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Document L:2023:242:FULL

Official Journal of the European Union, L 242, 29 September 2023


Display all documents published in this Official Journal
 

ISSN 1977-0677

Official Journal

of the European Union

L 242

European flag  

English edition

Legislation

Volume 66
29 September 2023


Contents

 

II   Non-legislative acts

page

 

 

DECISIONS

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1813 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section I – European Parliament

1

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1814 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 general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section I – European Parliament

3

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1815 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section II – European Council and Council

36

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1816 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 general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section II – European Council and Council

37

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1817 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission

45

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1818 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency (Chafea) for the financial year 2021

47

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1819 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency – CINEA (before 1 April 2021 the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency) for the financial year 2021

49

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1820 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Education and Culture Executive Agency – EACEA (before 1 April 2021 the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency) for the financial year 2021

51

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1821 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency – Eismea (before 1 April 2021 the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) for the financial year 2021

53

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1822 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA) for the financial year 2021

55

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1823 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HADEA) for the financial year 2021

57

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1824 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Research Executive Agency – REA (before 1 April 2021 the Research Executive Agency) for the financial year 2021

59

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1825 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 with observations forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and executive agencies

61

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1826 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission

97

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1827 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section IV – Court of Justice of the European Union

99

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1828 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 general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section IV – Court of Justice of the European Union

100

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1829 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section V – Court of Auditors

110

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1830 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 general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section V – Court of Auditors

111

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1831 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section VI – European Economic and Social Committee

123

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1832 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 general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section VI – European Economic and Social Committee

124

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1833 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section VII – Committee of the Regions

136

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1834 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 general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section VII – Committee of the Regions

137

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1835 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section VIII – European Ombudsman

150

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1836 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 general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section VIII – European Ombudsman

151

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1837 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section IX – European Data Protection Supervisor

157

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1838 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 general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section IX – European Data Protection Supervisor

158

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1839 of the European Parliament 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section X – European External Action Service

165

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1840 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 general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section X – European External Action Service

166

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1841 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2021

176

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1842 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 eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2021

178

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1843 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh European Development Funds for the financial year 2021

190

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1844 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) for the financial year 2021

192

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1845 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 Union Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) for the financial year 2021

194

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1846 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Union Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) for the financial year 2021

199

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1847 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Agency for Support for BEREC (BEREC Office) for the financial year 2021

200

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1848 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 Agency for Support for BEREC (BEREC Office) for the financial year 2021

202

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1849 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the Agency for Support for BEREC (BEREC Office) for the financial year 2021

207

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1850 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union (CdT) for the financial year 2021

208

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1851 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 Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union (CdT) for the financial year 2021

209

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1852 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union (CdT) for the financial year 2021

214

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1853 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) for the financial year 2021

215

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1854 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 the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) for the financial year 2021

217

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1855 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) for the financial year 2021

223

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1856 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) for the financial year 2021

224

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1857 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 Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) for the financial year 2021

226

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1858 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) for the financial year 2021

232

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1859 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for the financial year 2021

233

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1860 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 Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for the financial year 2021

235

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1861 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for the financial year 2021

240

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1862 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Asylum Support Office (now the European Union Agency for Asylum – EUAA) for the financial year 2021

242

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1863 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 Asylum Support Office (now the European Union Agency for Asylum – EUAA) for the financial year 2021

244

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1864 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Asylum Support Office (now the European Union Agency for Asylum – EUAA) for the financial year 2021

250

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1865 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Banking Authority (EBA) for the financial year 2021

252

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1866 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 Banking Authority (EBA) for the financial year 2021

253

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1867 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Banking Authority (EBA) for the financial year 2021

258

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1868 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 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

259

 

*

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

261

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1870 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) for the financial year 2021

266

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1871 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) for the financial year 2021

267

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1872 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 Chemicals Agency (ECHA) for the financial year 2021

269

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1873 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) for the financial year 2021

275

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1874 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Environment Agency (EEA) for the financial year 2021

277

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1875 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 Environment Agency (EEA) for the financial year 2021

279

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1876 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Environment Agency (EEA) for the financial year 2021

284

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1877 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) for the financial year 2021

285

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1878 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 Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) for the financial year 2021

286

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1879 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) for the financial year 2021

291

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1880 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for the financial year 2021

292

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1881 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 Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for the financial year 2021

294

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1882 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for the financial year 2021

299

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1883 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) for the financial year 2021

300

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1884 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 Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) for the financial year 2021

301

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1885 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) for the financial year 2021

306

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1886 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) for the financial year 2021

307

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1887 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 Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) for the financial year 2021

309

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1888 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) for the financial year 2021

315

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1889 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) for the financial year 2021

316

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1890 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 Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) for the financial year 2021

318

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1891 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) for the financial year 2021

323

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1892 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Labour Authority (ELA) for the financial year 2021

325

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1893 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 Labour Authority (ELA) for the financial year 2021

327

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1894 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Labour Authority (ELA) for the financial year 2021

333

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1895 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for the financial year 2021

334

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1896 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 Medicines Agency (EMA) for the financial year 2021

336

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1897 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for the financial year 2021

342

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1898 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) for the financial year 2021

343

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1899 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 Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) for the financial year 2021

345

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1900 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) for the financial year 2021

350

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1901 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) for the financial year 2021

351

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1902 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 Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) for the financial year 2021

352

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1903 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) for the financial year 2021

357

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1904 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of ENISA (European Union Agency for Cybersecurity) for the financial year 2021

358

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1905 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 ENISA (European Union Agency for Cybersecurity) for the financial year 2021

360

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1906 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of ENISA (European Union Agency for Cybersecurity) for the financial year 2021

365

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1907 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) for the financial year 2021

366

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1908 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 Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) for the financial year 2021

368

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1909 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) for the financial year 2021

376

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1910 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) for the financial year 2021

377

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1911 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 Union Agency for Railways (ERA) for the financial year 2021

379

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1912 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) for the financial year 2021

384

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1913 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) or the financial year 2021

385

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1914 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 Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) for the financial year 2021

387

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1915 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) for the financial year 2021

393

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1916 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Training Foundation (ETF) for the financial year 2021

394

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1917 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 Training Foundation (ETF) for the financial year 2021

395

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1918 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Training Foundation (ETF) for the financial year 2021

400

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1919 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA) for the financial year 2021

401

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1920 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 Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA) for the financial year 2021

403

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1921 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA) for the financial year 2021

409

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1922 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) for the financial year 2021

411

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1923 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 Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) for the financial year 2021

413

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1924 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) for the financial year 2021

418

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1925 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Euratom Supply Agency for the financial year 2021

419

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1926 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 Euratom Supply Agency for the financial year 2021

420

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1927 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the Euratom Supply Agency for the financial year 2021

423

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1928 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) for the financial year 2021

424

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1929 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 Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) for the financial year 2021

426

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1930 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) for the financial year 2021

432

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1931 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) for the financial year 2021

433

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1932 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 Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) for the financial year 2021

435

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1933 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) for the financial year 2021

440

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1934 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) for the financial year 2021

441

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1935 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 Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) for the financial year 2021

443

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1936 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) for the financial year 2021

449

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1937 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) for the financial year 2021

450

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1938 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 Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) for the financial year 2021

452

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1939 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) for the financial year 2021

456

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1940 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) for the financial year 2021

457

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1941 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 Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) for the financial year 2021

458

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1942 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) for the financial year 2021

470

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1943 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Agency for the Space Programme – EUSPA (before 12 May 2021 the European GNSS Agency) for the financial year 2021

471

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1944 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 Union Agency for the Space Programme – EUSPA (before 12 May 2021 the European GNSS Agency) for the financial year 2021

473

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1945 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Union Agency for the Space Programme – EUSPA (before 12 May 2021 the European GNSS Agency) for the financial year 2021

478

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1946 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union agencies for the financial year 2021: performance, financial management and control

480

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1947 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking – CBE JU (before 30 November 2021 the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

491

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1948 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 Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE JU) (before 30 November 2021 the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

493

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1949 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking – CBE JU (before 30 November 2021 the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

500

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1950 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking (before 30 November 2021 the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

502

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1951 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 Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking (before 30 November 2021 the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

504

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1952 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking (before 30 November 2021 the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

509

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1953 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Key Digital Technologies Joint Undertaking – KDT JU (before 30 November 2021 the ECSEL Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

511

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1954 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 Key Digital Technologies Joint Undertaking (KDT JU) (before 30 November 2021 the ECSEL Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

513

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1955 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the Key Digital Technologies Joint Undertaking – KDT JU (before 30 November 2021 the ECSEL Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

518

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1956 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Clean Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (before 30 November 2021 the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

520

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1957 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 Clean Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (before 30 November 2021 the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

522

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1958 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the Clean Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (before 30 November 2021 the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

527

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1959 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Innovative Health Initiative Joint Undertaking – IHI (before 30 November 2021 the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

529

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1960 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 Innovative Health Initiative Joint Undertaking – IHI (before 30 November 2021 the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

531

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1961 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the Innovative Health Initiative Joint Undertaking – IHI (before 30 November 2021 the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

536

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1962 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy (F4E) for the financial year 2021

538

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1963 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 Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy (F4E) for the financial year 2021

540

 

*

Decision (EU, Euratom) 2023/1964 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy (F4E) for the financial year 2021

546

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1965 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Single European Sky ATM Research 3 Joint Undertaking (before 30 November 2021 the SESAR Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

547

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1966 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 Single European Sky ATM Research 3 Joint Undertaking (before 30 November 2021 the SESAR Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

549

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1967 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the Single European Sky ATM Research 3 Joint Undertaking (before 30 November 2021 the SESAR Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

555

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1968 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking (before 30 November 2021 the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

557

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1969 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 Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking (before 30 November 2021 the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

559

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1970 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking (before 30 November 2021 the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking) for the financial year 2021

566

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1971 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking for the financial year 2021

568

 

*

Resolution (EU) 2023/1972 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 High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking for the financial year 2021

570

 

*

Decision (EU) 2023/1973 of the European Parliament of 10 May 2023 on the closure of the accounts of the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking for the financial year 2021

576

EN

Acts whose titles are printed in light type are those relating to day-to-day management of agricultural matters, and are generally valid for a limited period.

The titles of all other Acts are printed in bold type and preceded by an asterisk.


II Non-legislative acts

DECISIONS

29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/1


DECISION (EU) 2023/1813 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

of 10 May 2023

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section I – European Parliament

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (1),

having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (COM(2022) 323 – C9-0228/2022) (2),

having regard to the report on budgetary and financial management for the financial year 2021, Section I – European Parliament (3),

having regard to the internal auditor’s annual report for the financial year 2021,

having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2021, together with the institutions’ replies (4),

having regard to the statement of assurance (5) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2021, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to Article 314(10) and Article 318 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (6), and in particular Articles 260, 261 and 262 thereof,

having regard to the Bureau decision of 10 December 2018 on the Internal Rules on the implementation of the European Parliament’s budget, and in particular Article 34 thereof,

having regard to Rule 100 and Rule 104(3) of, and Annex V to, its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0086/2023),

A.

whereas the President adopted Parliament’s accounts for the financial year 2021 on 30 June 2022;

B.

whereas the Secretary-General, as the principal authorising officer by delegation, certified, on 3 June 2022, his reasonable assurance that the resources assigned for Parliament’s budget have been used for their intended purpose, in accordance with the principles of sound financial management and that control procedures established give the necessary guarantees concerning the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions;

C.

whereas the Court of Auditors stated in its audit that, in its specific assessment of the administrative expenditure in 2021, the annual activity reports of the institutions did not show material levels of error, which is consistent with the Court’s findings;

D.

whereas Article 262(1) of Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 requires each Union institution to take all appropriate steps to act on the observations accompanying Parliament’s discharge decision;

1.

Grants its President discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Parliament for the financial year 2021;

2.

Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.

Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

The President

Roberta METSOLA

The Secretary-General

Alessandro CHIOCCHETTI


(1)   OJ L 93, 17.3.2021.

(2)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 1.

(3)   OJ C 279, 20.07.2022, p. 1.

(4)   OJ C 391, 12.10.2022, p. 6.

(5)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 240.

(6)   OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.


29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/3


RESOLUTION (EU) 2023/1814 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 general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section I – European Parliament

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section I – European Parliament,

having regard to Rule 100 and Rule 104(3) of, and Annex V to, its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0086/2023),

A.

whereas, in his certification of the final accounts, the European Parliament’s (the ‘Parliament’) accounting officer stated his reasonable assurance that the accounts, in all material aspects, present fairly the financial position, the results of the operations and the cash-flow of Parliament;

B.

whereas, in accordance with the usual procedure, 145 questions were sent to Parliament’s administration and written replies were received and discussed publicly by Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control on 1 December 2022, in the presence of the Vice-President responsible for the budget, the Secretary-General, the director of the Authority for European Political Parties and European Political Foundations (the ‘Authority’) and the internal auditor;

C.

whereas there is always scope for improvement in terms of quality, efficiency and effectiveness in the management of public finances, scrutiny is necessary to ensure that political leadership and Parliament’s administration are held accountable to Union citizens;

D.

whereas trust in Parliament’s integrity and the rule of law is paramount for the functioning of European democracy;

E.

whereas Parliament’s integrity is key to ensure that democratic processes are not influenced by private and external interests and that citizens’ rights are fully respected;

F.

whereas, in its resolution of 16 September 2021, Parliament stated the importance of strengthening transparency and integrity in the Union institutions by setting up an independent Union ethics body;

G.

whereas, in its resolution of 15 December 2022, Parliament stressed suspicions of corruption from Qatar and the broader need for transparency and accountability in the Union institutions;

Parliament’s budgetary and financial management

1.

Notes that Parliament’s final appropriations for 2021 totalled EUR 2 063 521 135, or 19,4 % of heading 7 of the Multiannual Financial Framework (1) set aside for the 2021 administrative expenditure of the Union institutions as a whole, representing a 1,2 % increase compared to the 2020 budget (EUR 2 038 745 000);

2.

Notes that total revenue entered in the accounts as of 31 December 2021 was EUR 215 332 108 (compared to EUR 203 449 523 in 2020), including EUR 37 150 961 in assigned revenue (compared to EUR 33 567 305 in 2020);

3.

Emphasises that five chapters accounted for 75,8 % of total commitments: Chapter 1 0 (Members of the institution), Chapter 1 2 (Officials and temporary members of staff), Chapter 2 0 (Buildings and associated costs), Chapter 2 1 (Data processing, equipment and movable property), and Chapter 4 2 (Expenditure relating to parliamentary assistance), indicating a high level of rigidity for a major part of Parliament’s expenditure;

4.

