Expenditure on EU quangos has more than tripled over the past six years, we cannot afford to see this rise further – warns MEP
In May, I wrote an article for PublicServiceEurope.com
about my longing for a 'bonfire of EU quangoes'
. As the various committees of the European Parliament discuss the EU Budget for 2013, I fear that MEPs are pouring water on the kindling rather than vigorously rubbing two sticks together in the hope of producing a spark.
The European Parliament's Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee yesterday voted on its opinion of the EU's 2013 draft budget. As part of the budgetary scrutiny procedure, I submitted an amendment which would have removed all funding for the European Institute for Gender Equality. My opposite number from the Labour Party, Mary Honeyball, submitted an amendment calling for the European Commission's inflation-busting 7.1 per cent increase to the institute's budget to be maintained. It came as a disappointment, although no surprise, when committee members voted against my amendment and in favour of the spending hike.
These are increases which we can ill-afford. The 52 EU agencies are costing the taxpayer more than €3bn a year. Many of these agencies are inefficient, unnecessary and unaccountable. I am not saying that the work of the EIGE has no value; my problem is that it duplicates the work of member states, the work of the commission's Directorate General Employment and the work of another EU agency: the European Agency for Fundamental Rights. Its statistics-gathering functions could easily be taken over by the commission's Eurostat Directorate-General.
It is not the only quango, which is duplicating the work of one of its counterparts. There are two EU agencies dealing with training, two which focus on working conditions and two agencies working on food safety. This bald-faced duplication is shameless. We must urgently seek to abolish a great number of these EU quangos and to seek efficiency savings from the rest.
I recently visited the European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki and was shocked to discover that a body set up to manage the administrative aspects of the REACH chemical registration system will not be wound down at the end of the registration period. Instead, the commission has given the agency new competences in the field of biocides. The agency recruited two new senior officials to deal with biocides just this year. Their annual salaries are in excess of €120,000 per person.
Will it ever be possible to strike the match that will ignite the bonfire of the EU quangos? I hope that, with pressure from citizens, the EU will begin to seek radical reductions in the agencies' budgets including possible closures. Given the current economic crisis, it is not appropriate to use EU agencies as trinkets to present to member states - in order to sweeten a deal during complicated negotiations at a European Council. My apologies to Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia - which are the only EU member states without an EU agency.
In tough times we need to make tough decisions. While compromise and conciliation are at the heart of policy-making in Europe, we must not do deals which increase the burden on the taxpayer. The recent decision to split the sites of the "unified" Patent Court is one such example. While I welcome the fact that my constituency of London will be responsible for patents to deal with pharmaceuticals and life sciences - the uncomfortable division between London, Paris and Munich brings to mind another EU institution inconveniently split across three sites: the European Parliament.
We need to look carefully at the relevance of the decentralised and executive EU agencies as well as the increasingly extraneous "advisory bodies", the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Expenditure on EU quangos has more than tripled over the past six years. We cannot afford to see this rise further and I hope that other committees will have the wisdom to reject above-inflation increases to the budgets of the EU agencies.