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 2016, Section II – European Council and Council (2017/2138(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 2016, 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 (A8-0116/2018),

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, and implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources;

1.  Notes that in its 2016 annual report, the Court of Auditors observed that no significant weaknesses had been identified with respect to the audited topics related to human resources and procurement for the European Council and Council;

2.  Notes that in 2016, the European Council and the Council had an overall budget of EUR 545 054 000 (compared to EUR 541 791 500 in 2015), with an implementation rate on average of 93,5 %; notes the increase of EUR 3,3 million (equivalent to 0,6 %) in the 2016 budget of the European Council and the Council;

3.  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;

4.  Expresses its support for the successful paradigm shift towards performance-based budgeting in the Commission’s budget planning introduced by Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva in September 2015 as part of the ‘EU Budget Focused on Results’ initiative; encourages the European Council and the Council to apply the method to their own budget-planning procedure;

5.  Regrets that the European Ombudsman found in its strategic inquiry on the ‘Transparency of the Council legislative process’ (OI/2/2017/TE), concluded on 9 February 2018, that the current practice of the Council which inhibits the scrutiny of draft Union legislation constitutes maladministration; urges the Council to comply with the Ombudsman’s recommendations and suggestions for improvement to facilitate the public’s access to documents; underlines the importance of transparency for the Council to be accountable to Union citizens in its role as a Union legislator; asks to be informed of the Council’s reply and the progress of the procedure;

6.  Notes that travel expenses of delegations and interpretation still accounted for substantial under-spending in 2016 within DG Administration; takes note of a new policy being negotiated with the Member States to overcome this issue;

7.  Calls on the Council to provide full details on the human resources and facilities at the disposal of the ATHENA mechanism to guarantee the maximum level of transparency with respect to that mechanism;

8.  Maintains its concern with respect to the very high amount of appropriations being carried over from 2016 to 2017, particularly those for technical furniture, equipment and computer systems; reminds the Council that carry-overs are exceptions to the principle of annuality and should reflect actual needs;

9.  Reiterates its call for the overview of human resources to be broken down by category, grade, gender, nationality and vocational training;

10.  Notes the existence of a gender balance policy in the General Secretariat of the Council (GSC); welcomes the positive trend of women’s representation in management posts, which had reached 31% at the end of 2016; calls on the Council to continue with the gender balance policy toward a truly balanced presentation of both genders in management posts;

11.  Welcomes the information regarding the occupational activities of former senior officials of the GSC who left the service(6) in 2016;

12.  Notes that in 2016 the Secretary-General of the Council published his Decision 3/2016 adopting internal rules for reporting serious irregularities - Procedures for the implementation of Articles 22a, 22b and 22c of the Staff Regulations (‘Whistleblowing’); recalls that the protection of whistleblowers is an issue taken seriously within the public administration of the Union, which must always be considered carefully;

13.  Expresses the need to establish an independent disclosure, advice and referral body with sufficient budgetary resources in order to help whistleblowers use the right channels to disclose information on possible irregularities affecting the financial interests of the Union, while protecting their confidentiality and offering needed support and advice;

14.  Observes that the objective of the Council’s establishment plan to comply with the interinstitutional agreement to reduce staff by 5 % over the period of five years was achieved on 1 January 2017;

15.  Notes with concern that the late delivery of the Europa building had a significant impact on the 2016 budget of the European Council and of the Council; asks to be informed of the overall financial impact of the delay; regrets that there is still a lack of information on the buildings policy and related expenditures, which should be public as a sign of transparency for the European citizens;

16.  Reiterates its call for the building policy of the European Council and of the Council to be provided to the discharge authority; notes with satisfaction that the GSC obtained an EMAS certification in 2016 for its buildings;

17.  Regrets that the Council has still not joined the Union transparency register despite being one of the most important institutions involved in the Union’s decision-making process; therefore calls for a successful outcome of the interinstitutional negotiations between the Council presidency and representatives of the Parliament and the Commission that will lead the Council to finally join the transparency register;

18.  Regrets the decision by the United Kingdom to withdraw from the Union; observes that at this point no predictions can be made about the financial, administrative, human and other consequences related to the withdrawal, asks the European Council and the Council to perform impact assessments and inform the Parliament of the results by the end of the year 2018;

State of play

19.  Notes that failure to grant discharge has so far not led to consequences of any kind; stresses that the situation should be resolved as rapidly as possible in the interest of the citizens of the Union; recalls that the Parliament is the only institution directly elected by Union citizens and that its role in the discharge procedure is directly connected with the citizens' right to be informed of how public money is spent;

20.  Notes that a proposal to negotiate an agreement with the Council on the budget discharge procedure was submitted by Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) to the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents (CoP) on 11 September 2017;

21.  Notes that on 19 October 2017 the CoP approved the request to mandate the CONT Chair and coordinators of the political groups to enter into negotiations on behalf of the Parliament with a view to achieving a mutually satisfactory agreement on the cooperation between the Parliament and the Council with respect to the discharge procedure in full respect of the different role of the two institutions in the discharge procedure;

22.  Notes also that on 9 November 2017 a letter was sent to the Secretary-General of the Council, inviting submission of the Parliament’s proposal to the responsible body of the Council in order to launch negotiations under the terms approved by the CoP;

23.  Notes that in the meantime the Secretary-General of the Council was invited by CONT to attend the exchange of views with the secretaries-general of the other institutions, which took place on 4 December 2017, and that a written questionnaire was sent to the Secretary-General of the Council on 26 November 2017; deeply regrets that the Council reiterates its position of non-attendance to the exchange of views and that the questionnaire sent to the Council services with questions from the Members of Parliament remains unanswered;

24.  Recalls that the procedure of giving discharge separately to the individual Union institutions and bodies is a long-standing practice accepted by all the other institutions except the Council, and that this procedure has been developed to guarantee transparency and democratic accountability towards Union citizens;

25.  Reiterates that the Council must take part fully and in good faith in the annual discharge procedure, just as the other institutions do, and regrets the difficulties encountered in the discharge procedures to date;

26.  Underlines that, pursuant to the Treaties, Parliament is the only discharge authority of the Union, and that, in full acknowledgment of Council’s role as an institution giving recommendations in the discharge procedure, a distinction must be maintained in respect of the different roles of Parliament and Council in order to comply with the institutional framework laid down in the Treaties and in the Financial Regulation;

27.  Recalls that Parliament grants discharge to the other institutions after considering the documents provided, the replies given to the questions and after hearing the secretaries-general of the other institutions; regrets that Parliament repeatedly encounters difficulties in receiving answers from Council;

28.  Considers that effective supervision of the Union's budget implementation requires cooperation between Parliament and Council and looks forward to starting negotiations with a view to reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement.

