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Procedure : 2019/2083(DEC)
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Document selected : A9-0072/2020

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A9-0072/2020

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P9_TA(2020)0117

Texts adopted
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Thursday, 14 May 2020 - Brussels Final edition
Discharge 2018: European Border and Coast Guard Agency
P9_TA(2020)0117A9-0072/2020
Decision
 Decision
 Resolution

1. European Parliament decision of 13 May 2020 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency for the financial year 2018 (2019/2083(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency for the financial year 2018,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on EU agencies for the financial year 2018, together with the agencies’ replies(1),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(2) 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 2018, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 18 February 2020 on discharge to be given to the Agency in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2018 (05761/2020 – C9‑0050/2020),

–  having regard to Article 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  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(3), and in particular Article 208 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012(4), and in particular Article 70 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/1624 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 September 2016 on the European Border and Coast Guard and amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC(5), and in particular Article 76 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1052/2013 and (EU) 2016/1624(6), and in particular Article 116 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1271/2013 of 30 September 2013 on the framework financial regulation for the bodies referred to in Article 208 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council(7), and in particular Article 108 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/715 of 18 December 2018 on the framework financial regulation for the bodies set up under the TFEU and Euratom Treaty and referred to in Article 70 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council(8), and in particular Article 105 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 100 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0072/2020),

1.  Grants the Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2018;

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 Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

(1) OJ C 417, 11.12.2019, p. 1.
(2) OJ C 417, 11.12.2019, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 251, 16.9.2016, p. 1.
(6) OJ L 295, 14.11.2019, p. 1.
(7) OJ L 328, 7.12.2013, p. 42.
(8) OJ L 122, 10.5.2019, p. 1.


2. European Parliament decision of 13 May 2020 on the closure of the accounts of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency for the financial year 2018 (2019/2083(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency for the financial year 2018,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on EU agencies for the financial year 2018, together with the agencies’ replies(1),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(2) 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 2018, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 18 February 2020 on discharge to be given to the Agency in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2018 (05761/2020 – C9‑0050/2020),

–  having regard to Article 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  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(3), and in particular Article 208 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012(4), and in particular Article 70 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/1624 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 September 2016 on the European Border and Coast Guard and amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC(5), and in particular Article 76 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1052/2013 and (EU) 2016/1624(6), and in particular Article 116 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1271/2013 of 30 September 2013 on the framework financial regulation for the bodies referred to in Article 208 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council(7), and in particular Article 108 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/715 of 18 December 2018 on the framework financial regulation for the bodies set up under the TFEU and Euratom Treaty and referred to in Article 70 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council(8), and in particular Article 105 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 100 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0072/2020),

1.  Approves the closure of the accounts of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency for the financial year 2018;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

(1) OJ C 417, 11.12.2019, p. 1.
(2) OJ C 417, 11.12.2019, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 251, 16.9.2016, p. 1.
(6) OJ L 295, 14.11.2019, p. 1.
(7) OJ L 328, 7.12.2013, p. 42.
(8) OJ L 122, 10.5.2019, p. 1.


3. European Parliament resolution of 14 May 2020 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency for the financial year 2018 (2019/2083(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency for the financial year 2018,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors' Special Report No 24/2019: “Asylum, relocation and return of migrants: Time to step up action to address disparities between objectives and results”,

–  having regard to Rule 100 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0072/2020),

A.  whereas, according to its statement of revenue and expenditure(1), the final budget of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (the ‘Agency’) for the financial year 2018 was EUR 288 663 520, representing an increase of 2,89 % compared to 2017; whereas the Agency’s budget derives mainly from the Union budget(2);

B.  whereas the Court of Auditors (the ‘Court’), in its report on the annual accounts of the Agency for the financial year 2018 (the ‘Court's report’), states that it has obtained reasonable assurances that the Agency’s annual accounts are reliable and that the underlying transactions are legal and regular;

Budget and financial management

1.  Notes that the budget-monitoring efforts during the financial year 2018 resulted in a budget implementation rate of 98,37 %, representing a slight increase of 0,74 % compared to 2017; notes with concern that the payment appropriations execution rate was low at 69,69 %, representing an increase of 3,27 % compared to 2017;

