Procedure : 2010/2144(DEC)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0088/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0088/2011

Debates :

PV 10/05/2011 - 4
CRE 10/05/2011 - 4

Votes :

PV 10/05/2011 - 11.4
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0197

REPORT     
PDF 179kWORD 105k
28 March 2011
PE 450.679v02-00 A7-0088/2011

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the European Union general budget for the financial year 2009, Section II – Council

(C7-0213/2010 – 2010/2144(DEC))

Committee on Budgetary Control

Rapporteur: Crescenzio Rivellini

AMENDMENTS
1. PROPOSAL FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DECISION

1. PROPOSAL FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DECISION

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the European Union general budget for the financial year 2009, Section II – Council

(C7-0213/2010 – 2010/2144(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the European Union general budget for the financial year 2009(1),

–   having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2009 (SEC(2010)0963 – C7-0213/2010)(2),

–   having regard to the Council's annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2009,

–   having regard to the Annual Report of the Court of Auditors on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2009, together with the institutions' replies(3),

–   having regard to the statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union(4),

–   having regard to Article 272(10) and Articles 274, 275 and 276 of the EC Treaty and Article 314(10) and Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–   having regard to Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002 of 25 June 2002 on the Financial Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities(5), and in particular Articles 50, 86, 145, 146 and 147 thereof,

–   having regard to Decision No 190/2003 of the Secretary-General of the Council/High-Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy concerning reimbursement of travel expenses of delegates of Council Members(6),

–   having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, of 17 May 2006, on budgetary discipline and sound financial management(7),

–   having regard to Rule 77 of, and Annex VI to, its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A7-0088/2011),

1. Postpones its decision on granting the Secretary-General of the Council discharge in respect of the implementation of the Council budget for the financial year 2009;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this Decision and the resolution that forms an integral part of it to the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court of Auditors, the European Ombudsman and the European Data Protection Supervisor, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

with observations forming an integral part of its Decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the European Union general budget for the financial year 2009, Section II – Council

(C7-0213/2010 – 2010/2144(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the European Union general budget for the financial year 2009(8),

–   having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2009 (SEC(2010)0963 – C7-0213/2010)(9),

–   having regard to the Council's annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2009,

–   having regard to the Annual Report of the Court of Auditors on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2009, together with the institutions' replies(10),

–   having regard to the statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union(11),

–   having regard to Article 272(10) and Articles 274, 275 and 276 of the EC Treaty and Article 314(10) and Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–   having regard to Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002 of 25 June 2002 on the Financial Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities(12), and in particular Articles 50, 86, 145, 146 and 147 thereof,

–   having regard to Decision No 190/2003 of the Secretary-General of the Council/High-Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy concerning reimbursement of travel expenses of delegates of Council Members(13),

–   having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, of 17 May 2006, on budgetary discipline and sound financial management(14) (IIA),

–   having regard to Rule 77 of, and Annex VI to, its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A7-0088/2011),

A. whereas "citizens have the right to know how their taxes are being spent and how the power entrusted to political bodies is handled"(15),

B.  whereas the conclusions of the European Council of Cologne of 3 and 4 June 1999 envisaged giving operational capacities to the Council in the field of a strengthened common European security and defence policy,

C. whereas Council Decision 2004/197/CFSP(16) of 23 February 2004 established a mechanism to administer the financing of the common costs of European Union operations having military or defence implications, called ATHENA, and whereas that Decision, together with Decision 2004/582/EC of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council of 28 April 2004 concerning privileges and immunities granted to ATHENA(17), grants privileges and immunities to ATHENA and gives operational power to the Council,

D. whereas Council Decision 2000/178/CFSP of 28 February 2000 on the rules applicable to national experts in the military field on secondment to the General Secretariat of the Council during the interim period(18) and Council Decision 2001/80/CFSP of 22 January 2001 on the establishment of the Military Staff of the European Union(19) specify that expenditure arising from the secondment of military experts is to be charged to the Council budget,

