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Document 52023BP1869

Resolution (EU) 2023/1869 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) for the financial year 2021

OJ L 242, 29.9.2023, p. 261–265 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, GA, HR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)




Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/261


of 10 May 2023

with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) for the financial year 2021


having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control for the financial year 2021,

having regard to Rule 100 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the Special Report No 13/2022 of the Court of Auditors,

having regard to the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0146/2023),


whereas, according to its statement of revenue and expenditure (1), the final budget of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (the ‘Centre’) for the financial year 2021 was EUR 168 115 000, representing an increase of 169,03 % compared to 2020, due to new activities assigned to the Centre with the launch of the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA); whereas approximately 98,74 % of the Centre’s budget derives from the Union budget;


whereas the Court of Auditors (the ‘Court’), in its report on the Centre’s annual accounts for the financial year 2021 (the ‘Court’s report’), states that it has obtained reasonable assurance that the Centre’s annual accounts are reliable and that the underlying transactions are legal and regular;

Budget and financial management


Notes with satisfaction that the budget monitoring efforts during the financial year 2021 resulted in a budget implementation rate of current year commitment appropriations of 99,35 %, representing an increase of 2,58 % compared to 2020; notes that the current year payment appropriations execution rate was 64,08 %, representing a decrease of 11,18 % compared to the previous year;


Notes that, in 2021, the implementation of the Centre’s Strategy 2021-2027 was slow due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to the new obligations imposed on the Centre in the context of the establishment of HERA; calls on the Commission to grant to the Centre the necessary resources to fulfil the objectives of the Strategy 2021-2027 and to implement the Centre’s mandate in accordance with the revised Regulation (EC) No 851/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council (2);



Commends the Centre’s continuous work on the COVID-19 pandemic, and, in particular, the improvement of the processes related to public health events, based on the lessons learned from the pandemic and international benchmarking; notes, however, that the implementation of some outputs in the Centre’s public health emergency plan was postponed;


Notes that the Centre delivered 74 % of the outputs planned in its Single Programming Document 2021–2023; notes that 16 % of the Centre’s planned outputs had not yet started at the end of 2021 or were delayed; notes that most of the delays in delivering the planned 2021 outputs were due to the high COVID-19 pandemic-related workload of the Centre, in Member States and/or partner organisations; notes that, in 2021, the Centre was involved in many activities connected to COVID-19, such as the conduct of epidemiological surveillance related to COVID-19, and publication of scientific guidance to support public health decision-making, amongst others;


Notes the Centre’s efforts in relation to the preparation of the structure for HERA, and the request for the Centre to support Member States in setting up and/or expanding their whole genome sequencing capacities and capabilities through grants;


Notes that the Centre continues to develop and implement a new indicator-based European surveillance system in EpiPulse with the aim of progressively covering COVID-19 and all other diseases and health conditions under the Union’s surveillance; calls on the Centre to inform the discharge authority continuously on the development of that system;


Notes that the Centre held its third joint strategy meeting with its key stakeholders in 2021, and that the themes for discussion were chosen based on the third external evaluation amongst others;


Welcomes the collaboration of the Centre with other Union agencies, such as the collaboration with the European Medicines Authority (EMA) to establish a new vaccine monitoring platform; notes that the Centre has extended its goal of increasing health security in the Union to strengthen cooperation and coordination between the Centre and partners in non-Union countries;


Welcomes the fact that the Centre continues to share best practices and regularly works with other Union agencies, most notably the European Food Safety Authority, EMA and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction; acknowledges, furthermore, that the Centre participates in interinstitutional procurement procedures organised by other Union agencies; encourages the Centre to actively seek further and broader cooperation with relevant organisations and associations, national competent bodies and international organisations such as the World Health Organization, while avoiding any duplication of existing guidelines;

Staff policy


Notes that, on 31 December 2021, the establishment plan was 95,2 % implemented, with 198 temporary agents appointed out of 208 temporary agents authorised under the Union budget (compared to 180 authorised posts in 2020); notes that, in addition, 112 contract agents and 5 seconded national experts worked for the Centre in 2021;


Notes with concern the lack of gender balance within the Centre’s senior management, with four out of six (66,67 %) being men; notes the gender balance distribution among the Centre’s overall staff, with 170 out of 271 (62,73 %) being women; calls on the Centre to take concrete measures to achieve gender balance at all levels of the Centre’s hierarchy as soon as possible and report back to the discharge authority; recalls also the importance of ensuring a balanced geographical representation among the Centre’s management and staff;


Notes that the Centre has a policy on protecting the dignity of the person and preventing harassment; welcomes the fact that in addition to the intranet webpage on ‘Respectful Working environment’, the Centre provided new and existing staff with an online ‘Welcome programme’ that explains the policy and definitions of harassment and how to report cases of harassment; takes note that in 2021 no harassment cases were reported, concluded internally or taken before the Court of Justice of the European Union; notes, moreover, that a project on respect in the workplace was launched in 2021;