Notes the figures on the basis of which Parliament’s accounts for the financial year 2021 were closed, namely:

(a)

Available appropriations (EUR)

appropriations for 2021:

2 063 521 135

non-automatic carry-overs from financial year 2020:

74 900 000

automatic carry-overs from financial year 2020:

356 517 980

appropriations corresponding to assigned revenue for 2021:

37 150 961

carry-overs corresponding to assigned revenue from 2020:

39 313 649

Total:

2 571 403 726

(b)

Utilisation of appropriations in the financial year 2021 (EUR)

commitments:

2 435 954 496

payments made:

2 077 518 430

appropriations carried forward automatically including those arising from assigned revenue:

419 702 461

appropriations carried forward non-automatically:

22 007 230

appropriations cancelled:

52 175 603

(c)

Budgetary receipts (EUR)

received in 2021:

215 332 108

(d)

Total balance sheet at 31 December 2021 (EUR)

1 720 527 780

5.

Points out that 98,5 % of the appropriations entered in Parliament’s budget, amounting to EUR 2 033 160 247, were committed, with a cancellation rate of 0,6 %; notes with satisfaction that, as in previous years, a very high level of budget implementation was achieved; notes that payments totalled EUR 1 649 796, resulting in a payment appropriation execution rate of 81,1 % (EUR 1 590 035 012 and 81,5 % respectively in 2020);

6.

Notes that eighteen transfers were approved by Parliament’s Committee on Budget (‘C transfers’), in accordance with Articles 31 and 49 of the Financial Regulation, in the financial year 2021, amounting to EUR 106 753 497 or 5,2 % of final appropriations; notes that the President in turn authorised eight transfers (‘P transfers’) amounting to EUR 26 464 877 or 1,3 % of the 2021 budget;

7.

Observes the higher level of transfers in 2021 due to budgetary savings resulting from the COVID-19 crisis in comparison to pre-pandemic years, when the total amount of C and P transfers combined reached 5 % in 2019, 3,2 % in 2018 and 4,0 % in 2017; recalls that normal travel activities were only possible during parts of the year, and therefore Parliament’s relevant budget lines were not fully used and were redeployed for other purposes;

8.

Observes that the most underused budget lines, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that provided for budgetary transfers in 2021 were ordinary travel expenses (EUR 20 041 000), expenses for staff missions (EUR 18 460 000), organisation and reception of groups of visitors (EUR 16 517 980) and parliamentary assistance (EUR 11 418 251); observes that the biggest feeder items, i.e. contributing more than EUR 5 000 000, amounted to a total of EUR 79 152 282 in C and P transfers combined;

9.

Notes that the surplus generated by the COVID-19 pandemic was, via C and P budgetary transfers in 2021, mainly allocated to finance Parliament’s building policy, namely ‘lease payments’ which were reinforced with EUR 33 559 035 to continue the investment in the Adenauer II building project while ‘acquisition of immovable property’ was reinforced with EUR 22 007 230, allowing the acquisition of the Trèves II building, which together made up 52,1 % of C transfers in 2021; notes that other important transfers addressed unanticipated needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, e.g. health and prevention measures, technical equipment and expenditure on interpretation to support teleworking and hybrid meetings; notes that further transfers were related to the Conference on the Future of Europe and to investments in various aspects of IT services;

The Court of Auditors’ opinions on the reliability of the 2021 accounts and on the legality and regularity of the transactions underlying those accounts

10.

Recalls that the Court of Auditors (the ‘Court’) performs a specific assessment of administrative expenditure as a single policy group for all Union institutions; highlights that administrative expenditure includes expenditure on human resources (salaries, allowances and pensions), accounting for 68 % of the total, and on other categories, such as buildings, equipment, energy, communications and information technology;

11.

Notes that the Multiannual Financial Framework heading 7 ‘European public administration’ accounted for EUR 10,7 billion or 5,9 % of the Union budget in 2021, of which Parliament accounted for EUR 2,1 billion or 19,4 %; notes that the Court examined a sample of 60 transactions of this Multiannual Financial Framework heading and found that 15 contained errors (25 %), out of which the Court has quantified 5 errors and estimated, on that basis, that the level of error of the Union’s spending on administration in 2021 is below the materiality threshold; reiterates its recommendation to the Court to widen its sample of transactions examined in order to determine the origin of the high share of transactions which contain errors, although below the materiality threshold;

12.

Notes that the Court’s annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2021 presents specific findings on Parliament, namely errors in two payments: (i) a minor over-payment for IT services caused by an incorrect application of contract terms; and (ii) one payment by Parliament to one of its political groups; is concerned that the internal procurement rules adopted by the Bureau and Parliament’s guidelines on their application allow the use of negotiated procurement procedures for high-value contracts, whereas the Financial Regulation stipulates the use of open or restricted procurement procedures; notes furthermore, the Court’s finding that the political group failed to fully abide by those internal rules, due to, according to the group concerned, the difficulty in finding tenderer that can fulfil the very specific criteria used to award the contract; highlights that the Court has previously reported shortcomings in transactions relating to procurement by political groups;

13.

Observes that the position of Parliament’s administration is that the use of negotiated procurement procedures for high-value contracts, i.e. contracts awarded in procedures with a value reaching the thresholds referred to in Article 175(1) of the Financial Regulation, only apply to direct management, while political groups manage the funds allocated to them according to the principles of indirect management in analogical application of Article 62(1)(c) of the Financial Regulation; welcomes, however, that Parliament accepted the Court’s recommendation to revise its guidelines on the application of the rules on public procurement by the political groups to better align them with the Financial Regulation; suggests Parliament’s administration to take into account the technical specificity of some procurement procedures for which only a limited number of tenderers with high expertise is able to reply; calls on the Secretary-General to report back to the Committee on Budgetary Control when such revision is to be carried out; notes the commitment of Parliament’s administration to continue to support the political groups for the appropriations to be used in accordance with the applicable rules;

14.

Notes that, in particular, the Court further examined a payment of EUR 74,9 million related to the purchase of the Scholl building on Rue Wiertz, the purchase of which was financed from funds that were not used during the COVID-19 crisis and were carried over from 2020; notes that, when seeking offers, Parliament used award criteria that weighted 50 % of points for both price and quality of the proposed building; notes that Parliament received two offers and awarded the contract to the tenderer proposing the Scholl building, significantly closer to Parliament’s main site but 30 % more expensive per square metre than the building proposed by the other tenderer; notes that the Court considered that ‘Parliament’s award criteria significantly reduced the importance of price as a basis for the purchase decision, making it unlikely that any other offer could have been accepted’; stresses the importance in guaranteeing a level playing field to all tenderers in order to give the assurance that procurement is regular, and to avoid potential reputational risk; observes that the purchase of the Scholl building allows Parliament to strengthen the security of its central complex, to maintain a direct connection to other Parliament buildings, and to preserve the investments made so far in that building;

15.

Notes the response given by Parliament to the Court’s observation that the distance criterion played a major role in the quality criteria (namely a weighting factor of 20/50 quality points), and the possibility of interconnection with the central buildings received an additional weighting factor (4/50 quality points), which led Parliament to consider the Scholl building on Rue Wiertz as the most economically advantageous offer despite the substantial price difference; notes that the Bureau analysed the acquisition of the Scholl building against the termination of the usufruct contract and, in that sense, considered that a significant financial amount would be saved, namely the remaining contractual payments (EUR 24 000 000) and the investments already done by Parliament (EUR 15 300 000);

The internal auditor’s annual report

16.

Notes that, at the meeting between the committee responsible and the internal auditor held on 1 December 2022, the internal auditor presented his annual report and described the assurance audits and consulting services he performed, and reported on the outcome of the current state-of-play, which in 2021 covered the following topics:

audit of the parliamentary assistance allowance (Directorate-General for Finance (DG FINS));

preparation of the second phase audit of the financing of European political parties and European political foundations (DG FINS);

consulting assignment on the establishment of foundations for data governance framework (Directorate-General for Innovation and Technological Support (DG ITEC));

audit of staff missions (Directorate-General for Personnel (DG PERS));

audit of the procurement process in (Directorate-General for Infrastructure and Logistics (DG INLO));

review of Parliament’s risk management framework;

follow-up of open actions from internal audit reports – phases 1 and 2 of 2021;

17.

Welcomes and supports the following actions that the internal auditor has agreed with the directorates-general responsible, as a result of the assurance assignments:

with regard to the audit of the parliamentary assistance allowance, addressing the issue concerning respect for the ceilings set by the Implementing Measures of the Members’ Statute (IMMS) with regard to paying agent’s fees; reducing delays in the paying agent’s submission of statements of accounts for the amounts paid by Parliament to them and in DG FINS’s completing the related controls thereon, and regularising the recurrent build-up of backlogs; clarifying certain provisions of the IMMS and the associated internal guidance that do not consistently support efficient and effective management of the parliamentary assistance spent on local parliamentary assistants;

with regard to the second phase of the audit of financing of European political parties and European political foundations, welcoming the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, in early January 2022, by Parliament’s internal auditor and the Authority, setting out the modalities for the auditing activities that the internal auditor may choose to conduct, as part of his audits covering the implementation of Parliament’s budget, on the management and control systems the Authority applies to the processes of registering, controlling and, where necessary, imposing sanctions on European Political Parties and Foundations;

with regard to the consulting assignment on data governance framework, the objective of which was to support DG ITEC in their efforts to develop capabilities that enable Parliament to ensure that high quality data exists throughout the complete lifecycle of the data, the six specific recommendations put forward addressing the inclusion of data-related projects in Parliament’s portfolio for the 2022–2024 period, establishment of an institutional data inventory, creation of local data correspondents, designation of an inter-DG body for data-related decisions, oversight by a body, and examination of possible synergies with existing data-related policies and other compliance requirements;

18.

Takes note of the assurance assignments just completed, and which are currently following the communication process foreseen by the Charter of the Internal Auditor;

concerning the audit of staff missions, the focus on the evaluation of the efficiency and effectiveness of the internal management and control systems in the field of missions of all categories of staff including accredited parliamentary assistants (APAs), and on the compliance of the operation of those systems with the relevant provisions of the Staff Regulations, the related internal regulatory framework and the Financial Regulation;

with regard to the audit of the procurement process in DG INLO, the focus on the evaluation of the efficiency and effectiveness of the internal management and control systems in the field of procurement, on the compliance of the procurement procedures with the applicable legislation and the relevant internal regulatory framework, and on the reliability of management information and recording;

with regard to the review of Parliament’s risk management framework, the focus on reviewing the maturity of that framework, which resulted in an assessment of the current state-of-play and the identification of ways forward to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness;

19.

Notes that the 2021 follow-up process resulted in the closure of 47 of the 99 open actions and for which the agreed due dates for implementation had expired; stresses the fact that some of the 52 remaining actions were recommended several years ago but remain unimplemented and highlights that 23 of them address significant risk; expects the different directorates-general to ensure that the remaining actions are closed without further delay and that the agreed actions will be implemented in accordance with the due dates set in the internal auditor’s annual report; calls on the Secretary-General to report to the discharge authority twice per year on the status of the remaining actions;

20.

Acknowledges that, in accordance with Article 118(9) of the Financial Regulation, ‘the reports and findings of the internal auditor, as well as the report of the Union institution concerned, shall be accessible to the public after validation by the internal auditor of the action taken for their implementation’; notes that in practice the reports and findings are only accessible once all recommendations have been implemented, which means a de facto delay of several years in accessing them, and that Members, on a need-to-know basis, may only have access in accordance with the Bureau’s rules for access to confidential documents; calls on the Bureau to make sure that Members have immediate and full access to the internal audit report at least in view of the discharge procedure in a more expedited way; further calls on the Bureau to make each internal audit report available to the public one year after its finalisation, once the internal auditor has validated the actions taken to implement the previous year’s recommendation; recalls further that a validation of recommendations does not require the full implementation of all of the recommendations; calls on the Secretary-General to report as often as necessary to the Committee on Budgetary Control on the annual audit activities carried out;

21.

Notes the change of the head of the Internal Audit Service as of 1 March 2021; is concerned that the renewal of around half of the audit team and the total of 16 months of vacancies beyond what was planned due to difficulties in identifying suitable candidates despite the continuous support from Parliament’s administration had a negative impact on the audit activity, especially on the IT domain; welcomes the measures taken by the internal auditor to fill the remaining position of specialised information systems auditor with a candidate with a strong relevant background and the measures taken in the meantime in terms of capacity building and additional specialised training; reminds Parliament’s administration of the importance of planning for vacancies with sufficient lead time in essential services such as the internal audit unit;

22.

Welcomes the fact that in 2021 an external assessor certified the Internal Audit Service ‘generally conforms with the Institute of Internal Auditors Standards and Code of Ethics’ which corresponds to the highest level of conformity with the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing, as was the case in 2016;

Follow-up by Parliament’s administration and the Bureau to the previous discharge resolution

23.

Takes note of the written answers to the 2020 discharge resolution provided to Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control on 26 September 2022, and of the Secretary-General’s presentation on 25 October 2022 addressing the various questions and requests raised in Parliament’s resolution, followed by the exchange of views with Members;

24.

Recalls that the composition of the Bureau is the President of the European Parliament, the 14 Vice-Presidents and the five Quaestors (non-voting members) democratically elected by Parliament; recalls that once the Plenary calls for different rules or measures to be implemented by Parliament, such proposed rules or measures should be discussed and voted on by the Bureau, pursuant to Rule 25 of and Annex V to the Rules of Procedure and Articles 6 and 262 of the Financial Regulation; regrets that a substantial number of concrete demands adopted by Plenary in discharge resolutions are not always well reflected in the discussions during meetings of the Bureau despite the fact that both Bureau members and the Secretary-General are aware of the discharge resolutions and have the capacity to submit proposals under the aforementioned Rule 25; recalls that the exercise of democratic scrutiny which is carried out via the discharge procedure and for which Parliament should be a role model for all Union institutions and bodies; highlights that for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deliberations of the Bureau had to focus, to a large extent, on protecting the integrity of Members and staff, while ensuring business continuity;

25.

Recalls, in light of Rule 25 of the Rules of Procedure, that the Bureau is responsible for taking decisions on financial, organisational and administrative matters concerning Parliament’s internal organisation and Members; is concerned that the decisions of the Bureau often fail to respect the will expressed by the Plenary in discharge resolutions; reiterates the importance of the discharge procedure as set out in the Financial Regulation and the Rules of Procedure and demands that resolutions affecting the functioning of Parliament be thoroughly taken into consideration and followed up in a legitimate and transparent manner; notes that the agendas and minutes of the meetings of the Bureau and decisions are published on Parliament’s internet site; reiterates its call on the Secretary-General to make a concrete set of proposals to further improve the transparency of the Bureau’s decision-making; recommends that the Committee on Budgetary Control should be systematically informed whenever a proposal arising from a discharge resolution is going to be discussed by the Bureau;

26.