2.  Notes, in light of comments and observations from the discharge authority related to the statutory financial operational reserve for financing the deployment of rapid border interventions and return interventions, that, while the setting aside every year of a pre-defined budget to cover eventual rapid border interventions is a legislative requirement imposed on the Agency, its negative side-effects have been addressed by the co-legislators during the review of Regulation (EU) 2016/1624(3); observes that, with the entry into force of Regulation (EU) 2019/1896(4), the operational reserve can be released every month and used for operational purposes, and not solely for rapid or return interventions;

3.  Notes from the Court’s report that in 2018 the Agency had financing agreements with cooperating countries for operational activities, representing 59 % of the Agency’s budget; notes the launch of a new simplified financing scheme based largely on unit costs for expenditure related to deployments of human resources, and, in late 2018, the launch of a new ex-post control system covering all types of expenditure and also the modification of its system of ex-ante checks embedded in the financial circuits; highlights the emphasis placed by the Court on the fact that the reimbursement of equipment-related expenditure continues to be based on actual cost and that the project to move to unit-cost based reimbursements continues to be unsuccessful; notes with concern, furthermore, the Court’s observation that, since 2014, the proof of actual costs claimed by cooperating countries for equipment-related costs continues to be inadequate and that the Agency’s ex-ante verifications of these costs are ineffective unless they are substantiated by supporting documents; notes the absence of ex-post verifications on reimbursements by the Agency, further increasing the risk of unjustified cost reimbursements; notes with concern that the Agency allowed several reimbursements for expenditures claimed by cooperating countries in spite of the latter not providing the evidence indicated and required by the Agency; acknowledges from the Agency's reply that supporting documents indicating detailed costs were submitted by the cooperating countries in question; calls on the Agency to clearly indicate in the future the type of supporting documents it accepts as required evidence; further calls on the Agency to reimburse only legally justified expenditure; expects the Agency to rapidly introduce solid ex-post verifications on reimbursements and to report to the discharge authority on the progress made in this regard by June 2020;

4.  Notes from the Court’s report that the Agency’s budgetary carry-overs to 2019 amounted to EUR 83 000 000 (29 %), a slightly lower percentage than in the previous year; notes that the rate of cancelled carry-overs to 2018 was EUR 11 000 000 (12 %), somewhat lower in relative terms than the previous year; notes that the main reasons for carry-overs and cancellations were challenges arising from the staff establishment plan regarding the number and profile of staff, the delay to the launch of the building project for the Agency’s new premises, the multi-annual nature of information and communications technology projects, and the overestimation of the scale and cost of activities from cooperating countries; notes the Agency’s reply that in 2018 operational expenditures were mainly in the form of grants, covering the operation cycle from February N to January N+1, as well as expenditures from contracts with payment in N+1; urges the Agency, together with cooperating countries, to strive for more precise costs estimates and budget forecasts;

5.  Calls on the Agency to include more realistic estimates of its service needs in tender documents and to apply rigorous financial management to contracts; reminds the Agency that, while framework contracts do not constitute an obligation to purchase up to the maximum contract value, the considerable difference between the maximum value of the contract in one procurement procedure in 2018 (EUR 8 million) and the winning offer (EUR 5,8 million) could create a significant risk to sound financial management;

Performance

6.  Notes that, following the management board’s approval of the reorganisation of Agency structures in 2017 that affected the allocation of resources, an updated structure was adopted in 2018 and this structure, which was completed by new internal rules of procedure, was adopted by delegations and sub-delegations that were formalised by a decision of the executive director;

7.  Stresses the important role of the Agency in promoting, coordinating and developing European integrated border management while fully respecting fundamental rights;

8.  Notes that in the context of European integrated border management, the largest operational activities were the 12 joint operations at the external land, air and sea borders, while the main operational focus in 2018 was on the Central, Eastern and Western Mediterranean areas experiencing the most significant migratory pressure; welcomes, furthermore, the close interagency cooperation, in the field of customs and law enforcement cooperation but especially in the field of coastguard function; urges the Agency to act speedily and secure quality of its work towards setting proper quantitative objectives and specific target values for the joint operations, which are expected to be included in the single programming document 2021-2023;

