Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Costs of EU agencies go through the roof

The EU has created a number of agencies for various apparently worthy causes. Not surprisingly, however, the budgets of these agencies have gone through the roof – so much so, indeed, that the European Parliament has started to raise concerns and has criticised the European Commission sharply. The Chairman of the Budget Control Commission of the European Parliament, the Austrian Social Democrat, Herbert Bösch, has said, “The agency-itis in the EU is gobbling up our money and it operates in a control-free space.” EU agencies are usually free-standing authorities which deal with specific subjects like professional training or drug addiction. They are financed by taxpayers’ money. There are currently twenty-three EU agencies and they consume a billion euros a year, according to Bösch. The last seven years the number of employees in these agencies has risen from 166 to 3,737. Bösch says, “The number of EU agencies has risen dramatically in recent years. There is no proper control over whether all these agencies are really necessary.” He cites the new agency for fundamental rights in Vienna, which has started off with 100 employees. It is supposed to oversee the protection of human rights in the EU but this is already done by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the Council of Europe to which it belongs. Bösch says, “A culture of irresponsibility is gaining ground. I really cannot see anyone who is taking responsibility for this.” No one knows who is in control of what. Bösch says, “There is hardly a European Council any more at which a new agency is not created.”

This is not the only aspect of the Commission’s policy which has attracted the attention and criticism of the Parliament committee. The number of permanent employees at the European Commission has increased by 16 per cent in the last seven years and now stands at 19,004. “The need for the majority of the new jobs is unproven,” according to the speaker of the European People’s Party parliamentary group in the European Parliament, Inge Gräßle. There are now fewer than 1,200 employees of the Commission who are responsible for “communication”. Yet the Commission’s image is worse than ever. When Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU at the beginning of this year, the Commission recruited 741 new employees, supposedly to enforce the single market. Mrs Gräßle, however, says that this means that the pension costs of the Commission will go through the roof, becoming a huge burden for taxpayers. “In 2008 alone, the cost of pension payments has risen by more than 10 per cent.” [Handelsblatt, 19 July 2007]

---- An excerpt from John Laughland's Intelligence Digest. For a free e-mail subscription to the Intelligence Digest, please click here ----

No comments: