President. – The next item on the agenda is the report by Derek Vaughan, on behalf of the Committee on Budgets, on the guidelines for the 2013 budget procedure – sections other than the Commission (2012/2001(BUD)) (A7-0030/2012).
Derek Vaughan, rapporteur. – Mr President, it is not easy to set your own budget. Therefore, I wanted to start by thanking all the shadow rapporteurs, the Bureau and the Parliament’s Secretary-General for their cooperation in putting together these guidelines. I believe now that there is a broad consensus that in difficult economic times, the European Parliament must play its part and make savings in its budget.
For example, I now believe that very few in this Parliament would argue against the proposal to freeze our budget. I believe certainly we need to ensure that the rise in the Parliament’s budget next year is below inflation. No doubt there will be discussions as to what inflation is, but at least there is now this broad agreement.
I am also pleased that the main recommendations in our guidelines have been accepted. I think that it is important as a Parliament that we identify savings in our own budget. I believe we need to avoid unnecessary new initiatives unless they are absolutely needed. I believe that we need to freeze our travel budget lines, pending the requested review from the Secretary-General which we requested as part of this year’s budget process. I believe we need to freeze all allowances for Members, both daily allowances and the office allowances, and perhaps have the objective of freezing all those allowances until the end of this particular mandate.
I also believe we need to examine all our budget lines, especially those budget lines which are always under-implemented. I believe that these are the budget lines that we should look to, to make savings in our budget. I believe that we need to ensure that we avoid new unforeseen building projects for the rest of this mandate. In the recent past, we have had many building projects proposed and now we need to take stock.
We need transparency so that this Parliament is fully involved and informed about building projects and therefore I welcome the request to have regular updates at the Committee on Budgets on the building projects which are proposed.
Another suggestion is to seek greater cooperation with other EU institutions, for example, cooperation on buildings, on translation, on interpretation, on security and on human resources. For example, there is already a joint agreement in place between the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee working together jointly on many of these issues. I think perhaps we should take a look at that joint agreement in order to learn some lessons and maybe work with them in terms of joint work and cooperation, again with the aim of making savings. I certainly believe that there is a lot of scope for us to make savings in the Translation Service for example.
So I believe there are many possibilities out there for us to make savings, although I also accept that it is not always easy to identify and make those savings. Therefore, I have suggested that the Secretary-General comes forward with an idea for an independent evaluation of the Parliament’s budget. This is a way of bringing fresh eyes, a new pair of eyes to the budget, helping us to identify and make the required savings.
My suggestion is that we establish a working group between the Bureau and the Budgets Committee, who can bring in expertise from outside and, between them, look at making savings. I believe this working group could form the basis of an independent evaluation of Parliament’s budget. It could also look at a comparable study which was requested as part of this year’s budget process; a comparable study with other parliaments in Europe and maybe the Congress of the United States as well. Also, the working group could look at the travel costs review. We are promised a report on travel costs, again as part of this year’s budget process. This working group could perhaps look at that.
Finally, I would say to colleagues that I understand some will be concerned about this idea of a freeze in the Parliament’s budget. They may feel it is too difficult to achieve but, there again, there are others who will want to go much further and to cut the budget, and indeed some of the amendments in front of us today to be voted on tomorrow reflect that. However, I would hope that most colleagues in this House would agree that the guidelines which we put forward are a good compromise. A good compromise and a good way forward; a way forward which would allow us to make savings in the Parliament’s budget but also, at the same time, to ensure that this Parliament is run effectively.
Monika Hohlmeier, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin by sincerely thanking my colleague, the rapporteur Mr Vaughan, for his excellent cooperation and his readiness to discuss the various problems in depth and to find a solution.
We already presented an austerity budget last year, in which the actual original budget only rose by 0.8% and, in view of the additional costs incurred through the accession of Croatia and the Treaty of Lisbon, we still remained below the inflation rate of 1%, achieving 1.9%.
This year, we are again publishing guidelines for an austerity budget, seeking to show that we are aware that we are in an environment in which it is not possible to make enormous financial leaps forward, but rather that consolidation is the order of the day, so that the budget will need to be examined in terms of efficiency and the potential for cutting costs.
I also welcome the convening of a working group that is to bring in external experts as deemed necessary and useful, to work in this direction with the Bureau, the Secretariat and Parliament’s administration.
I also believe it is right for us to further strengthen interinstitutional cooperation and that we should further optimise the way in which Parliament works in terms of organisation, efficiency, the use of financial resources and personnel. This has enabled us to save EUR 21 million in the area of translation and interpreting alone in a single year and we want to continue in this vein this year.
As Mr Vaughan has said, we are freezing travel costs and day-to-day expenses and, with regard to buildings policy – after all I am the rapporteur on buildings – I believe it necessary for us to examine closely what we have agreed to see whether buildings policy and construction projects are being managed in a professional, cost-efficient manner. The particular aim will be to save costs in the medium term, in particular annually recurring costs, and to exploit the relevant synergies.
We also expect the other institutions to join us in our efforts and to offer their support. I believe it is necessary for us to navigate a course in which the precise work of Parliament is linked with efficiency and good organisation. I would like to thank the Parliament administration, the Secretariat and the Bureau for their excellent cooperation and hope that we succeed in presenting a reasonable, solid and well-considered budget.
Edit Herczog, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, allow me first of all to congratulate Mr Derek Vaughan on his report. Let me begin by stating that we consider it a very important accomplishment that in the 2012 budget, we were able to achieve significant results in terms of savings. We must continue along these lines. We must manage European institutions, including institutions other than the Commission, like good housekeepers.
