We need a bonfire of EU quangos - says MEP
by Marina Yannakoudakis
Allegations of corruption, duplication and a revolving door with industry continue to dog the EU's 52 quangos - reveals MEP
There are currently 52 European Union quangos covering everything from drug addiction to maritime safety. In 2003, there were fewer than 20, but there has been a vast proliferation of EU agencies with the costs of running dozens of separate bodies across the European Union ballooning to €2.64 billion. The EU is currently requesting inflation-busting budget increases. I am opposed to any budget rise and would prefer instead for savings to be sought in the operating budgets of the EU institutions. The European Parliament should take the lead in tightening its belt, but most of my fellow legislators do not share my enthusiasm for cutting costs by getting rid of the European House of History, Europarl TV and, of course, the exorbitant monthly pilgrimages to Strasbourg.
In addition to slashing the EP's budget, I am sure that we can make savings by reducing the budgets of the various EU agencies; especially those which duplicate the work of member states, the European Commission and, worst of all, each other. European Conservatives and Reformists MEPs yesterday voted against granting discharge to those agencies for which it was recommended, and we supported the proposals to postpone discharge for three agencies - which have problems relating to public procurement, poor management and potential conflicts of interest. The support proved crucial in postponing the discharge for the environment, food safety and medicines agencies with the larger groups split on whether or not to sanction these agencies.
We must root out corruption in all institutions including the EU agencies. It is not appropriate for agencies to have a "revolving door" policy where agency staff move in and out of industry and lobbying positions. The European Environment Agency has been particularly egregious in the way the director used EU funds to pay for research trips to the Caribbean and Mediterranean for a non-governmental organisation of which she was a board member. The same director also paid almost €300,000 to cover the fašade of the agency's headquarters with plants.
In addition to corruption and waste, duplication is a major problem for the agencies. As ECR spokesman for women's rights and gender equality - I see no value-added in the European Institute for Gender Equality, for example. We are wasting €7m a year on a folly which duplicates the work of member states, the commission's directorate-general employment and another EU agency: the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, an agency which I also believe should be abolished. And does the EU really need three training agencies? There is an enormous amount of duplication in the work of the European Training Foundation and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training. And the two agencies' activities overlap with those of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.
I work closely with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control as the EP Environment Committee's contact point. I support the work of the agency, but I am still worried about duplication with the commission's services as well as problems with budget carry-overs and recruitment procedures. The British government, when faced with austerity, promised a bonfire of the quangos. Winding up advisory bodies and agencies in the United Kingdom is set to save the country more than £2bn. The EU needs to light its own quango bonfire and we need to think about whether 52 different – or, in some cases, not so different - agencies is a luxury which we can continue to afford.
Marina Yannakoudakis is a Conservative Party MEP for London, in the United Kingdom