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PV 26/02/2014 - 7.3
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Wednesday, 26 February 2014 - Strasbourg
Evaluation of the Union's finances

European Parliament resolution of 26 February 2014 on the evaluation of the Union’s finances based on the results achieved: a new tool for the European Commission’s improved discharge procedure (2013/2172(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the evaluation reports adopted by the Commission in 2012 and 2013 (COM(2012)0040, COM(2012)0675 and COM(2013)0461),

–  having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A7-0068/2014),

A.  whereas evaluation is a tool aimed at identifying and understanding the results and impact of a process and identifying alternatives to help in decision-making which would lead to further improvement of that process;

B.  whereas auditing is not to be confused with evaluation, evaluation being up to the management authorities while auditing is the responsibility of auditing bodies;

C.  whereas evaluation of results and performance auditing rely on the objectives laid down at the earliest stage at the programming level;

D.  whereas in his June 2011 presentation of the Commission’s draft for the new multiannual financial framework, President Barroso called for budgetary decisions to be made ‘not through traditional headings driven by bureaucracy but in terms of facts and goals […] to make the most out of every euro spent’;

E.  whereas, despite the Commission’s commitment to performance, activity-based budgeting is still the fundamental principle in drafting the Union’s budget;

F.  whereas on 3 July 2013 Parliament asked the Commission to set up a working group comprising representatives of the Commission, Parliament, the Council and the Court of Auditors to examine measures aimed at implementing a performance-based budget and developing a scheduled action plan to this end;

1.  Points out that, thanks to its focus on the Union’s finances on the basis of the results achieved, the evaluation report introduced under Article 318 TFEU complements the compliance approach developed by the Court of Auditors in Chapters 1 to 9 of its annual report and gives Parliament the opportunity to exercise more effectively its power of political scrutiny over the actions of the European public authorities;

2.  Recalls that the discharge is a political procedure which focuses on the implementation of the European Union budget by the Commission under its own responsibility and in cooperation with the Member States;

3.  Recalls that on 17 April 2013 Parliament urged the Commission to modify the structure of the Article 318 evaluation report, ‘distinguishing the internal policies from the external ones and focussing, within the section relating to internal policies, on the Europe 2020 strategy […] plac[ing] the emphasis on the progress made in the achievement of the flagship initiatives’(1);

4.  Recalls also that the Interinstitutional Agreement(2) accompanying the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020 specifies that ‘the Commission will distinguish the internal policies, focused on the Europe 2020 strategy, from the external ones and will use more performance information, including performance audit results, to evaluate the EU’s finances based on the results achieved’;

5.  Points out that activity-based budgeting is still the fundamental principle when drafting the budget of the Union; is worried by the fact that the Court of Auditors, in its 2012 annual report, concludes that for many areas of the EU budget the legislative framework is complex and that there is insufficient focus on performance, and regrets that the proposals on agriculture and cohesion for the 2014–2020 program­ming period remain fundamentally input‑based (expenditure oriented) and, therefore, still fo­cused on compliance with the rules rather than on performance;

6.  Welcomes the fact that in its last report on the evaluation of the Union’s finances based on the results achieved (COM(2013)0461) the Commission took on board several recommendations made by Parliament in its decisions to grant discharge;

7.  Deplores, nevertheless, the fact that instead of focusing on the achievement of the Union’s main objectives, and the effectiveness of its policies, the Commission provided a range of evaluation summaries covering EU programmes in all policy areas of expenditure under the current MFF, according to the current budget headings;

8.  Points out that the Court of Auditors has assessed the second and third evaluation reports and has come to the conclusion that, while there have been improvements, the reports do not yet provide evidence of what the EU’s policies have achieved that is sufficient, relevant and reliable enough to be used in the discharge procedure;

9.  Urges the Commission to use specific information on the achievements of the Member States in its evaluation on the financial achievements of the Union;

10.  Insists that the evaluation report on financial performance should not produce another set of partial evaluations, whether they be carried out at mid-term or at the end of the programming period;

11.  Points out that the budgetary authority needs, annually, a clear view of the real extent to which the Union’s main objectives have been achieved, to be provided by, in a first step, an evaluation of the main financial programmes and, in a second step, a cross-cutting evaluation, by programme statements of operational expenditures(3), assessing to what extent the programmes have contributed to achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy;

12.  Considers that the Commission evaluation should serve as a source of information and inspiration for the Court of Auditors; asks the Court to audit the Commission’s evaluation process annually, to report on it to Parliament in its annual report and to take it into account when defining its performance audit programme;

13.  Calls on the Court to report to Parliament on the progress made by the Commission in designing and operating its risk management, governance and internal control processes with a view to achieving the Union’s objectives in a transparent and accountable manner, and to formulate recommendations if any shortcomings are encountered;

14.  Welcomes the action plan for the development of the Article 318 evaluation report, as set out in the staff working document accompanying the Commission’s last evaluation report (SWD(2013)0229), and, in particular, appreciates the fact that the Article 318 evaluation report incorporates performance information from the management plans, the annual activity reports and the synthesis report, as requested by Parliament in 2013;

15.  Welcomes, also, the fact that the Commission intends to structure and base its evaluation report on the new performance framework for the next MFF;

16.  Points out that such a performance framework should encompass the following three main elements: achievement of the programme objectives (results), sound programme management by the Commission and the Member States, and how programme results and sound management contribute to the Union’s main objectives;

17.  Emphasises that this performance evaluation can only be carried out in areas where the EU exercises real political responsibility and where it can actually exert significant influence;

18.  Insists on the need to aggregate the data yielded by the evaluation process at global level and, as regards internal policies, in relation to Europe 2020 objectives;

19.  Calls on the Commission to submit to it and to the Council the evaluation report on the Union’s finances based on the results achieved, as provided for in the second paragraph of Article 318 TFEU, before 30 June of the year following the financial year which is the subject of the evaluation;

20.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council and the Court of Auditors of the European Union.

(1) See Parliament’s decision on ‘discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2011, Section III – Commission and executive agencies’ (OJ L 308, 16.11.2013, p. 27).
(2) OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p.1.
(3) See ‘Draft General Budget of the European Commission for the financial year 2014:Working Document Part I – Programme Statements of operational expenditures’, COM(2013)0450, June 2013.

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