Notes that the Centre was provided with 73 additional posts to be recruited during the period 2021 to 2024 (compared to 46 posts for 2021) due to the prolonged sanitary crisis and the impact of the large HERA grant that the Centre received in 2021; notes, moreover, that as a consequence the 20 short-term contract agent posts assigned to the Centre in 2020 are expected to be phased out by 2023;


Recalls the importance of developing a long-term human resources policy on work-life balance, lifelong guidance and the offer of specific training possibilities for career development, gender balance at all staff levels, teleworking, the right to disconnect, the enhancement of a geographical balance to have an appropriate representation from all Member States, and the recruitment and integration of people with disabilities as well as ensuring that they are treated equally and that their opportunities are widely promoted;



Notes that the Centre concluded a total of 257 contracts in 2021, covering 21 framework contracts, 14 direct contracts and 131 specific contracts; notes that the Centre also concluded 27 framework partnership agreements, 24 action grants to national public health authorities, and 40 specific grant agreements in 2021; notes that the Centre has joined 20 interinstitutional and inter agency contracts, which result from procurement procedures carried out by other entities and under which the Centre may purchase products or services;

Prevention and management of conflicts of interest, and transparency


Notes the Centre’s existing measures and ongoing efforts to secure transparency, and for the prevention and management of conflicts of interest, and whistleblower protection; notes with appreciation the concrete three-stage assessment of the presence of potential conflicts, such as the collection of declarations of interests, revision, and assessment of any identified conflicts and a decision on appropriate action to ensure the independence of the Centre; notes, moreover, that according to the replies to the standard questionnaire, the Centre had no actual conflicts of interest reported to its Declarations of Interests Review Committee in 2021;


Notes that, in 2021, the Centre was in the process of implementing its internal procedure on conflicts of interest for staff, and that the compliance officer and human resources section collaborate on implementing that procedure; calls on the Centre to report on the developments in this regard;


Insists on the need to put in place more systematic rules on transparency, incompatibilities, conflicts of interest, illegal lobbying and revolving doors; calls on the Centre to strengthen its internal control mechanisms, including the setting up of an internal anticorruption mechanism;


Points to the strategic inquiry launched by the European Ombudsman, and concluded in 2021, into how the Centre gathered and communicated information during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on the early stage of the crisis; regrets the European Ombudsman’s findings that the Centre did not dispose of sufficient measures to obtain all necessary information from Member States; welcomes the steps taken by the Centre to put in place measures to make it easier for the public to follow the evolution of its scientific advice and to see the data underlying its scientific assessments; calls on the Centre to ensure full transparency in publishing scientific studies and to enhance its external communications capacity as regards the general public by ensuring that all key information, especially related to public health emergencies is available in all Union languages and easily accessible to Union citizens;

Internal control


Notes that the final report of the Internal Audit Service (IAS) in relation to its audit on human resource management and ethics in the Centre in 2020 was received by the Centre in January 2021; notes that the audit resulted in four recommendations, two of which were classified as very important and two as important, and that the Centre implemented one recommendation and the implementation of the other three was planned for the end of 2022; calls on the Centre to report to the discharge authority on the implementation of the actions planned; notes, moreover, that in 2021, the IAS performed a limited review of the implementation of the new internal control framework, and that the audit made four recommendations, all of which were classified as important; calls on the Centre to report to the discharge authority on any development in that regard;


Notes that the Centre’s 2021 self-assessment regarding the implementation of the internal control framework showed that the internal control system is in place and functioning, but some improvements are needed; notes, in particular, the objective of the Centre to develop an internal communications policy based on the overall Centre communication policy 2021-2027, including communication on the objectives and responsibilities of internal control; calls on the Centre to report to the discharge authority on the developments in that regard;


Recalls the importance of strengthening management and control systems to ensure the proper functioning of the Centre; strongly insists on the need for effective management and control systems to avoid potential conflicts of interest, missing ex-ante/ex-post controls, inadequate management of budgetary and legal commitments, and failures to report issues in the register of exceptions;

Digitalisation and the green transition


Notes that the Centre’s premises is certified as a ‘Green building’ and that, furthermore, it has received the environmental certification ‘BREEAM Very Good in use’ in 2020; welcomes the fact that the Centre’s electricity is 100 % provided by hydro-powered energy; notes that the Centre finalised the first phase of the implementation of its environmental management system based on the European Eco-Management Audit Scheme (EMAS); calls on the Centre to report to the discharge authority on any development in that regard;


Welcomes the fact that during the period from 2020 to 2022 the Centre was able to retrieve and disseminate COVID-19 epidemiological data worldwide through an automation of web searching; welcomes the collaboration within the European Health Data Space and the preparation of a pilot project;


