Parliament approved on Tuesday the lion's share of the EU's budget spending for the financial year 2009 under the 'budget discharge procedure' but decided to postpone the discharge for the Council of Ministers, the European Medicine Agency and the European Police College.
In all other cases, Parliament followed the recommendations of its Budgetary Control Committee and granted discharge. Thirty-nine reports in total were put to the vote.
The European Parliament is the EU budget discharge authority. Once annual accounts are audited and finalised, Parliament decides - on a recommendation by the Council of Ministers - whether or not to grant discharge to the Commission and the other EU bodies for their spending in that year. The discharge for budget implementation is the decision by which the European Parliament "releases" the Commission from its responsibility for managing a given budget, thereby marking the end of that budget's operation.
Parliament granted discharge to the European Commission. During the preparatory work ahead of this plenary vote, MEPs had stressed their wish to see better management and control systems put in place for money spent by national authorities in the Member States under the system of 'shared management' which makes up for 80% of EU expenditure. They had also underlined the need for national politicians to take political responsibility for the way EU money is spent in their countries, by signing "national management declarations".
Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta (Taxation, Customs, Anti-fraud and Audit) agreed to Parliament' demands and said he would seek Member States' political endorsement of these proposals. Mr Šemeta also responded positively to Parliament's other wishes, including calls for the systematic use of suspension of payments where Member States' control and management systems prove deficient, better recovery of incorrectly-spent funds and putting more effort into making the rules on spending EU money less complex.
European Police College
Parliament postponed the discharge to the Director of the European Police College (CEPOL), located in Bramshill (United Kingdom), due to its "persistent lack of compliance with the Financial Regulation". CEPOL was the only agency for which a discharge was refused in 2008.
European Medicines Agency
Parliament also postponed the discharge for the London-based European Medicines Agency (EMEA). MEPs believed there was no proper guarantee of the independence of experts hired to carry out scientific evaluations of human medicines and that some experts had conflicting interests in the case of the evaluation of the anorectic Benfluorex. The report also criticises the EMEA's management of procurement procedures and its lack of criteria for recruiting staff.
Parliament postponed the discharge for the Council of Ministers until the autumn as MEPs felt the Council was not co-operating sufficiently in providing information to Parliament.
Parliament's own budget
Regarding Parliament's own budget, MEPs want to set an example in cost-cutting. Among other savings measures, Parliament voted to have interpretation services for working group meetings provided automatically in only six languages (French, German, English, Polish, Spanish and Italian), with further languages to be made available only at the request of MEPs.
Other demands include rules to limit long-distance journeys with Parliament's official cars and special rules to prevent MEPs from employing members of each other's families as assistants. Parliament also calls for a long-term review of the budget with a view to reducing costs.