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Procedure : 2008/2026B(BUD)
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Document selected : A6-0397/2008

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PV 23/10/2008 - 6.3
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Thursday, 23 October 2008 - Strasbourg
Draft general budget 2009 (Sections I, II, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII and IX)

European Parliament resolution of 23 October 2008 on the draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2009, Section I - European Parliament, Section II - Council, Section IV - Court of Justice, Section V - Court of Auditors, Section VI - European Economic and Social Committee, Section VII - Committee of the Regions, Section VIII - European Ombudsman and Section IX - European Data Protection Supervisor (C6-0310/2008 – 2008/2026B(BUD))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Article 272 of the EC Treaty,

–   having regard to Council Decision 2000/597/EC, Euratom of 29 September 2000 on the system of the European Communities' own resources(1),

–   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(2),

–   having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 17 May 2006 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline and sound financial management(3),

–   having regard to its resolution of 10 April 2008 on the guidelines for the 2009 budget procedure – other sections(4),

–   having regard to its resolution of 20 May 2008 on Parliament's estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 2009(5),

–   having regard to the preliminary draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2009, which the Commission presented on 16 May 2008 (COM(2008)0300),

–   having regard to the draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2009, which the Council established on 17 July 2008 (C6-0310/2008),

–   having regard to Rule 69 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgets and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A6-0397/2008),

A.   whereas the Preliminary Draft Budget (PDB) of all the institutions left a margin of EUR 121 744 018 below the ceiling of the financial framework for the financial year 2009,

B.   whereas after the Council's decision of 17 July 2008, the draft budget (DB) has a margin of EUR 224 133 714 below this ceiling,

C.   whereas a pilot process was agreed in which enhanced cooperation between the Bureau and the Committee on Budgets, and early mutual cooperation on all items with significant budgetary implications, would be applied throughout the 2009 procedure,

D.   whereas the prerogatives of the plenary in adopting the budget are fully maintained in accordance with the Treaty provisions and the Rules of Procedure,

E.   whereas a pre-conciliation meeting between delegations of the Bureau and the Committee on Budgets took place on 16 April 2008 in advance of the Bureau's adoption of the Preliminary Draft Estimates,

F.   whereas a conciliation meeting between these delegations took place on 30 September 2008, prior to the votes in the Committee on Budgets and in the plenary,

General Framework

1.  Considers that the EU institutions, following its request that they present fully cost-based budget drafts corresponding to real needs, have cooperated in a constructive way so as now to arrive at final proposals that take into account the expectations of citizens and the need for financial rigour;

2.  Stresses that it has asked for statements from all institutions on how any expenditure related specifically to the potential entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community could be identified; is satisfied, following their answers, that no such expenditure has been included in the final proposal;

3.  Welcomes the Council's approach of using a more targeted method for establishing the Draft Budget as opposed to the across-the-board percentage changes previously used;

4.  Stresses that, overall, there is still room for improvement and more effective use of budget resources in a number of areas and considers that these include increased inter-institutional cooperation, better use of performance targets, forecasting tools and benchmarking against best practice, further use of staff mobility and redeployment in order to keep increases in check and also demonstration of a solid grip on all expenses related to travel, allowances, translation, and especially building costs;

5.  Stresses once again the importance of continuous parliamentary monitoring of the implementation of budgetary decisions, which is the base for the establishment of the annual budget; is convinced that direct parliamentary control cannot but contribute to improving the quality of spending, to a more direct control of sound financial management and eventually to a re-focusing of financial support to political priorities; believes that this objective can be reached only with the full involvement of the two budgetary committees and specialised committees;

6.  Has decided to leave a margin below the ceiling of heading 5, Administrative expenditure, of EUR 76 269 100, thus limiting the overall increase to 5,8 %; emphasises that this includes restoring a part of the reductions made by Council to the budget of the institutions, but only in those cases where the specific needs of each one have been justified;

Section 1 - European Parliament

7.  Stresses that its political priorities as set out in its budgetary Guidelines and Estimates resolutions of 10 April 2008 and 20 May 2008 have guided the 2009 proposals in a spirit of budgetary rigour while safeguarding the political priorities set out; considers that the outcome is fully in line with these objectives and, notably, also corresponds to the specific requirements related to 2009 as an election year for the Parliament and the challenges related to the new Statute for Members and to the change of term;

8.  Warmly welcomes the improved cooperation between the Bureau and the Committee on Budgets which has provided a solid foundation for the preparatory work leading up to the first reading of the budget, as well as during the guidelines and estimates stages; underlines the willingness of both parties to further continue and make a success of the pilot process in order to resolve differences at an early stage while, at the same time, maintaining the prerogatives of each body;

9.  Considers, nevertheless, that some practical difficulties will have to be ironed out in order to facilitate and further improve cooperation, notably clear improvements on necessary information and reports being made available within appropriate time-limits before the first reading;

