Discharge procedure: how Parliament scrutinises the EU budget 

MEPs scrutinise every year how EU institutions have spent money ©BELGAIMAGE-EASYFOTOSTOCK-Zoonar-P.Gudella  

MEPs scrutinise how money has been spent by the European Commission and the other EU institutions and agencies in a procedure known as discharge. Over the years, the procedure has become a very important tool to check how public funds have been spent and EU projects carried out. The European Parliament has the exclusive right to approve the budget implementation of the EU institutions. On 27 April MEPs debate the discharge of the 2014 annual budget and vote on it the following day.

What is the discharge procedure?

It is the European Parliament's final approval of how the EU budget for a specific year has been implemented.

The Parliament considers the reports by Parliament's budgetary control committee, taking into account the Council's recommendation and decides to grant, postpone or refuse a discharge.

If granted, the accounts of a given year are closed and approved.

What happens when the Parliament refuses or postpones discharge?

If the accounts of an institution or an agency are not cleared, the organisation involved must act on the recommendations of the budgetary control committee before seeking discharge again.

Can Parliament’s approval of accounts be taken for granted?

Over the years the Parliament has refused to grant discharge to various EU agencies and bodies, including to the European Commission twice, in 1984 (for financial year 1982) and in 1998 (for financial year 1996).

In 1998, when the Parliament refused discharge to the European Commission led by Jacques Santer, it ultimately led to the resignation of the Commission.

Which institutions need to get approval from the European Parliament?

All EU institutions, including the European Commission, Parliament itself, European Council, Council of the EU and other agencies, bodies and joint undertakings. MEPs will vote on more than 50 reports during the plenary.

This year for the sixth consecutive time, the budgetary control committee has recommended that the Parliament postpone granting a discharge to the Council and the European Council on grounds of failure to cooperate with the Parliament in supplying the information it needs.

Parliament's budget is also scrutinised every year. This year it passed the committee's test on 7 April, together with the Commission.

How long does it take for the procedure to be completed?

The procedure that is being finalised now concerns the 2014 budget. As part of the budgetary discharge procedure, the budgetary control committee takes into account the opinion of the EU Court of Auditors and discusses it with commissioners and other senior EU officials. Parliament takes its final decision on the postponed discharge in October of the same year.

This article was originally published on 28 April 2015.

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