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Procedure : 2014/2086(DEC)
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Document selected : A8-0109/2015

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PV 28/04/2015 - 16
CRE 28/04/2015 - 16

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PV 29/04/2015 - 10.14
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Wednesday, 29 April 2015 - Strasbourg
Discharge 2013: EU general budget - European External Action Service

1.European Parliament decision of 29 April 2015 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2013, Section X – European External Action Service (2014/2086(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2013(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2013 (COM(2014)0510 – C8‑0155/2014)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2013, together with the institutions’ replies(3),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(4) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2013, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to 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),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(6), and in particular Articles 55, 99 and 164 to 167 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0109/2015),

1.  Grants the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European External Action Service for the financial year 2013;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

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

(1) OJ L 66, 8.3.2013.
(2) OJ C 403, 13.11.2014, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 398, 12.11.2014, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 403, 13.11.2014, p. 128.
(5) OJ L 248, 16.9.2002, p. 1.
(6) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.

2.European Parliament resolution of 29 April 2015 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2013, Section X – European External Action Service (2014/2086(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2013, Section X – European External Action Service,

–  having regard to the Decision of the European Ombudsman of 26 February 2015 closing her own-initiative inquiry OI/1/2014/PMC concerning whistleblowing,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0109/2015),

1.  Welcomes the fact that in its third financial year, the European External Action Service ('EEAS') has continued to implement its budget without major errors being identified by the Court of Auditors; notes the progress made in fixing the errors identified in previous years and supports the recommendations for further improvements made by the Court of Auditors in its annual report; welcomes Special Report No 11/2014 on the establishment of the EEAS, published by the Court of Auditors, and the many useful suggestions for improvements which that report contains which will hopefully be implemented as soon as possible;

2.  Points out that in the 2011, 2012 and in the 2013 annual report, the Court of Auditors repeatedly inserted observations about the EEAS with regard to payments of salaries to staff, weaknesses in the management of family allowances performed on behalf of the EEAS by the PMO, the procurement of security services in Delegations and contracts for IT services;

3.  Is concerned by the fact that staff allowances were already a point of concern and were subject to errors in previous years; requests that more rigorous controls on this matter be performed, in particular by regularly reminding staff to declare allowances received from other sources;

4.  Is concerned that in 2013, the PMO system was still not fully functional, leading to the incorrect payment of social allowances to staff members, asks the EEAS to extend the system to the officials of all Member States;

5.  Recalls that regular attention has to be paid by EEAS Headquarters to any kind of procurement procedure at all stages of the procurement procedure, especially in Delegations; considers that continuous support through clear guidance should be provided to Delegation staff involved in order to reduce the inherent risk exposure, in particular for sensitive tenders and contracts; welcomes the creation of a dedicated task force at EEAS Headquarters for security service contracts in Delegations;

6.  Notes that for framework contracts awarded by the EEAS, due care has to be ensured in terms of the traceability of operations by recording adequate documentation for each contract regardless of its specific nature; asks EEAS Headquarters to further develop staff skills and awareness of this issue in Delegations and, more generally, on the effective application of related internal control standards; notes that information quality is one of the most important weaknesses identified by the ex ante controls carried out in 2013 and calls for this situation to be swiftly remedied in order to have access to accurate and comprehensive management and administrative information;

7.  Invites the EEAS to strengthen its new Anti-fraud Strategy covering third countries and welcomes the fact that the administrative Memorandum of Understanding with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) was finally signed on 23 January 2015;

8.  Asks the EEAS to report on the progress made regarding the new Anti-fraud Strategy for Union Delegations which was planned to be finalised in 2013;

9.  Is concerned by the delayed adoption of the internal whistleblowing rules; calls on the EEAS to implement these without further delay;

10.  Calls on the EEAS to include in its annual activity reports, in compliance with the existing rules on confidentiality and data protection, the results and consequences of closed OLAF cases where the institution or any of the individuals working for it were the subject of the investigation;

11.  Notes that the final budget for the year 2013 for EEAS Headquarters was EUR 508,8 million, representing a 4,09 % increase, with the budget being split as follows: EUR 195,81 million for EEAS Headquarters and EUR 312,95 million for Union Delegations; notes that in addition to the EEAS' own budget, the Commission contributed EUR 272,4 million;

12.  Takes note that at EEAS Headquarters, 69 % of the budget is intended for the payment of salaries and other entitlements of statutory and external staff (i.e. EUR 134,59 million) and 10 % (or EUR 19,92 million) for buildings and associated costs; notes that for the Union Delegations EUR 106,6 million (34 %) relates to the remuneration of statutory staff, EUR 62,2 million (19,9 %) for external staff and EUR 99,6 million (31,8 %) for buildings and associated costs;

