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Tuesday, 16 December 2003 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Draft 2004 budget as amended by the Council and Letters of Amendment 1,2,[amp] 3/2004

  Gill (PSE ), rapporteur . Mr President, this budget for the other institutions sets the foundations for the imminent enlargement in stone. It will equip all the different components that make up the European Union to meet this historic challenge, at least in administrative terms. My aim has been to ensure that the EU hits the ground running when we have a Union of 25 next year, also to achieve a balance between the necessary increases in resources and at the same time ensure value for money for the European taxpayer.

Earlier this year I outlined my main priorities. I shall now encapsulate four of these priorities. Firstly, to prepare for the final stages of enlargement. I am pleased that we were able to fine-tune the original predictions from the secretaries-general for enlargement. However, it has to be recognised that the scale of some of the budgetary increases for individual institutions are up to 50% higher in some cases. This will fundamentally change how those organisations function a note of caution therefore. It is crucial that this change be managed with care and to ensure that effective change management strategies are in place to avoid chaos.

Secondly, to advocate greater reform. All the institutions have to modernise if they are to meet successfully the challenges of the future. Let us not underestimate the challenge of 25 countries working together. Last weekend's deliberations point to lessons that need to be learnt by the other institutions. Complacency will lead to gridlock.

Thirdly, to push for greater openness, transparency and accountability. Every single element of the EU has to be more user-friendly. We need to make greater use of new technology, rationalise more processes, focusing on the Internet as a tool of communication to achieve our objective to get closer to the citizens and to communicate more effectively with the people of Europe. We have sown the seeds for this, and of course we will need to build on this.

Fourthly, to alleviate the pressures on the ceiling of Heading 5. We have overcome this by frontloading buildings for the Court of Justice this year. I believe that Parliament's policy of frontloading for building expenditure has been vindicated as we now have huge pressure on Heading 5. This policy has contributed to reducing this pressure this year and next year. It therefore makes sense to replicate this policy for other institutions as well.

I am pleased to report that I have had considerable successes in meeting some of these objectives; but there have also been some frustrations along the way. Firstly, on the successes, we have made progress on all the issues I have just outlined. This budget achieves value for money. We can congratulate ourselves that we have achieved the juggling act of managing to finance enlargement without breaking the ceiling on Heading 5. This budget therefore fundamentally completes the process of enlargement budgeting and is a good result for the European taxpayer.

Moving on quickly to the frustrations, we could have expected greater economies of scale given the expansion proposed. However, my biggest regret is that we have not made significant inroads into introducing activity-based budgeting in the other institutions. This is a missed opportunity, given the immense pressure on Heading 5, as I have just said, in the remaining years of this financial perspective. In 2005 and 2006 it will be much harder to prioritise and to ensure that there is an effective financial decision-making framework.

The lessons I have learnt throughout this process are that we need better budgeting and improved planning processes. The regularity of the last-minute request for unforeseen expenditure is relentless. Last month we had to find an extra EUR 77 million for all the EU staff and a further EUR 24 million for the acquis for the Council. I am amazed and astonished that we can continue to receive requests of this scale at this late stage. The pace of reform has to speed up. We need to fast-track, to improve quality of spending and to focus more on our core areas and secure greater rationalisation of our processes.

Earlier this year I visited the Rikstag and the Bundestag and these visits were very illuminating for me. They demonstrated to me a degree of devolvement in decision-making and transparency in the decision-making chain and the budgetary planning process that is achievable. But we also need to grasp some thorny issues, as my first reading resolution stresses: all institutions need to review and reform the system of travel reimbursement. This is not only an issue for Parliament, but also for two committees and any other body that regularly reimburses expenses. It is imperative that this issue is addressed quickly so as to regain the trust and respect of our citizens.

There are a number of other areas I would like to touch upon but I see that I am running out of time so I would just like to thank all my colleagues for their cooperation and support and for making this report what it is. More particularly I would like to thank the Committee on Budgets' secretariat, especially Walter Masur, for their unstinting support and hard work to make this budget what it is. I would also like to congratulate my co-rapporteur, Mr Mulder, for what he achieved in his budget in finding solutions which are acceptable to all. Finally, my thanks to Mr Wynn as chairman, Mr Walter as coordinator, and our own group secretariat.


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