I consider it extremely important in times of economic difficulties and economic crisis that when it comes to savings, we start with ourselves, and it is very important that we start with MEPs, and that a reduction in MEPs’ travelling expenses, the freezing of their allowances and the potential reduction of indirect costs related to them, such as translation expenses, are the first things we implement. However, it is very important that we do not act like a lawnmower when doing so. One of the goals we must set for ourselves is the continuous improvement of efficiency, and this does not only mean that we must save, but also that we must make investments in the hopes of long-term savings. A better integration of technological achievements, for example, is sure to produce savings in the long term.
At the same time, I would also like to stress another very important point, namely, that we definitely cannot save, for example, on the expenses of the preparation of Croatia’s accession. MEPs and staff from Croatia must be granted the same privileges as all other MEPs. Therefore, we must, of course, differentiate. I would like to underline that cuts in staff-related costs must definitely be preceded by consultations with the trade unions and the social partners.
Finally, I would like to personally welcome the suggestion to create a committee to develop continuous efficiency and cost-saving measures in cooperation with the Committee on Budgets and the Parliament Secretariat. Looking forward to this work, I would once again like to thank the rapporteur and everyone else who participated in this work. Thank you for your attention.
Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (NL) Mr President, I, too, would like to thank rapporteur Derek Vaughan for his excellent work and the pleasant way in which he involved all the shadow rapporteurs in his project. Thank you very much for that. The previous two speakers, who spoke on behalf of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), have already shown that something is indeed changing in this House with respect to its own budget. Where last year it was really hard to get cuts through the House, I now notice, across the board, a willingness to look much more critically at our own housekeeping.
That makes sense. The economic crisis is hitting hard, and Member States are having to contend with huge budget cuts. We have only one good answer to that and that is increasing transparency. Our budget is still not completely transparent. Therefore, that is one issue where we still need to do some work.
One element of that work also forms part of Mr Vaughan’s report, which calls for an analysis of our own budget, so that we can identify where potential cuts can still be made in our House. Last year, this plenary embraced that same request on two occasions, both in the discharge report and in the very report we are discussing now, but they were both last year. Unfortunately, up to now, the Bureau has not yet given a positive response to this. My political leader, Guy Verhofstadt, sent a letter to President Buzek in December asking when we, as a plenary, as the Committee on Budgets, would receive that analysis of the budget.
I would, therefore, through you, Mr President, personally urge the current President, Mr Schulz, to get involved in this issue. The Secretary-General, together with the Bureau, has analysed all the budget lines and we are to receive a selection of the points that have come out of that analysis as a proposal for the 2013 budget. Let them give that analysis to the Committee on Budgets and, then, we can do the political work of making choices. We do not always need to leave that to the Bureau.
To conclude, I would like to say that I strongly agree with the general line that we should start with a budget freeze and I hope that, during the remainder of this year, we will actually be able to agree on a much leaner budget for our own House.
Richard Ashworth, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, national governments throughout Europe are striving to cut expenditure, deliver better value for money and keep budgets under tight control, and that is our job too. As Members of this House, we should be doing the same. We ought to be closely scrutinising the institutions’ budgets; we should be enforcing rigorous cost control, and we have here the real chance to show leadership.
I would like to give credit to the Secretary-General and Parliament’s Bureau for the very realistic figures and proposals which they brought forward today. But I would also say that we now have the right, as Members of this House, to demand that the other European institutions follow that example. We should be demanding real savings in their budgets and they should be able to demonstrate value for money.
I fully support the rapporteur’s call for a freeze on their budgets; indeed, as he will know, there are many areas where I would wish to go further. But for now, I congratulate Mr Vaughan on a very good report.
However, there are three points that I want to make. The first concerns building policy. The members of this House ought to be looking more critically at building investment, building management and building cost control, and, in particular, we should expect the other institutions to be achieving greater efficiencies through sharing resources.
Secondly, administration and staffing costs. This Parliament should be looking to the institutions to deliver a progressive reduction in costs through exploiting economies of scale. It is now time we looked again at staff levels, staff regulations and staff pensions policies to ensure that they are both up to date, relevant and represent value for money to the European taxpayer.
Finally, it is not possible to have this debate without discussing the two-seat arrangement of this Parliament. May I remind this House that, in approving the report by the Special Committee on the policy challenges and budgetary resources for a sustainable European Union after 2013 (SURE), we called for the parliamentary seat to be kept under review. It is indefensible that this House goes on promoting cost-saving, efficiency and competitiveness amongst the other institutions, amongst national governments, and indeed amongst the people of Europe, while we continue such a wasteful practice ourselves.
I would therefore like to recommend to the rapporteur and to this House that, for the sake of the credibility of this institution, we need to have that debate and we ought to have it now.
Miguel Portas, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (PT) Mr President, the general guidelines for Parliament’s next budget are driven by an effort towards containment, but I believe that in general, they are headed in the right direction. However, there is always a ‘but’. The services for this plenary opted to exclude a proposal tabled by the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left from the debate and vote. This proposal was that Parliament should reach an agreement with the Council and the Commission on freezing Members’ salaries for 2012. I would say that this moderate and reasonable proposal is fundamental, and that there is no reason for it to be excluded from the debate. Changing the Statute for Members is not the only way to achieve this measure: it can be achieved without changes to the Statute for Members. Above all, however, this is an arbitrary decision. We cannot continue to prevent Members from talking about their own salaries in this House. This is incomprehensible to anyone outside Parliament. I must say that episodes like this mean that, with friends like these, sometimes Europe does not need enemies.
