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"Mr President, it is only right that I should begin by commending the work of the various rapporteurs. As I was able to observe most closely the way in which Mrs Haug dealt with the issues within her remit, I wish to bear witness to the sensitivity and balance that she demonstrated throughout the process. Fourthly, with regard to the reform of the Commission’s procedures and staffing policy, we must distinguish between issues relating to new admissions and the desirable – as far as we are concerned – creation of a permanent and compulsory early retirement system. Fifthly, if we value initiative and responsibility, we must promote the creation of a programme aimed at businesses and at business people. By preserving this strategic approach in the way we address the budget this year and in years to come, the European Parliament will fully play its role in the budgetary process. Parliaments only truly represent their electors, a crucial aspect of democracy, when they refuse to simply rubber stamp other people’s proposals. Rather than carrying out a technical analysis of the budget or an interpretation of the amounts provided for in the respective ‘revenue’ and ‘expenditure’ columns, Parliament should concern itself with the quality of both expenditure that has been released and expenditure that has been proposed, which specifically requires an assessment of the criteria for the use of appropriations and also an assessment of their impact. On the basis of this understanding, the Group of the European People’s Party – European Democrats wishes to highlight the following aspects: the level of budgetary implementation; the degree to which policies that have been laid down are implemented and the results achieved; consistency between the legislative process and the budgetary options; progress in reforming the Commission. In the context of these objectives, a raft of measures is proposed for next year, which in our opinion will help to improve the current situation. Firstly, with regard to the low levels of budgetary implementation, in particular of expenditure classified as “non-compulsory”, a special requirement is introduced for requests to the Commission for explanations. It has to be acknowledged that as long as the explanations requested are not forthcoming or are unsatisfactory, the appropriations in question cannot be used. Furthermore, unless the budget appropriations are used effectively, how can we talk about improvements, which are so necessary in certain categories? The second point is that there must be greater speed, transparency and efficiency in administration given the systematic increase in the RAL, that is in amounts still to be paid. This results from the increasing disparity between commitments that have been entered into, payments that have been authorised and payments made, particularly under category 4 – “External Actions”. The needs are self-evident, we have many commitments, the importance of external cooperation in asserting the European Union’s presence on the world stage is obvious, and there is a very low implementation rate for various programmes. The MEDA programme, which focuses on the Mediterranean basin, a geographical area of the utmost strategic importance, is a good example of our inability to implement our programmes. We need to make up ground in MEDA and guarantee greater efficiency in Serbia, for example, whilst at the same time effectively implementing the European Union’s traditional policies in this field. With a view to resolving current bottlenecks, a general reserve should be created under category 4 – a performance reserve – which will be used in proportion to the extent to which the various items are implemented. Furthermore, we hope to see a revision of the Financial Regulation which will set a definite deadline of two years, for example, as the maximum period between the authorisation for payment and payment itself. Failure to comply will result in the sums involved being withdrawn from the budget, as already happens in other categories. The third aspect to be emphasised is that if we wish to see greater coordination between the European institutions, we should promote, in theory and in practice, the integration of the Commission’s legislative programme and the budgetary process, as well as informing Parliament in advance of decisions by other institutions that may have an impact on the budget."@en1

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