Welcomes the proposal from the Secretary-General to enable the Bureau to debate draft decisions on important matters and decide on those at its following meeting; invites the Bureau and Quaestors to implement that practice;

Measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic

27.

Notes that 2021 was marked by the ongoing challenges that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring most of the unprecedented and extraordinary measures introduced in 2020 to be maintained, and where necessary, adapted in order to minimise the risk for Members and staff, while ensuring that Parliament remained in a position to continue its core activities; notes that the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to have generated an overall budgetary surplus of EUR 95 804 765 and, at the same time, made it necessary to reinforce other budget lines by a total of EUR 26 230 480, which resulted in a net saving of EUR 69 574 285;

28.

Notes, in particular, that teleworking regimes, remote voting and hybrid meetings continued to be applied on a large scale throughout 2021; notes that the obligation for the majority of staff, including APAs, to telework 100 % was gradually lifted as of June 2021 and that on 16 July 2021 the Secretary-General decided to extend the scope of the existing teleworking; notes that, in September 2021, some of the restrictions on Parliament’s activities were lifted, e.g. on delegations or the reception of individual visitors, and that new teleworking rules for Parliament’s staff entered into force;

29.

Welcomes the Court’s conclusions in its Special Report 18/2022 on ‘EU institutions and COVID-19’ that the institutions audited, including Parliament, demonstrated their resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and that their response was rapid and flexible and benefited from previous investments in digitalisation; highlights the Court’s recommendations, in particular the review of business continuity plans and the assessment of the suitability of new ways of working in the post-COVID-19 environment;

30.

Notes that the impact of the continuance of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 led to substantial transfers within Parliament’s budget, and that a budgetary surplus became available in areas such as travel expenses, organisation and reception of groups of visitors, the operation of Parliament visitors’ centres, in-person training, and lower energy consumption; notes that, at the same time, the pandemic created additional budgetary needs in other areas, notably health and prevention, as well as technical equipment and logistics for multilingual hybrid meetings and votes; observes that a substantial part of the savings of the last few years were transferred to building policy;

31.

Highlights that year 2021 was impacted enormously by the COVID-19 pandemic and most of the extraordinary measures introduced in 2020 were required to be maintained and adapted; is concerned that in certain cases, some of the measures that were introduced to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in modified working conditions in specific services, such as copy shops and printing units within Parliament, which had a negative impact on some members of staff, for example the staff at the copy shop in Brussels were required to work in isolation for a long period of time even after the safety measures were lifted; asks Parliament’s administration to proactively re-evaluate working conditions in possible similar situations;

32.

Highlights that, in 2021, numerous challenges were imposed on Parliament’s work, the main one being the uncertainty as regards the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic; commends the key role of Parliament’s medical services at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response and acknowledges the enormous workload involved, which included treatment, testing and vaccination of staff, providing psychological support and advising on mitigation measures; notes that exceptionally, the annual medical check-up of staff had to be cancelled and staff were invited to undergo their annual medical check-up externally, under the same conditions as those usually offered by Parliament, in accordance with Article 59(6) of the Staff Regulations, and welcomes the fact that the progression of the pandemic situation has made it possible to resume the annual medical check-ups of staff; welcomes the creation, in October 2021, of the Medical Preparedness and Crisis Management Unit (MPCMU) made up of staff from the medical services in Brussels and Luxembourg with the objective of enhancing Parliament’s response capacity for future crises;

33.

Notes that the total cost of the testing centres was EUR 5 415 789 in Brussels, EUR 302 288 in Luxembourg and EUR 39 370 in Strasbourg; welcomes the fact that the public health authorities provided the vaccines and all other material free of charge for Parliament’s vaccination campaign; notes that the total cost of the vaccination centre in Brussels in 2021 was EUR 230 502, including a reinforcement by six interim nurses and the adaptation of an existing IT tool for the administrative aspects (EUR 45 655 and EUR 184 847 respectively); commends the work of the medical service, the staff of the contracted laboratory and the volunteers in Parliament’s tests and vaccination centres in Brussels; notes that, in both Strasbourg and Luxembourg, the vaccination campaigns were organised by the national authorities, and thus no cost was incurred by Parliament;

34.

Recalls that Article 4 of the President’s decision of 1 June 2021 on security measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic provided for temperature checks on any person entering Parliament’s buildings; notes that, for that purpose, Parliament purchased different models of body temperature detectors for a total amount of EUR 595 459 (EUR 382 515 in 2020 and EUR 212 944 in 2021); observes that 40 temperature detection units purchased in 2021 as part of the equipment and installed in the metal detectors were not used as of the 14 March 2022 and 4 cameras are now kept in storage; highlights that during the summer it was often the case that persons were denied access because of the high temperature outside, which had nothing to do with high fever; recalls that no provision was introduced to prevent people who had been denied entry from simply trying again moments later; notes that Parliament did not treat nor collect any sensitive data under Article 10 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 of the European Parliament and of the Council (2); observes that, without the need to store any sensitive data, there is no information on the number of persons that were denied access to Parliament’s premises during the period of validity of the measure; regrets the conclusion that it is thus not possible to assess the effectiveness of the body temperature checks or the purchase of the equipment; recalls the principle that provides that any use of public money should always allow for a check on the regularity of the spending and the effectiveness of its use;

35.

Notes that a reduction in cleaning staff was not necessary in Brussels as the buildings remained open and that in Strasbourg and Luxembourg the increase in cleaning needs compensated for the decrease in activity and thus, no losses were incurred by the cleaning providers over the year; notes that at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, the two cleaning contractors in Brussels launched a satisfaction survey among their employees as requested in the 2020 discharge resolution; notes that the employees completed the questionnaire anonymously and that the answers were received and stored on a secured platform; underlines that for the first contractor, the analysis of the results shows that over 90 % of the staff are motivated to perform well, receive a good direction from their management and feel part of a well united team; notes that, as of 9 November 2022, all cleaning services in Parliament’s premises in Brussels are provided by two new service providers; welcomes the fact that the new contractor is subject to stricter obligations ensuring fair working conditions; recalls the fact that the new contractor has committed to taking over all employees who that were employed by the former contractor for at least nine months and requests Parliament to ensure that that commitment is adhered to;

36.

Recalls the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Parliament’s catering staff; welcomes the solidarity measures implemented from April 2020 to December 2021, namely the provision of ‘charity meals’ and a business continuity fee in the three places of work, that at least helped to safeguard 37 catering staff jobs; commends that Parliament was the first Union institution to launch a food donation programme, and that during the COVID-19 crisis, it was the only institution to take action to save employment; welcomes the fact that 20 new jobs have been created since the restart of all catering activities in March 2022; notes that catering and cleaning services are carried out by external service providers due to their specific nature which does not meet the conditions for internalisation; stresses that the internalisation of essential services such as catering and cleaning would require massive recruitment of employees and lead to a significant increase in costs; is, therefore, of the opinion that the internalisation of these services should not be considered by governing bodies;

Interpreters

37.

Recalls that under Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, Members have the right to speak in the official language of their choice, a reflection of the European cultural and linguistic diversity that also makes the Union institutions more accessible and transparent for all citizens of the Union; welcomes the work done by Parliament’s officials and freelance interpreters during the pandemic making this right possible and keeping Parliament functioning as the home of European democracy; stresses that the quality of the interpretation provided has a direct impact on the message conveyed to the citizens of the Union;

38.

Notes that Parliament’s administration introduced safeguards such as a limitation on the weekly interpreting hours due to the additional effort required to interpret remote speakers and that interpreters were for a long period of time outside the meeting room (i.e. coupled rooms, hubs in Member States, etc.); welcomes the fact that several actions approved by the Bureau in 2020 and 2021, ranging from reinforcing the technical infrastructure to remote interpretation, allowed interpretation capacities to gradually increase to 70 % of the pre-COVID-19 capacity from November 2020 to April 2021, and to 90 % in January 2022;

39.

Is concerned about the reported hearing problems that resulted from remote interpreting for long periods of time with low quality sound systems; is alarmed that 63,5 % of respondents (127 out of 200) reported hearing problems in a survey on remote simultaneous interpreting conducted by the Staff Interpreters’ delegation at the beginning of 2021 and 54 % of respondents (702 out of 1 602) mentioned in a survey conducted among staff and freelance interpreters in May 2022 that working under the conditions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on their health and well-being; highlights the fact that the health issues reported by interpreters are being followed up by Parliament’s medical services and the fact that the administration has deployed targeted actions to improve sound quality; recalls the duty of care owed by the Union institutions to their employees, which must be taken into account when implementing preventive measures;

40.

Notes the decision of the Conference of Presidents of 2 June 2022 allowing exceptions for remote interventions in committee meetings and observes that technical set-up and compliance of remote interventions are the main challenges that need to be overcome to achieve good quality sound in Parliament’s hybrid meetings; welcomes the fact that, among other measures and awareness-raising campaigns, over 1 700 professional high quality microphones and 1 342 headsets were distributed to Members, as well as that Quaestors issued notices 50/2020 and 12/2021 with guidelines for remote speakers; observes that Parliament’s administration is also offering, on a pilot basis, high quality microphones to external speakers who will be intervening remotely, such as petitioners; regrets that the efforts and budget allocated will be redundant if remote interventions by Members and other speakers without the appropriate equipment continue to be permitted; welcomes the campaign to raise awareness of the importance of sound quality for remote interventions and calls for further technical checks before each intervention;

41.

Notes that the services of the Interactio platform were acquired in 2021 via an available framework contract that currently does not refer to the ISO standard on conference interpreting; notes that the Secretary-General states in his written replies to Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control that the Interactio platform fulfils the ISO sound quality requirements;

42.

Observes that Parliament’s interpreters held a strike from June to October 2022 with the aim of improving working conditions, primarily better sound quality and a limitation on the number and duration of interpreting hours of remote speakers as done during the COVID-19 pandemic; regrets that, during the interpreters’ strike, Parliament’s administration resorted to external interpreting services, at a total cost of EUR 47 324, as this decision jeopardised Parliament’s quality standard for interpretation, and more importantly obstructed workers’ right to strike; stresses that external remote interpretation services should generally not be provided at core meetings of parliamentary bodies; welcomes the interim working arrangements for meetings with remote participation agreed between the trade union, interpreters’ representatives and Parliament’s administration on 17 October 2022 and notes that negotiations on interpreters’ working conditions will be conducted to reflect on Parliament’s post-pandemic working methods; stresses that DG LINC should plan its future interpretation capacity needs and look towards recruiting new interpreters in a timely manner;

Staff, accredited parliamentary assistants (APAs) and local assistants, trainees

Staff

43.

Notes that 877 out of 6 621 posts (13,2 %) were vacant at the end of 2021; acknowledges the general difficulties encountered by the Union institutions, including Parliament, in attracting and retaining talent, which has an impact on the diversity and geographical distribution of the workforce; notes that, in 2021, two surveys were run by DG PERS to find out the main reasons for applying for a job in Parliament and that the results pointed to salaries, but also job significance and flexible working conditions; notes the opinion of Parliament’s administration on the slowness of the competitions conducted by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) but recalls the current transformation process aiming to shorten the duration of competitions, to make them more efficient and to better target specialist profiles while keeping objectivity and equality of treatment at the core of the process; notes that, in 2021, Parliament started running internal competitions and is concerned about fast-track recruitment procedures that may lead to discrimination between professional categories;

44.

Calls for a deep reflection on the new ways of working that can reconcile the needs of Parliament’s administration (including team cohesion, internal communication, and on-boarding of newcomers), taking into account the expectations and satisfaction of its staff, which would positively impact their performance as well as the attractiveness of Parliament as an employer; highlights in this context the importance of a genuine social dialogue with the staff representatives on crucial points like a flexible work environment, health and welfare and training and career opportunities; also draws attention to the need to review the rules on harassment in relation to these new forms of work; observes that physical presence is of importance for the efficient interaction of all actors in parliamentary processes; suggests that a joint committee be established that assists DG PERS in monitoring the effective implementation and compliance of clear guidelines on teleworking and the right to disconnect that can be adapted to the needs of the different services; stresses that, in view of having uniform rules stemming from the Staff Regulations, Parliament should align teleworking rules with other Union institutions that have introduced the possibility of teleworking outside of the three working places, which would also increase Parliament’s attractiveness as employer;

45.

Recalls the seriously inadequate staffing levels in Parliament’s committee secretariats at the end of 2020 due, inter alia, to the increased workload, the working methods applied as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the creation of new temporary committees; welcomes the fact that further to the adoption of the 2022 budget, 66 new organigram posts (12 for the Directorate-General for External Policies (DG EXPO) and 54 posts for the Directorate-General for Internal Policies (DG IPOL)), were created in the establishment plan with a view to swiftly reinforcing support to parliamentary committees; is concerned that, currently, the net increase of staff (including organigram posts and contract agents) is planned to only include 8 additional members of staff, even though the number of contractual agents has decreased by 23 between January and November 2022; reminds the Secretary-General of the commitment to an actual reinforcement of the human resources capacity in DG EXPO and DG IPOL, including an adequate level of contract agents; points out that all available resources in committees, policy departments, horizontal and support services should be assigned to the implementation of Parliament’s legislative, budgetary and control powers and procedures; calls therefore for the available resources to be distributed according to the committees’ level of activity in these areas and not only to the number of legislative reports;

46.

Is concerned about the Bureau decision of 21 November 2022, based on the Secretary-General’s proposal on General Implementing Provisions, giving effect to Article 27 of the Staff Regulations; insists on the importance of achieving a fair geographical balance among Parliament’s staff provided that the measures are ‘appropriate’, as required by Article 27, and stresses that competitions must respect fundamental principles enshrined in the Staff Regulations and Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, such as the principles of equality, non-discrimination and proportionality; recalls furthermore that Article 27 states that ‘those appropriate measures must be justified and shall never result in recruitment criteria other than those based on merit’; calls for an immediate referral of the General Implementing Provisions to Parliament’s legal service for a compliance assessment;

47.

Notes the ‘Contract Agent Strategy II project’ aimed to support directorates-general in assessing whether to internalise functions carried out by external service providers would be more advantageous to Parliament; notes that DG PERS provided support to launch internalisation procedures to DG INLO, DG ITEC and to the Directorate-General for Security and Safety (DG SAFE); reiterates that the recruitment of contractual agents is an acceptable measure when justified, but insists that core tasks should be performed by permanent staff;

48.