Marta Andreasen, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, in the middle of this crisis in which the EU is imposing cuts on Member States, this House still thinks it has the right to ask for inflationary increases. It cannot even agree on what the inflation percentage is but, whether it is 1.9% or 3%, the fact is that this EU bureaucracy is already bloated and needs to go on a hard diet.
The cost of this Parliament, which has grown disproportionately, amounts to more than GBP 2 million per MEP. This is not value for money. Entertainment and representation costs have grown by 160% in the last four years. We should do away with this expenditure.
The House of European History, with an initial cost estimated in excess of EUR 50 million, and with running costs of more than EUR 11 million per annum, is an extravagance at any time. We should be dropping the whole project.
Funding for European political parties and foundations has grown 176% in the last four years. We do not need these European political parties. We MEPs are elected by our constituents or on national party lists.
Prime Minister David Cameron is calling for a freeze, but what we need is a significant reduction in this Parliament’s budget and overall, in the whole budget of the European Union, at least a 10% decrease for next year. Without a cut, we are behaving like fat cats.
Angelika Werthmann (NI). – (DE) Mr President, in these difficult times for the Member States, the realistic cost-cutting proposals we have heard from Mr Vaughan are quite correct and deserve our support. It is obvious that we need to freeze spending on administration at a time when all of the people of Europe are having to tighten their belts. There is no doubt that we can achieve further savings by improving collaboration between the institutions and by cooperating more effectively in areas such as human resources, organisation and building management.
However, despite the necessity for savings, there are a number of areas where caution is required. The first of these concerns the environment. We must have an effective environmental policy in all of the EU’s institutions and bodies. The institutions in particular should act as a role model for Europe.
The second area is that of translation and language services. Attempts have already been made to cut costs in this area over the last year. This situation cannot continue indiscriminately, however. The European Parliament is responsible for drawing up legislation for 500 million Europeans. These people need to be able to understand our work in their native language. Transparency in democratic processes should not be sacrificed for the sake of the interpreting budget. I would like to mention specifically the support and cooperation given by the Secretary-General and his team on these difficult issues.
Salvador Garriga Polledo (PPE). – (ES) Mr President, the budget is a cycle over time and when it comes to the budget, each Parliament rapporteur and other institutions seek a balance between the legitimate interests of the Members, the sensitivity of the electorate and the needs of the administration.
Referring specifically to the budget for the European Parliament, I want to begin this speech by saying that the budget works well and many of the chapters work very well.
There are several reasons why Parliament’s budget is as large as it is, such as increased responsibilities, a growing number of Member States, the difficult problem of multilingualism, and the need to provide technical support to over 700 Members. We often wonder, however, leaving the absolutely necessary to one side, whether the European Parliament’s budget is sustainable in the medium term and during this economic crisis.
We have come from a meeting of the Committee on Budgets, the Vice-Presidents of this Parliament and the Secretary-General. Since I became involved with budgetary issues, I do not think I have ever witnessed such a strong shared desire within the Committee on Budgets to cut costs, even in times of negative growth in real terms, as raised by the rapporteur, Mr Vaughan, as well as the administration’s will to implement genuine saving measures, without affecting Members’ safety and services.
Let us not forget that what we produce in this Chamber is legislation, and that legislation should be the final objective. We must ensure that the legislation, the set of laws we produce, is good quality and is viewed that way by the citizens of Europe.
Both the Committee on Budgets and the European Commission are seeking an increase of less than 2% for 2013. This Chamber’s Bureau starts with a proposal for an increase of around 3%. We are only one percentage point apart at the start of the budgetary process, and I believe that we will find a common objective during the budgetary process.
Fellow Members will remember that it is said that virtue lies in the middle ground, and I trust we will also find the middle ground between these two proposals.
Vladimír Maňka (S&D) . – (SK) Mr President, the rapporteur listed areas where Parliament can make savings and showed how we can work more efficiently and make savings. As the rapporteur for the 2010 budget, I discussed budgets with the representatives of the European institutions and directorates-general of the European Parliament. We managed to identify a number of inefficiencies and save millions of euro. Based on concrete examples of bad management, at least those we managed to identify, Members approved the report in which we stated that ‘an independent assessment of the activities of the European Parliament is necessary’. We agreed to start this audit in the Directorate-General for Infrastructure and Logistics and in the area of the Security Service. Instead of an independent external audit, however, only an internal audit was carried out.
If we assess ourselves and are not interested in the views of experts from outside, we will not identify savings. Ladies and gentlemen the crisis has forced viable businesses and institutions to look for savings and use resources efficiently.
As the Chair of a self-governing region of my country, I manage an area which has about as many employees as the European Parliament. Due to the crisis, our resources have fallen by more than 20%. Without thorough analyses and decisive measures, we could not have coped with the situation. I think that the Secretary-General of the European Parliament has carried out many useful measures that have brought positive results, but this is not enough. We should learn from the European Court of Auditors, which was the first European institution to allow an independent audit of its own work. Even before the crisis, the Court of Auditors reduced its administrative costs and achieved substantially higher efficiency in its work. This is the route to the necessary structural changes. If we follow it, we will save millions of euro and become more efficient.
