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Procedure : 2018/2114(INI)
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Document selected : A8-0055/2019

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PV 14/02/2019 - 10.20
CRE 14/02/2019 - 10.20

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Thursday, 14 February 2019 - Strasbourg
Implementation of the legal provisions and the Joint Statement ensuring parliamentary scrutiny over decentralised agencies

European Parliament resolution of 14 February 2019 on the implementation of the legal provisions and the Joint Statement ensuring parliamentary scrutiny over decentralised agencies (2018/2114(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty provisions related to agencies and in particular Articles 5 and 9 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), and Articles 15, 16, 71, 123, 124, 127, 130, 228, 263, 265, 267, 277, 282, 287, 290, 291, 298 and 325 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and in particular Articles 41, 42, 43, 51 and 52 thereof,

–  having regard to the Joint Statement of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission on decentralised agencies of 19 July 2012 and the Common Approach annexed to it,

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure, as well as to Article 1(1)(e) of, and Annex 3 to, the decision of the Conference of Presidents of 12 December 2002 on the procedure for granting authorisation to draw up own-initiative reports,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets, the Committee on Budgetary Control, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0055/2019),

A.  whereas agencies play a vital role in the implementation of EU policies at European and national levels, performing a wide variety of tasks to contribute to the implementation of EU policies, such as creating networks or supporting cooperation between the EU and national authorities; whereas good cooperation between EU agencies and Member States helps bring greater efficiency and effectiveness to the work of the agencies; whereas agencies have also established cooperation among themselves through the European Union Agency Network;

B.  whereas the coordination and collaboration between the different agencies and parliamentary committees has generally been good; whereas Europol is the only agency scrutinised by Parliament jointly with national parliaments through the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group;

C.  whereas agencies have been created and developed over time, on a case-by-case basis; whereas the Lisbon Treaty has formally recognised agentification of the EU executive by introducing EU agencies formally into the Treaties;

D.  whereas agencies are primarily accountable to Parliament and the Council, which must ensure that adequate scrutiny mechanisms are in place in the legislative acts governing those agencies and that those mechanisms are subsequently properly implemented; whereas agentification of the EU executive should not weaken Parliament’s control of the EU executive as provided for in Article 14 TEU;

E.  whereas the Treaties contain neither a definition of decentralised agencies, nor a general description of powers that may be conferred on agencies;

F.  whereas a number of agencies have their legal basis under Article 352 TFEU and others are created on a specific sector legal basis;

G.  whereas the 2012 Joint Statement and the Common Approach are the result of the work of the Interinstitutional Working Group on regulatory agencies, which was set up by the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council to assess the coherence, effectiveness, accountability and transparency of agencies after a proposal by the Commission in 2005 for an Interinstitutional Agreement on regulatory agencies had not received the necessary support from the Council and Parliament;

H.  whereas the Common Approach contains provisions on the structure and governance of agencies, as well as on their operation, programming of activities, funding, management of budgetary resources, budgetary procedures, accountability, controls and transparency, which help ensure parliamentary scrutiny over decentralised agencies;

I.  whereas, despite a generally positive appreciation, agencies have, in a few cases, encountered occasional distrust of their scientific and technical opinions;

Main observations

1.  Notes that mechanisms to ensure the accountability of agencies are incorporated in the Treaties, in the founding regulations of agencies, in the case-law of the European Court of Justice, as well as in the Joint Statement and the Common Approach; emphasises that through the conferral of power, Parliament has powers of scrutiny vis-a-vis decentralised agencies which are not, however, spelled out in detail in the Treaties; notes in this respect the non-binding nature of the Joint Statement and Common Approach; regrets, however, that the Institutions have not yet agreed to a binding regulatory framework;

2.  Points out that Parliament scrutinises agencies in different ways:

   as one arm of the budgetary authority in its decision-making on the contributions from the EU budget to agencies;
   as the discharge authority;
   through designation of members of the Management Boards of agencies;
   through the procedure for the appointment (or dismissal) of the Executive Director;
   through its consultation on the work programmes;
   through the presentation of the annual reports;
   though other methods (delegation visits, contact groups or persons, exchanges of views, hearings, briefings, provision of expertise);

3.  Notes that the provisions in the founding regulations differ in varying degrees from the mechanisms for accountability and parliamentary scrutiny set out in the Common Approach, which may be due to the very different tasks and functions that agencies perform;

4.  Observes that parliamentary committees have actively carried out their scrutiny tasks despite the variety of provisions in the founding regulations;

5.  Recognises the implementation by the Union agencies of the Joint Statement and Common Approach and its roadmap; highlights, in particular, the recommendations of the Interinstitutional Working Group on Decentralised Agencies (IIWG), which were endorsed by the Conference of Presidents on 18 January 2018; notes that with the follow-up meeting of 12 July 2018, the work of the IIWG was considered achieved;


