Mr President, Mr Chatzimarkakis, Rapporteurs, Honourable Members,
First, allow me to thank the Budget Control Committee, and in particular the rapporteur Mr Chatzimarkakis, for the report he has drawn up and for the recommendation that the budget for 2009 should be discharged.
I would also like to thank Mr Staes for his report on the implementation of the European Development Fund and Mr Stavrakakis for his report on agencies.
The 2009 discharge procedure is now reaching its end. It was an intensive period in which Parliament has scrutinized the Commission implementation in the financial year 2009. You have heard the Court of Auditors and examined its reports. Several of my fellow Commissioners have been quizzed by the Committee on Budgetary Control and a lot of information has been shared with you.
In my view, the dialogue we have had with the Parliament, in particular with the Committee on Budgetary Control and Mr Chatzimarkakis and fellow Rapporteurs, proved to be fruitful and constructive.
Obviously, it was also the view taken by the Committee on Budgetary Control when it proposed by an overwhelming majority last month that Parliament grants the Commission discharge for its implementation of the budget. The Commission is grateful for this encouraging judgement.
The closing discharge procedure has allowed the Commission, at a time when we are considering the future design of the EU policies and their reflection in the EU budget, to learn from the conclusions and recommendations of the European Court of Auditors and the resolution of the discharge authority.
I would like to add a few words on three topics of special interest that have also been raised in the course of the discharge discussion. I think that these issues are closely linked to the agenda on audit and anti-fraud I presented one year ago. Resolving these issues would help prevent errors by improving financial management.
First, both the Commission and the Parliament need to reflect closely - together with the Council - on how the responsibility of the various financial actors can be better defined and outlined in the legislative framework. In this respect, the starting point is that the main bulk of errors are detected by the Court of Auditors and the Commission in projects and payments managed by Member States. This is indeed a trend that we have witnessed in the past and that will still exist in the future as Member States are implementing almost eighty percent of the European Funds.
Since - after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty - Article three hundred seventeen explicitly requires the cooperation of Member States in the implementation of the budget, their responsibility should be translated into and anchored in the Financial Regulation. To this effect, the Commission has put forward consistent proposals in the context of the current revision of this Regulation. As the Parliament is now on an equal footing with the Council for recasting this Regulation, there is a real and unique opportunity for reinforcing Member States' accountability, and it should not be missed.
Second, you will undoubtedly share the view that complexity of rules discourages potential beneficiaries to apply for EU financial support. In addition, this complexity constitutes a significant source of errors as underscored by the Court of Auditors in several of its audit reports.
That is the reason for which the simplification of eligibility rules and financial processes is a priority objective of the Commission in the perspective of the next Multiannual Financial Framework - post 2013. Therefore, the Commission has also made proposals in the revision of the Financial Regulation aiming at clarifying the rules, ensuring their consistency with the sectoral legislation, and simplifying financial processes.
Third, these proposals also foresee differentiated control strategies following the level of risk estimated per programme, action and type of beneficiary. This approach aims at reducing the administrative costs for all beneficiaries and actors involved in the management and control of EU funded projects. I am happy to see that this approach is high on the agenda of the ongoing discussions and the proposals which are on the table really match the Commission ambitions.
Mr President, Honourable Members,
The discussions on these proposals are entering a critical phase. I know that it will not be easy to agree on every point. I also know that my colleague Janusz will do his utmost to get to an agreement that will allow our stakeholders to rely on effective and efficient programmes and control mechanisms.
Let me conclude by expressing my special thanks to the European Parliament for its continuous support over years of the Commission’s effort toward a better financial management of the European Union’s budget.