MEPs postpone clearing Council accounts, 2009 repeat looming
By Gaspard Sebag | Tuesday 27 March 2012
The stalemate between the European Parliament and the Council over the latter institution’s discharge drags on. On 27 March, members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) decided to postpone okaying the Council’s 2010 accounts, although they noted that payments were free from material error. MEPs say the purpose of the postponement is to reach an agreement with the Danish EU Presidency on the key aspects of the procedure. A repeat of last year’s fiasco appears, however, likely.
In October 2011, a large majority of deputies voted against granting the Council’s 2009 discharge. Arguing that the plenary can only grant one discharge, not individual ones, according to the treaty, the Council considers its accounts were cleared at the same time as the Commission’s ones, in May 2011. Parliament - with the support of the Commission - disputes this and says the Council’s interpretation runs against a practice dating back to 1995. No further steps have been taken, however, despite a threat by Crescenzio Rivellini (EPP, Italy), rapporteur on the Council’s 2009 dischargeto drag the Council to court.
This year round, if the plenary follows the CONT committee’s lead and grants the Commission discharge in May, then the Council is bound to argue its accounts are thus cleared too, says an EU source.
Much like the Hungarian EU Presidency, Copenhagen claims to want to reach an agreement with Parliament on a long-term method based on “mutual transparency and accountability” to deal with the discharge procedure and calls for an end to the gentlemen’s agreement, dating back to 1970, which foresees that EP and Council do not scrutinise each other’s budget sections. So far the Parliament, with whom the mutual transparency requirement does not sit well, has not nominated a negotiating team and talks are at a standstill. n