Carl Haglund (ALDE). – Mr President, allow me first of all in my capacity as coordinator for our group in the Committee on Budgets to thank our excellent rapporteur for his good work. I am also convinced that we can find very broad common ground in this House. That is important in this difficult economic time.
My colleague, Mr Gerbrandy, explained very well where our group stands. We are very positive with regard to the development in the House right now, where we seriously examine all our costs in order to find savings instead of increasing our own budget. This is a path we need to continue on. A part of this could actually be the external audit that my colleague, Mr Maňka, just asked for. We have been calling for a similar type of solution for a longer time. It probably would not hurt.
At the same time, the Secretary-General, Mr Welle, whom Mr Ashworth referred to earlier, has been doing a good job with finding savings once we started to demand them. So we obviously have to look at ourselves and remember that the savings will only be created once we ask for them. Now we have started to do so and that is a good thing.
We will also vote on the single seat amendment, which some colleagues referred to. As stated before, this is a symbolic issue for many, but it is also an economic issue. In these times of austerity, it is important that colleagues have the opportunity to take a stance on this issue once again. That is why many Members from our group signed this amendment. So we are on the right path. Let us continue in this direction and we will look far better in the eyes of the public in the future.
Peter van Dalen (ECR). – (NL) Mr President, Member States have been cutting spending for years now, and rightly so. However, the need to cut spending has still hardly crossed the minds of the European institutions. They continue to ask for more money and carry on spending like there is no tomorrow. Fortunately, Mr Vaughan’s report has finally broken with that wasteful tradition and he wants to freeze administrative spending. Bravo! Well done! Put a stop to all that squandering!
In your report, you also call for an independent assessment of the budget by a Parliament working group. I am less happy about that, because I think that it is a mistake to allow the fox to guard the chickens. We need to leave that to external experts. That assessment also needs to address the question of how all members should account for how their individual allowances are spent, because that sacred cow that is members not having to account for their huge expenses must be done away with. Accountability and transparency.
Recital 9 of the report calls for a freeze on travel-related budget lines for 2013. On my initiative, the 2012 travel budget has already been put on hold and I look forward to the report by the Secretary-General on that matter.
Claudio Morganti (EFD). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this report discusses reducing waste by the European Parliament, but it fails to mention the real waste which we all know well: having two seats for this Parliament costs at least EUR 200 million a year which, over the course of a legislature, constitute a record EUR 1 billion. I believe that if ordinary European citizens were aware of this situation, they would be chasing us with pitchforks in their hands. We cannot ask for sacrifices from everyone and then throw away a similar amount, for no purpose.
I have tabled an amendment in this regard that will be voted on tomorrow, gaining support from almost all of the political groups. Let us see if we can at least give a clear signal on this matter. The Danish Presidency has already come out clearly against the dual seat: today, I also asked President Monti, who failed to answer. The Treaties may – indeed, must – be changed and we can no longer submit to the scandalous and anachronistic French blackmail.
Lucas Hartong (NI). – (NL) Mr President, we have a saying in the Netherlands: ‘No words please, just deeds!’ The report by Mr Vaughan, who is a member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, is the very opposite of this: all words and no deeds. He proposes to freeze the budget of the EU institutions, but then he contradicts himself, in the very next sentence, when he says that the budget will have to be increased to meet requirements.
While an increase in the budget is allegedly not allowed, Croatia’s accession to the EU alone has so far cost our citizens around EUR 1 billion, and it will end up costing a whole lot more. Mr Vaughan proposes that we continue with structural and organisational reforms, but the Committee of the Regions, which was tasked with doing exactly that, has, to this day, done absolutely nothing about it, as was shown by the recent budgetary audit. While institutions are being called upon to make cuts, the European Court of Justice is continuing its expansion regardless. That is not sending out the right message to our citizens.
The budget for travel and personal reimbursements has temporarily been frozen and that sounds good, but it is major savings that we really need to be making. Meanwhile, the House of European History is being constructed at a cost of at least EUR 75 million. That is the kind of thing that causes the budget to increase year upon year. What does Mr Vaughan propose, however? That we appoint a working group. What a joke!
Our citizens demand action, not empty words. It is high time that the European Union stopped hanging on every word of the smooth talk trotted out by the S&D Group and started listening for once to the voters who are footing the actual bill. Do you know what those voters are saying? They are saying: ‘Those people at the EU really have gone mad’!
José Manuel Fernandes (PPE). – (PT) Mr President, first of all, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur and the shadow rapporteurs on the excellent work they are doing.
It is worth mentioning some figures at this point so that we can get a sense of where we are. For the current year, the EU budget is around EUR 129 billion in payment authorisations, which corresponds to approximately 1% of EU gross domestic product, as has been the rule. It is worth noting that the budgets of all 27 Member States are approximately 44 times that of the EU budget.
Another interesting figure is this: between 2000 and 2010, national budgets increased 62%, as against 37% for the EU budget, and I would stress that 12 new Member States joined in that period. In addition, the EU budget is never in deficit and is an investment budget. The total for all administrative and operational expenditure by all of the institutions amounts to around 6% of the EU budget, and the administrative and operational expenditure of Parliament equates to only around 1%. This does not mean that we should not continue to demand rigour and to employ the principles of economy and efficiency: quite the contrary, we must continue following these principles of sound financial management, when both implementing and drafting budgets.