Notes that, in 2021, the Centre continued to be attacked by cybercriminals and hacktivists, and that in response the Centre implemented additional cyber-security measures, such as Microsoft Defender, forensic tools for deep analysis, an information security management system and privilege access/identity management; notes that the Centre has created a cybersecurity policy and also increased its IT security staffing and notes, furthermore, that the Centre was in the process of setting up a security authority; calls on the Centre to follow the recommendations made by the Court in its special report on Cybersecurity of EU institutions, bodies and agencies (EUIBAs) (3), in which the Court asks EUIBAs to have an IT security risk management framework covering the entirety of their IT infrastructure and carry out regular risk assessments, and to provide systematic awareness training for all staff, including management; in this context welcomes the recently adopted cybersecurity policy covering all aspects from business needs and wants, to people skills and awareness and to technical security; calls on the Centre to report to the discharge authority on any developments in that regard;


Recalls the importance of increasing the digitalisation of the Centre in terms of internal operation and management but also in order to speed up the digitalisation of procedures; invites the Centre to switch to paper-less document management and internal processes where possible; stresses the need for the Centre to continue to be proactive in this regard in order to avoid a digital gap between the agencies; draws attention, however, to the need to take all the necessary security measures to avoid any risk to the online security of the information processed;


Encourages the Centre to work in close cooperation with ENISA (European Union Agency for Cybersecurity) and CERT-EU (Computer Emergency Response Team for the Union Institutions, bodies and agencies) and to carry out regular risk assessments of its IT infrastructure and to ensure regular audits and tests are carried out on its cyber defences; suggests to offer regularly updated cybersecurity-related training programmes to all staff members, including management, as a key element in an effective cybersecurity framework within the Centre;

Business continuity during the COVID-19 crisis


Welcomes the Centre’s commitment to keeping the start date of the Centre’s Fellowship Programme for Cohort 2021, which provides a direct contribution to strengthening response capacity to tackle cross-border threats, through the provision of all-online modules;


Welcomes the fact that, throughout 2021, the Centre continued to be highly involved in the work to curb the COVID-19 pandemic; notes that the Centre’s main activities during this period were related to the support of vaccination strategies and vaccine deployment plans, the application of surveillance and epidemic intelligence, behavioural insights into vaccination acceptance and uptake, the assessment of risks and concerns and the establishment of a COVID-19 forecasting hub; underlines that the Centre conducted and published 22 rapid risk/outbreak assessments and responded to over 600 requests from stakeholders; notes that the Centre also continued the production of the weekly COVID-19 policy briefs and the publication of maps in support of the Council Recommendation on a coordinated approach to travel measures in the EU;


Notes that, in 2021, the Centre finalised the implementation of the recommendations from ‘The external strategic and performance review of the ECDC response to COVID-19’ carried out by the Centre in 2020;

Other comments


Notes that the Court, in its Special Report No 13/2022 (4), found that the Centre does not comprehensively assess the usefulness and impact of its guidance and calls on the Centre to obtain regular feedback from its stakeholders to fill this gap;


Welcomes the fact that the Centre continued to have a high level of attention in the media, social media and through its websites in 2021, in connection with the natural evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic; notes that the Centre’s website had over 18 million page views in 2021, a decrease compared to 32 million in 2020; notes that the Centre’s press and media team handled 963 media requests, as opposed to approximately 1 917 the year before; notes that the Centre observed an increase of 18 % in the number of followers on Twitter and a 44 % increase in the number of fans and followers on Facebook; encourages the Centre to continue this trend and to consider sharing the best practices among other Union agencies to maximise dissemination of their activities among the general public;


Welcomes the Centre’s active engagement in the Joint Action TERROR addressing gaps in the health preparedness of the Member States and to strengthen response to biological and chemical terror attacks; calls on the Centre to further increase its commitment to addressing security threats;


Calls on the Centre to continue to develop its synergies (for instance human resources, building management, IT services and security), its cooperation and its exchange of good practices with other Union agencies with a view to improving efficiency;


Refers, for other observations of a cross-cutting nature accompanying its decision on discharge, to its resolution of 10 May 2023 (5) on the performance, financial management and control of the agencies.

(1)   OJ C 141, 29.3.2022, p. 39.

(2)  Regulation (EC) No 851/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 establishing a European Centre for disease prevention and control (OJ L 142, 30.4.2004, p. 1).

(3)  Special Report No 05/2022 ‘Cybersecurity of EU institutions, bodies and agencies: Level of preparedness overall not commensurate with the threats’, p. 44.

(4)  Special Report No 13/2022 ‘Free movement in the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic: Limited scrutiny of internal border controls, and uncoordinated actions by Member States’, p. 41.

(5)  Texts adopted, P9_TA(2023)0190.