Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-02-01-Speech-3-118"

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". Mr President, the oral question includes six specific questions to which I hope the President-in-Office will respond. However, there is also an equally important seventh question: it is the old issue about national declarations. Will the Council actually sit down and discuss this issue with Parliament, so that we can seek a common objective? That is the one aspect in this old debate that has been missing since we voted on the discharge in this Chamber. At the time, we made the recommendations which this oral question refers to. We asked the Member States to get their house in order, to give us an assurance that the control systems they were putting in place were adequate and sufficient and that when EU money was being spent, it was being spent correctly. The problem we have is that when the Court of Auditors reports every year and cannot give a positive statement of assurance, it is because of problems within the Member States. Unless we are going to have a Commission official monitoring just about every item of European expenditure in the Member States, we are never going to solve the problem. It is incumbent upon the Member States to help us ensure that European taxpayers’ money is being spent correctly. I have to thank Commissioner Kallas in particular for the way he has encouraged Parliament by persuading the Commission to take on board those recommendations and to produce the roadmap towards getting a positive statement of assurance. In that process, we had a two-day hearing organised by the Commission and the previous Presidency on how this could or could not be achieved. I attended that hearing on both days. I was saddened at the negativity of some Member States who just wanted to continue with the status quo. They claimed nothing was wrong and nothing needed to be changed. Two things were clear from that hearing: there might have been other minor problems, but there were two major problems. The first major problem was that the supreme audit institutions of the Member States feared that somehow or other this was a takeover by the European Court of Auditors. Hopefully that fear has been allayed. I attended the annual gathering of the supreme audit institutions along with the European Court of Auditors in Stockholm, and I am led to believe that there is an acceptance that it was not the intention. I am also led to believe that the supreme audit institutions are prepared to play their part in helping us to solve this problem. The other major problem that occurred from that two-day hearing, and probably the biggest one, was the fact that we had asked for a political signature from the Member States to actually give these national declarations. For some Member States, such as the Netherlands, that is not a problem. This task falls on the Minister, and no one else would argue that it should be anybody else. However, for a lot of Member States it was a major problem. On reflection, I have to say that if we had left out the words ‘political signature’ in our discharge report we may not have scared the Council as much as we did. We are now in a situation where we need to come to an agreement with the Council on how to get national declarations that can actually satisfy not only the European Court of Auditors, but the Commission and the Member States themselves, to ensure that we can show European taxpayers that their money is being spent correctly. I would hope that the President-in-Office gives us clear answers to the six questions listed within the oral question and that he does not give us the answers that Ecofin gave us on 8 November 2005. Quite frankly, that was not leading us forward. I should also like him to answer the seventh question, which I shall put orally: will the Council sit down with Parliament to discuss this matter in the hope that we can get a resolution to it?"@en1

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