9.  Notes with concern that the Court found in its Special Report No 24/2019 that implementation of asylum procedures, especially in Greece and Italy, continues to be affected by long processing times, bottlenecks and a lack of judiciary capacity; asks the Agency to seek cooperation with European Asylum Support Office, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, and the Commission in line with the Court's recommendations;

10.  Reiterates its call on the Agency to be more transparent about its activities; welcomes the creation of a section devoted to public access to documents on its website; urges the Agency to create a register of documents, which is a legal obligation under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001(5);

11.  Considers that the Agency should proactively provide information regarding its operational activities; invites the Agency to appear before Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to fulfil its specific reporting duties towards Members of the European Parliament by providing regular detailed briefings; calls on the Agency to make available the report on the practical application of Regulation (EU) No 656/2014(6) for 2018, as it is legally obliged to do, and to provide more tangible information in the future to allow for a proper assessment of the Agency’s activities at sea.

Staff policy

12.  Regrets that, on 31 December 2018, the establishment plan was only 72,49 % executed, with 303 temporary agents appointed out of 418 temporary agents authorised under the Union budget (compared with 352 authorised posts in 2017); notes that, in addition, 187 contract agents and 153 seconded national experts worked for the Agency in 2018;

13.  Notes furthermore, from the Court’s report, that although the Agency continued further recruitment efforts and increased the number of staff from 526 to 630 in 2018, it still did not achieve the number of 760 staff authorised in its 2018 establishment plan; notes the Agency’s reply that a total of 187 vacant posts were filled, but that due to a high internal and external turnover, the net staff increase in 2018 as compared to 2017 was 117 since many posts had become vacant during the year; notes furthermore that the Agency faces challenges in attracting a large number of suitable external candidates and achieving a sound geographical balance mainly due to the low correction coefficient, which is the lowest among all the Union agencies; stresses that agencies located in countries where a low correction coefficient is applied should receive further support from the Commission in implementing complementary measures in order to make them more attractive to current and prospective staff; calls on the Commission to assess the impact and viability of applying salary correction coefficients in the future; notes that the Agency continues to have difficulties in maintaining a desirable and sound geographical balance in staff deployed;

14.  Notes that 2018 was the third year of the five-year growth plan, following the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2016/1624 which significantly increased resources in the area of budget and staff; notes that, following the extension of its mandate, the Agency’s staff is to reach 1 000 by 2020; notes in the light of comments and observations from the discharge authority which stressed that the planned increase in staff would require additional office space, that an analysis to identify the optimal real-estate strategy is under preparation;

15.  Notes that, since April 2018, the Agency has been using the revised binding code of conduct for return operations and return interventions; notes that the Agency’s fundamental rights officer continuously provides observations and recommendations in respect of all operational plans and evaluation reports, for the consideration of operational units;

16.  Deplores the fact that, despite repeated calls from Parliament and a significant overall staff increase for the Agency, the fundamental rights officer still lacks adequate human resources and is therefore clearly hampered in her or his efforts to properly conduct the tasks with which she or he is entrusted; urges the Agency to provide its fundamental rights officer with adequate resources and staff, in particular in relation to further developing and implementing the Agency’s strategy to monitor and ensure the protection of fundamental rights; reminds the Agency of the importance of adhering to the Staff Regulations;

17.  Notes, in the light of comments and observations from the discharge authority related to the need to develop a comprehensive business continuity plan, that a business continuity officer was nominated in 2018;

18.  Notes that the Court has identified a horizontal trend across agencies in the use of external staff hired in IT consultancy roles; calls for the dependency on external recruitment in this important and sensitive area to be reduced as much as possible to limit any potential risks;

19.  Notes the lack of information on gender balance within the staff of the Agency; underlines again the fact that there is a persisting significant gender imbalance on the Agency’s management board (50 male members and 8 female members); urges that this imbalance be remedied as soon as possible; calls, therefore, on the Agency to proactively remind Member States of the importance of gender balance and calls on Member States to ensure gender balance when nominating their members to the Agency’s management board;

