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Procedure : 2021/2136(DEC)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A9-0120/2022

Texts tabled :

A9-0120/2022

Debates :

PV 04/05/2022 - 6
CRE 04/05/2022 - 6

Votes :

PV 04/05/2022 - 8.29

Texts adopted :

P9_TA(2022)0169

Texts adopted
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Wednesday, 4 May 2022 - Strasbourg
Discharge 2020: European Union Agency for Railways
P9_TA(2022)0169A9-0120/2022
Decision
 Decision
 Resolution

1. European Parliament decision of 4 May 2022 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Agency for Railways for the financial year 2020 (2021/2136(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Union Agency for Railways for the financial year 2020,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on EU agencies for the financial year 2020, 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 2020, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 28 February 2022 on discharge to be given to the Agency in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2020 (06003/2022 – C9‑0091/2022),

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

–  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(3), and in particular Article 70 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/796 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on the European Union Agency for Railways and repealing Regulation (EC) No 881/2004(4), and in particular Article 65 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(5), 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 Transport and Tourism,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0120/2022),

1.  Grants the Executive Director of the European Union Agency for Railways discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2020;

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 Union Agency for Railways, 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 439, 29.10.2021, p. 3. ECA annual report on EU agencies for the 2020 financial year: https://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/DocItem.aspx?did=59697.
(2) OJ C 439, 29.10.2021, p. 3. ECA annual report on EU agencies for the 2020 financial year: https://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/DocItem.aspx?did=59697.
(3) OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 138, 26.5.2016, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 122, 10.5.2019, p. 1.


2. European Parliament decision of 4 May 2022 on the closure of the accounts of the European Union Agency for Railways for the financial year 2020 (2021/2136(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Union Agency for Railways for the financial year 2020,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on EU agencies for the financial year 2020, 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 2020, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 28 February 2022 on discharge to be given to the Agency in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2020 (06003/2022 – C9‑0091/2022),

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

–  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(3), and in particular Article 70 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/796 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on the European Union Agency for Railways and repealing Regulation (EC) No 881/2004(4), and in particular Article 65 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(5), 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 Transport and Tourism,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0120/2022),

1.  Approves the closure of the accounts of the European Union Agency for Railways for the financial year 2020;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Executive Director of the European Union Agency for Railways, 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 439, 29.10.2021, p. 3. ECA annual report on EU agencies for the 2020 financial year: https://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/DocItem.aspx?did=59697.
(2) OJ C 439, 29.10.2021, p. 3. ECA annual report on EU agencies for the 2020 financial year: https://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/DocItem.aspx?did=59697.
(3) OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 138, 26.5.2016, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 122, 10.5.2019, p. 1.


3. European Parliament resolution of 4 May 2022 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Agency for Railways for the financial year 2020 (2021/2136(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Agency for Railways for the financial year 2020,

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

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Transport and Tourism,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0120/2022),

A.  whereas, according to its statement of revenue and expenditure(1), the final budget of the European Union Agency for Railways (the ‘Agency’) for the financial year 2020 was EUR 30 764 883, representing an increase of 13,36 % compared to 2019; whereas the budget of the Agency derives mainly from the Union budget;

B.  whereas the Court of Auditors (the ‘Court’), in its report on the annual accounts of the Agency for the financial year 2020 (the ‘Court's report’), has stated that it has obtained reasonable assurance that the Agency's annual accounts are reliable and that the underlying transactions are legal and regular;

Budget and financial management

1.  Notes with satisfaction that the budget monitoring efforts during the financial year 2020 resulted in a budget implementation rate of 99,98 %, equal to the implementation rate in 2019; notes that the payment appropriations execution rate was 89,28 %, representing a decrease of 2,97 % compared to 2019;

2.  Notes that, since 2019, the Agency has started collecting fees and charges for certification tasks; notes that following the mandate on its new Regulation the Agency must take into account the specific needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); calls on the Agency to introduce effective controls to check the SME status of applicants;

3.  Notes that the cancelled payment appropriations amounted to almost 5 % (mainly due to the Covid-19 crisis) while the implementation rate for current-year appropriations was 89,3 %;

4.  Notes that the budget outturn in 2020 was EUR 114 225, up from EUR 59 486 in 2019;

5.  Recalls that the Agency has the smallest budget among the transport agencies despite the outstanding environmental and climate performance and other benefits of rail transport; stresses in particular that the Agency should not be put in a position where it feels compelled to request additional support from the Commission, due to inadequate financial means, especially at a time when railways are a policy priority of the Union, particularly within the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy and as demonstrated by the designation of 2021 as the European Year of Rail; calls for an increase of the budget of the Agency so that it has the necessary means to enable it to act as an efficient authority and to fulfil its tasks, particularly those with regard to increasing competitiveness, improving safety and cross-border interoperability, and particularly its enhanced role and responsibilities in the timely deployment of ERTMS;

Performance

6.  Acknowledges that, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Agency, in implementing its 2020 work programme, met its targets for the various outputs to a satisfactory extent, as confirmed by the management board, as well as attaining a satisfactory level of achievement for its set of KPIs;