1. Notes that in 2009 the Council had commitment appropriations available amounting to a total of EUR 642 000 000 (2008: EUR 743 000 000), with a utilisation rate of 92,33 %, almost on par with 2007 (93,31 %), and still below the average of the other institutions (97,69 %);

2. Believes that since Article 335 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union recognises that Union institutions possess a certain administrative autonomy in their operation, this autonomy implies a corresponding degree of responsibility and accountability; whereas Parliament is the sole directly elected body, and one of its tasks is, acting on the Council's recommendation, to give discharge in respect of the implementation of the Union general budget, Parliament has decided to reflect this autonomy in the discharge procedure, and to set apart the sections of the general budget which are autonomously administered by each of the other Union institutions, and to give discharge to each of those institutions;

3. Regrets the difficulties encountered in the 2007 and 2008 discharge procedures, and reaffirms its position expressed in its resolution of 16 June 2010(20) on the Council discharge for the financial year 2008, in particular, its call on the Council to establish together with Parliament an annual procedure within the discharge procedure with a view to providing all the information needed as regards the execution of the Council budget;

4. Reiterates that the expenditure of the Council ought to be scrutinised in the same way as that of the other Union institutions, and suggests that the most appropriate approach would be as indicated in its resolution of 16 June 2010, in particular, that ''such scrutiny is based on the following written documents submitted by all institutions:

 accounts of the preceding financial year relating to the implementation of the budget,

 a financial statement of the assets and liabilities,

 annual activity report on their budget and financial management,

 annual report of the internal auditor,

as well as an oral presentation given in the meeting of the Committee responsible for the discharge procedure";

5. Strongly believes that it is necessary to set up a reliable, long-term system of cooperation between Parliament and the Council on the discharge procedure on a mutually acceptable basis; repeats its position to replace the 'gentlemen's agreement' with a formal agreement that takes account of the Union's principle of taking decisions "as openly as possible" (Article 1 of the Treaty on European Union);

6. Deeply regrets both that the Council Presidency declined the invitations to attend the meeting of the Committee responsible for the discharge procedure, where it was planned to discuss the Council Presidency's standing on the proposed procedure and the possible modalities of cooperation as regards the discharge, and also that the Secretary-General of the Council declined to attend the meeting of the Committee responsible for the discharge procedure and to exchange views on the Council discharge procedure;

7. Notes the proposal on the organisation of relations between Parliament and the Council regarding their respective budgets, as annexed to the letter of Secretary-General of the Council of 30 September 2010; disagrees with the standpoints of that proposal, and reiterates that a distinction must be maintained with regard to the different roles of Parliament and the Council in the discharge procedure and in the budgetary procedure, since these are two separate procedures and at no time and under no circumstances can the Council be anything other than fully accountable to the public for the funds entrusted to it; deeply regrets that the Council Presidency and the General Secretariat of the Council declined to attend the meeting of the Committee responsible for the discharge procedure to provide information and answers to questions on the Council discharge for the financial year 2009, and that they also declined to provide written replies to the questionnaire as submitted by the rapporteur;

8. Notes the goodwill of the Hungarian Presidency and the progress achieved; proposes, in order to facilitate the exchange of information in the discharge procedure, to follow the same approach as the rest of the other institutions, the fundamental elements of which should be:

–   that a formal meeting be held between representatives of the Council and Parliament's Committee responsible for the discharge procedure, to be attended by the Secretary-General of the Council and the Presidency in office, the bureau of the Committee responsible for the discharge procedure, the rapporteur and the members representing political groups (coordinators and/or shadow rapporteurs) in order to provide all the necessary information on the implementation of the Council budget,

–   that the Secretary-General of the Council answer questions submitted to the Council by the Committee responsible for the discharge procedure; and

–   that a timetable be established so as to streamline and stabilise this interim solution;

thus considers the idea of concluding an interinstitutional agreement with the Council on the Council's discharge to be unnecessary;