29.  Notes that the nomination of the members of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is the responsibility of the Member States under Articles 253 and 254 TFEU; highlights the importance of a timely nomination and appointment of judges for the performance of the CJEU; asks for a new rule setting a specific deadline for the (re)nomination of a judge well before the end of a judge’s mandate and calls on the Council to weigh cost against benefits when appointing new judges to the CJEU; criticises the irregular nomination, without a call for applications, of two judges for the Civil Service Tribunal for a mandate which moreover lasted only from 14 April 2016 until 31 August 2016; notes with regret the costs associated with one of those judges taking up and ending his '4 month mandate', amounting to EUR 69 498,25 in addition to the salary received by the judge; condemns such a waste of Union taxpayers’ money;

30.  Notes furthermore that the General Court (Appeal Chamber, judgment of 23 January 2018 in Case T-639/16 P)(7) has considered a Second Chamber of the Civil Service Tribunal of the European Union constituted to include one of the '4 month mandate' judges to be irregular, which invalidated the decision referred to in the said judgment as well as all further decisions of the Second Chamber in that composition; asks the CJEU which decisions of the Second Chamber in that composition are affected by the General Court ruling; demands that the Council comment on this failure and clarify where responsibility lies for it.

(1) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(2) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(6) Third and fourth paragraphs of Article 16 of the Staff Regulations of Officials of the European Union.
(7) ECLI:EU:T:2018:22.


Discharge 2016: EU general budget - Court of Justice
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016, Section IV – Court of Justice (2017/2139(DEC))
P8_TA(2018)0126A8-0122/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0356 – C8‑0250/2017)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2016, 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 2016, 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 (A8-0122/2018),

1.  Grants the Registrar of the Court of Justice of the European Union discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Court of Justice of the European Union for the financial year 2016;

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 of the European Union, 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 18 April 2018 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 2016, Section IV – Court of Justice (2017/2139(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 2016, 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 (A8-0122/2018),

1.  Notes that in its 2016 annual report, the Court of Auditors observed that no significant weaknesses had been identified in respect of the audited topics relating to human resources and procurement for the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU);

2.  Notes 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 2016 for administrative and other expenditure of the institutions and bodies were free from material error;

3.  Welcomes the overall prudent and sound financial management of the CJEU in the 2016 budget period; expresses support for the successful paradigm shift towards performance-based budgeting in the Commission’s budget planning introduced by Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva in September 2015 as part of the ‘EU Budget Focused on Results’ initiative; encourages the CJEU to apply the method to its own budget-planning procedure;

4.  Notes that, according to the current discharge procedure, the CJEU submits annual activity reports to the Court of Auditors in June, the Court of Auditors then submits it report to Parliament in October, and the discharge is voted by Parliament in plenary by May; notes that, unless the discharge is postponed, at least 17 months pass between the closing of the annual accounts and the closing of the discharge procedure; points out that auditing in the private sector follows a much shorter timeline; stresses that the discharge procedure needs to be streamlined and sped up; requests that the CJEU and the Court of Auditors follow best practice in the private sector; proposes in this regard to set a deadline for the submission of annual activity reports of 31 March of the year following the accounting year and a deadline for the submission of the Court of Auditors’ reports of 1 July; proposes also to review the timetable for the discharge procedure as set down in Article 5 of Annex IV to Parliament's Rules of Procedure so that the vote on the discharge would take place in Parliament’s plenary part-session in November, thereby closing the discharge procedure within the year following the accounting year in question;

5.  Notes that in 2016, the CJEU had appropriations amounting to EUR 380 002 000 (compared to EUR 357 062 000 in 2015) and that the implementation rate was 98,2 %; acknowledges the high rate of utilisation; notes, however, a slight decrease compared to previous years;

6.  Notes that the estimated revenue of the CJEU for the financial year 2016 was EUR 51 505 000 whereas the established entitlements were 3,1 % lower than estimated (EUR 49 886 228); notes that the difference of EUR 1,62 million is mainly attributed to the late arrival in 2016 of 16 of 19 additional judges to the General Court;

7.  Is concerned that the CJEU consistently overestimates its commitments for missions, having committed EUR 342 000 in 2016 whereas payments were only EUR 157 974; calls on the CJEU to ensure sound financial planning in order to avoid a similar discrepancy in the future;

8.  Notes that the CJEU's budget is mostly administrative, with around 75 % being used on expenditure concerning persons working within the institution and the remaining on buildings, furniture, equipment and special functions carried out by the institution; notes that, following the Parliament’s request, the CJEU has asked its administrative services to introduce the results-based budgeting principle in their field of activity; asks the CJEU to continue applying that principle in its daily administrative operations, and to report back to the discharge authority on its experiences, and the results achieved;

9.  Welcomes the CJEU’s intention to draw up a report on the functioning of the General Court by 26 December 2020, that an external consultant will be involved, and that the report will be submitted to the Parliament, the Council and the Commission;

10.  Notes the judicial activity of the CJEU in 2016, with 1604 cases brought before the three courts and 1628 cases completed in that year, a number lower than in 2015 where 1775 cases were completed; also notes that the average duration of proceedings was 16,7 months which was slightly higher than in 2015 (16,1 months); welcomes the fact that due to reform of the CJEU the average time taken to decide a case in 2017 was 16,0 months; recalls the necessity to guarantee the quality and speed with which the CJEU delivers its decisions in order to avoid any significant costs for the parties concerned that arise from the excessive length of time taken; reiterates the importance of reducing the list of pending cases to uphold the fundamental rights of Union citizens;

11.  Notes that the Court of Justice completed 704 cases in 2016 (compared to 616 completed cases in 2015) and had 692 new cases brought before it (compared to 713 in 2015), with an increase in cases for preliminary rulings and appeals;

12.  Notes that in 2016, the General Court received 974 new cases (compared to 831 in 2015) and dealt with 755 cases (compared to 987 in 2015), with an increase in the number of pending cases compared to previous years;

13.  Acknowledges that the Civil Service Tribunal ceased to exist on 1 September 2016 and therefore its activities must be considered over a period of only eight months; notes that it completed 169 cases and had 77 new cases, with a considerable decrease in the number of pending cases (compared to 231 in 2015, and 139 in 2016); welcomes the information included in the CJEU’s proposals on the reform of the Court’s Statute, which included an assessment of the functioning of the Civil Service Tribunal, was submitted to the Parliament in 2011 and 2014 and presented as an annex to the reply to the discharge questionnaire for 2016; reiterates its call for an in-depth assessment of the Civil Service Tribunal’s functioning over the ten years of its existence;