7.  Notes, with regard to the follow-up of last year’s discharge observations, that the Agency is improving how it defines and monitors its KPIs; notes that specific actions have been taken in this respect, such as focusing the Agency’s work programme on the intervention logic, measuring the added value on the railway system and implementing a dashboard to direct the governance of the Agency based on data; welcomes the actions that have been initiated and calls on the Agency to report to the discharge authority on the developments in this regard;

8.  Notes that the Agency is located in both Lille and Valenciennes, which indicates that costs could be reduced if all operations were centralised in one location; acknowledges however, that the remedy for the related observation in the Court’s report is not under the Agency’s control;

9.  Notes from the Agency’s replies that, since 2020, the Agency has dedicated more focus to the final impact and outcomes to which its activities contribute; notes in particular that the Agency wishes to apply the intervention logic consistently through its ‘plan-do-check-act cycle’, which will encourage a longer-term resource management perspective;

10.  Notes that the Agency shares its resources with other Union agencies, especially in respect of its administrative and support functions, and cooperates with other Union transport agencies on operational matters; notes that the Agency is also in the process of developing a strategy for achieving efficiency gains as part of its single programming document which will provide an inventory of existing arrangements with other agencies and explore potential new collaborations with other Union bodies; further notes that there are concrete discussions underway with another agency on concluding a Memorandum of Cooperation;

11.  Notes that, in 2020, the Agency prepared an integrated performance management programme intended to improve the Agency’s efficiency in the short and long term;

12.  Notes the Agency’s timely and adequate response to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, in relation to both its staff/working arrangements and to the railway sector in general, in particular by drafting guidance documents and EU Covid-19 roadmaps for public transport by rail; salutes the fact that the Agency made good use of the funds made available by cancellations of missions abroad thereby ensuring its ability to continue to perform its tasks; regrets, however, the budget constraints under which the Agency has to operate;

13.  Welcomes the fact that, following a successful start in 2019, the Agency has continued to perform its role of single Union authority responsible for issuing authorisations for placing railway vehicles on the market, single safety certificates for railway undertakings and ERTMS trackside approvals, as stated in the legal framework of the 4th Railway Package; notes that 2020 was an important milestone for the implementation of the 4th Railway Package, with the transition milestone of 16 June 2020 finally moved to the end of October 2020, marking the moment by which all 27 Member States had transposed the technical pillar;

14.  Stresses that this has entailed a considerable increase of workload within the agency, beyond the forecast level for 2020; points out that resources have not yet been allocated for a number of the important tasks also mandated to the agency; concludes therefore that the agency urgently needs a considerable increase in funding, as strongly recommended by the management board of the Agency;

15.  Welcomes the successful performance of the agency within the framework of the 4th Railway Package technical pillar; notes in particular that the number of ERTMS authorisations, vehicle authorisations and community safety certificates issued increased by 700 %, 300 % and 400 %, respectively, compared to 2019 levels; welcomes the fact that many manufacturers choose to lodge their dossiers with the Agency even if they related only to one Member State; notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has had the effect of accelerating the digitisation of the Agency's work and procedures, in particular with regard to the archiving of files; salutes the Agency’s effective maintenance of the One-Stop Shop (OSS) and the advancements made to develop ERTMS long-term evolution, through, for example, the issuance of its ERTMS Opinion service pack 3 on the handling of change requests;

16.  Commends the agency on the progress that it has made with the safety culture model and with attracting more organisations to sign the safety declaration, for example through its successful contribution to promoting the Risk Management Framework for the Transport of Dangerous Goods, and by focusing particularly on the improvement of ERTMS robustness against cyber threats, as well as by strengthening the cooperation with EC and ENISA with the aim of developing a coherent approach at Union level;

17.  Welcomes the Agency’s continuous commitment to the objective of creating a Single European Railway Area and its sustained work in key areas such as reducing national rules and ensuring the maturity of its technical specifications;

18.  Applauds the Agency’s recommendation to the Commission and multi-annual planning leading to a full revision of the TAP TSI by 2022, thereby facilitating ticketing and multi-modal travel at national and domestic level;

Staff policy

19.  Notes that, on 31 December 2020, the establishment plan was 97,29 % executed, with 144 temporary agents appointed out of 148 temporary agents authorised under the Union budget (compared with 148 authorised posts in 2019); notes that, in addition, 32 contract agents and one seconded national expert worked for the Agency in 2020;

20.  Notes with concern the gender imbalance within the Agency’s senior management, with seven out of eight (87,5 %) being men and within the Agency’s management board, with 44 out of 61 (72,1 %) being men; further notes the gender distribution within the Agency’s overall staff, with 109 out of 174 (62,6 %) being men; invites the Agency to increase its efforts to achieve a better gender balance at all management and staff levels in the future; reiterates its call on the Commission and the Member States to take the importance of ensuring gender balance into account when appointing their members to the management board of the Agency;

21.  Notes that the levels of fees and charges set for the activities of the agency are too low to enable it to properly finance its missions; further stresses that, in addition to the constraints related to its budget, the Agency is limited by a staffing table that imposes a cap on its human resources at 148 permanent staff; notes that the Agency has 144 permanent staff and calls on the Commission to raise the authorised staff ceiling;