Observes particular difficulties in finding candidates willing to work for Parliament in Luxembourg, mainly due to the high cost of living and the increasing price of housing while availing of a salary that is adapted to living conditions in Brussels; asks Parliament’s administration to forward a request to the Commission to address the long-standing and serious problem of salary indexation in Luxembourg by adopting a delegated act to correct the relevant provision of the Staff Regulations;

49.

Notes the importance of knowledge management systems to avoid the loss of know-how in Parliament’s administration; recognises that mobility could help members of staff gain new skills but also believes that Parliament’s administration should motivate and accompany members of staff to move voluntarily between different services so that the mandatory mobility scheme is the last resort, as in some cases this obligation can lead members of staff to leave Parliament; points out that a mandatory mobility policy might be particularly challenging for members of staff working in DG IPOL due to the specific expertise gathered; calls for a complete overhaul of the mobility policy taking into account the views and experience of staff representatives;

50.

Recalls that the Bureau approved on 13 January 2020 new and more ambitious targets for gender balance at senior and middle management levels of Parliament’s administration to be achieved by 2024, meaning that females should occupy 50 % of heads of unit posts, 50 % of director posts and 40 % director-general posts; recalls that a gender action plan for the years 2021–2022 aimed to facilitate the implementation of those targets, as well as to comprehensively mainstream gender into all of Parliament’s activities, was subsequently developed and approved by the Bureau on 6 July 2020; welcomes the fact that 42,7 % of heads of unit and 50 % of directors are women, while women occupying director-general positions have increased from 15,4 % to 28 % since 2021; notes that, in 2021, Parliament recruited 536 women (50,3 %) and 530 men (49,7 %) across all categories of staff combined; notes the difficulties in achieving a satisfactory gender balance in some specific services, such as DG SAFE with 81 % men and 19 % women; asks the administration for an assessment of the 2021–2022 roadmap based on the selected progress monitoring indicators in the context of the forthcoming discharge;

51.

Welcomes the diversity roadmap adopted by the Bureau in November 2021 which sets targets in the area of equal opportunities, such as the consolidation of the role and mandate of the Access and Inclusion Group to enhance coordination and cooperation in the preparation and implementation of Parliament’s disability policies and delivery of concrete proposals; welcomes the fact that Parliament is the first institution to organise selection procedures (Positive Actions) for trainees and contract agents with a disability;

52.

Recalls that, according to Article 9 of the Staff Regulations, the Staff Committee represents the interests of the staff vis-à-vis their institution and maintains continuous contact with them; points out that decisions taken by Parliament’s governing bodies often have a significant impact on staff and thus, reiterates that it is essential for staff representatives to be heard when general matters affecting Parliament’s staff policy are discussed;

53.

Recalls Parliament’s recommendation to the Commission in its resolution of 18 April 2018‘to review its administrative procedure for the appointment of senior officials with the objective of fully ensuring that the best candidates are selected within a framework of maximum transparency and equal opportunities, thereby also setting an example for the other European institutions’; recalls that the appointment procedure of the Secretary-General was a transparent process, where candidates were treated in a fair and equitable manner whilst complying with all necessary eligibility requirements; highlights that the decision made on the selection of the successful candidate was carried out with a large majority of the Bureau;

Accredited Parliamentary Assistants (APAs)

54.

Reiterates its opinion that the particular working relationship between Members and APAs can encompass a situation where both parties decide to terminate the contract by mutual agreement earlier than anticipated but without loss of trust; urges the Bureau to consult with Parliament’s legal service and DG PERS on the feasibility of the contract to be terminated by mutual agreement before its expiry date and to inform the Committee on Budgetary Control of the outcome;

55.

Reiterates that APAs accompanying Members to the part-sessions in Strasbourg should be issued a mission order and be reimbursed in accordance with the applicable rules;

56.

Reiterates its demand for APAs to receive the same subsistence allowance as officials and other statutory staff for their missions to attend the part-sessions in Strasbourg, taking into consideration that the parliamentary allowance envelope remains unchanged; is of the opinion that the current situation, aggravated by the accumulated increase in prices over the last few years, puts APAs in a more difficult financial situation given that they have to travel to Strasbourg to carry out their work in exactly the same way as Parliament’s officials and other statutory staff; fails to understand this unequal treatment regarding the missions to Strasbourg in view of the fact that expenses incurred by APAs undertaking missions outside Parliament’s three places of work are reimbursed, mutatis mutandis, in accordance with the rules applicable to officials’ missions; highlights that aligning the daily subsistence allowance with that of statutory staff would also put an end to the unjustified existence of three different amounts of allowances to choose from; reiterates, therefore, its request to the Bureau to modify its decision of 2 October 2017 with the aim of implementing such alignment;

57.

Notes that the applicable rules adopted by the Bureau and the Conference of Presidents currently prohibit APAs to accompany Members on official Parliament delegations and committee missions; points out that the technical support that APAs provide during missions is of key importance to the participating Members; is concerned that this situation in practice leads to Members financing APAs’ travel with the general expenditure allowance (GEA) and obliges APAs to use their annual leave; urges the Bureau and the Conference of Presidents to change the current rules to allow APAs, under certain conditions, yet to be determined and bearing in mind the logistical limits of missions, to accompany Members on official Parliament delegations and missions, as reiterated by several discharge resolutions;

58.

Welcomes the fact that the Bureau’s last revision of the rules for visitors’ groups introduced the possibility for Members to designate professionals to hold the financial responsibility, which has brought about a decrease of 28 % in the number of APAs acting as heads of visitors’ groups; insists, therefore, to the Bureau that APAs not be designated heads of groups as this level of financial responsibility might compromise the appropriate auditing procedures or alternatively calls for a separation of the roles of head of group and the person holding financial responsibility, leaving only a member of the sponsored group or a professional, such as paying agents or travel agencies, to take up the financial responsibility;

59.

Recalls that Members may offer a traineeship to nationals of third countries, provided that they ensure that trainees comply with visa requirements of the country of designation; notes that third-country workers coming to Belgium for a traineeship in Brussels that lasts longer than 90 days, must apply for a prior authorisation from the competent regional public service, i.e. Brussels Economy and Employment; is alarmed that Parliament’s competent service agreed with the latter that the relevant Member’s office would submit the candidate’s dossier, which in practice means that an APA from the Member’s office is required to provide their own personal data to the public authorities in order to act as a contact point for the public authorities in relation to the third country trainee’s visa application; recalls that Parliament cannot put the APAs in a situation that could be detrimental to their rights as statutory personnel and calls on Parliament’s administration to find a different solution that will not endanger the privacy and legal security of the APAs or be a risk to the security of Parliament;

60.

Calls on Parliament’s administration to schedule training courses for APAs according to their workload, which is directly linked to the parliamentary calendar and the general presence of Members in Parliament, in order to reconcile the performance of their duties with the professional training to which they are entitled under Article 11 of the implementing measures of Title VII of the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of the European Union;

Trainees

61.

Notes the Schuman recruitment and development programme was launched for the first time by Parliament’s administration during the March 2021 traineeship period; regrets that Parliament’s administration failed to consult the Staff Committee on this initiative at an early stage and notes the negative opinion expressed in its resolution of 18 October 2021, which calls into question the objectivity and fairness of this programme; is aware of the difficulties encountered by Parliament’s administration in recruiting and retaining talent for the institution, in particular young professionals; insists on recruitment that is based on the essential principles of transparency, objectivity and fairness of the Union’s public service; stresses that recruitment procedures must be merit-based, competitive, fair and transparent, and calls on the Secretary-General to involve both the Staff Committee and the APAs Committee in a revision of this programme to find an agreement on the model to follow in the future;

62.

Notes that the reduction for trainees in Parliament’s canteens, amounting to EUR 1 is based on previous discounts which are in turn based on the contracts signed and the prices at the time; believes that this reduction is at the moment purely symbolic and insufficient and calls, therefore, on Parliament’s administration to consider whether an automatic update on the basis of the food price variations could be introduced;

Transparency and ethics

63.

Stresses that transparency, accountability and integrity are essential ethics principles within the Union institutions and particularly Parliament as the house of European democracy; recalls that weak ethics rules and a lack of enforcement thereof have the potential to compromise the integrity of the institution and that unethical behaviour must be prevented, persecuted and condemned given that it significantly damages the credibility and legitimacy of Parliament and the Union as a whole and constitutes a serious threat to democracy and public trust; recalls Parliament’s resolution of 15 December 2022 on suspicions of corruption from Qatar and the broader need for transparency and accountability in the Union institutions; recalls both the Court of Auditors’ conclusions and recommendations in its Special Report 13/2019 on the ethical frameworks of Union institutions, and Parliament’s resolution of 16 September 2021 on strengthening transparency and integrity in the Union institutions calling for the creation of an independent and interinstitutional ethics body with a preventive, compliance and advisory role; urges the Commission to finalise and submit its proposal establishing that role; recalls the necessity to have such a Union Ethics body set up by the end of the current term;

64.

Highlights the need to reinforce trust in Union decision-making by strengthening transparency, ethics and good conduct in Parliament; calls for a thorough overhaul of Parliament’s ethical framework by integrating lessons learned, ensuring full implementation and strengthening the current control rules to ensure that there are stronger deterrents to effectively address current and future threats and interferences, whether they affect Members or staff; stresses that illegal activities funded by paid lobbying constitute a profound attack on democracy and must be met with zero tolerance and heightened vigilance; calls, in particular, for a revision of the Rules of Procedure and the Members’ Code of Conduct, as well as for an urgent upgrade and reform of the current European Parliament’s Advisory Committee on the Conduct of Members with participation of independent experts, selected on the basis of their competence, experience, independence and professional qualities, in order to make it more visible and prominent, to consolidate its role and to strengthen its powers in order to ensure that Members act without any undue influence from interest representatives by means of a strict regulation of paid activities during the mandate, gifts or travel invitations, future employment expectations, and of undue use of information or contacts; recommends anti-corruption and transparency training for Members, APAs and members of staff;

65.

Highlights in this regard the need for stricter rules, enhanced transparency, and monitoring on side-income of Members in order to avoid conflicts of interest; requests to revise the Code of Conduct to take into consideration this particular concern;

66.

Highlights the recent breaches of transparency and corruption in connection with the NGOs Fight Impunity and No Peace Without Justice and regrets that the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) organised a two-day conference in June 2022 together with those organisations, despite the fact they were not registered in the Transparency Register;

67.

Recalls that according to Parliament’s Rules on Public Hearings adopted by the Bureau (3), interest representatives may only be invited as speakers at Parliament’s events, including committee meetings, if they are registered in the Transparency Register and that the secretariat of the committee or Parliament’s governing body organising a hearing is responsible to ensure compliance with this obligation; calls for mandatory transparency checks by the administration and corresponding controls by the committee secretariats;

68.

Urges the administration to put in place the means to strengthen internal rules and instruments for the prevention of conflicts of interest, such as the Early Detection and Exclusion System (EDES) and the Public Procurement Forum (PPF), particularly with regard to events and studies commissioned by Parliament’s bodies, and to make registration in the Transparency Register compulsory for external entities participating in any form;

69.

Stresses that the rules of access to Parliament’s premises for stakeholders need to be revised; recommends that digital solutions are used to integrate and track the stakeholders’ identification number in the Transparency Register in all Parliament’s activities involving external entities, such as requesting the registration number for the accreditation of visitors and for the organisation of events;

70.

Notes that the quality of entries in the Transparency Register has improved over recent years and commends the role of the joint secretariat in that improvement, despite limited resources; regrets, however, that the overall quality of entries remains unsatisfactory; calls for the provision of all necessary resources to ensure that the internal rules related to the Transparency Register are effectively enforced, including, where appropriate, the imposition of adequate sanctions; calls for the reinforcement of the Transparency Register which should be truly mandatory and an expansion of the scope of the Transparency Register to include representatives of third countries;

71.

Recalls the importance of ensuring and promoting a transparent and ethical interest representation at Union level and that a transparency register was set up in order to ensure that the Union institutions are open and transparent in their dialogue with interest representatives and civil society; recalls the transparency obligations arising under Rule 11 of the Rules of Procedures and calls on Parliament to actively encourage Members and staff not to hold any meetings or participate in lobbying activities with organisations that are not registered in the Transparency Register; recalls that information and reminder notices on the obligation to publish meetings with interest representatives should be sent to all Members at regular intervals; calls on Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs to revise the Rules of Procedure to extend the obligation to publish meetings with interest representatives to all Members working on reports, opinions or resolutions; welcomes the fact that Parliament’s infrastructure to enable Members to publish scheduled meetings with interest representatives has been updated and is now linked to both the Transparency Register and the Legislative Observatory; calls on Parliament’s services to expand the infrastructure on Parliament’s website to allow APAs and policy advisers to voluntarily publish their meetings with interest representatives; calls on parliamentary services to create a user-friendly online repository to publish information on lobbying meetings in open data format;

72.

Calls on the administration to take into account the demands of the Committee on Budgetary Control in relation to transparency and ethics in line with the action plan ‘Strengthening Integrity, Independence and Accountability – First steps’, approved by the Bureau on 8 February 2023, and with the relevant Parliament resolutions; calls on Parliament’s administration to likewise take into account the Ombudsman’s observations and future recommendations in the case SI/1/2023/MIK on the reform process to further improve the Parliaments ethics and transparency framework; urges Parliament to implement speedily all requests made in Parliament’s Resolutions including the reinforcement of the internal control and monitoring mechanisms, as well as the alignment of the internal rules on whistleblowing to the standards of the EU directive;

73.

Recalls in particular the need to implement without delay all 15 measures to curb corruption and enhance integrity, accountability and transparency adopted in its resolution of 15 December 2022 on suspicions of corruption from Qatar and the broader need for transparency and accountability in the European institutions, as well as the clear requests made in the European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2023 on following up on measures requested by Parliament to strengthen the integrity of the European institutions;

74.

Notes that the current guidelines for the 2021 interinstitutional agreement to register stakeholders are insufficient; stresses the need for a thorough pre-check within the registration in the transparency register to disclose all funding sources; notes that funding from the Union funds must be traceable from the direct recipient to the final beneficiary when funds are passed on in a chain; calls to revise the guidelines for the registration in the transparency register to disclose all incoming and outgoing funds, including the transfer of funds from one NGO and stakeholder to another;

75.

Observes that, in some cases, the work of NGOs and stakeholders has been used to finance illegal activities and to influence Parliament’s decision-making on behalf of third parties; points out that such cases have been detected thanks to the control and security measures in place, although there is significant scope for improvement;

76.