9. Urges the Court of Auditors to perform an in-depth assessment of supervisory and control systems in the Council, similar to the assessments it performed on the Court of Justice, the European Ombudsman and the European Data Protection Supervisor in the course of preparation of the Court of Auditors' Annual Report concerning the financial year 2009;

10.  Takes note of the budgetary constraints many Member States face as a result of the financial and economic crisis and the need to critically review savings potentials at all levels, including at Union level;

Reasons for postponement of the discharge decision

11.  Indicates that the reasons for postponement are as follows:

(a) the Council has not accepted any invitation to officially and formally meet Parliament's Committee responsible for the discharge procedure or its rapporteur to discuss matters concerning the Council budget execution for 2009,

(b) the Council refused to provide a written answer providing Parliament with the information and documents requested from the Council in the annex to a letter of 14 December 2010 signed by the rapporteur,

(c) Parliament has not received fundamental documents from the Council, such as the full list of budgetary transfers;

Further actions to be taken by the Council

12.  Calls on the Secretary-General of the Council to provide Parliament's Committee responsible for the discharge procedure, by 15 June 2011 at the latest, with comprehensive written answers to the following questions:

(a) with regard to previous Council discharge debates in Parliament's Committee responsible for the discharge procedure, the Council did not attend these meetings regularly, however, it is considered of utmost importance that the Council attends in order to reply to committee members' questions referring to the Council discharge. Does the Council agree to attend future debates in Parliament's Committee responsible for the discharge procedure on the Council discharge?

(b) why does the Council change the presentation/the format of the internal audit every year? Why is the internal audit so short, generic and unclear every year? Will the Council for the 2010 discharge onwards please present the internal audit in (a) language(s) other than French?

(c) has an external audit been carried out? If so, may Parliament's Committee responsible for the discharge procedure see it? If an external audit does not exist, why has the Council chosen not to make one?

(d) until now, the activity of the Council implied co-financing with the Commission, which has experienced an increase after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. What audit and control systems have been put in place to ensure full transparency? Given that the Treaty of Lisbon increased the co-financing with the Commission, what is the Council's understanding of "respond to the appropriate enquiries"?

(e) the Court of Auditors, in its Annual Report 2009, found that in two out of six procurement procedures audited, the Council did not respect the rules of the Financial Regulation for the publication of the outcome of the procedure. Has the Council scrutinised more samples of similar procurements? Has the internal procedure been streamlined in order to avoid similar cases in the future?

(f) staff of European Union Special Representatives (EUSRs): Please indicate the staff (all staff, establishment plan and others) – number of posts, grade – for the EUSRs in the Council for 2009. In which way and when will the EUSRs-staff posts be allocated between the Council and the European External Action Service (EEAS)? What was the travel budget for each of the EUSRs? How many of the EUSRs' staff were transferred on 1 January 2011 to the EEAS? How many will remain with the Council and why?

(g) the Council highlights budgetary questions concerning the consequences of the Treaty of Lisbon in point 2.2 in the financial activity report – 11327/10, FIN 278. Has the Council solved the problems concerning Mr. Solana's expenditures? What part of the expenditures falls under the Council budget and what part falls under the Commission budget?

(h) what were the operational expenditures, administrative expenditures, staff, buildings, etc envisaged by the Council for 2009 in order to set up the High Representative/Vice President of the Commission (HR/VP)?

(i) the HR/VP came into office on 1 December, 2009. How was the cost distributed between the Council and the Commission (for staff, travel, etc.)? How did the Council prepare the budget for the HR/VP for 2010? Which budget lines and sums were reserved for her activities?

(j) how will office space released in the process of staff transfer to the EEAS influence Council's plans on buildings? Have arrangements been made for the subsequent use of such office space? What is the anticipated cost for the removals? When were calls for tenders for the removals (if any) published?

