The European Parliament on Wednesday adopted changes to the EU financial regulation, the staff rules and the 2010 budget needed for the European External Action Service to be launched. MEPs have managed to increase Parliament's overview of the service and to ensure that recruitment will respect geographical and gender balances.

The budgeting rules (the "financial regulation") of the European External Action Service (EEAS) were amended to ensure transparency and financial accountability. The amendments adopted include stringent provisions on traceability and budgetary and financial accountability.

Budgetary control and transparency

In budgetary terms, the EEAS will be treated as an EU institution, that is, it will have its own section in the EU budget like other institutions. The budget will require a discharge from the European Parliament.  The EP will thus 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 Parliament and the Council with a detailed working document setting out all administrative and operational expenditure relating to EU external action, along with the draft EU budget.

Role of heads of delegation

Before taking up their duties, heads of delegation "must complete specific training courses on the tasks and responsibilities of authorising officers and the implementation of the budget". The heads of delegation should "fully cooperate" with Parliament, provide necessary information and may be requested to attend committee meetings.

The budget rules were adopted by 578 votes to 39 with 28 abstentions.

Staff rules to ensure geographical and gender balance

The EEAS staffing rules will be laid down in the compromise text negotiated by Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, DE) on behalf of the EP and approved today by 513 votes to 51 with 98 abstentions.

"We want to have a service that is modern, that is gender balanced", said Bernhard Rapkay. "We need equal rights and equal obligations" for EU officials and staff from the national diplomatic services, and "they must be committed to the EU High Representative, they must be loyal to you", Mrs Ashton, said the rapporteur.

Recruitment or engagement should be directed to securing for the EEAS the services of officials and temporary staff of the "highest standard of ability, efficiency and integrity, recruited on the broadest possible geographical basis from among nationals of Member States", according to amendments to the staff rules.  EEAS staff should comprise an "appropriate and meaningful presence of nationals from all the Member States", says the text.

To ensure a gender balance in the new diplomatic service, the agreed text also states that appropriate measures should be taken to promote equal opportunities for the under-represented gender in certain function groups. By mid-2013, the High Representative will table a report on the implementation of this regulation, with a particular emphasis on gender and geographical balance of staff.

Until 30 June 2013, the EEAS will recruit officials from the Council's General Secretariat, the Commission or national diplomatic services. From 1 July 2013, access to EEAS posts should be opened up to officials from other EU institutions, such as the European Parliament. When the EEAS reaches its full capacity, EU officials should represent at least 60% of staff at administrator level and at least one-third of all EEAS staff should come from national diplomatic services.

Budget 2010 changed to make room for the EEAS

MEPs also modified the 2010 budget, on the basis of a report drafted by Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, IT) and László Surján (EPP, HU) and adopted today by 608 votes to 41, with 11 abstentions. The changes include adding a tenth section, with a budget structure and an establishment plan, to the EU budget. A total of 100 new posts and money for 70 contract agents are created, divided between delegations and headquarters. The net financial impact of the amending budget, including the related operating expenditure, is €9.52 million.