10.  Acknowledges that significant developments, with a clear budgetary impact, have occurred since its adoption of the Estimates and that, in consequence, certain adjustments are now called for; stresses particularly, in this regard, budgetary changes brought about by the suspension of the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, by the preparations for the implementation of the new Statute for Assistants, by updated forecasts for the Members' Statute and, also, by the rise in energy prices;

11.  Stresses that significant developments aimed at assisting Members in the exercise of their mandate, particularly their legislative duties, have been achieved; points to the positive evaluation and establishment of the new Library Briefing Service, which will enhance Members' parliamentary activities; stresses the importance of Members being able to receive timely, objective and factual information on subjects relevant to their parliamentary activities; asks the administration to further improve the presentation of the answers to Members' enquiries, publish all requests, and not only the briefings, on the library's web site and enlarge the linguistic coverage of the information provided; wishes to be informed by way of a first evaluation at the beginning of 2010;

12.  Stresses that the overall level of its budget amounts to 19,67 % of the authorised expenditure under heading 5 (administrative appropriations) of the multi-annual financial framework, i.e. it has been maintained below the self-imposed limit of 20%; welcomes the fact that this implies a further saving of EUR 0,9 million compared to its position in May 2008; points out that this is related to a combination of factors as mentioned above;

13.  Takes note of the conciliation meeting between the Bureau and the Committee on Budgets on 30 September 2008, in which the major budgetary differences were negotiated and, in the main, resolved; notes, however, that a few outstanding issues where no agreement could be reached were left to the responsibility of the Parliament;

14.  Underlines the positive results and the constructive nature of this meeting; can, based on its previous resolutions and further analysis of the Estimates and Amending Letter, largely endorse the modifications to the Establishment Plan proposed by the Bureau; is not in a position, however, to fully approve all proposals;

15.  Recognises that significant efforts to redeploy resources have been and will be made in order to limit staff increases and related costs;

   - stresses that the overall effectiveness of the use of human resources in terms of the fulfilment of specific tasks should also be analysed and that the Bureau and the Administration will need to keep a consistent focus on this issue for future years in order to optimally balance the distribution of human resources between core legislative activities, direct services to Members and administrative support functions, as well as making the underlying assumptions and priorities better understood;
   - as a first and significant step, welcomes the analytical and detailed establishment plan presented, albeit with delay and after the deadline for tabling budgetary amendments for the first reading; wishes to be kept continually informed about this issue in the future;
   - is satisfied that the current proposals will contribute positively to enhancing Parliament's law-making capacities, including with regard to the issue of comitology, as also presented in a recent report, for follow-up, to its Committee on Budgets;

16.  Approves the changes to the Establishment Plan of the secretariat as contained in the tabled budgetary amendments, totalling 88 posts and 1283 upgradings; maintains in reserve the appropriations related to a limited number of posts pending further analysis and clarification regarding the use, needs and optimal distribution of resources, as outlined above, by the end of June 2009 at the latest;

17.  While being fully committed to a speedy launch of the Visitor's Centre, stresses that, following the Conciliation, some further work is still needed to arrive at a satisfactory and cost-effective solution; notes that the two delegations could not reach full agreement on this point and, in consequence, decides to partially approve the requests at this stage, while being fully prepared to revisit this issue as soon as possible and after the necessary information has been provided;

18.  Recognises the needs of political groups in terms of staff resources in order to face increasing challenges and, in consequence, agrees to provide a further 53 posts; considers that a reflection on how group staffing requests and the related appropriations could be better integrated into the budgetary procedure at an earlier stage would be most welcome in order to make possible a more timely assessment of the essential requirements;

19.  Points out that it has decided to boost information activities carried out in the Member States as part of its strategy and action plan for the 2009 European elections; also welcomes the idea of greater involvement of young people in the campaign process, with the aim of informing EU citizens about the role of the European Parliament;

20.  Stresses that the budgetary provisions have now been put in place in order to facilitate the introduction of a new "Regime" for Members' parliamentary assistants and warmly welcomes the work currently being done in order to reach a final agreement on this issue before the end of the year;

21.  Welcomes the proposal for a Knowledge Management System to improve the dissemination of information and to manage the various information sources at administrative and political level; asks the administration to present the results of the first phase of the two-step approach by the end of March 2009;

22.  Given the very substantial amounts involved, considers that the budgetary authority needs to consider the financial constraints and rising costs of purchasing, maintaining and refurbishing buildings in the coming year, especially taking into consideration the fact that the Members' Statute will come into force in 2009; asks the Bureau to submit a strategic plan by September 2009, before the 1st reading of the budget; in this light, cannot agree to an increased building reserve and decides to keep it at EUR 20 million; 

23.  Recalls that a clearer medium to long-term vision for buildings, including planning measures, would likely be beneficial for controlling costs; calls on its Bureau to continue efforts in this regard; asks to receive a final report on the financial, administrative and legal implications related to the issue of asbestos and, as well, to the ceiling repair works necessary in Strasbourg;

