Starting this week's round of debates on the future external action service (EEAS), members of the Budgetary Control Committee asked for written guarantees that Parliament will have the same discharge right regarding the budget of the new service as it currently has for the budget of the Commission.
The committee's rapporteur for amending the EU's Financial Regulation to set up the EEAS, Crescenzio Rivellini (EPP, IT), suggested a change in article 145, which gives Parliament the role of granting discharge "to the Commission" for the implementation of the EU budget. If the EEAS is set up outside the Commission, which is the Council's favoured option, Parliament's right to discharge should be clearly stated in article 145, he said.
Regarding the staffing of the service, it was necessary to delineate clearly the responsibilities of staff recruited from the Member States, according to Ivailo Kalfin (S&D, BG): "It will be rather difficult to draw a dividing line between the responsibility of the Commission and that of the external action service," he said.
Ingeborg Grässle (EPP, DE) asked for clear rules about what happens if Parliament rejects the EEAS discharge: "If this service is making financial decisions, it must be responsible [for them]."
Not budget neutral
During Tuesday's debate in the Budgets Committee, Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, IT) stressed that the external action service cannot be "budget neutral", as the Council proposes, if it is to live up to its ambitions.
The committee chair, Alain Lamassoure (EPP, FR), said that even if not budget neutral in its first phase, the service will create savings on the long run; it should not be seen as a 28th diplomatic service, in addition to the services of the Member States:
"Our goal must be to replace the other 27 services and in 20-30 years from now have one single external service. If we take the taxpayers seriously, we need to tell them that there will be savings when we replace the work of the Member States with the EEAS."
Franziska Brantner (Greens/EFA, DE) also rejected the idea that the EEAS could be budget neutral – at least not if Member States want a third of the staff to come from their national administrations within the next couple of years: "Either the service should not cost anything, but then the recruitment would take much more time, or we could recruit faster, but then it will cost more. We need a clear recruitment strategy," she said.
Members of the Budgets committee also asked for a new interinstitutional agreement to be a part of the total EEAS package.
The discussion on the EEAS will continue on Wednesday afternoon, when the Committee on Legal Affairs will debate the necessary changes in the EU Staff Regulation. Next week, the Constitutional Affairs Committee continues the debate on Monday 3 May, followed by the Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday 4 May.
In the chair : Luigi DE MAGISTRIS (ALDE, IT) - Budgetary Control Committee -26.04.2010
Alain LAMASSOURE (EPP, FR) - Budgets Committee - 27.04.2010