As we did for the administrative budget of the institutions and Parliament for this year, the current year, we must achieve maximum rigour and maximum savings, yet at the same time ensure the minimum resources necessary for the institutions to run smoothly and, in the case of Parliament, the means to ensure excellence in lawmaking. I believe we are on the right track.
Eider Gardiazábal Rubial (S&D). – (ES) Mr President, I would like to begin my speech by congratulating the rapporteur, Mr Vaughan, on his excellent work.
He put forward some guidelines for the European Parliament’s budget that are in line with work that was started by this Chamber some years ago and these guidelines are supported by a large majority.
Please allow me to remind you that the European Parliament’s budget represents a little over 1% of the total budget for the European Union and, even though we are discussing a much reduced budget, it does not mean that we cannot continue to take measures to reduce this Chamber’s expenditure.
We are at the start of the 2013 budgetary debate and the objective of this motion for a resolution is to provide a set of budgetary guidelines, which we are going to work on in the months to come. Our priorities for 2013 will be characterised by budgetary responsibility and the reduction of expenditure without impeding the proper functioning of this institution.
For that reason, we believe that all the European institutions have to make the necessary efforts to freeze their budgets. Specifically, here in Parliament, we propose that the necessary measures are taken to reduce travel costs. When it comes to funds for Members, we ask for them to be frozen until the end of the parliamentary term.
As a Parliament, we consider that we should and could make considerable savings in the medium and long term. For that purpose, we also propose three courses of action: the possibility of carrying out an independent assessment of our budget; the creation of a specific working group with Parliament to investigate possible measures; and we also ask the Secretary-General to carry out an exhaustive analysis to detect any possible duplicities and underused budget lines.
I have faith that the measures that have already been taken and the future reforms we will put in place will help us to achieve better financial management of this Chamber.
Anne E. Jensen (ALDE). – (DA) Mr President, I also believe that it is a shame that it is not possible for us to make the most obvious savings and improvements in the efficiency of Parliament’s work, namely, by stopping the travelling circus to Strasbourg and, for example, handing these buildings over to another European institution. However, this is, unfortunately, not something that we have any power over. It is a decision that only the EU’s Heads of State or Government can make.
I agree with Mr Vaughan that we must make our work more efficient and look for savings, but I would like to emphasise that savings and improvements in efficiency must not be made at the expense of the multilingualism of Parliament. It is great if we can find technical solutions that can result in savings and perhaps also provide the same or a better service in terms of translations, but we must not abandon the linguistic diversity.
I would like to congratulate Mr Vaughan on the results he has achieved so far in his work to freeze Parliament’s spending. However, I also think it is important to emphasise that all EU institutions must endeavour to improve their efficiency. This also applies to the European Court of Justice, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. The forthcoming enlargement to include Croatia may be a suitable opportunity to consider whether the resulting increased expenditure can be covered by increases in efficiency.
Ashley Fox (ECR). – Mr President, may I start by thanking Derek Vaughan for his work on this report. I am happy to support his call for a freeze in spending in 2013. This must be a first for a Member of the Labour Party. In the UK, they oppose every single measure the coalition government takes to reduce expenditure to clear up the mess they left Britain in. I hope, Mr Vaughan, that your masters in London take note.
A budget freeze is the minimum our citizens expect. I should like to see EU administrative expenditure cut year on year for the whole of the next seven-year period. We should, for example, abolish the useless European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. That would save the taxpayer money and reduce bureaucracy. We could also save money by having just one seat for this Parliament and ending the wasteful monthly trek between Brussels and Strasbourg. We face austerity at home and our electors will be watching how we act. I urge Members to support this report.
Barbara Matera (PPE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the difficult international economic and financial context and the lack of a strong European governance have highlighted the weaknesses of the individual Member States, many of whom are calling for huge sacrifices from their citizens in an attempt to ward off a period of unprecedented social and economic disruption. The keywords that are imperative for drawing up the guidelines of the EU budget for 2013 are ‘savings’ and ‘budgetary discipline’.
I regard as appropriate the call for expenditure restraint announced by Commissioner Lewandowski, which places a ceiling of 1.9% on the increase in the Commission’s administrative costs, equal to the inflation rate expected for 2013. Parliament must follow the same line, by freezing its administrative expenditure and all of its real estate expansion plans, without falling into the trap of agreeing to populist amendments.
It will not be easy to respond to attacks by those who do not believe in Europe and have lost confidence in it. However, the EU budget represents only 2% of total European public expenditure. We must therefore show that the EU budget is able to generate added value in addition to national public expenditure, supporting and integrating investment in those policies that lie at the heart of the recipe for resolving the current crisis. Coming up with strong responses through policies geared towards growth is our aim, as well as a test of our credibility for the 2013 financial year.
Göran Färm (S&D). – (SV) Mr President, I would like to say a special thank you to the rapporteur, Mr Vaughan, who I think is doing an exceptionally earnest and creative job with regard to Parliament’s own budget and the administrative budgets of the other institutions. I note, too, that he has received praise from practically all of the other political groups, which demonstrates that he has been able to establish broad agreement on where we currently stand.
It is certainly worth noting that a new attitude is prevailing. Up to now, Parliament’s budget has increased year on year, but now there is broad agreement that we should freeze the budget at a general level and that we should implement major savings in certain specific areas. There is also a high level of consensus that we should start to place restrictions on MEPs’ personal expenses. This is something that I believe to be extremely important.
The report has certainly made an impact, as we can see by the fact that only seven amendments have been tabled, which I believe is something of a record. If we look at the figures, we can see that, while we have traditionally always added 20% of the long-term budget total for administrative expenditure, we are now down to around 19%, and that, in fact, represents a saving of around EUR 70 million.