22.  Encourages the Agency to pursue the development of a long term human resources policy framework which addresses work-life balance, lifelong guidance and career development, gender balance, teleworking, geographical balance and the recruitment and integration of people with disabilities;

23.  Notes that, in the course of 2020, three cases of harassment were reported within the Agency; notes, nevertheless, that no investigations were carried out and no cases were brought before a court;

24.  Notes that the Agency has become the single authority in the Union for delivering single safety certificates and vehicles authorisations, as well as the European Rail Traffic Management System’s Trackside Approvals, which has significantly increased the workload of its staff members;

Procurement

25.  Notes that the original procurement plan, which was approved by the Management Board as part of the single programming document 2020 and which is used as the Agency’s financing decision, had to be modified throughout the year in order to meet the operational requirements and budgetary constraints of COVID-19; notes that three procedures had to be cancelled, in particular, those related to monitoring training, multimedia content production and communication services, with a total value of EUR 1 852 500;

26.  Notes that the Agency carried out four open calls for tenders and four negotiated procedures of low value and without publication of a contract notice in 2020; further notes that one of those negotiated procedures, of which the value was about EUR 950 000, was awarded to support the off-site development of the railways operational system;

Prevention and management of conflicts of interest, and transparency

27.  Notes that the Agency has published the CVs and declaration of interests of management board members and its senior management on the Agency’s website; notes that the Agency does not publish the CVs of external experts and in-house experts;

28.  Welcomes the Agency’s efforts to enhance the transparency of the Agency’s activities by regularly publishing on its website information on all meetings held by the Executive Director with organisations or self-employed individuals on issues relating to the activities of the Agency;

29.  Welcomes the fact that the Agency continued to implement the measures prescribed by the Framework for Good Administrative Behaviour and continued the training on ethics and antifraud which is mandatory for all staff; welcomes the fact that no cases of suspicion of fraud have been transmitted to OLAF;

Internal control

30.  Notes that, in 2020, the Agency had fewer non conformities/non-compliance events compared to 2019; acknowledges the efforts of the Agency to strengthen its ex-ante verification function, with areas for improvement identified on the basis of the detected non-conformities; acknowledges the efforts of the Agency to strengthen its internal organisation and resources in connection with verification and control, by focusing on prevention rather than correction;

31.  Notes the observation in the Court’s report that the Commission, under a service level agreement, overcharged the Agency for the provision of different IT services by invoicing those systems based on an incorrect number of users; notes the weaknesses in the internal controls of the Agency identified by the Court, which found that no check had been carried out to ensure that the invoiced amount complied with the terms of the service level agreement; calls on the Agency to assess the identified weakness, to introduce preventive measures, to address the risks identified and to inform the discharge authority about the measures taken;

32.  Notes that the Agency performed an assessment of its internal control framework, concluding that the Agency is compliant with its Management Standards; notes that the formulation of that conclusion is different from the one other agencies use, and does not provide insight into whether principles and components of the internal control framework have been implemented and function effectively; calls on the Agency to fully implement the internal control framework in accordance with the guidance provided by the Directorate-General for the Budget; calls on the Agency to take account of the Court’s findings in its assessment and to properly evaluate its impact;

COVID-19 response and business continuity

33.  Notes from its consolidated annual activity report that the Agency responded in a timely manner and adequately to the COVID-19 pandemic, in relation to both its staff and working arrangements, and to the railway sector; notes that the management board adopted the necessary decisions to ensure the Agency’s business continuity during the pandemic, including the necessary decision making arrangements for teleworking for the Agency’s staff and the digital support needed for effective remote work; notes that the Agency has put in place a task force for timely monitoring of the pandemic situation and for taking real time decisions in order to safeguard staff health and safety at work, while preserving efficiency; welcomes the fact that the Agency organised regular general assembly meetings to keep its staff informed and involved during this period;

Other comments

34.  Notes that the Agency has signed a service level agreement with the computer emergency response team (CERT-EU) and has developed an action plan that includes actions such as the blocking of internal web sites that are not used by external users, the disabling of telemetry features and the deployment of a user risk policy;

35.  Notes that the Agency did not set any CO2 reduction target in 2020; notes, nevertheless, that the Agency is in the process of developing a detailed environmental management annex to the single programming document; notes that the Agency is also following the initiatives of the EU Agency Network related to the eco management and audit scheme and ISO 14001 certification services;

36.  Highlights the importance of increasing the digitalisation of the Agency in terms of internal operation and management but also the importance of speeding up the digitalisation of procedures; stresses the need for the Agency to continue to be proactive in this regard, in order to avoid, at all costs, a digital gap between the agencies; draws attention, however, to the need to take all the necessary security measures to avoid any risk to the online security of the information processed;

37.  Emphasises the importance for the Agency of developing greater visibility in the media and on the internet in order to make its work better known;

o
o   o

38.  Refers, for other observations of a cross-cutting nature accompanying its decision on discharge, to its resolution of 4 May 2022(2) on the performance, financial management and control of the agencies.

(1) OJ C 114, 31.3.2021, p. 91.
(2) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2022)0196.

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