14.  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 being doubled in a three-stage process extending until 2019, reform will enable the Court of Justice to continue to deal with the increase in the number of cases; looks forward to seeing 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;

15.  Notes that in 2016, following reform of the judicial architecture of the CJEU, staff cases were the third most frequent type of proceedings in the General Court; calls on the CJEU to continue providing statistics on its judicial activities;

16.  Notes the overall decrease in the duration of proceedings in 2016, noted by the Court of Auditors in its Special Report No 14/2017(6) by an average of 0,9 months at the Court of Justice and 1,9 months at the General Court compared to 2015; notes the organisational and procedural actions taken by the CJEU to enhance its efficiency and calls on the CJEU to pursue its effort to ensure the continuation of a downward trend so that all cases are concluded within a reasonable period of time; notes with concern that one of the most frequent factors affecting the duration of the handling of cases are judicial vacations; notes that there were 14 weeks of judicial vacations in 2016;

17.  Notes the entry into force of the Code of Conduct for Members and former Members of the Court of Justice of the European Union which sets rules reflecting several of Parliament’s concerns regarding declarations of interest and external activities; supports the CJEU in implementing its decision to set up rules on ‘revolving doors’ in 2018;

18.  Requests that the CJEU introduces a more targeted performance based approach in respect of the external activities of judges for the dissemination of Union law, as the criterion used seems rather general and the effects of these activities are not clearly measured;

19.  Reiterates its call for a greater level of transparency with regard to the external activities of each judge; calls on the CJEU to provide information regarding other posts and paid external activities of the judges on its website and in its annual activity report, including the name of the event, the venue, the role of the judges concerned, the travel and subsistence costs and whether they were paid by the CJEU or by a third party;

20.  Urges the CJEU to publish CVs and declarations of interest for all CJEU members, listing membership of any other organisations;

21.  Regrets the absence of rules on 'revolving doors' and urges the CJEU to establish and implement strict obligations in regard thereto;

22.  Is of the opinion that the CJEU should consider producing minutes of meetings held with lobbyists, professional associations and civil society actors, when this does not undermine the confidentiality of ongoing cases;

23.  Asks the CJEU to publish the meetings with professional associations as well as agents representing the Member States;

24.  Deplores the lack of effort by Member States towards achieving gender balance in positions of high responsibility and notes that the Parliament and the Council have set as one of their objectives a balanced representation of genders in appointing new judges to the General Court (as of this date, five women judges and two women advocates general are part of the organisation chart of the Court of Justice and ten women judges are part of the organisation chart of the General Court); considers that the Union institutions must be representative of their citizens; stresses, therefore, the importance of the goal set by Parliament and the Council;

25.  Notes that the Court of Auditors did not have access to certain documents relevant for the audit of the performance review of the CJEU(7); calls on the CJEU to keep working with the Court of Auditors and to provide it with access to all the documents it needs for its audits to the extent that this does not infringe the obligation to maintain the secrecy of the deliberative process;

26.  Is aware that the role of the référendaires is to assist the members of the Courts in examining cases and in drafting legal documents under their supervision, such as judgments, orders, opinions or memoranda; notes that their rules of conduct were adopted by the CJEU in 2009; notes also that référendaires are selected by the members for whom they will work and that there are minimal recruitment criteria; calls on the CJEU to implement a policy allowing for a more flexible allocation of existing référendaires to help mitigate problems relating to management of resources or organisational issues(8);

27.  Notes with concern that the CJEU could not evaluate the capacity of judges and référendaires managing cases because the CJEU does not collect any information on the amount of time that a judge or a référendaire spends on a particular case; notes that a study will be carried out in order to evaluate the extent to which the introduction of a system for monitoring the use of resources would provide useful data; asks the CJEU to present the results of the study to the Parliament;

28.  Considers the answer given by the CJEU to Parliament’s question (Question 50) on the costs of their cases to be unsatisfactory; asks the CJEU to consider a monitoring system to calculate the costs of each case;

29.  Notes the permanent monitoring of the development of potential backlogs and delays within chambers; regrets that the CJEU has not reported data to Parliament relating to the failure to comply with indicative time frames because it concerns the internal organisation of the courts;

30.  Is concerned that the reception and processing of procedural documents by the registry is the most frequent factor affecting the duration of the written procedure at the General Court(9); notes that the cases before the General Court are characterised by the volume of the documents; calls on the General Court to further monitor the number and complexity of cases in order to ensure that the registry has sufficient resources;

31.  Underlines the recommendation of the Court of Auditors in its Special Report No 14/2017 to measure performance on a case by case basis by reference to a tailored time-frame, taking account of the actual resources employed;

32.  Notes that following the reform of the CJEU’s judicial structure, the allocation of judges to the chambers is made according to the caseload in different areas; is interested to know how this allocation is made and whether specialised chambers are in place for certain areas and asks for an analysis of how the allocation affects the speed with which cases are handled;

33.  Notes the process for assigning cases referred to the Courts; notes that in 2016, as in previous years, around 40 % of cases in the General Court were assigned outside of the rota system, which puts the system itself into question; asks the CJEU to provide the rules stipulating the procedure of assignment in both Courts;

34.  Notes that intellectual property issues are involved in a significant number of cases in both Courts; encourages the CJEU to analyse ways of simplifying the procedures for these cases and consider a pre-review by its research and documentation services;

35.  Observes that the CJEU continues to comply with the interinstitutional agreement to reduce staff by 5 % over the period of five years despite the creation of 137 new posts related to the increase in the number of judges and advocates general;

36.  Notes the high rate of occupation of posts (almost 98 %) despite the high staff turnover rate; notes the difficulties stated by the CJEU with respect to recruiting permanent staff in entry-level grades; asks for an assessment by the CJEU on the reasons for the high turnover and the measures put in place or intended to put in place to improve the situation;

37.  Acknowledges the CJEU’s actions taken in 2016 to improve gender balance in senior and middle-management posts but underlines the importance of maintaining the aim of improving in this matter; reiterates its concern for the geographic imbalance at middle and senior management level and, also in this regard, calls on the CJEU to aim for improvements;

38.  Notes that the CJEU offered 245 traineeships in 2016; regrets that 188 traineeships in cabinets were not remunerated; calls on the CJEU to find a solution to provide a decent remuneration to all trainees working in the institution with a view to ensuring equal opportunities;

39.  Welcomes the CJEU’s exchange of staff with the European Central Bank and the project to establish a framework for exchanges for lawyer-linguists between the various institutions;

40.  Welcomes the cooperation with the Commission and the Parliament interpretation services within the Interinstitutional Committee for Translation and Interpretation (ICTI);