This is, of course, a result of pressure from the rest of the world, but the point is that we should not just make cuts. What we need to do, above all, is to find a way forward that is based on efficiency, modernisation and the principle of economy – and where this is concerned, I believe we are only just beginning.
I believe that this can be done without reducing the quality of our core activities. Above all, we must, of course, defend our legislative and budgetary work, but this requires a truly systematic effort. I am therefore very pleased that we have been able to agree on the establishment of a working group in Parliament with the possibility of drawing on external expertise in areas where we can learn a great deal: buildings, maintenance, energy, the environment, procurement, travel and so on. These are areas where we can learn from both industry and public administration.
In areas relating to the organisation of legislative work, interpretation, translation and so on, I am convinced that we can learn from other parliaments and other international organisations. It is also clear that this Parliament has costs that cannot be compared – travel, interpretation and so on – as this is the only multinational legislative parliament in the world, and that is obviously something that we need to take into account.
Lastly – and now I am speaking not as the coordinator for my group, but as a Swedish Social Democrat – if we seriously want to be respected for the way we deal with citizens’ trust and money from taxes, we cannot continue to move Parliament between Brussels and Strasbourg in the long term. Therefore, I appeal to those governments that are now pushing for cuts in the EU budget: put this issue on the agenda in no uncertain terms.
Paul Rübig (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, I am grateful that this debate is being held here in Strasbourg. With regard to Amendment 1 – buildings – I would like to say that Strasbourg is a city of peace, a place where bridges have been built in Europe. and it was here, for example, that one of our Presidents, Robert Schuman, was a founding father of the European Union. This also provides a basis for the future. This is the headquarters of Arte, a broadcaster that does a huge amount of work in bringing European culture to public attention. We should be proud of this and should consider the idea of building another studio for Parliament opposite the Arte studios, as a place for Europe to meet and set the agenda for the future.
Amendment 2 refers to a single seat. That is what we have. Our single seat is Strasbourg. We should hold to the Treaties we have concluded. That goes without saying.
When we come to the issue of a House of European History in Amendment 4, then it is our duty to show our younger generations how important it is to work for this peace every day. This needs to be documented thoroughly. We have over 1 million visitors per year to our visitor centre and here to Parliament itself; it is projected that the new Parliamentarium will have 100 000 visitors. People want to know how the history of Europe has developed. We also need strong European political parties for this. We need to show solidarity in the face of national conflict and the egoism of individual Member States. We need a strong European Union and this requires strong political parties. Naturally, these also need to be funded.
In relation to Amendment 6 regarding representation: visitors do need to be looked after and have the right to expect proper, orderly services here in the House. That is why tomorrow’s vote is particularly important.
Georgios Stavrakakis (S&D). – (EL) Mr President, I, too, should like to take my turn in thanking and congratulating our rapporteur on his report and excellent work.
For yet another year, the debate on the guidelines for the administrative budget of the institutions of the European Union is being held while the economic and social crisis is severely testing the budgets of all the States. Everywhere in the European Union, budgets are being prepared on the basis of rationalised public spending and harsh economic measures in numerous sectors of the economy.
In this sense, I support the rapporteur’s position and the need to avoid any superfluous spending or spending which is not immediately necessary, by clearly defining the priorities and, where possible and useful, by redistributing spending, so as to rationalise the administrative budget of those institutions.
However, like the rapporteur, I, too, should like to emphasise that account should be taken, when rationalising administrative spending, of the need to abide by the economic commitments of the European Union, such as the accession of Croatia, and the need to maintain an effective administration that can respond to the enhanced responsibilities of the European Parliament under the Treaty of Lisbon.
Seán Kelly (PPE). – (GA) Mr President, like the other speakers, I commend Mr Vaughan for the good work he has done on this fairly difficult task. He has done a good job.
I think in times of austerity, it is natural that the public at large, and particularly the media, look at politicians and the overall expenditure associated with their activities. This in itself is not a bad thing, and it is good for us to look at our own situation. For that reason, I see no reason why we should not have an external audit of our activities. This would certainly be good in the overall context, but it would also make it easier for us to defend whatever expenditure we have, and certainly it might point out areas that we ourselves would think are perfect but may lead to savings without impacting on the overall effect.
People have also mentioned the single seat and so forth. This is certainly an issue. Having us here in Strasbourg every month is something that many citizens do not even realise is happening; secondly, it does not make a lot of sense to them. So there is a need for a discussion on that, and maybe a need to come to an arrangement with the French and possibly with Strasbourg regarding how matters could be looked at and improved in terms of efficiencies. Also ancillary committees – the Committee of the Regions is definitely something that needs to be looked at in terms of its size, how often it meets, and so forth. So an external audit is something I would welcome.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Paul Rübig (PPE), Blue-card question. – (DE) Mr President, I would like to thank Mr Kelly for bringing up the issue of Members’ expenditure. I would like to say to the Members of this House who are calling for a reduction in allowances and salaries that all Members can decide for themselves how much they spend and work and how much effort they put in to doing their job as well as possible.
For example, they can chose to donate their salary to worthy organisations, to the poor, or the unemployed. Those calling for a reduction should make a public statement indicating what it is they get paid for. Do you think that this would be a good proposal, enabling every Member to take the initiative themselves?