6.  Considers that greater efforts could be made to streamline certain provisions in the founding regulations of agencies relating to their governance and accountability mechanisms, taking into account the various types of agencies that currently exist and defining the general principles governing the relationship between the institutions of the EU and the agencies; points out that these issues should also be addressed in impact assessments whenever the establishment of an agency is proposed; underlines that agencies need to have a certain degree of organisational flexibility in order to better adapt to the tasks envisaged and the needs that arise while carrying out their duties; welcomes the cluster- and cross cluster-based internal organisation of agencies in similar domains;

7.  Calls therefore for a thorough assessment of the implementation of the Common Approach in all its aspects, with detailed analytical papers similar to those produced in 2010 with a focus on governance-related aspects, reviewing in particular the compatibility of the provisions included with Parliament’s co-decision and scrutiny powers, while taking account of the need to allow for flexibility in view of the diverse landscape of decentralised agencies;

8.  Regrets that Parliament, as the lead guarantor of respect for the principle of democracy in the EU, was not fully involved in the procedure to select the new seat of EMA and EBA; recalls in this regard its request to revise the 2012 Joint Statement and Common Approach as soon as possible and also recalls the commitment of the Council to engage in the revision thereof, inviting the Commission to provide, by April 2019, an in-depth analysis of the Joint Statement and Common Approach as regards the location of decentralised agencies;

9.  Stresses that the location of the seat of an agency should not affect the execution of its powers and tasks, its governance structure, the operation of its main organisation or the main financing of its activities;

10.  Expects the prerogatives of Parliament and Council as co-legislators to be fully respected in future decisions on the location or relocation of agencies; considers that Parliament should be systematically involved, throughout the legislative process and on equal terms with the Council and the Commission, in defining and assessing the weight of the criteria for the location of all Union bodies and agencies, in a transparent manner; points out that Parliament, the Council and the Commission made a commitment in the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making of 13 April 2016 to sincere and transparent cooperation, and that the agreement highlights the principle of equality between the co-legislators, as enshrined in the Treaties; underlines the value of enhanced exchange of information from the initial stages of future processes for the location of agencies, as such early exchange would make it easier for the three institutions to exercise their rights and prerogatives;

11.  Believes that the decision on the location of an agency is of great importance and considers that objective criteria such as accessibility, administrative synergies and proximity to stakeholders have to be taken into account by the Union institutions in reaching the best possible decision;

12.  Asks the Commission, in line with the recommendations of the Interinstitutional Working Group on decentralised agencies’ resources, to swiftly present an evaluation of agencies with multiple locations, using a consistent approach to assess their added value by taking costs incurred into account; calls for significant measures to be taken on the basis of the results of this evaluation, with the aim of reducing the number of multiple locations, if and where appropriate;

13.  Proposes that, on the basis of a review of the Common Approach, fresh consideration should be given to drawing up an Interinstitutional Agreement (IIA) on agencies and that such agreement should contain provisions on a five-yearly review of the principles governing the establishment and functioning of agencies, drawing upon the expertise of a group of eminent persons;

14.  Considers that this IIA should respect the European Parliament’s powers in co-decision procedures and should also cover the relationship between an agency and the institutions of the Member State in which it is located, as well as transparency measures, procedures to avoid conflict of interest and to ensure gender balance among the members of the governing and advisory bodies, and the implementation of gender mainstreaming in all the activities of the agencies;

15.  Believes that in drafting such an IIA several specific suggestions to strengthen democratic oversight, improve the accountability of Union agencies and strengthen the system for reporting to Parliament should also be addressed, such as:

   setting a time limit for agencies to reply to questions addressed to them by the European Parliament or the Council;
   making arrangements for the sharing of sensitive and confidential information and the consultation of parliamentary committees, where so required;
   considering whether there should or should not be a specific number of members of the respective Management Boards appointed by Parliament;
   considering the added value of attendance by Parliament representatives/observers at meetings of boards of supervisors and agency stakeholder groups;
   streamlining Parliament’s involvement in the annual and multi-annual work programmes of the agencies;
   streamlining and harmonising reporting obligations, particularly with regard to the annual activity report, the budgetary and financial management report and the final accounts;
   informing Parliament in a detailed manner of the measures taken to meet the recommendations of the discharge authority (follow-up reports) and those of the Court of Auditors;

16.  Considers furthermore that Parliament’s role in the oversight of the governance dimension of decentralised agencies could be significantly improved; suggests, moreover, the strengthening of cooperation with the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group and a revision of the rules for missions to agencies to allow for better regular contact between parliamentary committees and agencies falling under their remit;

17.  Proposes that, in the context of the five-yearly review, building on and in addition to the scrutiny activities conducted by Parliament’s committees over agencies falling within their remit, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs holds an annual debate on the functioning and governance of agencies, followed, if deemed appropriate and/or necessary, by a debate in plenary in order to facilitate a stronger and more structured system of scrutinising agency activities within Parliament; proposes moreover, given the role of agencies as intermediaries between the EU and the Member States, a period of consultation with national parliaments should they wish to make any intervention on the matter;