41.  Notes with appreciation that the CJEU became a full member of the Interinstitutional Working Group on Key Interinstitutional Activity and Performance Indicators and provided the costs of translation according to the harmonised methodology agreed within the working group;

42.  Notes the CJEU’s investment in IT tools to improve case management; asks the CJEU to provide detailed quantitative and qualitative financial information on the state of play of IT projects within the CJEU since 2014; calls on the CJEU to develop a fully integrated IT system to support case management;

43.  Points out the constant growth of the accesses to the ‘e-Curia’ application (number of access accounts 3 599 in 2016, compared to 2 914 in 2015), and the fact that in 2016 all the Member States used ‘e- Curia’, showing that the public's awareness of the existence and the advantages of this application has been raised;

44.  Calls on the CJEU to improve its communication activities in order to make itself more accessible to the citizens of the Union, e.g. by organising training seminars for journalists or developing communication products on its activity in accordance with a more citizen centred approach; welcomes the fact that the CJEU has taken the decision to update its website in order to be more user friendly and asks the CJEU to make efforts to improve its database by making it more focused on users; acknowledges the efforts of the CJEU with regard to online communication channels and encourages it to keep up the good work;

45.  Notes that the CJEU followed up on the Parliament’s recommendation on the use of official vehicles in the 2015 discharge resolution(10) in a phased manner; finds that the actions taken to rationalise the management of the fleet go in the right direction; welcomes the new interinstitutional call for tender on car leasing procurement launched in 2016 which aims to provide financial savings in this regard; notes with concern that in 2016, 21 flights were arranged at a cost of EUR 3 998,97 in order to send drivers on mission to chauffeur members of the Court of Justice or of the Civil Service Tribunal in the home Member States of those members;

46.  Welcomes the CJEU’s commitment to ambitious environmental targets and calls for these objectives to be reached in a timely manner; 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;

47.  Notes the detailed information on the buildings policy, particularly with regard to the construction of a fifth extension of the current buildings complex;

48.  Notes the further experience gained as to open space offices; is concerned that advantages such as the reduction of space needs, gains in terms of easier communication and higher flexibility could be outweighed by loss of confidentiality, constraints on work on files which require high concentration and a loss of privacy; calls on the CJEU to evaluate the positive and negative effects on working conditions, taking into consideration the needs of the staff, and to inform the Parliament about the result of this evaluation;

49.  Welcomes the CJEU’s adoption of guidelines on information for and protection of whistleblowers in the beginning of 2016 and recalls that the protection of whistleblowers is an issue taken seriously within the public administration of the Union, which must always be considered carefully; calls on the CJEU to encourage its staff to familiarise itself with the 2016 guidelines, highlighting the vital role of whistleblowers in bringing wrongdoing to light; calls on the CJEU to encourage its staff to take advantage of the 2016 guidelines in appropriate cases; asks the CJEU to provide in due time details of whistleblower cases, how they were handled and brought to a close;

50.  Expresses the need to establish an independent disclosure, advice and referral body with sufficient budgetary resources in order to help whistleblowers use the right channels to disclose information on possible irregularities affecting the financial interests of the Union, while protecting their confidentiality and offering needed support and advice;

51.  Notes that the nomination of the members of the CJEU is the responsibility of the Member States under Articles 253 and 254 TFEU; highlights the importance of a timely nomination and appointment of judges for the performance of the CJEU; asks for a new rule setting a specific deadline for the (re)nomination of a judge well before the end of a judge’s mandate and calls on the Council to weigh costs against benefits when appointing new judges to the CJEU; criticises the irregular nomination without a call for applications of two judges for the Civil Service Tribunal for a mandate which moreover lasted only from 14 April 2016 until 31 August 2016;

52.  Notes that one of two judges for the Civil Service Tribunal who were appointed on 1 April until 31 August 2016 was paid an installation allowance (EUR 18 962,25) in accordance with Article 4 (a) of Council Regulation (EU) 2016/300(11), travel expenses (EUR 493,10) in accordance with Article 4 (c) of that Regulation, and removal expenses (EUR 2 972,91) in accordance with its Article 4 (d); notes, moreover, that the same judge was paid a transitional allowance for six months amounting in total to EUR 47 070 at the end of the mandate; notes with regret the disproportionate costs associated with one of those judges taking up and ending his ‘4 month mandate’ amounting to EUR 69 498,25 in addition to the salary received by the judge; calls on the CJEU to consider whether the duration of the mandate is proportionate to the above-mentioned allowances when appointing future judges; calls on the Council to reconsider the conditions and amounts of these allowances and revise Council Regulation (EU) 2016/300 accordingly; condemns such a waste of Union taxpayers' money;

53.  Notes furthermore that the General Court (Appeal Chamber, judgment of 23 January 2018 in Case T-639/16 P)(12) has considered a Second Chamber of the Civil Service Tribunal constituted to include one of the ‘4 month mandate’ judges to be irregular, which invalidated the decision referred to in the said judgment as well as all further decisions of the Second Chamber in that composition; asks the CJEU which decisions of the Second Chamber in that composition are affected by the General Court ruling; demands that the Council comment on this failure and clarifies where responsibility lies for it;

54.  Asks the CJEU to consider extending the languages of deliberation of the CJEU, in particular the General Court, to languages other than French; welcomes the request of the President of the General Court in February 2016 for an impact assessment of a change of the language of deliberation that has not yet been finalised;

55.  Regrets the decision by the United Kingdom to withdraw from the Union; observes that at this point no predictions can be made about the financial, administrative, human and other consequences related to the withdrawal, asks the Council and the Court of Auditors to perform impact assessments and inform the Parliament of the results by the end of 2018.

(1) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(2) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(6) Court of Auditors Special Report No 14/2017 ‘Performance Review of case management at the Court of Justice of the European Union’.
(7) See paragraph 14 of Special Report No 14/2017.
(8) See paragraph 98, point C), of Special Report No 14/2017 where the Court of Auditors identified the following aspects: unavailability of référendaires, workload of judges, advocates general and their référendaires, re-assignment of cases due to the end of judges’ mandate.
(9) See paragraph 38, figure 6 of Special Report no 14/2017.
(10) OJ L 252, 29.9.2017, p. 116.
(11) Council Regulation (EU) 2016/300 of 29 February 2016 determining the emoluments of EU high-level public office holders (OJ L 58, 4.3.2016, p. 1).
(12) ECLI:EU:T:2018:22.