Seán Kelly (PPE), Blue-card answer. – Mr President, certainly it is up to Members to do what they will in that regard, but I think that the point I made regarding having an external audit is the best and probably the most objective way to look at it. It has been said that we do not see the mote in our own eye, and for that reason, I think it would be better to look at it not in a personalised manner, but in an objective, overall manner. That might lead us to take corrective action, if such was necessary.
Wojciech Michał Olejniczak (S&D). – (PL) Mr President, I would like to thank the rapporteur for the excellent and thorough report he has presented to us today. We face new challenges following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. The quality of our work will determine how Europeans live in the future. We have begun reforms in connection with the common agricultural policy and cohesion policy. We are also very active in other areas. We must be very professional and have good support both from the European Parliament’s administrative service and the staff of the Commission, as well as from the people we employ. So the appropriate resources are necessary, and we should not be saving on the quality of our work.
However, we do have a crisis in the European Union. We need to show solidarity with those we keep telling to make savings. This is being said to the Greeks, the Poles and those who live in other countries. I support the idea of freezing the European Parliament’s budget, but at the same time we need to look for many other solutions, too – solutions which will be even more effective. Mention has been made here today of the European Parliament’s seat in Strasbourg. This is something we cannot understand, because we talk about this on a daily basis, and it is also incomprehensible to millions of Europeans, who do not know why the European Parliament has two seats. This should be sorted out immediately and a way found out of this absurd situation. From the very beginning, I have been in favour of the European Parliament having a single seat in Brussels. This will mean savings of many hundreds of millions, savings which we are calling for here today.
Paweł Robert Kowal (ECR). – (PL) Mr President, I would like to thank the rapporteur for the report, but quite honestly, he need not have bothered. This report could consist of just three words: cut, cut, cut. If we want, today, to set an example to the citizens of Europe, we must cut costs, starting with our own, and it is meaningless – I am speaking, now, to Mr Rübig – to talk about small amounts. Would you entrust your money to someone who does not manage with looking after his own, small amount, Mr Rübig?
Our problem is actually about the fact that we are unable to start with ourselves. We spend such a lot on European Union and European Parliament propaganda. This is the only point on which I am in agreement with Mr Rübig. It is a good idea to give money to fund the House of European History, although I do not know if this money should feature in the budget of the European Parliament. Besides, Mr Rübig, the best propaganda will be if we cut our allowances. The best propaganda will be if we reduce representation expenses by 15%. So the report must either contain figures, or it must simply say: cut, cut, cut.
Elena Băsescu (PPE). – (RO) Mr President, in the context of economic constraints currently faced by the Member States, complying with budget discipline is essential. The institutions must display responsibility and budget austerity. At present, the administrative expenditure of the institutions represents approximately 5.8% of the EU’s total budget. With a view to making additional savings, the overlaps and inefficiencies of the budget lines must be identified. Furthermore, the possibilities of making savings after implementing the knowledge management system must be considered. I draw attention to the principles of good management referred to in Article 27 of the Financial Regulation. In this regard, I believe that the institutions’ budgets must clearly reflect the principles of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
Jan Kozłowski (PPE). – (PL) Mr President, I think that in the context of the economic crisis and the burdens associated with servicing public debt, it is extremely important for the European Parliament and its Members to show responsibility and budgetary discipline. With this in mind, I agree with the rapporteur that in the coming years we need to take care to draft a realistic budget and to take action which brings long-term savings.
I think freezing budget lines for such things as travel in 2013 is a solution which is very definitely appropriate to the difficulties Europe faces. I agree, too, that in this legislature, building projects should be limited to those which are already in progress. Finally, I think it is crucial to have close cooperation between the Bureau and the Committee on Budgets throughout the whole year, as this will enable a smooth budgetary process and effective implementation of changes which bring real savings.
João Ferreira (GUE/NGL). – (PT) Mr President, while it is true that much can be done to contain the costs of the European institutions, including Parliament, we are bound to reiterate here our concerns about genuine respect for the principle of multilingualism in this House.
There are obvious shortcomings in the interpretation and translation services, which jeopardise the ability of Members to express themselves in their own language under various circumstances. For example, amendments to this report and others were only accepted in English in the Committee on Budgets. This therefore jeopardises equal treatment for Members, regardless of their nationality. Against this backdrop, the cuts made to the interpretation services can only make the situation worse.
Moreover, it is unacceptable that these cuts could threaten workers essential to the functioning of this House. It is unacceptable that this will exacerbate job insecurity amongst those working in interpretation and translation, jeopardising their jobs and rights.
Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, austerity for administrative costs and investment to support and encourage growth: these are the keywords of the guidelines for the 2013 budget. I would therefore like to join in the thanks to Mr Vaughan for his work in an atmosphere of great sharing and total cooperation.
At this time of economic crisis, Europe must make its voice heard. We need more Europe and a strong European governance, just as we need – as has already been repeated – Europe to do its part alongside the Member States, giving all European citizens, through the Member States, a clear picture of what Europe is doing in support of growth. We have to start doing this through the budget choices and through our vision of a strategy for growth of the Union and of individual Member States.
I am, however, beginning to think that alongside the cuts, sooner or later, we must also bring in the greatest cut of all, the one that citizens want most, and without which the European spirit in many Member States will continue to be very low. It is difficult to explain to people why we have two seats.
Nicole Sinclaire (NI). – Mr President, I would like to give my thanks and congratulations to Mr Vaughan for this report as well as my commendation to him for becoming the King Canute of the 21st century, although King Canute would have had a much easier task in stemming the sea than the task of stemming the tide of EU expenditure.
