May 23. 2024. 7:48

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The Brief – The fallacy of EU Parliament’s budget discharges

The European Parliament will vote on the Council’s 2022 financial discharge during the last plenary session of this term, starting next week. Is the Council holding its breath? Not at all.

The Parliament has been rejecting the Council’s budget discharge – its annual financial accounts – since 2009 over legal disagreements on the process, as well as the former’s tendency to mix up what should be a routine financial audit with wider political topics.

While the Council believes the discharge is given to the Commission-allocated budget as a whole, the Parliament believes it can break it down to one per EU organisation or institution.

“The European Parliament has developed over the years an additional practice of pronouncing itself on policies and activities of other institutions in general. The Council believes that this goes far beyond the scope of budgetary discharge,” an EU official said.

And they may have a point.

The Parliament refused on 11 April to approve the 2022 budget discharge for the Council and the rest of the institutions until countries agree to send Patriot missile systems to Ukraine.

“What I find scandalous is that Europe, which is opening the door for Ukraine, and the European Council are not even capable in such an urgency to decide to send a number of anti-missile systems to Ukraine,” liberal MEP and former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt said before proposing to delay the discharges.

On top of that, an amendment was added to the discharge report calling on the Commission to rescind the controversial appointment of Markus Pieper as the SME Envoy, a move that goes directly against the wish of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The Parliament will ultimately decide on it during the upcoming Strasbourg plenary – and will most likely reject the one for the Council.

What do a controversial appointment and anti-missile systems for Ukraine have to do with a budget audit? Little. Does the delay in the approval of the budget discharge matter? Not really.

As I was saying, the EU Council has seen its discharge rejected for the last 13 years without consequence, and it is not holding its breath for the upcoming vote in the plenary.

Simply, there are no consequences.

Solutions to make the discharge useful, according to the Parliament, could include treaty reform, an interinstitutional agreement, or the involvement of the Court of Justice of the European Union to shed light on the meaning of the relevant treaty articles.

However, for the moment, this remains a frozen political conflict, and discharges remain a simple political stunt for the Parliament to air its frustrations, to no great avail.

The Roundup

European Union diplomats have been negotiating ‘how positive’ the message they send to Turkey at the EU summit on Thursday should be and whether it should offer something tangible to Ankara, Euractiv has learnt.

The backlash against EU green policies is set to continue, with plans to revive farmers’ protests ahead of June’s European elections and an expected surge in support for the far-right in rural areas.

EU leaders meeting in Brussels will call for the bloc’s competitiveness to be boosted primarily by easing regulatory requirements and leveraging the power of private capital, according to the latest draft conclusions of the 17-18 April summit and a senior EU official familiar with the discussions.

The EU space market should be integrated, because the European space industry is no longer adequate to compete in the current global space economy, Italian MP Enrico Letta (PD, S&D) wrote in his draft full report as seen by Euractiv.

Avian influenza vaccination cannot completely immunise birds, the European Food Safety Authority said in a report published on 17 April, as France banked on it to reduce bird culling, ensure the continuation of exports, and reduce the disease’s economic impact.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Tuesday a ban on bottom trawling in the country’s marine protected areas (MPAs), the first such fishing ban in Europe.

Germans must work longer hours and retire later to increase economic growth, the heads of the employers’ federation, BDA, and Deutsche Bank said on Tuesday.

Road safety experts met at the 2024 EU Road Safety Conference event in Dublin on Tuesday to discuss how best to mitigate the human impacts of serious injuries, focusing on ideas like mandatory first-aid lessons, better driver training, and improved post-crash health care.

The lead EU election candidates from the main French parties debated the Green Deal on Tuesday in Angers, expressing fundamentally different views on how Europe should decarbonise.

For more policy news, check out this week’s Green Brief and the Health Brief.

Look out for…

  • Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni takes part in spring meetings of World Bank/IMF in Washington on Tuesday-Friday.
  • Special European Council Wednesday-Thursday.
  • Commissioner Thierry Breton in Slovenia, meets with Defence Minister Marjan Šarec on Thursday.
  • Informal meeting of consumer protection ministers, Thursday-Friday.

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