Discharge 2016: EU general budget - Court of Auditors
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016, Section V – Court of Auditors (2017/2140(DEC))
P8_TA(2018)0127A8-0089/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0251/2017)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2016, 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 2016, 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 (A8-0089/2018),

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 2016;

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 18 April 2018 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 2016, Section V – Court of Auditors (2017/2140(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 2016, Section V – Court of Auditors,

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 February 2014 on the future role of the Court of Auditors(6),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2015/1929 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 October 2015 amending Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union(7),

–  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 (A8-0089/2018),

A.  whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority wishes to stress 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.  Notes that the annual accounts of the Court of Auditors (the 'Court') are audited by an independent external auditor – PricewaterhouseCoopers Sàrl – in order to apply the same principles of transparency and accountability that the Court applies to its auditees; takes note of the auditor's opinion that 'the financial statements give a true and fair view of the financial position of the Court';

2.  Emphasises that in 2016, the Court's final appropriations amounted to a total of EUR 137 557 000 (compared to EUR 132 906 000 in 2015) and that the overall rate of implementation for the budget was 99 %;

3.  Stresses that the Court's budget is entirely administrative, being used on expenditure concerning persons working within the institution, buildings, movable property equipment and miscellaneous operating expenditure;

4.  Notes that, according to the current discharge procedure, annual activity reports are submitted to the Court in June, the Court then submits its reports to the Parliament in October, and the discharges are voted by Parliament in plenary by May; notes that, unless the discharge is postponed, at least 17 months pass between the closing of annual accounts and the closing of the discharge procedure; points out that auditing in the private sector follows a much shorter timeline; stresses that the discharge procedure needs to be streamlined and sped up; requests that the Court follows best practice in the private sector; proposes in this regard to set a deadline for the submission of annual activity reports of 31 March of the year following the accounting year and a deadline for the submission of the Court's reports of 1 July; proposes also to review the timetable for the discharge procedure as set down in Article 5 of Annex IV to Parliament's Rules of Procedure so that the vote on the discharges would take place in Parliament’s part-session of November, thereby closing the discharge procedure within the year following the accounting year in question;

5.  Welcomes the overall prudent and sound financial management of the Court in the 2016 budget period; expresses support for the successful paradigm shift towards performance-based budgeting in the Commission’s budget planning introduced by Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva in September 2015 as part of the 'EU Budget Focused on Results' initiative; encourages the Court to apply the method to its own budget-planning procedure;

6.  Takes note of the Court’s opinion No 1/2017 on the revision of the Financial Regulation where it is proposed to update the arrangement for auditing the decentralised agencies; regrets that in the context of the revision of the Financial Regulation, no inter-institutional agreement could be found which would ensure a reduction of the administrative burden resulting from the current arrangement; invites the Court to make a proposal on how the current arrangement could be improved and how such an improvement could contribute to the synchronisation of the Court's annual report and the annual reports on the agencies;

7.  Notes the creation of a high-level working group to work on improving the added value of the annual report for its users; calls on the Court to share the criteria used in this exercise with the Parliament;

8.  Regrets that the extent of considerations in Chapter 10 of the annual report remains limited; asks the Court to provide more detailed data on each institution in order to achieve a better view of the weaknesses in administrative expenditures; considers that country specific reporting by the Court for every Member State would be welcome in the future;

9.  Regrets that prior to 2016, there was a gender imbalance of three women to 25 men within the members of the Court; welcomes that the number of women went up to four in 2016; reiterates its support for the criteria for appointment of members of the Court endorsed in its resolution of 4 February 2014 on the future role of the Court of Auditors;

10.  Notes that the Court reformed its chambers and committees in 2016 with significant impact on the preparation of its work; notes also that this reform is complementary to the introduction of a task-based organisation and the establishment of an institution-wide network to strengthen knowledge management; commends the Court for the reforms and looks forward to receiving the assessment report of the new measures;

11.  Notes that the 13-month target timeframe for producing the special reports has not yet been met; maintains that the Court has to respect this timeframe without compromising the quality of the reports and the targeting of its recommendations;

12.  Welcomes the good cooperation of the Court with Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control, particularly with regard to presenting and following up on the special reports; considers that the presentation of those reports in the specialised committees of Parliament after they have been presented to the Committee on Budgetary Control allows for essential follow-up on the activities they evaluate and raises awareness of the implementation and cost-effectiveness of Union policies;

13.  Finds the cooperation and exchange of practices between the Court and the Member States’ supreme audit institutions very positive; encourages the Court to continue this collaboration;

14.  Observes that the Court is complying with the interinstitutional agreement to reduce staff by 5 % over a period of five years; is concerned that, as a result, the remaining resources available in each service do not allow for absorption of additional workload; calls on the budgetary authorities to be mindful of the long-term impact of staff cuts, in particular regarding the institution's ability to improve gender and geographical imbalances as well as the need for building on the capacity of experienced officials to take over management posts, when planning the future allocation of financial resources for personnel;

15.  Notes the improvement of gender balance at managerial level in 2016; notes also that the equal opportunities action plan 2013-2017 is being evaluated; calls on the Court to continue promoting gender balance, in particular at managerial level, and report on the strategy and results of the action plan;

16.  Notes the creation of a post-graduate university diploma in 'audit of public organisations and policies' and a master’s degree programme on 'management of public organisations' in cooperation with the University of Lorraine, targeting the continuous professional development of the staff of the Court; asks the Court to provide the discharge authority with further information about the agreements related to the creation of these programmes;

17.  Notes the increased amount of outsourced translation in 2016, particularly in August; takes note of the Court’s justification and calls for a better organisation of its internal translation services in order to generate economic savings;

18.  Notes the summary of the Court’s building policy included in its 2016 annual activity report;

19.  Notes that the Court followed up on the Parliament’s recommendation on the use of official vehicles in the 2015 discharge resolution(8) in a phased manner; finds that the actions taken to rationalise the management of the fleet go in the right direction; welcomes the new interinstitutional call for tender on car leasing launched in 2016, which aims to generate economic savings in this regard;

20.  Supports the Court’s e-publishing policy and its achievements in lowering its environmental footprint; regrets that the website of the Court does not offer a user-friendly search system and asks for an effective improvement of the accessibility of reports;

21.  Notes that the negotiations between the Court and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on an administrative arrangement are ongoing and foreseen to be concluded in 2018; calls on the Court to inform Parliament of the progress in the negotiations;

22.  Reiterates its calls on the Court to inform the Parliament, in compliance with the existing rules on confidentiality and data protection, of closed OLAF cases, where the Court or any of the individuals working for it were the subject of the investigation;

23.  Expresses the need to establish an independent disclosure, advice and referral body with sufficient budgetary resources in order to help whistleblowers use the right channels to disclose information on possible irregularities affecting the financial interests of the Union, while protecting their confidentiality and offering needed support and advice;

24.  Welcomes the Court’s ethical framework to prevent conflicts of interest as well as misconducts and unethical behaviours by staff and members; stresses the importance of ensuring and guaranteeing the independence of its members; welcomes the planned audit on the ethical framework of selected Union institutions in 2018;

25.  Regrets the decision by the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union; observes that at this point no predictions can be made about the financial, administrative, human and other consequences related to the withdrawal, asks the Court to perform impact assessments and inform the Parliament on the results by the end of 2018.