Reiterates that access of interest representatives to the Union institutions and their funding programmes must be verified in advance and checked for possible inclusion in the Early Detection and Exclusion System (EDES);

77.

Calls for a ban on friendship groups with third countries when an official Parliament delegation already exists; recalls that Rule 35 of the Rules of Procedure must be respected in order to avoid any confusion with the official activities of Parliament with third countries; recommends that Parliament allows, on a case-by-case basis, friendship groups for activities relating to certain sub-regions, or some local persecuted minorities for which an official delegation doesn’t exist;

78.

Notes that the Advisory Committee on the Conduct of Members investigated two cases of alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct in 2021, in one of which the President decided to impose a penalty in the form of a reprimand on the concerned Members in July 2021; notes that Parliament’s administration verified one case of a possible conflict of interest under the Implementing Measures for the Statute of Members due to the recruitment of a family relative identified in 2021, which in turn eventually led to the initiation in 2022 of a recovery procedure of the misused parliamentary assistance expenditure;

79.

Points out that despite the fact that at least 25 breaches of the Code of Conduct by Members were recorded in the past eleven years, Parliament’s Presidents have never imposed a financial sanction on a Member; calls on the President to consider imposing financial sanctions when it has been proven that Members have breached the Code of Conduct to ensure the sanctions actually have a deterrent effect;

80.

Notes that, in 2021, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) investigated 18 cases and the European Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) investigated 3 cases involving Parliament on issues related to Members’ financial and social entitlements and the financing of political structures; notes that, out of 18 OLAF investigations, 4 led to a report with financial recommendations, 1 led to a final report with disciplinary recommendations, 5 led to a decision to dismiss the case, and 8 are still ongoing in 2022; notes also that OLAF investigated 5 cases involving Parliament’s staff, out of which 2 were closed in 2021 without any recommendation and 3 were not concluded; notes that none of the EPPO investigations were concluded in 2021; asks the administration whether the recommendations made by OLAF have been fully implemented and the amounts at risk have been recovered (particularly the EUR 1 837 000 found to be paid irregularly), as well as to provide a summary, without any sensitive data, of the typology of cases investigated in order to be able to draw conclusions and make improvements;

81.

Notes the fact that the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) currently does not have, under any circumstances, access to Member’s offices, computers and email accounts, even when investigating cases linked to Members based on a substantiated suspicion; underlines the need to have an adequate procedure for granting access to OLAF in cases of substantiated suspicions against individual Members; calls on the Bureau to set up such a procedure as well as to recognise and ensure OLAF’s competence to investigate possible breaches of the Code of Conduct by Members;

82.

Reiterates that Article 4 of the Code of Conduct provides that the Members’ declarations of financial interests are to be provided in a detailed manner so that any potential conflict of interest with parliamentary activity can be detected; regrets that, nevertheless, many declarations include only vague or generic job descriptions and, thus, repeats its call on the Bureau to review the format of the declarations to require more detail; asks the President to instruct the services to systematically carry out thorough checks of the declarations;

83.

Notes that only one notification of post-mandate employment was submitted to Parliament out of the 459 Members of the 8th parliamentary term who were not re-elected in 2019; notes that, in 2021, out of the 203 officials who left the service, 54 requested permission for an activity after leaving the service; welcomes the decision of the Bureau (4) to establish stronger rules to regulate revolving doors for former Members and officials, by introducing a cooling off period for former Members who shall not engage in lobbying or representational activities with Parliament, within the six months following the end of their mandate; also welcomes the decision to clarify the rules on accessing Parliament’s premises, replacing former Members’ permanent access badges by daily access ones, and ensuring that former Members and Parliament staff who engage in lobbying activities are identified with a specific badge; calls on Parliament to ensure these new rules are effective, closely monitored and enforced; believes that no General Expenditure Allowance should be paid to former Members and calls therefore for the deletion of Article 42, subparagraph 4 of the Implementing Measures of the Members’ Statute;

84.

Considers voting by roll call (RCV) to be a key instrument for transparency and accountability towards the Union citizens; calls for introducing automatic RCV to any final vote except for secret ballots, and for increasing the number of RCV that are possible for a political group to ask for per part-session in Rule 190(2) of the Rules of Procedure, or exempting legislative files from that limitation;

85.

Notes the ongoing project to make plenary voting records available in a dedicated space where users will have access to clear and reader-friendly documents and believes that Parliament should go further and create a coherent website combining the whole multitude of interconnected websites related to the legislative work, i.e. Legislative Observatory, Members’ profiles, the plenary website, etc. for the sake of transparency and public scrutiny; calls on Parliament’s services to also make available all amendments and RCV records at committee level and to include them in the new layout;

86.

Notes that the Ombudsman handled 16 cases concerning Parliament in 2021, out of which 2 recommendations were made and applied respectively by the Authority, which was asked to increase transparency on its website, and Parliament’s administration, which was asked to better inform applicants for traineeships on the possibility to request special assistance;

87.

Calls on the Bureau to revise the Code of Conduct by including restrictions on Members hiring not only direct, but also indirect family members;

Harassment and whistleblowing

88.

Notes that six harassment cases against Members were opened in 2021 and that four cases were pending from 2020; notes that no harassment was found in the four cases closed in 2021; notes that, in 2021, there was one new harassment complaint coming from a member of staff and notes that there was one ongoing case and three cases closed; regrets that the investigation of some harassment cases extended over more than a year causing unnecessary harm to Members, staff and APAs; reminds Parliament’s administration that it has a legal responsibility to investigate cases brought before it with due rigour, speed and discretion; calls on the Bureau to prescribe time limits for the handling of harassment complaints;

89.

Stresses that the Code of Appropriate Behaviour for Members of the European Parliament stipulates that, in exercising their duties, Members will behave towards everyone working in the European Parliament with dignity, courtesy and respect and without prejudice or discrimination; welcomes Parliament’s zero-tolerance policy on harassment and the awareness-raising campaigns carried out; is concerned, however, that on 28 October 2022 only 245 sitting Members (36,3 %) had completed the training on respect and dignity in the workplace; recalls that Parliament has requested on several occasions the implementation of mandatory anti-harassment training courses for all Members and suggests extending it to staff, including persons in managerial roles in the different directorates-general and political groups; welcomes the orientation debate on anti-harassment policies carried out in the Bureau meeting of 21 November 2022 and requests that the Bureau expresses a final position on the topic; stresses the importance of early intervention, together with training and awareness-raising actions and notes the initiative taken by the administration to set up internal mediators as a step towards early conflict resolution, which should also include the provision of information to both parties on their rights;

90.

Notes that the ‘advisory committee on harassment and its prevention at the workplace’ is composed of three members designated by the Appointing Authority (including the chair), two Staff Committee members and one expert advisor from the medical service; notes that the ‘advisory committee dealing with harassment complaints concerning Members’ is composed of three Quaestors (including the chair), the chair of the first committee, two APA committee members, one staff committee member (only for cases concerning a member of staff), and two expert advisors, namely from the legal and the medical services respectively; is concerned by the lack of independent experts on harassment issues in both committees, as well as the absence of the legal service in the first case; recalls that the chair of the latter committee has the casting vote and is concerned that the fact of being a Member could lead to conflicts of interest; calls on the Bureau to review the composition of both advisory committees in order to include the pertinent independent expertise, avoid conflicts of interest and to stipulate mandatory training on harassment prevention and equal opportunities for all their members; recommends a complete review of the functioning of the advisory committees with the assistance of specialists on harassment prevention selected for their competence, experience, independence and professional qualities, so that Parliament is equipped with clear, effective and robust rules of procedure while ensuring adequate response times and the necessary procedural safeguards, information, counselling and protection measures for all parties as appropriate;

91.

Notes that there was one case of whistleblowing in 2021 and that the whistleblower had contacted OLAF before addressing the contact point; calls on the Secretary-General to clarify contradictory data provided on the number of whistleblowing cases reported in 2021 and 2022 respectively; reminds the administration of its duty to immediately report alleged cases of fraud to OLAF; notes that Parliament’s administration received a number of anonymous allegations of fraud and misconduct that were all followed up either internally or by OLAF, and calls on Parliament’s administration to provide a summary of the nature of the possible cases opened and the measures taken by the administration;

92.

Recalls that Parliament has a whistleblower contact point within the cabinet of the Secretary-General to which irregularities can be reported and who provides advice and facilitates the application of Article 22c of the Staff Regulations and of the relevant implementing provisions; calls on the administration to urgently launch an awareness campaign regarding the existence of this contact point; calls on the Bureau to require relevant background checks and training for whistleblower contact points;

93.

Reiterates that APAs are in a particularly vulnerable position when it comes to reporting fraud and requesting whistleblower protection due to their specific employment situation; therefore calls on the Secretary-General to fully adapt the internal rules on whistleblowing adopted on 4 December 2015 and contained in the Staff Regulations to align them to Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council (5), as well as to provide whistleblower APAs and staff with reinforced protection, including by setting up secure channels for reporting, in the same line as for victims of harassment, in particular with regard to provisional measures during the administrative investigation, all other appropriate protection measures and assistance to take legal action for damage suffered; requests Parliament to raise awareness, where possible, among parliamentary staff on the whistleblower protection available to them; further calls for mandatory whistleblowing training for MEPs and for any superior, both within the administration and political groups, that would receive potential whistleblowing reports (6);

Communication and interinstitutional cooperation

Communication

94.

Highlights the importance of its communication strategy to engage with Union citizens through a varied multichannel series of projects and activities despite the challenges encountered in 2021; notes an average growth in engagement rate of 69 % on Parliament social media channels between 2020 and 2021 and an average growth of 11 % in the number of followers in 2021; notes that, following a President decision in June 2021, visitors’ facilities were partially reopened and were able to welcome a total of 337 984 visitors until the end of the year and budgetary commitments of EUR 15 982 020 for 2021; notes that the works of the Zweig Visitor Centre continued as planned in 2021 and it was inaugurated in November 2022, and in this respect asks that consideration be given to the amount of time visitors’ groups invest in moving from the Zweig building to the Spaak building, including security and identification checks, which may reduce the number of groups that can be received on a daily basis; notes that the House of European History, the Parlamentarium and the Europa Experiences remained closed or operated at reduced capacity for parts of 2021; welcomes the fact that the European Youth Event could finally be held in 2021 in a hybrid format and that it was a success with 10 000 young people taking part, although regrets a certain lack of preparation for the security checks which delayed access to Parliament’s premises; notes the first editions of the LUX Audience award, with 6 000 voters, and the Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for journalism, which drew over 200 applications from across the Union;

95.

Notes that four European Parliament liaison offices (EPLOs) in Madrid, Rome, Bratislava and Zagreb were equipped with VoxBox facilities in 2021 as part of a pilot project and that it is planned to install light and user-friendly audiovisual equipment in 14 of the 24 selected EPLOs by the end of June 2022; recalls that Parliament also upgraded audiovisual facilities in EPLOs in the context of remote plenary sessions; expects a revision of the EPLOs’ communication strategy so that the investment made will really help to reach out to Union citizens and calls on the EPLOs to provide timely notice to Members of their constituencies of the calendar of activities in order to ensure a better coordination and presence of Members;

96.

Underlines that the workload in the EPLOs seems to have dramatically increased taking on new permanent tasks, and calls for Parliament to ensure EPLOs have sufficient human, technical and financial resources to fulfil their missions;

97.

Notes that, in May 2018, the Bureau approved an upgrade of the former Info-Point in Brussels and that the new Info Hub aims to attract civil society stakeholders, multipliers, partners and specialised interest groups; notes that the Info Hub has had a total cost of roughly EUR 8 400 000 which includes approximately EUR 6,6 million for renovation works and EUR 1,8 million for communication activities, and that it has welcomed 20 000 visitors since it opened its doors in mid-July 2022; regrets, however, that Members are not aware of those facilities and calls for a better information campaign to publicise their activities and possible uses;

98.

Welcomes the ambitious Europa Experience programme that aims to bring the Union close to its citizens; welcomes the fact that the global number of visitors to Europe Experience centres slightly increased from 124 352 in 2020 to 135 835 in 2021, despite the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic; notes likewise that travel restrictions in 2020 and 2021 provoked delays in building contract procedures (namely in Dublin, Prague, Madrid, Bucharest, Lisbon, Bratislava, Riga and Vilnius) without a negative impact on rent payments as they are triggered by the completion of the fit-out work; notes that, in 2021, there were six operational decentralised visitor facilities (Berlin, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Ljubljana, Tallinn and the Parlamentarium Simone Veil in Strasbourg), as well as that Parliament’s Directorate for Communication launched the implementation of five new large-scale exhibitions (Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Prague and Warsaw), and completed the design of another three new projects (Vienna, Dublin and Luxembourg) while DG INLO conducted a series of feasibility studies in seven other capitals; notes that the majority of Europa Experience facilities will be open to the public in 2024, but understands the dependence of this project on the prospects in a rapidly changing real estate market;

99.

Notes that the lunchtime classical music concerts in the Citizens’ Garden were conceived to support classical musicians during the COVID-19 crisis and to demonstrate the value that Parliament places on European musical heritage; notes that 40 concerts were held in 2021 with 4 106 attendees, with a budget of EUR 51 925; supports wholeheartedly this initiative during the extraordinary COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, but questions Parliament’s use of taxpayers’ money to renovate the Citizens’ Garden and house, a public space that belongs to the Belgian State;

Multilingualism

100.

Recalls that the Union, and therefore Parliament too, is legally committed to providing accessible information and communication under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; calls therefore on Parliament’s administration to develop specific initiatives to ensure more and better accessibility to its documents and debates, with a particular focus on the State of the Union debate as well as the ‘This is Europe’ plenary debates, building on examples like the interpretation in International Sign of the Commission’s weekly college read-outs; reiterates its long-standing request to the Secretary-General to analyse the feasibility of international sign language interpretation for all plenary debates and to implement without delay this request; believes moreover that plenary sessions retransmission in the sign languages used in each Member State would increase participation of persons with disabilities in the Union’s democratic process; notes that the Directorate-General for Translation is developing a tool that is able to automatically transcribe and translate parliamentary multilingual debates in real time, so that all citizens have equal access to information in their language; requests an update on the project and an analysis on its implementation and total cost;

International cooperation

101.

Notes that the presence of Parliament’s officials in Union delegations or other bodies aims to strengthen inter-parliamentary relations with international organisations; reiterates, however, the concern regarding the Bureau decision of 11 February 2019 regarding parliamentary support to the European Union Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta, the Delegation of the European Union to the African Union in Addis Ababa and the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations in New York; notes that no staff were deployed in 2020, while two officials were seconded to New York and one to Addis Ababa in 2022; reminds Parliament’s administration of its commitment to establish measurable indicators to assess their annual performance; draws attention to the fact that Parliament’s administration has set up a unit in charge of relations with ASEAN and has proposed most of its staff to be deployed in Jakarta, while for the other two destinations the administration has simply selected senior members of staff; reiterates its call for transparent appointment processes of the staff involved and for Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control to be kept informed;

102.