13.  Is of the opinion that the EEAS is not yet a fully-fledged Union diplomatic service because of resource constraints; considers that the Commission and the Member States are the appropriate actors to push for the consolidation of the EEAS;

14.  Points out that the principle of budget neutrality is most welcomed, but that this should not be viewed in isolation from the savings which the Member States have made from the establishment of the EEAS;

15.  Considers that the EEAS continues to have a top-heavy administration, which needs to be corrected; takes the view that the measures already implemented to correct this matter are a step in the right direction and asks the Commission to strengthen its engagement in order to improve the inter-service cooperation; asks the institution to report on the reduction of the AD15 and AD16 posts in its next annual activity report; notes furthermore the absence of a competency framework for managers as the basis for the evaluation of pre-selected candidates; emphasises that competence in the field of foreign affairs must remain the main criterion for hiring decisions;

16.  Insists on the need to rationalise EEAS top management and to streamline decision-making processes;

17.  Welcomes the improved geographical balance in terms of the number of EEAS staff coming from the Member States that have acceded to the Union since 2004, who now represent 18 % of administrative staff and 17,7 % of Heads of Delegations, as compared to the relative population size of those countries, which stands at 21 %; emphasises the need for geographical balance in the recruitment and the appointment of staff; is of the opinion that equivalent geographical representation within the EEAS is an important element, contributing to the enhancement of its performance and calls on the Commission to continue working in this direction;

18.  Notes the efforts made to improve gender balance and to remove potential barriers to career progression; urges the EEAS to continue to work to reduce the gender imbalance especially within the category of senior level employees;

19.  Expresses its concern, however, at the lack of women in positions of responsibility in the EEAS (204 men to 55 women in the Delegations, while the proportion in senior management positions is 42 men to 4 women – i.e. just 8,7 % women); calls for an equal opportunities plan to be implemented which targets managerial positions particular so as to remedy this imbalance as soon as possible;

20.  Notes that the statutory target that at least one-third of staff at administrator (AD) level within the EEAS should comprise of Member States' diplomats was reached in 2013; notes however the relatively high number of seconded national experts from Member States (397 in June 2014) and requests further clarification on their status/entitlements and costs for the EEAS budget;

21.  Reiterates last year's request to have an exhaustive table of all the human resources at the disposal of the EEAS, with a breakdown according to grade, gender and nationality; notes that this table should be automatically included in the annual activity report of the institution;

22.  Regrets, however, that a better geographical balance has not yet been achieved and asks the EEAS to strengthen the geographical balance, in particular as regards appointments to management posts and the posts of Heads of Delegations; reiterates the need for an enforced geographical balance of the Member States at all levels of the administration and urges the EEAS to implement measures that contribute to a better and more balanced representation of all Member States;

23.  Considers the responsibilities of the Union Special Representatives to be very unclear and lacking proper monitoring and performance analysis; suggests that they are integrated into the EEAS in order to bridge this gap;

24.  Recalls the importance of transferring the Union Special Representatives budget from the operational Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) to the EEAS budget to better support the integration into the EEAS;

25.  Notes the developments made in the area of human resources yet agrees with the Court of Auditors' observations that the thematic expertise in the Delegations is needed; expresses its concern that Union Delegations are lacking staff in their political sections and for the operational planning and implementation of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) missions; notes also that there are practical difficulties for the Union Delegations to receive and deal with intelligence reporting; invites the Commission, together with the EEAS, to put a concerted approach in place to optimise the profile of Delegation staff;

26.  Notes that the EEAS continues to dedicate insufficient resources to the external aspects of internal policies and that it lacks the personnel needed to provide proper input on the programming of the financial instruments, thus undermining the coherence of the Union's external action;

27.  Believes that in this time of crisis and the general cutting of budgets, the costs of ‘away days’ for staff of the Union institutions should be reduced and that these should be held, wherever possible, on the premises of the institutions, since the added value derived from ‘away days’ does not justify such high costs;

28.  Invites the EEAS to get a better overview on the costs incurred in recruitment procedures; calls on the EEAS to use innovative solutions like videoconferencing for job interviews and to come up with similar proposals for the training of staff as much as possible;

29.  Reiterates the need to introduce a requirement by the EEAS that newly appointed EEAS staff give a declaration of honour stating that they have not worked for intelligence services in the past;

30.  Encourages the Commission and the Member States to take measures to promote better coordination and cooperation between their external relations services and the EEAS without disregarding the horizontal thematic issues;