(1) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(2) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(6) OJ C 93, 24.3.2017, p. 6.
(7) OJ L 286, 30.10.2015, p. 1.
(8) OJ L 252, 29.9.2017, p. 116.


Discharge 2016: General budget of the EU - European Economic and Social Committee
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016, Section VI – European Economic and Social Committee (2017/2141(DEC))
P8_TA(2018)0128A8-0097/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0252/2017)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2016, 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 2016, 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 (A8-0097/2018),

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 2016;

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 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 18 April 2018 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 2016, Section VI – European Economic and Social Committee (2017/2141(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 2016, 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 (A8-0097/2018),

A.  whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority wishes to stress 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.  Welcomes the conclusion of the Court of Auditors (the ‘Court’) that, on the basis of its audit work,  the payments as a whole for the year ended on 31 December 2016 for administrative and other expenditure of the institutions and bodies were free from material error;

2.  Notes that in its 2016 annual report, the Court observed that no significant weaknesses had been identified in respect of the audited topics relating to human resources and procurement for the European Economic and Social Committee (the “Committee”);

3.  Notes that, according to the current discharge procedure, the Committee submits annual activity reports to the Court in June, the Court then submits its report to Parliament in October, and the discharge is voted by Parliament in plenary by May; notes that, unless the discharge is postponed, at least 17 months pass between the closing of the annual accounts and the closing of the discharge procedure; points out that auditing in the private sector follows a much shorter timeline; stresses that the discharge procedure needs to be streamlined and sped up; requests that the Committee and the Court follow best practice in the private sector; proposes in this regard to set a deadline for the submission of the annual activity reports of 31 March of the year following the accounting year and a deadline for the submission of the Court’s report of 1 July; proposes also to review the timetable for the discharge procedure as set down in Article 5 of Annex IV to Parliament's Rules of Procedure so that the vote on the discharge would take place in Parliament’s plenary part-session in November, thereby closing the discharge procedure within the year following the accounting year in question;

4.  Welcomes the overall prudent and sound financial management of the Committee in the 2016 budget period; expresses support for the successful paradigm shift towards performance-based budgeting in the Commission’s budget planning introduced by Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva in September 2015 as part of the “EU Budget Focused on Results” initiative; encourages the Committee to apply that method to its own budget-planning procedure;

5.  Notes that in 2016 the Committee’s budget amounted to EUR 130 586 475 (EUR 129 100 000 in 2015), with a utilisation rate of 97,55 %; notes the increase of the utilisation rate in 2016 when compared to 2015;

6.  Stresses that the Committee’s budget is purely administrative, with a large amount being used on expenditure concerning persons working within the institution and the remaining amount relating to buildings, furniture, equipment and miscellaneous running costs; notes that the Committee confirmed the importance of applying performance-based budget principles in its daily operations and informed of the update of the key activity performance indicators (KAPIs) in 2017; asks the Committee to continue applying those principles and duly and regularly inform Parliament of the reformed KAPIs;

7.  Notes the launching of reflections about the modernisation of the Committee; asks to be informed of the initiative and its developments; asks the Committee to provide the discharge authority with clarifications of expenditure in connection to this modernisation, in order to boost transparency and accountability, and to publish the cost-benefit assessment;

8.  Notes that the final appropriations for travel and subsistence allowances for members were EUR 19 561 194; welcomes the detailed breakdown of members’ expenditure concerning item 1004 which the Committee submitted to Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control, and asks the Committee to include this breakdown for the year 2017 in its next annual activity report or in the report on budgetary and financial management; asks the Committee to provide the discharge authority with a cost-benefit assessment of the missions for the Union and visited countries, and the list of the visited countries in 2016; encourages the adoption of appropriate measures in order to make savings and reduce environmental pollution; calls on the Committee members to assess the potential of other instruments which may contribute to economic savings, inter alia on travel expenses;

9.  Observes that the Committee declares that there is scope for further developing the cooperation agreement between the Committee and Parliament; trusts that further development of synergies will bring positive results to both parties; takes note of the progress of the cooperation between the Committee and Parliament, namely the contacts between the Committee president and its Bureau and Parliament's Conference of Committee Chairs; calls for further strengthening the contacts between the Committee and the chairs and the rapporteurs of Parliament’s committees in order to ensure better follow-up of the Committee’s contribution to the Union legislative process;

10.  Is of the opinion that a joint assessment of the budgetary savings resulting from the cooperation between the Committee and Parliament is of interest to both institutions and to Union citizens; proposes that this exercise be conducted jointly with Parliament as part of the strategy to strengthen contacts between the two institutions; is aware that the Committee is building up capacity in terms of policy assessment to strengthen its role in the legislative process as a consultative body; asks the Committee to submit to the discharge authority a detailed analysis of the functioning of those activities in its next annual activity report;

11.  Welcomes the reopening of the direct access between the RMD and the REM buildings following the decision by Belgian authorities to reduce the threat level for the European institutions; believes that this will facilitate communication and cooperation between the Committee and Parliament; calls on both institutions to inform their members and staff about the reopening of the passage;

12.  Welcomes the administrative cooperation agreement between the Committee and the Committee of the Regions, which entered into force in 2016 and provides for shared translation and logistics directorates; considers this a good basis for potential economic savings in both committees; trusts that this agreement will also prompt cooperation in other areas; requests a detailed plan and description of the committees’ activities in those areas; believes that this agreement will ensure also further efficiency in both committees’ performance and economic savings;

13.  Welcomes the Committee’s compliance with the targets set by the interinstitutional agreement to reduce staff by 5 % over the period of five years; notes that, as a result of the transfer of staff to the EPRS service in Parliament, the Committee has reduced the number of posts in its establishment plan by 8 %, which corresponds to a decrease of 43 posts in 2016; calls on the budgetary authorities to be mindful of the long-term impact of staff cuts, in particular regarding the Committee’s ability to improve gender and geographical balance, as well as the need for building on capacity of experienced officials to take over management posts when planning the future allocation of financial resources for personnel;

