Parliament today granted the Council's discharge for its 2007 budget, following a marked change in the attitude of the Council, which for years had refused either to meet or present annual activity reports to the EP's Budgetary Control Committee.
Unlike other EU institutions, the Council had until now always refused to give the Parliament an annual activity report, answer its questions or meet its representatives to discuss the issues. Therefore, for the first time ever, Parliament decided in April to postpone Council's discharge for its 2007 budget until it provided more information.
"In April, many of us in this Parliament asked ourselves: 'How can I, as an MEP, answer to my voters if the Council refuses to answer our questions?' When the Council expects a budget discharge from us they need to sit down with us and answer our questions", said rapporteur Søren Bo Søndergaard (GUE/NGL, DK), during Tuesday evening's debate.
In September this year, Council's behaviour changed: it agreed to give the EP access to documents, answer questions and hold meetings with MEPs. As a result of this changed attitude, Parliament felt able to sign off the Council's budget and the discharge was granted by 587 votes to 57, with 11 abstentions.
However, leaving aside the Council's newfound willingness to cooperate with Parliament, MEPs are still not fully satisfied with the Council's handling of its budget.
"We have not achieved everything we wanted to achieve. We ask the Council to read our report very carefully. There are a number of points where we would like to see improvements for next year", said Søren Bo Søndergaard.
For the next budget discharge, the Budgetary Control Committee will check that the Council makes the changes needed, including closing all extra-budgetary accounts, improving the verification of invoices, publishing all administrative decisions used as a legal basis for budget items, sending Parliament an annual activity report in time for the discharge and answering its questions in writing and, if necessary, orally.
The main part of EU's budget, managed by the Commission, as well as all the other institutions' budgets, were approved earlier this year.