The European Commission i outlined to the EP Budgetary Control Committee on Monday an action plan to improve the committee's supervisory role over the co-management of the structural funds. MEPs i took note ahead of their vote next month on the 2006 budget discharge.
As part of preparatory talks on the "Commission" section of the 2006 discharge, the Budgetary Control Committee had called for further discussions with Commissioners Hübner i, Spidla i and Ferrero-Waldner i in order to glean more information on the co-management of the structural funds as well as measures taken by the EU.
Spotlight on the action plan
Commissioners Hübner and Spidla presented an action plan covering ten sectors that provides for more supervision, more inspection machinery and better information.
MEPs took note, but no more, opting to respond later. Among MEPs' comments, the rapporteur on the Commission's discharge for 2006, Dan Jorgensen (PES, DK), argued that the level of "at least 12% of repayments made erroneously under the structural funds" will weigh in the balance when the vote on the discharge takes place. He called for a more dynamic approach from the Commission on recoveries. EPP-ED shadow rapporteur Alexander Stubb (FI) thought the report did not contain any fundamentally new points and called for twice-yearly reports on recoveries.
MEPs are due to vote soon on the 2006 discharge, when the Budgetary Control Committee adopts its discharge reports on 26 March.
National declarations: not part of the "acquis"
In its comments on the 2006 discharge, the Council poured cold water on the idea of national declarations*, which MEPs have been demanding insistently for several years. "The annual summaries** are part of the acquis, national declarations are not", explained Slovene presidency representative Andrej Bajuk, who saw them as "a tool but not an end in themselves".
At present, only four Member States have accepted the idea of national declarations, something that MEPs believe would make national authorities - which together with the Commission manage over 80% of the budget - more accountable.
In his introductory remarks, Mr Jorgensen expressed disappointment that the Council did not take the discharge procedure more seriously. The Ecofin Council granted the discharge to the Commission - inter alia - on 12 February.
*See our press pack on the 2006 discharge.** Summaries of audits of Community expenditure made at national level; a fruit of the interinstitutional agreement laying down the EU's multiannual financial framework (2006/c 139/01), 44.
Committee on Budgetary Control
In the chair: : Herbert Bösch (PES, AT)