Is concerned by the fact that in 2021 eight Members decided, on their own initiative, to observe elections in third countries where Parliament had decided not to send an election observation delegation or had not been invited; notes that in all eight cases the Members were in breach of the Implementing Provisions of the European Parliament’s Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group and that they could not and were not selected to participate in an official Election Observation delegation until the end of 2021; requests that Members involved in unofficial election observation missions should be sanctioned for the duration of the mandate;

Digitalisation and cybersecurity

103.

Welcomes the fact that the Digital Signature Portal (DiSP) allows Members to digitally sign documents, which improves efficiency, traceability and transparency to the procedures, and regrets that, in contrast to DiSP, signing plenary amendments by hand and sending them in scanned form is still an outdated and burdensome procedure; calls on the Bureau to take the necessary steps for introducing the possibility for Members to sign plenary amendments digitally in the future; calls for the extension of DISP to all signed documents;

104.

Notes the decision of 10 May 2021 to suspend HERMES, a document management and archiving software, due to a series of deficiencies, mainly the fact that it was impossible to adapt it to Parliament workflows and other major technical issues; notes that back-end and front-end parts of the HERMES system to date had an external cost of EUR 7 500 000 and an internal cost of EUR 1 700 000 amounting to a total of approximately EUR 9 200 000, reported as asset under construction; notes that the back-end part of the HERMES system is still in use as a system for document and record management and also for other applications;

105.

Notes that, in 2021, the overall cost of technical solutions to allow remote voting sessions amounted to EUR 1 275 500, including an extension of the plenary applications (EUR 120 000), the development of the EPvote application (EUR 233 500), IT support to Members (EUR 529 200), to deploy the e-voting system (EUR 250 000) and ad hoc services to allow Members’ participation from EPLOs (EUR 142 800); takes note of the importance of all of the IT systems that ensure proper remote functioning of Parliament, points out, however, that all innovations implemented will require an investment for their maintenance in view of future uses;

106.

Notes that, frequently, Parliament’s Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is not reachable at peak login hours in the morning; calls on the services to ensure that that the VDI has sufficient capacity to allow for a swift login even at peak hours;

107.

Welcomes Parliament’s investment in strengthening its cybersecurity, which includes the creation of a dedicated Directorate in DG ITEC and a significant increase of the related resources aiming to increase the protection of Parliament’s information systems in the face of constantly growing threats and ransomware attacks; urges Parliament to maintain its efforts and increase its investments in cybersecurity; underlines the need to ensure the recruitment and retention of highly-qualified staff in this very strategic sector; suggests to offer regularly updated cybersecurity-related training for all of Parliament’s staff; welcomes the expansion of the range of digital services provided via the e-Portal leading to an increase of 67 % in the number of transactions, which is a significant increase compared to 2020, and to the achievement of 85 % use rate of the e-Portal by Members for their travel and subsistence expenses; commends the specific measures undertaken to facilitate administrative procedures and reduce bureaucracy when it comes to the services for Members, including the increased digitalisation of the e-Portal;

108.

Notes that DG SAFE’s reorganisation has foreseen the creation of the new Directorate on Security Technology and Information aiming to ensure protection of all categories of information handled by Parliament; observes that when the specific unit responsible for security engineering was created the head of unit position did not appear as such in Parliament’s organisation chart; calls on the Secretary-General to remedy this situation promptly in order to provide the new key directorate with the necessary resources to fulfil its responsibilities;

Building policy, logistics and security

Building policy

109.

Notes that it is intended that ‘Parliament’s Buildings Strategy beyond 2019’ will provide a framework for future decisions and contribute to consolidate Parliament’s real estate portfolio while adapting facilities to the evolution of meeting patterns, going local and closer to citizens through Europa Experience facilities, enhancing security for Parliament’s buildings, and achieving the interconnection of central buildings; notes that Parliament’s administration is currently working on a comprehensive approach to define Parliament’s long-term building policy taking account of the impact of the energy crisis, the rising price of raw material, environmental obligations and new working methods introduced in Parliament; calls on Parliament’s administration to reflect on the need to acquire or construct new buildings in the future; notes the adoption on 8 March 2021 of an integrated facility management strategy focusing on a life cycle management of Parliament’s building portfolio;

110.

Expresses concerns about structural problems in the Trèves I building; underlines the urgent need for the building to be upgraded to the latest energy and environmental norms; underlines the need for urgent measures to fix the unstable heating system, the lack of air conditioning and toilets for persons with reduced mobility, the poor sound proofing, as well as the sewage problem;

111.

Notes the purchase of the Trèves II building approved by the Bureau on 18 October 2021, purchased with the intention of allowing the interconnectivity of Parliament’s central buildings in Brussels, and notes that it will be at the disposal of Parliament as from 1 January 2025; warns that the energy performance certificate indicates an annual primary energy consumption equivalent to class E, and that the last renovation of the building dates back to 2000; calls on the Bureau to approve the necessary renovations to improve the energy performance of the building in accordance with applicable energy efficiency regulations as the building is put to use by Parliament;

112.

Notes the architectural competition on the design of the renewal of the Spaak building for which the competitors submitted their proposals in January 2021, the jury analysed the 15 entries and ranked the five laureates in February 2021 and the Bureau endorsed the five laureates proposed by the jury at its meeting of 6 July 2022; is of the opinion that the necessary steps must be taken to renovate the building given its deteriorating condition in order to ensure the security and well-being of staff without unreasonable budgetary implications; therefore calls for proper information to be provided and consultation with the relevant Parliament committees on the next steps to be taken in the renovation plans, as well as plans regarding the purchase of new buildings;

113.

Takes note of the unanimous decision of the Bureau of 23 October 2019 to approve the creation of an IDEA Lab with the aim of testing new, innovative solutions in the context of offices and facility management; notes that the decision of the Bureau was not based on any specific cost estimate and welcomes the announcement of the new Secretary-General that each proposal for a decision will be accompanied by a financial statement of the estimated costs, and that expenditure should be accounted for transparently; welcomes the creation of a permanent laboratory for innovation together with the establishment of a separate budget line but considers that the costs need to remain reasonable and justifiable; notes that construction works needed to implement the innovative architectural concept, including the technical equipment and the installation costs, had a cost of 2 000 EUR/m2 in addition to the ‘standard’ renovation works, which is expected to benefit later renovation work in case of a larger roll-out; notes that to date the construction works needed to implement the architectural concept amount to EUR 663 265 while the IT equipment cost EUR 108 104;

114.

Points out that the IDEA Lab is supposed to be at the disposal of Members; requests that Members be informed in this regard about innovations and tested solutions that are to be introduced in the future and those that are not pursued any further and reasons for not pursuing those innovations and solutions; questions the rationale behind the selection of the providers and of some of the technical innovations to be tested and regrets that some of the innovations would be too expensive to scale despite their interest; is of the opinion that one of the priorities of the IDEA Lab should be an innovative architectural solution to make better use of the space occupied by the unused showers in the Members’ offices; calls on the Bureau working group on buildings and Parliament’s administration to ensure greater transparency regarding the budget for the IDEA Lab and to regularly present to the Committee on Budgetary Control the list of innovative solutions, their cost and the feedback produced, as well as the potential saving if implemented;

115.

Notes that, in 2021, the total number of reported thefts in Members’ offices and staff offices was 83, representing a 58,2 % decrease compared to 2020, with a total value of stolen items amounting to EUR 190 791; welcomes the fact that Parliament’s responsible services identified the perpetrator of two important thefts, one related to 101 hybrid computers and 26 iPads and the other related to 15 hybrid computers, and that the case is pending before the Belgian judicial proceedings;

116.

Welcomes the fact that the Wayenberg crèche was certified by the Belgian national authority (ONE – Office de la Naissance et de l’Enfance) at the end of 2021; regrets the issues encountered with the service provider in 2021, including the closure of sections and successive sudden changes to the internal COVID-19 protocol, and welcomes the positive transition to a new provider as of 1 February 2022 as well as the measure to monitor the implementation of the new contract;

117.

Notes that the East Wing of the Adenauer building in Luxembourg was completed in 2020 and the large-scale relocation of offices from the Schuman building ended in 2022; notes that works to build the West Wing started in 2020 and that the office space are almost all allocated to the parliament staff; expresses its deep concern over the fact that Parliament’s biggest and most expensive investment in buildings in recent years stands under-used due to a very low occupancy rate of the buildings;

Canteens

118.

Notes with concern the Secretary-General’s decision of 22 March 2021 to abolish the Supervisory Committee for Canteens, Cafeterias and the Staff Shop (CORECA) based on the fact that since October 2020 all activities in the sector on Parliament’s premises have operated under concession contracts, which function without any direct involvement from Parliament’s budget; believes, however, that CORECA was a useful contact point between Parliament’s competent services and the Staff Committee on the food offer and the catering services, and that it would have been useful, for instance, to involve and receive feedback from the staff about the recent adaptation of the food offer in several venues; calls, therefore, on the Secretary-General to reinstate CORECA or a similar contact point to involve staff representatives;

119.

Notes that Parliament’s canteen on the –1 floor of the Spinelli building, in addition to the deterioration in the quality of the food it offers, is frequently overcrowded at peak hours, resulting in long queues and waiting times; regrets also that the Astrid Lulling Lounge has reduced its offer and only a hot daily dish is available; calls on the Bureau to reflect on the need for a more varied food choice and the possibility of imposing some access restrictions to the canteens in Parliament’s main buildings;

120.

Recalls that the technical specifications of the concession contracts provide for the obligation to offer a solution to respond to food intolerances upon advance request; points out that the vast majority of clients are completely unaware that such conditionality exists and, in any case, clearly insufficient for the service provided in Parliament; calls for more communication and direct information on allergen specifications in the meals proposed; reiterates its request that at least one fresh gluten-free meal option is available each day in Parliament’s canteens and cafeterias as well as options that clearly take other dietary restrictions into account;

Security

121.

Notes the preparation throughout 2021 of the internalisation of general security services in Luxembourg with the organisation and follow-up of all recruitment procedures and an induction training for 115 agents; notes that the internalisation entered into force on 1 January 2022; is concerned that offering posts in function group I and the associated salary makes it difficult to attract and recruit specialised staff from all Member States in the security field; reiterates that it is particularly concerned about the situation in Luxembourg, where this salary is lower than the minimum inter-professional salary, forcing Parliament to resort to a compensatory allowance; reiterates, therefore, that Parliament should convey to the Commission the extreme urgency of creating a correction coefficient for Luxembourg;

122.

Highlights the Integrated Physical Access Control System (iPACS) project aiming to provide Parliament with a robust, efficient and innovative physical access control system; notes the delays in the implementation of the project occurred in 2020 due to a possible exclusion under Article 136(1)(c) of the Financial Regulation of the selected contractor; notes with satisfaction the cooperation between DG SAFE and DG INLO allowing the resumption of all technical work as of June 2021 and the integration of all Parliament’s buildings in the system; welcomes the distribution of highly secure, non-duplicable access badges to all Members, APAs and external providers;

123.

Regrets that the evacuation system in Parliament’s buildings is largely based on security volunteers, and underlines the difficulties in recruiting them in buildings where there administrative staff are less present and taking into account that volunteers can also be on a teleworking mode; stresses the importance of not counting only on trained volunteers capable of guiding and supporting people present in Parliament’s building during evacuation simulations and real emergencies;

124.

Calls on the security services controlling access to Parliament’s buildings to find a reasonable solution for external photographers who work in Parliament’s premises on a daily basis and who have to carry a large amount of professional equipment through the security control every time, for example by allowing them to use the specific access for press;

125.

Points out that at weekends, access to Parliament’s buildings requires attendance to be signed on a paper register and, based on past problems with this method, strongly recommends that a more reliable and effective system be put in place;

Environmental footprint of Parliament’s operations and mobility

126.

Notes the gap analysis of Parliament’s current environmental performance carried out by the EMAS Unit on 14 December 2021; calls on Parliament’s administration to report on the activities that aim to close the gaps in order to achieve all targets on time selected by the Bureau Working Group on Buildings, Transport and Green Parliament;

127.

Notes with satisfaction that emissions in 2021 are lower than in 2019, with 2 501 tonnes of CO2; welcomes the fact that several practices developed or expanded in 2020 and 2021 to ensure business continuity and proved beneficial for Parliament’s environmental performance are likely to be maintained in the future, in particular measures related to digitalisation and teleworking, that helped to reduce paper consumption (11,8 kg/FTE in 2021 compared to 28,1 kg/FTE in 2019), the transport of documentation between the three places of work (49 tonnes of CO2 compared to 72 tonnes in 2019) and the CO2 emissions caused by commuting and travelling;

128.

Recalls that the transport of persons accounts for roughly two-thirds of Parliament’s carbon footprint; notes that the CO2 emissions from the monthly commutes to Strasbourg in 2021 amounted to approximately 490 tonnes of CO2, including travel of staff and APAs, and transport of documents and equipment; underlines however Parliament’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions through chartered trains and the ‘paperless initiative’ to help reduce its carbon footprint;

129.

Notes that 15 plenary sessions took place in 2021, out of which 14 took place in a hybrid format (5 in Brussels, 7 in Strasbourg and 2 mini-sessions in Brussels), while a mini-session in Brussels took place in the standard format; notes that, in 2021, the cost of the chartered Thalys trains to commute to Strasbourg was EUR 2 227 207 and the cost of missions was EUR 9 578 266, bearing in mind that external interpreters worked remotely which decreased the total cost compared to pre-pandemic years; notes that chartered Thalys trains were cancelled from January until May 2021 while for June and July 2021 only one train was put in place, resulting in total savings of EUR 1 659 845 for the year 2021; notes that the spending on staff missions to Strasbourg in 2021 was reduced by EUR 18 248 274 in comparison to the total spending in 2018;

130.

Notes that the suspension of plenary part-sessions in Strasbourg contributed to total savings of EUR 26 260 608 according to Parliament’s Secretariat, while also significantly reducing Parliament’s carbon footprint; highlights that the Court estimates that ‘the end of moving from Strasbourg to Brussels could generate annual savings of EUR 114 million plus a one-off saving of EUR 616 million if the Strasbourg buildings are successfully divested, or a one-off cost of EUR 40 million if they are not’;

131.