24.  Reiterates that Parliament has decided that as from the entry into force of the Members' Statute, it should no longer be possible to acquire new rights under the Voluntary Pension Scheme; points out that the implementing decisions, as decided by the Bureau, permit the acquiring of new rights only for members of the Fund that are re-elected, who will fall under a transitional arrangement and who are not entitled to a national or European pension linked to their mandate; believes, as a consequence, that hardly any Members will remain eligible to acquire new rights; awaits an updated estimate from the administration as regards the appropriations needed from the entry into force of the Members' Statute;

25.  Awaits the results of the study on the carbon footprint of the European Parliament, which should also include the question of CO2 off-setting schemes, as requested by Parliament; has decided to adapt the nomenclature of the lines affected by such an eventual future off-setting scheme; reiterates, however, that efforts need to be stepped up to reduce travel where possible;

26.  Expresses its wish that a mobility management centre, detailing public transport connections from and to the Parliament, be made available in all of Parliament's premises, as well as via the intranet, as from the start of the new mandate of Parliament, encouraging use of public transport as an alternative to car use;

27.  Takes note of the suggestion of funding a European Parliament professorship in honour of Professor Bronisław Geremek and of establishing a board, one of the purposes of which could be to grant an annual award; calls on the Bureau to examine this suggestion and its feasibility in collaboration with the Commission, with the aim of allocating the appropriate resources;

28.  Takes note of the opinions submitted by the Committees on International Trade, Legal Affairs and Petitions and acknowledges the high level of agreement; stresses that, in the main, the concerns raised have been taken on board through the budgetary amendments and the vote;

Section IV - Court of Justice

29.  Recognises the importance of the new urgency procedure to be implemented by the Court, in which national courts are entitled to a reply within a much shorter deadline than was previously the case; therefore approves the draft budget as concerns the 39 new posts in question;

30.  Notes that the high rate of increase in the budget is primarily due to the construction project for the Court's new building, which was previously agreed and which will continue to have a high financial impact for years to come; calls on the Court to present an updated report on the works as a whole and its cost implications until 2013;

31.  Considers that the development of the Court's normal operating budget, currently at a rate of about +2,5%, is far more encouraging and that, overall, the Court has made clear efforts to limit its expenditure growth for the 2009 exercise;

32.  Decides to fix the general abatement rate at 3,5%, a level close to that which the Court itself is suggesting, and restores the corresponding appropriations; notes that this should ensure the Court's full operability while still representing a saving on the original proposals;

Section V - Court of Auditors

33.  Welcomes the proposed reinforcement of the Court's audit capacity and decides to provide the 20 associated posts in agreement with both the Court and the Council;

34.  Considers that the financing of the Court's building extension must be kept at the lowest cost possible for the taxpayer; therefore re-confirms its decision to pay for this directly through the budget, in four years, rather than masking the significantly higher costs that would result from a 25-year lease-purchase arrangement; decides, in consequence, to frontload the maximum amount possible to the 2009 budget and, to this end, has approved an amount of EUR 55 million for this purpose;

35.  Decides to boost a limited number of expenditure items relating to the Court's dissemination of reports to the public, a performance audit of the Court itself, better reporting, childcare facilities for staff and also to provide two further posts in the establishment plan in addition to the auditors mentioned above;

Section VI - European Economic and Social Committee

36.  Has taken account of the Committee's concerns as regards appropriations available for staff and, considering the arguments advanced, agrees to adjust the general abatement rate to a level of 4,5%;

37.  Decides to create, in addition to the two new AD5 posts included in the Draft Budget, another two AST posts which had been rejected by the Council;

38.  Decides to place a portion of appropriations for travel and meeting expenses into reserve pending the provision by the Committee of a clear plan on how it intends to keep these costs in check;

Section VII - Committee of the Regions

39.  Takes note of the fact that the Committee will need to recruit additional 'enlargement-related' staff and agrees to the new posts in the Council's draft budget;

40.  In addition to this, can accept, after hearing the Committee, a limited number of three further posts in order to boost its operational capacity in specific departments;

41.  Decides to introduce a general abatement rate of 4,5% after hearing the Committee's arguments; notes that this is very close to the Committee's own requests while still representing a saving;

Section VIII - European Ombudsman

42.  Agrees to the Council's draft budget on creating three new AD posts in order to strengthen the Ombudsman in dealing with an increasing number of admissible complaints; in addition to this, after hearing the Ombudsman, can also agree to three temporary AST posts;

Section IX - European Data Protection Supervisor

43.  Approves this section of the draft budget;

o   o

44.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution, together with the amendments to Sections I, II, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII and IX of the draft general budget, to the Council and the Commission, and also to the other institutions and bodies concerned.

(1) OJ L 253, 7.10.2000, p. 42.
(2) OJ L 248, 16.9.2002, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 139, 14.6.2006, p. 1.
(4) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0115.
(5) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0208.

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