(k) what was the administrative and operational expenditure related to the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)/Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) tasks, which were at least part-financed from the Union budget in 2009? What was the total amount of CFSP expenditure in 2009? Could the Council identify at least the main missions and their cost in 2009?

(l) what was the cost of meetings for Council working groups on CFSP/CSDP in Brussels and elsewhere and where did these meetings take place?

(m) what was the administrative expenditure relating to the implementation of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP)/CSDP military operations? What share of the total amount of expenditures arising from military operations has been charged to the Union budget?

(n) what was the administrative expenditure implemented for the operation of the "ATHENA" mechanism, how many posts were needed for that mechanism, will any of the posts in question be transferred to the EEAS? To whom will the postholders report?

(o) there is a low occupation rate of posts in the Council's establishment plan (91 % in 2009, 90 % in 2008). Does this consistently low rate cause any repercussions on how the Council's General Secretariat (CGS) functions? Can the CGS perform all its functions with the current occupation rate? Are lower occupation rates specific to any particular services? What are the reasons for the persistent discrepancy?

(p) what is the total number of posts assigned to the task of 'policy coordination' and administrative support (as defined in the Commission's annual staff screening reports)? What is its percentage in relation to the overall number of posts?

(q) to achieve the administrative objectives in 2009 the Council added teleworking to its working procedures. How does the Council prove the efficiency of this working procedure? In addition, the Council is asked to report on further measures taken in this respect and in particular those to improve the quality of financial management as well as their impact;

(r) the Council increased its posts by 15 (8 AD and 7 AST) to cover the staffing requirements of the Irish language unit. How many staff deal with other languages (staff per language)? Are there already staff employed for and from the applicant countries? If the answer is in the affirmative - how many posts are concerned (separated per country and language)?

(s) the “Reflection Group” was established on 14 December 2007, and its members appointed on 15-16 October 2008. What were the reasons why the necessary financing could not have been envisaged and included in Budget 2009? Is a transfer in Budget 2009 from the contingency reserve to a budget position financing a structure conceived in 2007 strictly budget neutral? The Council earmarked EUR 1°060°000 for the “Reflection Group”. How many posts can be allocated to this group?

(t) the expenditures concerning travel delegations still seem to be problematic (cf. Council note 15 June 2010, SGS10 8254, II bullet, page 4). Why do these expenditures appear in so many different budget lines?

(u) why does the internal audit still find it necessary to add “les frais de voyage des délégués et les frais d’interprétation” (delegates travelling expenses and interpretation expenses) after strong criticism in the last two resolutions from Parliament on the Council discharge?

(v) the Council again has used underspending on interpretation to provide extra financing for delegations' travel expenses; as a result, actual 2009 commitments for travel expenses amounted to considerably less than the initial budget, and less than half of the amount available after the transfer (EUR 36 100 000 initial and EUR 48 100 000  available after transfer against EUR 22 700 000 committed).What were the reasons for this EUR 12 000 000 transfer (cf. the financial activity re-port – 11327/10, FIN 278 -point 3.3.2-VI bullet)? Why is the transfer from interpretation to delegates' travelling expenses estimated at EUR 12 000 000 by the Council at page 12 and at EUR 10°558°362 at page 13? What has the remaining amount transferred from interpretation been spent on (the total amount transferred from interpretation is EUR 17°798°362)? In addition, the Council is asked to explain the large amount of recovery orders made before 2009 and carried over to 2009 (EUR 12°300°000 ) as well as recoveries made from declarations relating to 2007 (EUR 6°300°000)

(w) in 2009 the Council, as it did in 2008, reallocated a considerable amount of its budget to buildings, in particular, more than doubling the initial allocations to the acquisition of the Residence Palace (reallocated EUR 17 800 000 in addition to EUR 15 000 000 earmarked in Budget 2009). What are the reasons for this? Can the CGS provide concrete figures of the savings achieved as a result of this? What was the initially projected cost of the Residence Palace Building ? Does the Council think the initially projected cost will be accurate or could the cost be higher than estimated? What steps are envisaged to finance the building?

