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The Parliament imposes a certain transparency of the “Defence” budget of the EU


(B2) We knew that the budget for the CFSP (common foreign and security policy) of the European Union had already caused some tensions between the European Parliament and the Council, notably under Javier Solana. Parliament began by refusing to grant its budgetary discharge (read: Parliament unhappy with the lack of transparency of the CFSP/ESDP budget). On May 19, he ended up granting the precious “discharge” so hoped for by any European political leader. But the deputies are not giving up. In a resolution, which has just been adopted (June 15), they reiterate their request for more information from the Council and welcome the promise of the Spanish presidency to review the “gentlemen's agreement”.

A dated agreement

According to this gentleman's agreement dating from 1970 (at the time when Europe was mainly that of Agriculture, Coal and Steel), each of the legislative institutions responsible for the budget (the Council for the Member States; the European Parliament on the other) undertook not to look into the other's administrative expenditure. But with the development of “ever more operational” activities of the Council's expenditure at the level of foreign affairs, security and defense policy (as well as justice and home affairs), MEPs consider this agreement obsolete. There is also a divergence of interpretation. The Council, for its part, emphasizes that MEPs should not examine the implementation of the Council's budget. Parliament considers that this non-intervention agreement was valid, where applicable, for the approval of the budget but not for the ex post control of expenditure.

Recommendation 1: Review the “gentlemen’s agreement”

Under pressure from MEPs, the Council, represented by the Spanish Presidency, agreed to re-examine the “gentlemen's agreement”. The purpose of this resolution is thus to set the conditions for the European Parliament (in the meantime). Until now, the only
Meetings between the two institutions on discharge consisted of informal lunches with the President of the committee, the rapporteur and representatives of the Council. A bit light for Parliament! In 2009, the Council agreed to meet representatives of Parliament… in September (actually at the last moment). In 2010, further progress was made by the meeting with the General Secretariat of the Council, the Spanish Presidency and representatives of the EP which took place in March. And, the Spanish Secretary of State, Diego López Garrido, participates in the public debate on the discharge in plenary in Strasbourg in April. Parliament would like this to become the rule: prior presentation and public debate.

Claim 2: More information, in general

The European Parliament therefore demands that this expenditure be “verified in the same way as that of other institutions of the European Union”.
To carry out this control, Parliament considers that it needs more information:
– the accounts for the past financial year relating to budget operations;
– a financial statement describing assets and liabilities;
– an annual activity report concerning their budgetary and financial management;
– the annual report of the internal auditor;
– an oral presentation made during the meeting of the budgetary control committee.

Recommendation 3: Full control of (civilian) defense spending

The European Parliament "invite” thus the Council to present to it, by the end of the 2008 discharge procedure (NB: October), “concrete, detailed and comprehensive plans on the staffing, organization chart and control structures of the EEAS, including Union military personnel, the Situation Center (Sitcen), the Crisis Management Directorate and planning” of the General Secretariat of the Council (CMPD), the civilian capacity for planning and conduct of operations (CPCC), as well as all the staff of the General Secretariat working on foreign and security policy files, which notably implement evidence both the increase and breakdown of staff and the anticipated budgetary implications”.

Comment: In short, the PeSDC operations sector leaves the terrain of obscurity for that of a certain transparency and a minimum of democratic control.

Text of the resolution to download

(photo credit: European Parliament)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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