European External Action Service (EEAS) budgeting rules were beefed up by the Budgets and Budgetary Control committees on Tuesday, to ensure transparency and financial accountability. MEPs inserted a provision requiring a "working document" to detail external action spending, and new rules on conflicts of interest. They also stipulated that heads of EEAS delegations must complete specific budget training courses before taking up their duties.
Before the European External Action Service (EEAS) is launched, several legislative changes are needed for the service to function, including changes in budget and staff rules.
The amendments inserted in the financial regulations by Budgets and Budgetary Control committees on Tuesday include stringent provisions on traceability and budgetary and financial accountability. Ingeborg Gräßle (EPP, DE) and Crescenzio Rivellini (EPP, IT), who steered the draft legislation through Parliament, also want to ensure that Parliament has its say, in order to ensure democratic scrutiny of how the EU budget is implemented.
In budgetary terms, the EEAS will be treated as an EU institution, i.e. will enjoy the budgetary autonomy afforded by having its own section in the EU budget. Like all other institutions, it will implement its own administrative expenditure. It will also require a discharge from the European Parliament for its implementation. Parliament will therefore exercise its full budgetary and control powers vis-à-vis the EEAS. The Commission will remain in charge of the service's operational budget.
To ensure budgetary transparency, the Commission must supply the European Parliament and the Council with a working document presenting all administrative and operational expenditures relating to EU external action, along with the draft EU budget, say MEPs.
This working document should include, for instance, EEAS overall administrative expenditure for the previous year by delegation, expenditure by the EEAS central administration and operational expenditure by geographical area (regions, countries), by thematic area, by delegation and by mission.
A detailed picture of all staff in place in the delegations should also be provided at the time of presenting the draft budget, including a breakdown by geographical area, individual country and mission, MEPs add.
Within the EEAS, a director general for budget and administration should be responsible to the High Representative for the administrative and internal budgetary management of the service.
Accountability and training for heads of delegations
The Commission may delegate its budget implementing powers to heads of delegations for operational appropriations.
Before taking up their duties, heads of delegations "must complete specific training courses on the tasks and responsibilities of authorising officers and the implementation of the budget", MEPs insist.
The heads of delegations' annual activity reports, as well as the statements of assurance on the internal management and control systems within their delegations, should be transmitted to the European Parliament, say MEPs, adding that upon request, heads of delegations will also have to report on the execution of their budgetary duties to the EP's competent committee.
Conflicts of interest
Heads of delegations acting as authorising officers by sub-delegation must take the measures necessary to prevent "any conflict of priorities which is likely to have an impact on the implementation of the financial management tasks sub-delegated to them".
Where such a conflict arises, they shall inform the responsible directors-general of the Commission and of the EEAS "without delay" and the latter "shall take appropriate steps to remedy the situation", says the amended text.
The Legal Affairs Committee vote on changes to the Staff Regulations, for which Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, DE) is rapporteur, is scheduled for 6 October.
MEPs are negotiating with the Council, with a view to achieving a first-reading agreement on both the financial and the staff regulations, to be approved by Parliament at the 18-21 October plenary session.
Thereafter, Parliament and Council will still need to amend the 2010 budget, to make budgetary room for the new service. The EEAS is expected to start work on 1 December.
In the chair: Alain Lamassoure (EPP, FR), Luigi de Magistris (ALDE, IT)