(x) implementation of the Council budget - appropriations carried over: Could the Council present the estimated amount and subject of the invoices which were not received by June 2010 for the year 2009 and therefore carried over?

(y) the carryover to 2010 of the appropriations of assigned revenues accrued in 2009 amounted to EUR 31 800 000. This is about 70 % of the assigned revenue for 2009. What are the reasons for this high carryover ratio? What will happen/has happened to this revenue in 2010?

(z) what does “technical provision of EUR 25 000 000 for the launch of the European Council 2010” mean? (cf. the financial activity report – 11327/10, FIN 278 - point 3.1, IV bullet)

(aa) what is the level of confidentiality of the Council budget specified by the different budget lines?

(ab) can the Council point out the specific measures taken to improve the quality of the Council's financial management, in particular as regards the points raised in paragraph 5 of Parliament's resolution(21) of 25 November 2009 accompanying its decision on discharge to the Council for the financial year 2007?

Documents to be presented to Parliament

13.  Calls on the Secretary-General of the Council to provide Parliament's Committee responsible for the discharge procedure, by 15 June 2011 at the latest, with:

(a) the full list of budgetary transfers concerning the 2009 Council budget ,

(b) a written statement on the Council's mission expenses as carried out by the EUSRs,

(c) the Members States' declaration for 2007 (cf. the financial activity report – 11327/10, FIN 278 - point 3.2.2, II bullet), and

(d) the report of the “Reflection Group” in order to understand why such a report costs EUR 1 060 000 (cf. the financial activity report – 11327/10, FIN 278 - point 2.2).

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

22.3.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

25

0

0

Members present for the final vote

Marta Andreasen, Jean-Pierre Audy, Inés Ayala Sender, Zigmantas Balčytis, Andrea Češková, Andrea Cozzolino, Luigi de Magistris, Tamás Deutsch, Martin Ehrenhauser, Jens Geier, Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, Ingeborg Gräßle, Ville Itälä, Iliana Ivanova, Bogusław Liberadzki, Monica Luisa Macovei, Jan Olbrycht, Aldo Patriciello, Crescenzio Rivellini, Christel Schaldemose, Bart Staes, Georgios Stavrakakis, Søren Bo Søndergaard

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Chris Davies, Derk Jan Eppink, Christofer Fjellner, Véronique Mathieu

(1)

OJ L 69, 13.3.2009.

(2)

OJ C 308, 12.11.2010, p. 1.

(3)

OJ C 303, 9.11.2010, p. 1.

(4)

OJ C 308, 12.11.2010, p. 129.

(5)

OJ L 248, 16.9.2002, p. 1.

(6)

Decision stemming from the Rules of Procedure of the Council of 22 July 2002 (OJ L 230, 28.8.2002, p. 7).

(7)

OJ C 139, 14.6.2006, p. 1.

(8)

OJ L 69, 13.3.2009.

(9)

OJ C 308, 12.11.2010, p. 1.

(10)

OJ C 303, 9.11.2010, p. 1.

(11)

OJ C 308, 12.11.2010, p. 129.

(12)

OJ L 248, 16.9.2002, p. 1.

(13)

Decision stemming from the Rules of Procedure of the Council of 22 July 2002 (OJ L 230, 28.8.2002, p. 7).

(14)

OJ C 139, 14.6.2006, p. 1.

(15)

The European Transparency Initiative.

(16)

OJ L 63, 28.2.2004, p. 68.

(17)

OJ L 261, 6.8.2004, p. 125.

(18)

OJ L 57, 2.3.2000, p. 1.

(19)

OJ L 27, 30.1.2001, p. 7.

(20)

OJ L 252, 25.9.2010, p. 24.

(21)

OJ L 19, 23.1.2010, p. 9.

Last updated: 3 May 2011Legal notice