18.  Considers that Union agencies should apply the rules and principles of good governance and better law-making, including conducting open public consultations on their draft proposals for secondary and tertiary acts, where the domain of the agency so allows; proposes that agencies be subject to the same transparency rules as the Commission, including rules and obligations in relation to interest representatives;

19.  Stresses that, while making sure that all assignments resulting from the regulatory framework are carried out in full and within deadline, Union agencies should carefully adhere to their tasks and act in accordance with the mandates assigned to them by Parliament and the Council; considers it imperative that the Union agencies are transparent when carrying out their mandates;

20.  Proposes that all agencies should be able to submit non-binding opinions on current files within their remit;

21.  Believes furthermore that, in the event of any future changes to the Treaties, consideration should be given as to how agencies can be anchored even more firmly in the Treaties, in particular in relation to Articles 13 and 14 TEU and Articles 290 and 291 TFEU, by inserting a clear definition of the various types of agencies, the powers that can be conferred on them and general principles guaranteeing their parliamentary scrutiny;

Budgetary matters

22.  Notes that fee-financing of agencies currently amounts to around EUR 1 billion annually, which can alleviate pressure on the EU budget and can be an effective way of financing agency activities in cases where the business model so allows; expresses concern, however, at the potential conflicts of interest that can arise if agencies have to rely on membership fees as their main source of income; insists that safeguard measures need to be in place to avoid any kind of conflict of interest;

23.  Stresses the need to take into account the new climate, sustainability and environmental protection priorities within the next MFF and the tasks attributed to particular agencies for the implementation of this MFF;

24.  Notes that even though decentralised agencies share a number of similarities in terms of budgetary management, one-size-fits-all approaches have proven to be detrimental to the efficient and effective management of certain agencies; considers the 5 % reduction target for staff and the redeployment pool among agencies to be a one-off exercise; reiterates its intention to oppose any such approach in the future;

25.  Notes with concern that a number of agencies have difficulties in attracting qualified staff on account of employment conditions; believes that Union bodies need to be in a position to attract qualified staff in order to fulfil their tasks effectively and efficiently; calls, therefore, for concrete action to be taken in order to meet these goals;

26.  Notes that the strengthened cooperation between the agencies in sharing services has resulted in savings, such as those achieved by the creation of a joint procurement portal; encourages further exploration of the potential for sharing services either among the agencies themselves, or between the Commission and the agencies, with a view to creating new synergies and optimising existing ones; believes that, where applicable, further budgetary efficiency could be achieved through close cooperation on administrative support and facility management services among Union bodies and agencies in immediate proximity;

27.  Notes that agencies’ budgets should be prepared in accordance with the principle of performance-based budgeting, taking into account the agency’s objectives and the expected results of its tasks; calls for a thematic approach to the budgeting of decentralised agencies in order to better prioritise the agencies’ tasks, boost cooperation and avoid overlaps, particularly in the case of agencies working within the same policy field;

28.  Notes with concern that a number of administrative requirements are disproportionate to agencies which have not reached a certain size; expects the Commission and the Council to ensure that the applicable administrative requirements are commensurate with the financial and human resources of all agencies;

29.  Recalls that the legislative procedure results in modifications to the original Commission proposal; notes with concern that updated financial statements generally only become available at the end of the legislative procedure, if at all; recalls the twin roles of Parliament and the Council as legislative authority and budgetary authority;

30.  Welcomes the Commission’s draft revised text of the framework financial regulation for decentralised agencies and, in particular, its plans outlined therein to strengthen the governance of these agencies;

31.  Maintains, however, that a variety of issues remain unresolved, and urges the Commission to submit without delay an evaluation of agencies with multiple locations, as recommended by the IIWG, as well as proposals for possible mergers, closures and/or transfers of tasks to the Commission, on the basis of a careful in-depth analysis and using clear and transparent criteria, as was envisaged in the IIWG’s terms of reference but which was never properly examined owing to a lack of proposals to that effect from the Commission;

32.  Notes that the auditing of the decentralised agencies ‘remains under the full responsibility of the Court of Auditors, which manages all administrative and procurement procedures required and finances these’; reiterates that auditing carried out by private sector auditors has significantly increased the administrative burden on the agencies and has, as a result of the time spent on the procurement and administration of audit contracts, created additional expenditure, putting their diminishing resources under even greater strain; emphasises that it is imperative to resolve this issue in accordance with the Common Approach, within the context of the revision of the framework financial regulation; calls on all parties involved in this revision to provide clarity on this issue as a matter of urgency so as to significantly reduce the excessive administrative burden;

o   o

33.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, the European Court of Auditors and the EU decentralised agencies.

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