European Parliament attacks EU agencies

27 March 2012

European Parliament attacks EU agencies

SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong describes himself as ‘pleased’ with the exceptionally critical report from the European Parliament Committee on Budgetary Control on the subject of EU agencies. Almost all of his proposals to examine the effectiveness of the agencies were accepted. In addition, the European Parliament has refused approval for payments to three agencies where serious forms of conflict of interest were evident. De Jong: ‘The failure to function correctly of European agencies has been under the radar for far too long. The SP has for years been urging more transparency on the part of these agencies. That will now at last come into being and I see this as a major victory.’

Dennis de Jong‘At last the question of whether agencies which in reality have the same task could not best be merged is being investigated,’ says De Jong, ‘as well as whether the establishment of agencies away from Brussels is really a good idea. And lastly the European Parliament would also like to know whether these agencies’ spending is effective, in relation to which we have as things stand no information at all. It’s a shame in my view that by my calculation the Dutch liberals of the VVD and D66 seem to have voted against a number of these proposals, despite the fact that both parties often express criticisms of the agencies in the media.’

The report goes into detail about the problems of the three agencies - the European Environmental Agency (EEA), the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). In the case of the EEA, the head of the agency had paid out thousands of euros for expertise and courses to an NGO of which he was an executive member, while one of the courses involved a trip to the Caribbean. €300,000 was shelled out for the construction of a green façade of plants at the head office in Copenhagen, despite this not having been included in the budget. The money spent was in fact earmarked for scientific research. At EFSA, close links between the food industry and the agency’s leadership were criticised. EFSA employees moving to biotechnology corporations was, in the report’s view, contrary to European rules. As for EMA, questions were first raised in 2009 over conflicts of interest, and the report states that no substantial improvements have been seen. In the case of each of these agencies, the Budgetary Control Committee has failed to approve expenditure for 2010.

In recent years the number of agencies has grown explosively , with twenty-five of the forty-two having been instituted since 2000. Earlier this month a secret report from the European Court of Auditors containing strong criticisms of the functioning of the EU agencies was leaked to the Budgetary Control Committee. Last rear Radboud University, in a study commissioned by the SP, echoed these criticisms.

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