14.  Notes a general increase of the absence rate due to sickness in the Committee; stresses the importance to put in place measures for improving wellbeing at work and asks for a closer monitoring of absences; welcomes the initiatives taken by the Committee such as the creation of the figure of “confidential counsellor” to fight against harassment and to foster respect for human dignity in the work place; calls on the Committee to report to the discharge authority on the progress achieved in staff well-being in 2017;

15.  Notes with satisfaction that the proportion of women holding middle management positions in the Committee is above 40 %; encourages the Committee to achieve the same results insofar as senior management positions are concerned and to do the necessary to further reduce the geographic imbalance;

16.  Is concerned that for 9 out of 22 tenders in 2016 the contracts were awarded without competition to the only company that had applied for the tender; asks the Committee to take the necessary measures to ensure competition among bidders;

17.  Welcomes the increase of the Committee media coverage by around 30 % in 2016; observes the establishment of the Committee’s presence on social media and looks forward to hearing its achievements;

18.  Notes an increase in the unused rate of interpretation services requested from 3,5 % in 2015 to 4 % in 2016 and asks for a closer monitoring of the effective provision of those services;

19.  Notes the continued increase of the outsourcing rate of translation (from 9,74 % in 2015 to 16,61 % in 2016) provided for in the cooperation agreement between the Committee and the Committee of the Regions, due to the higher translation output and to the reduction of staffing levels in the directorate (more than 9 % compared to 2015); notes the 2016 internal audit on translation outsourcing and its practical implementation and restrictions, and looks forward to being informed of the internal auditor’s recommendations in the next Committee’s annual activity report;

20.  Notes the Committee’s commitment to EMAS and its environmental results, which show a decrease in consumption of gas, water, electricity, paper and cleaning products and in production of waste; encourages the Committee to continue to improve its performance in this regard;

21.  Regrets the fact that the Committee is only now preparing draft guidelines on the prevention of conflicts of interest in the context of social dialogue; notes that the draft guidelines are currently being finalised through a dialogue with socio-professional organisations; asks the Committee to speed up the finalisation process, to adopt the guidelines in a timely manner, to include in them a requirement to provide details of membership to any other organisation, and to publish the guidelines on its website;

22.  Deplores the fact that neither the President, nor the Vice-Presidents nor the Secretariat of the Committee have published declarations of interest on its website; urges the Committee to publish them by the end of June 2018, listing their membership of any other organisations; deplores the fact that members’ declarations of interest are published in various languages and different formats, which limits transparency; urges the Committee to publish them in an unique format and in one of the three most used official languages of the Union by the end of June 2018;

23.  Is concerned that pursuant to Article 11 of the Staff Regulations, each new recruit is obliged to provide a statement of absence of conflicts of interest, instead of a declaration of conflicts of interest; underlines that it is not for any person to state her or his absence of conflicts of interest; reiterates that a neutral body should assess the existence of conflicts of interest; urges, therefore, the Committee to put forward a unique and complete form of declaration of conflicts of interest to replace the declaration of absence of conflicts of interest;

24.  Welcomes the administrative arrangements agreed between the Committee and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in order to facilitate exchange of information;

25.  Welcomes the complementary decisions taken by the Committee on internal whistle-blowing rules and stresses the importance of improving this initiative;

26.  Expresses the need to establish an independent disclosure, advice and referral body with sufficient budgetary resources, in order to help whistleblowers use the right channels to disclose their information on possible irregularities affecting the financial interests of the Union, while protecting their confidentiality and offering needed support and advice;

27.  Points out the case linked to harassment in the Committee which cost it EUR 55 772; regrets the occurrence of that case but welcomes that it was duly followed up; notes that 20 other staff members contacted the Committee's network of confidential counsellors concerning alleged harassment-related issues; calls on the Committee to improve its policy in this regard in order to further prevent any form of psychological and sexual harassment; asks the Committee to report to the discharge authority on the measures it envisages to tackle those cases;

28.  Regrets the decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union; observes that at this point no predictions can be made about the financial, administrative, human and other consequences related to the withdrawal, and asks the Committee and the Court to perform impact assessments and inform Parliament of the results by the end of 2018.

(1) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(2) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.


Discharge 2016: EU general budget - Committee of the Regions
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Decision
Resolution
1. European Parliament decision of 18 April 2018 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016, Section VII – Committee of the Regions (2017/2142(DEC))
P8_TA(2018)0129A8-0117/2018

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2016 (COM(2017)0365 – C8‑0253/2017)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2016, 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 2016, 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 (A8-0117/2018),

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 2016;

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 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 18 April 2018 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 2016, Section VII – Committee of the Regions (2017/2142(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 2016, 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 (A8-0117/2018),

A.  whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority wishes to stress 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.  Welcomes the conclusion of the Court of Auditors (the ‘Court’) on the basis of its audit work that the payments as a whole for the year ended on 31 December 2016 for administrative and other expenditure of the institutions and bodies were free from material error;

2.  Notes that in its 2016 annual report, the Court 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”);

3.  Notes that, according to the current discharge procedure, the Committee submits annual activity reports to the Court in June, the Court then submits its report to Parliament in October, and the discharge is voted by Parliament in plenary by May; notes that, unless the discharge is postponed, at least 17 months pass between the closing of the annual accounts and the closing of the discharge procedure; points out that auditing in the private sector follows a much shorter timeline; stresses that the discharge procedure needs to be streamlined and sped up; requests that the Committee and the Court follow best practice in the private sector; proposes in this regard to set a deadline for the submission of the annual activity reports of 31 March of the year following the accounting year and a deadline for the submission of the Court’s report of 1 July; proposes also to review the timetable for the discharge procedure as set down in Article 5 of Annex IV to Parliament's Rules of Procedure so that the vote on the discharge would take place in Parliament’s plenary part-session in November, thereby closing the discharge procedure within the year following the accounting year in question;

4.  Welcomes the overall prudent and sound financial management of the Committee in the 2016 budget period; expresses support for the successful paradigm shift towards performance-based budgeting in the Commission’s budget planning introduced by Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva in September 2015 as part of the “EU Budget Focused on Results” initiative; encourages the Committee to apply that method to its own budget-planning procedure;

5.  Notes that in 2016 the Committee had an approved budget of EUR 90 500 000 (EUR 88 900 000 in 2015), of which EUR 89 400 000 were commitment appropriations with a utilisation rate of 98,7 %; welcomes the increase of the utilisation rate in 2016;

6.  Stresses that the Committee’s budget is, despite its political activities, considered as purely administrative, with a large amount being used on expenditure concerning persons working within the institution and relating to buildings, furniture, equipment and miscellaneous running costs; stresses the importance of the Committee applying performance-based budget principles in its daily operations; asks the Committee to inform Parliament on the progress made in this matter regularly;

