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Ashton's watchword for his services: save 10%

(BRUSSELS2) “ No one is more aware of the need to save money than I am explained Catherine Ashton recently to British parliamentarians in the House of Lords on June 14, who questioned her about her budget. " I gave the order to arrive at savings of 10% on the budget that I control. »

An order – we were able to verify – which was indeed passed on internally. It is even hammered one could say. Impossible to forget it. Each department or unit is asked to find 10% budget savings and budget items. Which sometimes has unequal consequences. The services which operated, sometimes in duplicate, at the Commission and the Council will not have too much difficulty; which will be more difficult for services that are already under-resourced (notably crisis management services).

A concern for savings at all levels

This concern for savings is indeed general in the mind of the High Representative. “We need to consider the most efficient use of the resources we have, looking for all ways to save money – for example using video conferencing rather than travelling. I also started reviewing what we have overseas. We have rentals, properties. All this I inherited. We need to do some serious review work on what we need, where, what works best and how to make sure we have the right people in the right place. »

Inheritance does not allow room for maneuver

Regarding the staff, she claims to be stuck. “I can't control the administrative budget. Quite simply because when the service was created, staff was brought to me by the various institutions. I inherited from them. They were available there, high quality people. But there was no wiggle room on numbers and they all had to be paid.” Additional problem: the budget was not commensurate with the personnel transferred. “The amount transferred with them does not match the amount where I pay them. (…) You have to increase the budget just to be able to pay them the amount they expect to be paid. It's a flat budget as far as I'm concerned. I don't give them extra. (…) I have no leeway. I cannot send them elsewhere, they are mine for the time that remains and I must pay for them.."

The building, a question of priority

As for the building issue, it is a priority. “One of the first milestones” which will allow more efficiency and the High Representative hopes to resolve it quickly. “ The staff is located in eight buildings. It's not good to work together. And that is also expensive. " I hope to make economies of scale (…) by bringing everyone together in one building”

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).

2 thoughts on “Ashton's watchword for his services: save 10%"

  • William Belmont

    Saving, yes, we can and we must do it. But the 10% flat rate imposed on all services is nonsense. The budget is a strategic instrument and since the creation of the service it has become clear that some services are too well endowed and others not enough. As for the missions: not traveling for pleasure, of course. But don't forget, too, that it is essential to be visible on the ground. Not easy when a Delegation's mission budget has been limited to trips considered “essential” according to a very restrictive definition. In practice, this means that we most often answer “no” to the requests made… Not really good diplomacy!

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