Notes that the total cost of energy and heating in 2021 was EUR 13 157 982 (EUR 2 259 496 in Luxembourg, EUR 3 102 010 in Strasbourg and EUR 7 796 476 in Brussels), while the estimated annual energy and heating costs of Parliament’s premises for 2022 amounts to EUR 41 020 327 and budgetary appropriations for 2023 for this purpose amount to EUR 42 150 000; is concerned that the current energy crisis will lead to further increases in energy prices in the future and that Parliament’s budget will therefore be heavily affected, so that proportionate and effective energy saving measures will be essential;

132.

Welcomes the installation of photovoltaic solar panels on the Spinelli, Montoyer 70, Brandt and Antall buildings in Brussels; welcomes further the decision to launch a new study on on-site electricity production in Strasbourg in order to update the data and explore new solutions; further encourages the Bureau to decide to install as many photovoltaic panels as feasible and useful based on the results of the study;

Energy-saving measures

133.

Acknowledges that, following the example of measures taken in many Member States and in other Union institutions, the decision taken by the Bureau to turn off the heating system and let the building drift to a minimal temperature as of Thursday evening to Monday morning and over the holiday periods would result in significant savings estimated at over EUR 2,5 million in total; however, calls on Parliament to guarantee an adequate temperature in Parliament’s buildings from Monday to Friday as regular working days; understands the need to reduce energy consumption and emphasises that heat-saving measures need to remain compatible with staff welfare;

134.

Recalls that efficient lighting solutions are an essential factor for the sustainability of buildings; welcomes the fact that the replacement of existing lighting with low-energy LED lights is evaluated whenever possible and feasible in Parliament’s buildings; notes that offices in those Parliament’s buildings in Brussels that are rented or awaiting decision on their future are not equipped with motion detectors and that it appears that the motion detectors in several offices in the Spinelli building do not work properly; welcomes the fact that, in Strasbourg, all offices are equipped with motion detectors, and that, in Luxembourg, the new Adenauer building is equipped with automatic switch-off based on the absence of movement; calls on Parliament to ensure that fully functioning motion detectors are installed in Brussels as soon as possible wherever feasible to reduce energy consumption; understands the need to reduce electricity consumption but calls for light-saving measures to be compatible with staff welfare;

Mobility

135.

Understands that the core business of the service cars is the transport of Members, including the journey between Brussels and Strasbourg; points out, the fact that on average 15 % of the seats available in the service fleet were not occupied for that journey in 2021; reiterates its call on Parliament’s administration to widen the user group while making sure that Members’ seats are secured, i.e. allowing Parliament’s staff to travel without the presence of a Member, giving regular updates on the numbers of seats available, establishing a reserve list and coherent deadlines to confirm the journey;

136.

Welcomes the fact that the Brussels site has 138 parking spaces reserved for electric vehicles, each with a charging station, plus 12 units for Parliament’s delivery vans; notes that following the latest environmental permit, issued by the local authorities in April 2021 for the Spinelli building, a sprinkler system is necessary for this large underground car park equipped with charging stations and it will be installed in 2022, which will allow for the installation of 20 additional charging stations; calls on DG INLO to design and implement a schedule for charging stations to prevent single vehicles from blocking individual spots for long periods of time; encourages Parliament to continue with an ambitious expansion of the electrical charging infrastructure for all types of vehicles;

137.

Notes the creation in 2021 of new bicycle parking areas in the Scholl and Adenauer buildings; calls on the administration to assess the current needs of staff in terms of bicycle parking spaces inside and outside of Parliament’s buildings and, if necessary, to increase the number of available spaces;

138.

Welcomes the possibility for staff to rent standard and electric bikes during the part-time sessions in Strasbourg; regrets that the bikes are in practice fully booked out more than a week in advance; calls on Parliament to examine the possibility of offering more rental bikes in Strasbourg to meet the demand of Members and staff and contribute to enhancing sustainable mobility;

Finance and administration

139.

Points out that budgetary, administrative and staff related decisions taken by Parliament’s governing bodies have a cross-cutting impact on the administration, thus affecting the implementation phase, for example, services other than those initially envisaged; calls therefore on the Secretary-General to include a realistic impact assessment on Parliament’s budget, administration and staff in his future proposals before the discussion in Parliament’s governing bodies;

140.

Calls for an end to the use of external companies that are, according to Yale University’s ranking (7) , continuing to operate in Russia;

141.

Notes, that the last revision of the rules governing the reception of groups of visitors from 18 January 2021 does not include a reflection on possible force majeure circumstances when it comes to cancellations of visits; invites the Bureau to consider accepting national strike as a force majeure circumstance when cancelling an organised group visit, as it is often the case that national strike days are announced at a much later stage and after tickets have been purchased and it is extremely onerous to cancel a group visit last minute and be able to recover all the financial costs incurred whilst organising the visit;

JSIS

142.

Calls on the Bureau to ensure that the joint sickness insurance scheme (JSIS) shall provide a coherent and individual explanation for declining a reimbursement request; notes that the culture of declining a reimbursement request in pdf format without the possibility to challenge the decision in person imposes certain difficulties on the applicants applying for reimbursement; calls on the Bureau to consider introducing the possibility for local doctors in charge of a treatment of an applicant to talk to the responsible JSIS unit or expert group to explain the treatment and medical benefits; further expresses its wish to improve the user-friendliness of the application enabling a quicker and more direct follow-up of individual requests; requests that the relevant bodies within JSIS duly and regularly take into account recent medical developments and knowledge gains when updating the list of eligible treatments and drugs;

Members’ travel and expenses

143.

Recalls the Court’s recommendation that Parliament should implement the necessary changes to ensure that it only pays daily subsistence allowances to Members who qualify for them, which was accepted by Parliament; recalls that the project to automate the central and plenary attendance register with biometric technology was decided by the Bureau in June 2019, that Parliament’s administration integrated into the project a first batch of recommendations submitted by the European Data Protection Supervisor in March 2021 and that now it is awaiting its final recommendations; is of the opinion that the use of new technology is an essential step towards digitalisation of financial processes aiming to avoid fraud and impersonation, to increase administrative efficiency and to speed up payments of related entitlements, and therefore calls for the automation of the attendance register to be carried out by means of an efficient and safe solution with all the necessary guarantees regarding data protection;

144.

Recalls that, in 2019, Parliament launched a project to automate the registration of attendance with biometric technology in the central attendance register and signed a contract for this project at the end of 2020; stresses that the large-scale processing of biometric data should be avoided; again asks the Bureau to develop an alternative solution that does not involve the processing of biometric data and ensures that only Members entitled to the daily subsistence allowance actually receive it; regrets that this project is still being pursued despite the European Data Protection Supervisor’s adverse opinion at the end of March 2021 and reiterated in its Annual Report 2021, where it was stated that Parliament should consider less intrusive alternatives with regard to data protection;

145.

Welcomes the announcement by the President of 21 November 2022 on the creation of a Bureau ad hoc working group to carry out a thorough overhaul of the IMMS in order to adapt the provisions to the recent legislative developments, new practices of Members and the recommendations from the internal auditor while ensuring consistency and legal certainty; strongly recommends that a comprehensive consultation of Members and the relevant services of the administration is carried out before the end of the current mandate to provide this working group with first-hand information from experienced Members and officials on the practical application of the rules governing Parliament and the ability to identify inconsistencies such as the rules concerning the timetable and cities for the opening of the register of Members’ attendance in relation to plenary sessions, missions and other parliamentary activities;

146.

Deplores the fact that there is no system in place to ensure that Members can continue to perform their core duties, mainly speaking in debates and voting, when they are temporarily absent for a justified reason, such as parental leave, long-term sick leave or carer’s leave; deems this problematic as it can negatively impact citizens’ representation in Parliament and particularly younger, in particular female, Members; takes note of the changes in Parliament’s Rules of Procedure on 20 December 2020 allowing for remote voting but only on the condition that the President establishes extraordinary circumstances; reiterates its request, adopted at Plenary level on several occasions, to the Bureau to launch a revision of the Rules of Procedure in order to enable Members to exercise their duties during justified absences, thus capitalising on the great effort and financial investment that Parliament has made in technical solutions to allow remote voting;

147.

Recalls that in previous discharge resolutions Parliament requested a reform of the GEA to make the expenditure of this lump sum more transparent and accountable; notes the announcement at the Bureau meeting of 7 March 2022 regarding the setting up of a Bureau ad hoc working group on the GEA, which is tasked with evaluating the operation of the Bureau decision of 2 July 2018 establishing a list of expenses which may be defrayed from the GEA on the basis of the experience gained during the 9th parliamentary term; observes that the Bureau, at is meeting of 17 October 2022, adopted a set of amendments to the IMMS, clarifying the rules applicable to the entitlement and use of the GEA and measures aimed at increasing transparency and providing more legal certainty regarding the entitlement to the allowance; highlights, that the ad-hoc Working Group was asked to take duly into account aspects of transparency, accountability and sound financial management of funds made available to Members, bearing in mind the principle of freedom and independence of the parliamentary mandate and the objective to avoid creating unnecessary administrative burdens for Members, their offices and Parliament’s services; highlights, that Members are free to document their use of the funds under the GEA, in detail or by type of cost, on their own or with the support of an external auditor, and to have this information published in whole or in part on their online page on Parliament’s website in accordance with Rule 11, paragraphs 4 and 5, of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament; welcomes that a simplified list of types of costs is integrated into the IMMS and that an amendment clarifying the possibility for Members to use the GEA in case of exhaustion of other allowances is also adopted;

148.

Recalls that pursuant to Rule 11(4) of the Rules of Procedure, Parliament already provides Members with the possibility of publishing a voluntary audit or confirmation of their expenses and regrets that only 18 voluntary declarations on the use of the GEA were submitted during the calendar year 2021; calls on Parliament’s services to send an annual reminder to Members in relation to this possibility;

149.

Recalls that the European Ombudsman (the ‘Ombudsman’), in case 1651/2018/THH, recommended granting public access to a proposal from the Bureau’s ad hoc working group on the revision of the list of expenses which may be defrayed from the GEA; regrets that Parliament rejected the Ombudsman’s recommendation and urges Parliament’s administration to reconsider granting public access to the documents in question;

150.

Note that the ordinary travel expenses, in 2021, amounted to EUR 40 338 767; suggests a review of the pricing policy applied by the travel agency in order to balance the flexibility needed by Parliament and less expensive options; points out that sometimes the travel proposals offered by the travel agency to Members are not very reader-friendly and take too long to arrive, the latter impacting the price of the options on offer or even the availability of travel options; calls for Parliament’s administration to carry out a satisfaction survey on the services offered, addressed to all Members, not only to frequent clients, to find out what problems may have prevented some of them from making a booking with the travel agency; points out that mission orders for the members of staff often arrive too close to the travel date even if the mission is agreed much earlier, which also has a negative impact on the available offers, and asks the administration to seek improvements to this situation;

151.

Notes that, in 2021, when contacted in the context of a mission of Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with the Countries of Central America (DCAM), the travel agency could not provide a quote for flights to and from Cuba because, as a US-owned company, it has to respect the US embargo against Cuba; notes that the travel agency had to outsource the search for the aforementioned flights to another agency, leading to delays in the process; recalls that Parliament’s bodies are obliged to use a quote from its travel agency in order to establish a financial statement for missions, which may be negatively impacted by restrictions concerning Cuba and other countries on which the US has imposed sanctions; demands that this issue be duly taken into account in the next tender for the selection of a new travel agency;

152.

Calls on DG FINS to establish a clear methodology of responsibility, which is in line with rule of law standards, between members, paying agents, assistants, and service providers, that guarantees in case of errors or misuses related to payments or other financial transactions, that only the party which committed the error or misuse, will be held accountable and responsible; stresses that sanctions should be attributed only to the party that committed the error and is responsible for the misuse of funds;

153.

Is deeply concerned about the extent of discretionary powers of responsible DG FINS staff when evaluating members’ requests including when selecting the employment or service provider contracts for further ex post verification; notes lack of formal accountability mechanisms and procedures for ensuring due process in proceedings with DG FINS, increasing the risk of discrimination and unequal treatment; reminds DG FINS to apply transparent, clear and non-discriminatory standards including when performing controls on the fulfilment of tasks carried out by local assistants;

Voluntary Pension Fund

154.

Is concerned that the actuarial deficit of the Voluntary Pension Fund (VPF) on 31 December 2021 amounted to EUR 379 million (compared to EUR 371,3 million on 31 December 2020); is concerned that the complete exhaustion is expected by the end of 2024 or 2025 at the latest and that in the meantime the VPF continues to sell assets in order to meet its pension obligations, which probably means that the remaining capital is being reduced; recalls the Bureau decision of 10 December 2018 increasing the retirement age from 63 to 65 years and introducing a levy of 5 % to pension payments for future pensioners with a view to improving the VPF sustainability; notes that in its judgment of 15 September 2021 in Joined Cases T-720/19 to T-725/19, Ashworth and Others v Parliament (8), the General Court concluded that already acquired rights were not impacted by the contested Bureau decision of 10 December 2018 and confirmed the Bureau’s competence to adopt decisions aiming to improve the sustainability of the fund provided that they respect the principle of proportionality; notes that an appeal was lodged before the Court of Justice against its judgment of the 15 September 2021 and that in the meantime Parliament’s Bureau is in the process of examining the implications for future proposals for options to improve the sustainability of the fund while reducing Parliament`s liability; urges the Secretary-General therefore to propose further feasible measures to the Bureau on adjusting the modalities of the fund;

155.

Calls on the Bureau to help clarify the entitlements of Members and former Members, who receive several pensions due to positions in the Union institutions; highlights the case of former Commissioners and requests information if the voluntary pension fund payments can be disbursed in addition to entitlements stemming from their Commissioner pension rights and if candidates for Commissioner were obliged to disclose this information; asks Parliament to clarify if the mutual and partial deduction of pensions is possible;

156.

Calls on the Bureau to provide the discharge authority with a detailed cost estimate projection for the fund for the coming years; and to follow-up on finding a feasible, legal and fair solution given the urgency of the matter; asks the administration and the Bureau to guarantee that no taxpayer money is used for any future bail-out;

157.

Acknowledges that Parliament is not involved in the management of the portfolio but expresses its concern regarding the articles published in the press about the investments made by VPF and the potential reputational risk for the institution; underlines that investments should be aligned and coherent with the goals and objectives set by Union policies; calls on the advisory board of the fund to revise all ongoing investments not in line with Union values and goals;

Annual report on contracts awarded

158.