Procurement

20.  Notes, in light of observations and comments from the discharge authority related to the need to simplify the Agency’s entire financial scheme, that the Agency introduced a revised joint operations and returns financing scheme in 2018, which is based on simplified grant agreements with Member States using standardised unit costs for human resources;

21.  Notes with satisfaction that the Agency participates actively in inter-institutional tenders led by other institutions, and that, in the procurement procedures for the maritime surveillance domain, the Agency seeks cooperation with Union agencies engaged in similar activities, and that it prepares the terms of reference accordingly; notes furthermore that in 2018 the Agency handled its first Agency-led inter-institutional tender procedure with the European Fisheries Control Agency; strongly encourages the Agency to actively seek further and broader cooperation with all of the Union agencies;

22.  Calls on the Agency to follow up on the outstanding recommendation regarding e-procurement, namely the introduction of e-submission, without delay;

Prevention and management of conflicts of interests and transparency

23.  Appreciates the Agency’s existing measures and ongoing efforts to secure transparency, prevention and management of conflicts of interest, and whistleblower protection; notes that the whistleblowing policy was adopted on 18 July 2019; welcomes the fact that the Agency provides staff with access to confidential counsellors and trainings concerning whistleblowing procedures; notes, furthermore, that with the aim of being more transparent, the Agency launched a multilingual version of its website in all 24 official languages of the Union; regrets, however, that the Agency publishes statements of commitment declaring the absence of conflict of interest for the members of the management board, the executive director, and the deputy executive director, and not declarations of interest; reiterates that it is not for the members of the management board, the executive director, and the deputy executive director to declare themselves in absence of conflict of interest; calls on the Agency, with the aim of increasing transparency, to publish the CVs and declarations of interest for all members of its management board, the executive director, and the deputy executive director, by June 2020;

Internal control

24.  Notes, in the light of observations and comments from the discharge authority related to the considerable increase in the Agency’s grant expenditure, that measures have been taken to mitigate the risks identified, and that, specifically in 2018, unit costs verifications were performed for Spain, Greece and Italy, that the policy of ex-post control was adopted in 2018, that the risk based annual ex-post control plan was established and will be revised, and that the ex-post controls for Portugal and Estonia were finalised;

25.  Notes with concern from the Court’s report that the Agency does not have a “sensitive post” policy that would identify sensitive functions, keep them updated and define appropriate measures to mitigate the risks of vested interests; calls on the Agency to adopt and implement such a policy in order to be in line with the Agency’s internal control standards; acknowledges from the Agency's reply that at the end of 2019 the Agency was finalising the process of adopting a “sensitive post” policy;

26.  Notes that, following the recent revision of its internal control framework, the Agency has ensured that all decisions to override controls, or deviations from the established processes and procedures, are documented, duly approved, and logged centrally;

Other comments

27.  Welcomes the fact that, in the light of comments and observations from the discharge authority related to the construction of the new headquarters building and the establishment of a European school in Warsaw, an adequate plot of land was attributed to the Agency by the Polish authorities in 2019, that planning is ongoing to build a purpose-designed premises of the Agency’s headquarters by the end of 2024, and that the board of governors of European schools is to be asked by Polish authorities in Autumn 2019 to consider accreditation of a Warsaw associate European school of type II, which would be operational partly as from the 2020-2021 academic year;

28.  Calls upon the Agency to focus on disseminating the results of its research to the public, and to reach out to the public via the social media and other media outlets;

o
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29.  Refers, for other observations of a cross-cutting nature accompanying its decision on discharge, to its resolution of 14 May 2020(7) on the performance, financial management and control of the agencies.

(1) OJ C 120, 29.3.2019, p. 103.
(2) OJ C 120, 29.3.2019, p. 105.
(3) Regulation (EU) 2016/1624 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 September 2016 on the European Border and Coast Guard and amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC (OJ L 251, 16.9.2016, p. 1).
(4) Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1052/2013 and (EU) 2016/1624 (OJ L 295, 14.11.2019, p. 1).
(5) Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (OJ L 145, 31.5.2001, p. 43).
(6) Regulation (EU) No 656/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 establishing rules for the surveillance of the external sea borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (OJ L 189, 27.6.2014, p. 93).
(7) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0121.

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