Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2007-04-24-Speech-2-014"

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". Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the institutions for whose budget discharge I have been responsible in the past include the Council, the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, the Committee of the Regions, the Economic and Social Committee, the Ombudsman and the Data Protection Ombudsman, and I currently see no reason to raise any queries about the last two of these. If, though, I may start with the Council, what is termed a gentlemen’s agreement has been in place in respect of certain budget matters since 1970, but, since that time, the European Community has developed to an enormous degree. A number of things – none of them entirely lacking in relevance – have happened, and they make the gentlemen’s agreement seem inappropriate in today’s world; for example, the European Parliament is now directly elected in free elections with a secret ballot, and, being firmly persuaded that this agreement needs, as a matter of urgency, to be adapted to the present situation, I propose that the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on the Control of Budgets should, during the coming months, hold a joint meeting in order to discuss this important topic and, by means of a common position, demand that the Council make the changes that are so urgently needed. While I am on the subject of the Council, I am pleased to see that the Common Foreign and Security Policy is carrying more and more weight, and rightly too, although it is intolerable that the Council is not keeping its side of the agreement and drawing clear distinctions between the operational costs that need to be entered in the Commission budget and the purely administrative expenditure, and so I urge it to play by these rules in future. At both the Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors, there is still room for improvement; for example, the publication of the business and financial interests of the judges and the auditors has yet to be clarified. This is something that we in this House have raised time and time again already, and so we, in our resolution, are setting a deadline of 30 September this year for the two institutions to indicate how they propose to comply with this House’s demand for the publication of those business and financial interests; we have already been waiting for far too long for such statements. Even before the latest enlargement round, the question was being raised within the Court as to whether the number of auditors should remain as it was, and various models for the Court’s reform have been on the table for some time; for example, its former President, Professor Bernhard Friedmann, drafted a very sensible proposal with a rotation system similar to that used for the Council of the ECB. It might also make sense to replace the present collegiate arrangement by creating the position of Chief Auditor, and so the Court ought not to pray in aid the existing position under the Treaties in justifying its refusal to consider reform, for reforms are due in the short or long term, and it would be good if the Court were, off its own bat, to come up with a sensible, practical and well-thought-out proposal for it. The future of the Joint Services is under discussion not only in the Committee of the Regions, but also in the Economic and Social Committee, for there is something wrong with the way those services are organised when even the Committee of the Regions gets the idea that it is being put at a disadvantage, so both committees should set in train a neutral analysis, based on suitable reference values, of the costs, benefits and savings involved and, where necessary for this purpose, seek the advice of the Court of Auditors or of some other advisory body. The objective of the debate must be to get the Joint Services, future, doing the work that needs to be done and doing it with good coordination and at reasonable cost. This year’s discharge focussed particularly on the question of the questionable use of weighting, not only by the Committee of the Regions, but also in other institutions. The discharge procedure is neither the time nor the place for any judgment on the legality of these payments to be handed down; that is for the courts of law to do. The question is whether those at the top of the Committee of the Regions, the people who run it, reacted in an appropriate way, and what principles they applied to the case. I am persuaded that things still remain to be done by the Committee of the Regions; in all cases in which fraud is found to have been committed, disciplinary action needs to be instituted as soon as possible, with the persons responsible being called to account. This House will continue to keep an eye on this case, with respect to which we will have to examine the Staff Regulations with a view to ascertaining whether the interpretation of rules and transitional rules can be left to civil servants alone, and I do think that the legislative institutions of the Union should leave their administrators considerably less room for manoeuvre than they have done in the past. Taken as a whole, the outcome of the Budget discharge highlights the importance of precise control of budgets by the European Parliament, and, with thanks to all the institutions for their cooperation and for making available the information required, I recommend that discharge be given to them, while also taking into account the points already made."@en1

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