In the middle of an economic and financial crisis and ongoing national budget and consolidation efforts, the EU just does not want to see sense. It does not want to actually reverse expenditure but wants a freeze on inflation, which is probably still an increase. What we actually need is to withdraw expenditure and save taxpayers’ money.
It needs to be by independent assessment. You have the daily allowances of EUR 304 and there will be a significant number of MEPs – and some MEPs I see in this place right now – who sign in on a Friday in Strasbourg when there is no official business, stealing taxpayers’ money. That should stop. Office allowances are only required to be 50% receipted. That should be 90% receipted and they should be independently audited, as mine is independently audited. If that money is not properly spent, it should be returned. The House of History is a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money that should be stopped. End this extravagance and return taxpayers’ money.
Paul Rübig (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, this debate has revealed that the citizens of the European Union are entitled to know more about the work of this House and what the institutions do for them. For this reason, I suggest that we should increase our public relations work because it is important that these matters should be communicated in all languages in the interests of international awareness. This is what makes our interpreters so important, because the European Parliament is the only parliament in the world in which communication is facilitated in so many linguistic constellations.
For this reason, it is an extremely important element of the budget that the political parties and Members should take a more active role in explaining Europe’s role as a peaceful endeavour, that it is made clear that we are working effectively, and that differences do arise between the Members. That is exactly what today’s debate has shown.
End of the catch-the-eye procedure
Nicole Sinclaire (NI). – Mr President, on a point of order, in the previous debates on human rights, I had a timed speech and I also had a blue card, but you refused me a second blue card. But we had the previous speaker who had a timed speech and a blue card, and you also gave him a catch-the-eye.
I would also note that the PPE Group here has had several catch-the-eye speakers, even though I was the very first person to make a request. You need to have equality here. If you talk about equality and democracy, at least give some pretence of it in this Chamber.
President. – Ms Sinclaire, I think everyone had an opportunity to speak. You also had an opportunity, and I do not think there has been an infringement of the rules.
Derek Vaughan, rapporteur. – Mr President, I, too, would like to thank the shadow rapporteurs and all colleagues here this afternoon for their contributions.
I am pleased that there does seem to be a broad consensus that we need to look to make savings in Parliament in order to achieve a low increase in our budget, and I am sure the Secretary-General is watching on television and taking note of this discussion.
Of course, there will be differences of opinion on how we achieve the savings and how much of a saving needs to be made. We have had examples today of differences over a single seat, the House of European History, staffing levels and translation costs: all differences between colleagues.
Another difference was the role of this working group that I have suggested. On that and other issues, we have tried to be as flexible as possible, so all we are asking for in terms of the working group is that it be considered and the details sorted out at a later date.
The aim of these guidelines is to strike a balance between the views of all colleagues in the Chamber, and the aim at the end of the day will be to get as low an increase in Parliament’s budget as possible, whilst at the same time ensuring the effective running of Parliament.
President. – The debate is closed.
The vote will take place on 16 February 2012.
Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE). – Mr President, I should like to make the point that we are speaking in a vacuum because of the absence of the Secretary-General and the Vice-Presidents who are responsible for the budget. I believe that this is something that we should consider in the next debates on this issue – that the three of them are all present.
President. – Thank you. I quite agree with you that when we are debating an issue as important as the budget, the responsible actors should be present. I will forward your objection, with which I agree, to the Presidency of the Parliament.
(The sitting was suspended at 20.05 and resumed at 21.00)
Written statements (Rule 149)
Jiří Havel (S&D), in writing. – (CS) Members of the European Parliament are well aware, more or less right across the political spectrum, of the need for cost-cutting measures in the current economic situation. However, rather than a short-sighted cutting of funds for the key investments committed to by the EU which will secure Europe’s economic growth in the future, Derek Vaughan’s report emphasises effective management. In other words, the aim is to do more with the available resources. In practice, that means, for example, closer cooperation between EU bodies and institutions, enabling the more effective use of resources, as well as a thorough review of all items in the EU budget, in order to limit unnecessary duplication of some initiatives and so on. Mr Vaughan also proposes freezing the administrative expenditure of all bodies and institutions. The report provides a sober view of the matter, free of counter-productive populism, and I am therefore ready to support it.
Zbigniew Ziobro (EFD), in writing. – (PL) The European Union is going through the worst crisis it has experienced since its foundation. The sharply rising unemployment, particularly among young people, the collapse of industrial production and trade, and the need for significant savings in the countries which make up the Union, mean that the European Parliament, too, must cut back on expenditure. Therefore, I welcome this report, particularly paragraph 2 and its reference to greater integration of the institutions. Studies have shown that such action would reduce the expenses Parliament incurs in connection with the monthly move to Strasbourg. Looking at the ever worsening financial situation of the Union’s citizens, I cannot see the point of the monthly move, which, on an annual basis, costs around EUR 280 million and results in the emission of 20 000 tonnes of CO2. Neither can we disregard the opinion of the citizens who, in 2002, collected over 1.2 million signatures petitioning for the European Parliament to have a single seat in Brussels.
Another important point contained in the report is the proposal to reduce the budget of the European External Action Service. As the work of this institution shows in practice, despite its significant expenditure, it has not given the European Union a more important position in the eyes of our external partners. Therefore, I think it is necessary to review the costs associated with diplomats’ pay and allowances and Ms Ashton’s travel costs.