EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - As European leaders prepare to discuss the size of next year's EU budget at a summit in Brussels this week (28-29 October), new data has underlined the growing cost of the bloc's many agencies.
According to figures compiled by the British eurosceptic think-tank Open Europe, the expense of running EU agencies has tripled since 2005 and is set to reach €2.4 billion in 2011.
The fresh analysis comes at a time of rising discord between member states and EU institutions over spending, with the European Parliament last week calling for a 5.9 percent increase in the EU's 2011 budget, despite widespread cutbacks in member states.
Cash-strapped national capitals have already indicated they view a 2.9 percent increase as the limit under current economic conditions, with tough talks between the two sides set to kick off on Wednesday.
"European taxpayers are right to question why they should bankroll the EU's mushrooming bureaucracy when they themselves are being asked to tighten their belts," said Open Europe analyst Sian Herbert.
"Many of these agencies are mere talking shops or deal with issues that shouldn't concern the EU in the first place," he added.
EU agencies are specialised bodies, generally of a technical nature, designed to support EU member states and the institutions. Earlier this month, MEPs refused to sign off the 2008 budget of the European Police College (Cepol) on the grounds that it "has yet to meet good standards of administration."
Discussion on changing the EU's recently implemented Lisbon Treaty is also set to be a hot talking point at this week's summit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently secured the support of French President Nicolas Sarkozy for a reopening of the EU rulebook, but Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Ireland and several other countries are decidedly reluctant, reports the Irish Times.
Berlin insists that attempts at forming a permanent European rescue mechanism would require a change to the Lisbon Treaty, as would a debt restructuring mechanism for member states and a system of political sanctions for governments that break EU deficit limits, both topics Ms Merkel's administration is keen to address.
Others are unhappy about the prospect however, with EU treaty changes likely to require referenda in a number of member states.