31.  Underlines that significant cost savings can be made by better cooperation between Member States in terms of their foreign and security policy and by proactively identifying joint efforts the EEAS can gradually take over in order for the Union to be both a stronger and more efficient global player;

32.  Emphasises that working practices to ensure co-operation with DG for Development and Cooperation (DEVCO) and to support thematic divisions (such as the Directorate for Conflict Prevention and Security Policy) should be further developed;

33.  Stresses that thematic divisions should be involved in programming during all stages to avoid that conflict prevention, peace building, gender and human rights are last-minute add-ons;

34.  Takes the view that current Union foreign policy continues to be very much influenced by the foreign policies of particular Member States; emphasises that the policy of sidelining countries with specific expertise on some of the ongoing conflicts, specifically the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, dominates the results of Union foreign policy; invites the EEAS to consistently monitor this and take into account the possible effect that the foreign policy of particular Member States has on Union foreign policy;

35.  Stresses the importance of recognising and supporting the hard work of detached civilian staff and military personnel in the most unstable and dangerous parts of the world where the Union must also be represented and conduct its work; considers it essential, therefore, that those staff who live and work under severe pressure, in terms of both safety and mobility, family unity/disjunction and cultural and social factors, enjoy the highest levels of protection and security and a sufficient degree of flexibility; advocates an increase in the budget earmarked for the security costs of the delegations concerned; considers that it would be very useful to have comparative statistics for EEAS staff and Member State external action staff working in those situations;

36.  Insists on the need for simplification of the budget scheme for supporting Delegations; emphasises the difficult situation faced by the Delegations with the fewest members of staff as a result of the complex and rigid rules governing the delegation of payment authorisations between EEAS and Commission staff; calls on the EEAS and the Commission to consider how the procedure for authorising funds might be made easier while ensuring that financial control rules are complied with;

37.  Stresses that the financial regulations, as currently applied to the Union Delegations, continue to impose a heavy administrative burden on the Head of Delegation, which distracts from the Head of Delegation's primary responsibility of political work; urges the EEAS and the Commission to find a solution to this issue, which could entail a change to the financial regulations, provided that this does not also entail a reduction in the quality and rigour of the Delegations’ financial management; notes also the continuing use of budget lines from both EEAS and Commission budget for administrative expenditure, which unnecessarily complicates financial circuits;

38.  Points out that Union staff in Delegations and Union staff on CFSP missions in the same localities are treated differently as regards days off, flights, allowances and other benefits; calls for a detailed comparison of payments and benefits for Union Delegation staff and Union staff on CFSP missions in Mogadishu (Somalia) and Bangui (Central African Republic) as of 1 January 2014, for example, and insists that reasons be given where treatment differs;

39.  Emphasises the need to ensure greater flexibility in the funding of CSDP missions to guarantee the internal and external security of the Union due to the danger posed by conflicts in countries which border it, as well as the heightened risk of possible terrorist activities;

40.  Stresses the vital importance of setting-up a Shared Services Centre (SSC) that would result in important cost savings by providing centralised logistical, procurement and administrative support to the CSDP missions and to the Union Special Representatives and their offices; deplores the long delay in setting up the centre and urges all stakeholders involved to strive to reach as a matter of urgency an agreement on an ambitious SSC, capable of efficiently supporting missions, especially at their start-up, of standardising work processes and of delivering faster and more cost-effective procurement;

41.  Urges the EEAS to maximise the benefits of economies of scale by creating new synergies within the EEAS Headquarters and Delegations, as well as in cooperation with Member States and national diplomatic services in the spirit of a true Union external policy and services; notes with satisfaction that the colocation of Union Delegations and Member State diplomatic representations is increasing, even if it continues to be limited; asks the EEAS to continue to seek for ways to further increase colocation;

42.  Demands that the building policy of the EEAS be attached to the annual activity report, especially given that it is important that the costs of such a policy are properly rationalised and that such costs are not excessive;

43.  Urges the EEAS to provide the discharge authority with the list of building contracts concluded in 2013, including the details of the contracts, the country where the contract is entered in and the length of the contract, as it was done in the 2011 EEAS annual activity report and asks the EEAS to provide the same details of building contracts in its 2014 annual activity report;

44.  Recognises that there is still work to be done in relation to consular services; emphasises the cost saving potential of providing consular services through Union Delegations; invites the EEAS to prepare a detailed analysis of its financial implications and the Member States to agree on this issue in order to develop harmonised rules and legislation;

45.  Calls on the Court of Auditors to include in its next annual report a review of the follow-up by the EEAS of Parliament’s recommendations in this resolution.

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