7.  Stresses the importance of deepening the cooperation with Parliament based on the cooperation agreement between the Committee and Parliament, and asks to be kept informed of any developments in this regard; asks that the Committee’s strategy strengthen connections first of all with Parliament, but also with other Union institutions in order to increase the involvement of the regions in the Union legislative process;

8.  Is of the opinion that a joint assessment of the budgetary savings resulting from the cooperation between the Committee and Parliament is of interest to both institutions and to Union citizens; suggests that the Committee and Parliament consider carrying out this exercise as a complement to the ongoing political strategic dialogue;

9.  Welcomes the administrative cooperation agreement between the Committee and the European Economic and Social Committee, which entered into force in 2016 and provides for shared translation and logistics directorates; trusts that this agreement will also prompt cooperation in other areas; requests a detailed plan and description of the committees’ activities in those areas; believes that this agreement will ensure also further efficiency in both committees’ performance and economic savings;

10.  Welcomes the fact that the targets set by the Committee in 2016 to increase the involvement of Parliament and the Council in activities related to the Committee’s opinions have been achieved and, in some cases, even surpassed; encourages the Committee and Parliament to seek to improve their cooperation on common files by inviting each other’s rapporteurs to present their opinion in Parliament’s Committee responsible for the matter in question or in the Committee early in the process;

11.  Welcomes the reopening of the direct access between the RMD and the REM buildings following the decision by Belgian authorities to reduce the threat level for European Institutions; believes that this will facilitate the communication and cooperation between the Committee and Parliament; calls on both institutions to inform their members and staff about the reopening of the passage;

12.  Calls on the Committee to strive for an overall execution rate for payments of around 90 % at minimum;

13.  Notes the inclusion of data on the missions undertaken by the Committee’s members in its annual activity report; welcomes the list of events attended by its members in 2016 provided to Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control in an annex to the answers to the written questionnaire for the discharge 2016, and asks the Committee to provide such a list for 2017 in an annex to its annual activity report for 2017;

14.  Notes that in its annual activity report for 2016, the Committee had as a target 15 file notes and studies and that the result was 12; encourages the Committee to keep on working in order to fulfil those targets and invites it to communicate detailed results in this regard in its annual activity report for 2017;

15.  Observes the lack of progress concerning the continued shortage of women holding senior and middle management posts; regrets the decrease of women in management positions from 37 % in 2015 to 33 % in 2016 due to the appointment of five officials, out of which only one is a woman; welcomes the adoption of a new five-year equal opportunities strategy foreseeing actions to strive for a more balanced gender representation, particularly in management positions; encourages the Committee to improve its performance in this regard;

16.  Welcomes the slight decrease of the number of days of sick leave within the Committee’s staff; underlines the importance of putting in place measures for improving wellbeing at work but also of duly verifying absences;

17.  Observes that the communication strategy of the Committee is geared towards reconnecting Europe with its citizens, with activities organised in several Member States and online surveys; supports the organisation of citizen dialogues and asks for a regular improvement of those initiatives, in order to duly involve Union citizens, whilst avoiding overlap with the activities of other Union institutions; invites the Committee to communicate detailed results in this regard in its annual activity report for 2017;

18.   Notes that the objective of an 10 % increase in subscribers to the Committee’s eNewsletter has not been achieved, nor the objective of getting a 5 % increase in enrolments to the Committee’s online course for regional and local authorities (MOOC), which saw a decrease of 49 % of participants compared to 2015; notes with concern the 30 % decrease in visitors groups, probably influenced by the terrorist attacks of 2016;

19.  Notes with concern that the translation output objective was not achieved and that further rationalisation measures are needed as a result; asks the Committee to include detailed information in this regard in its annual activity report for 2017; notes the increasing outsourcing rate for translation and stresses the need to assess the possibility of further interinstitutional cooperation with regard to translation;

20.  Notes that one whistleblowing file was opened in 2016 and has been forwarded to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF); asks the Committee to keep the discharge authority informed of the outcome and possible legal proceedings of this specific case and of any other cases that may arise;

21.  Notes a decision by the Civil Service Tribunal in November 2014 concerning the Committee's former internal auditor; acknowledges that the Civil Service Tribunal ruled that the Committee had to indemnify the former internal auditor yet further dismissed the allegations made by him; observes that the Committee complied promptly with the Civil Service Tribunal’s decision and paid the indemnities; notes that Article 22b of the Staff Regulations states that a bona fide whistleblower “shall not suffer any prejudicial effects” as a result of having reported wrongdoing; recalls that Parliament confirmed this immovable principle of whistleblower protection when it demanded that the Committee’s Internal Auditor “should not suffer any adverse consequences as a result” of having reported wrongdoing; recalls that in January 2004(6) Parliament confirmed that the internal auditor is a bona fide whistleblower; notes that the former internal auditor lodged another case against the Committee in November 2015; notes that a hearing took place in December 2017 and that the Court’s ruling is expected in summer 2018; observes that the Committee has no influence either on the plaintiff having lodged a new case nor on the timetable of the Court; calls on the Court to officially recognise the internal auditor’s status as a bona fide whistleblower and to ensure that he suffers no prejudicial effects as a result of having reported wrongdoing;

22.  Expresses the need to establish an independent disclosure, advice and referral body with sufficient budgetary resources, in order to help whistleblowers use the right channels to disclose their information on possible irregularities affecting the financial interests of the Union, while protecting their confidentiality and offering needed support and advice;

23.  Acknowledges the Committee’s commitment to EMAS and its environmental results, which show a decrease in consumption of gas, water, electricity, paper, cleaning products and in production of waste; encourages the Committee to continue to improve its performance in this regard;

24.  Notes that following an ex post control exercise carried in 2016, the Committee has a recurrent recommendation to update or establish written procedures; urges the Committee to make sure that that recommendation is duly followed up;

25.  Notes that the average time for payment to the Committee’s creditors has increased from 20 days in 2015 to 26 days in 2016; calls on the Committee to improve the average payment time to its creditors as a matter of urgency, while taking into account that payments need to be made within 30 days; calls on the Committee to report to the discharge authority on the actions undertaken to reverse this negative trend and to present the results achieved in this regard;

26.  Regrets the decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union; observes that at this point no predictions can be made about the financial, administrative, human and other consequences related to the withdrawal, and asks the Committee and the Court to perform impact assessments and inform Parliament of the results by the end of 2018.

(1) OJ L 48, 24.2.2016.
(2) OJ C 323, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 322, 28.9.2017, p. 10.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(6) See Parliament’s resolution of 29 January 2004 (OJ L 57, 25.2.2004, p. 8).


Discharge 2016: EU general budget - European External Action Service
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