Recalls that the Financial Regulation specifies the information to be provided to the budgetary authority and to the public concerning the award of contracts by the institution; notes that the Financial Regulation requires publication of contracts awarded with a value greater than EUR 15 000, a value that corresponds to the threshold above which a competitive tendering procedure becomes compulsory; notes that, of a total of 221 contracts awarded in 2021, 80 were based on open or restricted procedures, with a value of EUR 761,1 million, and 135 were based on negotiated procedures, with a value of EUR 253,5 million; notes that the total number of contracts awarded by negotiated procedures decreased in terms of value as a percentage of the total value of contracts awarded from 31 % in 2020 to 2 % in 2021 but increased in terms of volume from EUR 179,1 million in 2020 to EUR 253,5 million in 2021;

159.

Notes the following breakdown of contracts by type awarded in 2020 and 2021, including building contracts:

Type of contract

2021

2020

Number

Percentage (%)

Number

Percentage (%)

Services

Supplies

Works

Building

176

27

10

8

79,6

12

4,5

3,6

161

21

13

3

81,3

10,6

6,6

1,5

Total

221

100

225

100

Type of contract

2021

2020

Value (EUR)

Percentage (%)

Value (EUR)

Percentage (%)

Services

Supplies

Works

Building

634 689 038

136 777 513

76 247 759

168 302 638

62

13

8

17

457 940 293

14 143 825

28 291 234

86 812 000

77

3

5

15

Total

1 016 016 948

100

587 187 352

100

(Annual report on the contracts awarded by the European Parliament, 2021, p. 7)

160.

Notes the following breakdown of contracts awarded in 2021 and 2020 by type of procedure used, in terms of number and value:

Type of procedure

2021

2020

Number

Percentage (%)

Number

Percentage (%)

Open

Restricted

Negotiated

CEI list

Exceptional

Innovation partnership

DPS

OP Accelerated

78

2

135

2

2

0

1

0

35

1

61

1

1

0

0

0

57

3

135

1

1

1

0

0

29

2

68

0

0

1

0

0

Total

221

100

198

100

161.

Welcomes the fact that on 1 June 2021 Parliament established a Working Group on Socially Responsible Public Procurement involving all directorates-general and tasked with developing principles and practical guides for increased implementation of social elements in Parliament’s procurement; notes that the working group agreed on a first preliminary approach for social procurement at the end of 2021 and this approach is being implemented in a test phase during 2022; welcomes the fact that Parliament has developed training on sustainable/socially responsible public procurement for its staff and that a helpdesk service is made available to Parliament’s services;

Political groups (budget item 4 0 0)

162.

Notes that, in 2021, the appropriations entered under budget item 4 0 0, attributed to the political groups and non-attached Members, were used as follows (9):

Group

2021

2020

Annual appropriations

Own resources and carried-over appropriations

Expenditure

Rate of use of annual appropriations (%)

Amounts carried-over to next period

Annual appropriations

Own resources and carried-over appropriations

Expenditure

Rate of use of annual appropriations (%)

Amounts carried-over to next period

European People’s Party (EPP)

16 750

10 229

13 646

81,47

12 562

17 239

4 448

11 489

66,65

10 198

Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D)

13 584

9 829

12 295

90,51

10 188

13 609

5 734

9 533

70,05

9 809

Renew Europe (former Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe (ALDE))

9 192

6 948

6 997

76,12

6 894

9 230

3 847

4 063

44,02

6 922

The Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA)

6 927

4 891

6 126

88,43

5 196

6 381

2 376

4 054

63,53

4 703

Identity and Democracy (ID)

6 874

4 762

5 940

86,42

5 155

7 121

1 616

3 976

55,84

4 761

European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)

6 005

3 982

6 269

104,39

3 718

5 851

2 272

4 145

70,85

3 978

The Left – European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)

3 806

2 266

4 036

106,05

2 036

3 790

1 536

3 060

80,72

2 266

Non-attached Members

1 862

1 041

595

31,94

861

1 726

738

429

24,82

1 041

Total

65 000

43 948

55 904

86,01

46 611

64 947

22 568

40 749

62,74

43 678

163.

Welcomes the fact that independent external auditors for the political groups issued only unqualified opinions for the financial year 2021;

164.

Recalls that these appropriations are intended to cover activities in connection with the Union’s political activities, and that political groups are responsible to Parliament for their use; is deeply concerned that these appropriations could be used to convey messages contrary to fundamental rights and freedoms or Union values; recalls in particular that Parliament condemns historical revisionism and calls for a common culture of remembrance that rejects the crimes of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes of the past; calls on Parliament’s administration to carefully scrutinise, even retroactively, any publication funded by political groups that do not comply with those values;

European political parties and European political foundations

165.

Notes the appointment of the new director of the Authority for the period starting 1 September 2021 until 31 August 2026;

166.

Recalls the key role of a lively and resilient European democracy underpinned by pluralism of political parties at Union level; emphasises therefore that a level playing field has to be ensured and compliance has to be controlled in full respect of procedural rights; welcomes in this context the essential work of the Authority which independently and in close cooperation with Parliament controls compliance of European political parties and foundations with the legal framework, provides transparency to the citizens, and contributes to the integrity of Parliament elections; urges the budgetary authority to ensure that the Authority is equipped with the necessary resources, in particular human and IT resources, including cybersecurity experts, to continue fulfilling its existing mandate including in light of evolving threats of foreign interference, especially to protect Union values, to counter abuses of personal data for electoral purposes and to identify the origin of donations, as well as any new tasks to be provided by the legislator; underlines in this context that the European election year 2024 will be pivotal for financial and functional integrity of European democracy and create a significant surcharge of work for the Authority;

167.

Notes in this regard that additional resources for democratic integrity have to be invested by the European Union in its entirety; recalls that the Authority is an independent body of the Union and consequently its appropriations and posts should be distinguished in a transparent manner from those of Parliament; reiterates thus its recommendation to create a separate section for the Authority in the general budget of the European Union, as expressed on its Resolution of 19 October 2022 on the draft general budget of the European Union for 2023;

168.

Welcomes the follow-up carried out by the Authority to the Ombudsman’s suggestions for improvement issued in January 2021 in the context of its case 1094/2020/DL, namely the improvement of the website allowing for an increase in the amount of information offered to the viewers, the link to Parliament’s website, and the publication of information about the Register of European political parties and foundations;

169.

Notes that, in 2021, the appropriations entered under budget item 4 0 2 were used as follows (10):

Party (2021)

Abbreviation

Own resources

EP final contribution (1)

Total revenue

EP contribution as % of reimbursable expenditure (max. 90 %)

Revenue surplus (transfer to reserve or loss)

European People’s Party

EPP

1 283 598

7 737 916

9 021 514

90

788 064

Party of European Socialists

PES

977 280

6 217 037

7 194 317

90

645 859

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party

ALDE

734 661

4 504 780

5 239 441

90

857 838

European Green Party

EGP

560 006

3 597 971

4 157 977

90

854 803

Party of the European Left

EL

245 367

1 557 308

1 802 675

90

87 074

European Democratic Party

PDE

112 014

652 921

764 935

90

120 482

European Free Alliance

EFA

119 583

812 993

932 576

90

103 910

European Conservatives and Reformists Party

ECR Party

483 292

1 432 428

1 915 720

78

European Christian Political Movement

ECPM

98 679

708 660

807 339

90

3 178

Identity and Democracy party

ID Party

119 545

573 595

693 140

90

Total

 

4 734 025

27 795 609

32 529 634

 

3 461 208

170.

Notes that, in 2021, the appropriations entered under budget item 4 0 3 were used as follows (11):

Foundation (2021)

Abbreviation

Affiliated to party

Own resources

EP final grant

Total revenue

EP grant as % of eligible costs (max. 95 %)

Revenue surplus (transfer to reserve or loss)

Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies

WMCES

EPP

480 822

4 450 779

4 931 601

95,00

161 217

Foundation for European Progressive Studies

FEPS

PES

354 391

4 897 963

5 252 354

95,00

48 172

European Liberal Forum

ELF

ALDE

369 813

2 651 252

3 021 065

95,00

221 975

Green European Foundation

GEF

EGP

146 351

2 156 106

2 302 456

95,00

20 419

Transform Europe

TE

EL

77 546

1 218 962

1 296 508

94,83

10 340

Institute of European Democrats

IED

PDE

27 763

504 172

531 935

95,00

854

Coppieters Foundation

Coppieters

EFA

86 417

520 773

607 190

95,00

45 208

New Direction – Foundation for European Reform

ND

ECR Party

258 096

1 519 566

1 777 662

95,00

Sallux

SALLUX

ECPM

23 013

366 409

389 422

95,00

3 728

Association pour l’Identite et Democratie Fondation

ID Foundation

ID Party

12 778

660 075

672 853

95,00

Total

 

 

1 836 990

18 946 056

20 783 046

 

511 913


(1)  Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2020/2093 of 17 December 2020 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2021 to 2027 (OJ L 433 I, 22.12.2020, p. 11).

(2)  Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2018 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 and Decision No 1247/2002/EC (OJ L 295, 21.11.2018, p. 39).

(3)  Rules on Public Hearings, Bureau Decision of 18 June 2003.

(4)  Bureau Meeting of 13 March 2023 (PE-9/BUR/PV/2023-03) and Bureau decision 17/04/2023 (PE 422.534/BUR).

(5)  Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law (OJ L 305, 26.11.2019, p. 17).

(6)  This is based on a recommendation from Transparency International EU.

(7)  https://som.yale.edu/story/2022/over-1000-companies-have-curtailed-operations-russia-some-remain

(8)  Judgement of the General Court of 15 September 2021, Richard Ashworth and Others v European Parliament, T-720/19 to T-725/19, ECLI:EU:T:2021:580.

(9)  All amounts in thousands of EUR.

(10)  All amounts in thousands of EUR.

(11)  All amounts in thousands of EUR.


29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/36


DECISION (EU) 2023/1815 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

of 10 May 2023

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section II – European Council and Council

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (1),

having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (COM(2022) 323 – C9-0229/2022) (2),

having regard to the Council’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2021,

having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2021, together with the institutions’ replies (3),

having regard to the statement of assurance (4) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2021, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to Article 314(10) and Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (5), and in particular Articles 59, 118, 260, 261 and 262 thereof,

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

having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0085/2023),

1.

Postpones its decision on granting the Secretary-General of the Council discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Council and of the Council for the financial year 2021;

2.

Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.

Instructs its President to forward this decision and the resolution forming an integral part of it to the European Council, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

The President

Roberta METSOLA

The Secretary-General

Alessandro CHIOCCHETTI


(1)   OJ L 93, 17.3.2021.

(2)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 1.

(3)   OJ C 391, 12.10.2022, p. 6.

(4)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 240.

(5)   OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.


29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/37


RESOLUTION (EU) 2023/1816 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 general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section II – European Council and Council

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section II – European Council and Council,

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

having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0085/2023),

A.

whereas, under Article 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Parliament has the sole responsibility of granting discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the Union, and whereas the budget of the European Council and of the Council is a section of the Union budget;

B.

whereas, pursuant to Article 15(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the European Council is not to exercise legislative functions;

C.

whereas, under Article 317 TFEU, the Commission is to implement the Union budget on its own responsibility, having regard to the principles of sound financial management, and whereas, under the framework in place, the Commission is to confer on the other Union institutions the requisite powers for the implementation of the sections of the budget relating to them;

D.

whereas, under Articles 235(4) and 240(2) TFEU, the European Council and the Council (the ‘Council’) are assisted by the General Secretariat of the Council, and whereas the Secretary-General of the Council is wholly responsible for the sound management of the appropriations entered in Section II of the Union budget;

E.

whereas, over the course of almost 20 years, Parliament has been implementing the well-established and respected practice of granting discharge to all Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, and whereas the Commission supports that the practice of giving discharge to each Union institution, body, office and agency for its administrative expenditure should continue to be pursued;

F.

whereas, according to Article 59(1) of the Financial Regulation, the Commission shall confer on the other Union institutions the requisite powers for the implementation of the sections of the budget relating to them;

G.

whereas, since 2009, the Council’s lack of cooperation in the discharge procedure has compelled Parliament to refuse to grant discharge to the Secretary-General of the Council;

H.

whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority wishes to stress the particular importance of further strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the Union institutions by improving transparency and accountability, and implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources;

I.

whereas the European Council and the Council, as Union institutions and as recipients of the general budget of the Union, should be transparent and democratically accountable to the citizens of the Union and subject to democratic scrutiny of the spending of public funds;

J.

whereas the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union confirms the right of taxpayers and of the public to be kept informed about the use of public revenue;

K.

whereas the recommendation of the European Ombudsman (the ‘Ombudsman’) in strategic inquiry OI/2/2017/TE on the transparency of the Council legislative process indicated that the Council’s practice with regard to transparency in the legislative process constituted maladministration and should be addressed in order to enable citizens to follow the Union legislative process;

1.

Notes that the budget of the Council falls under MFF heading 7, ‘European public administration’, which amounted to a total of EUR 10,7 billion in 2021; notes that the Council’s budget represents around 5,6 % of the total administrative budget under MFF heading 7;

2.

Notes that the Court of Auditors (the ‘Court’), in its Annual Report for the financial year 2021, increased its sample of transactions under Administration from 48 in 2020 to 60 in 2021;

3.

Notes that the Court mentions that its work carried out over many years indicates that MFF heading 7 concerns overall low-risk spending;

4.

Notes with satisfaction that, in its Annual Report for the financial year 2021, the Court notes that it did not identify any specific issues concerning the Council;

State of play of the discharge procedure

5.

Deeply regrets that, for the financial year 2020, the Parliament once again had to refuse discharge to the Council because the Council refuses to cooperate with Parliament on ensuring a thorough, orderly and well informed discharge procedure;

6.

Emphasises Parliament’s prerogative to grant discharge pursuant to Article 319 TFEU, as well as the applicable provisions of the Financial Regulation and Parliament’s Rules of Procedure in line with current interpretation and practice, namely, the power to grant discharge in order to maintain transparency and to ensure democratic accountability with respect to Union taxpayers;

7.

Underlines that Article 59(1) of the Financial Regulation states that the Commission shall confer on the other Union institutions the requisite powers for the implementation of the sections of the budget relating to them and, therefore, finds it incomprehensible that the Council believes it to be appropriate that discharge should be granted to the Commission for the implementation of the Council budget;

8.

Stresses the well-established and respected practice followed by Parliament over the course of almost 20 years of granting discharge to all Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies; recalls that the Commission has declared its inability to oversee the implementation of the budgets of the other Union institutions; stresses the reiterated view of the Commission that the practice of giving discharge to each Union institution for their administrative expenditure should continue to be pursued directly by Parliament;

9.

Stresses that the current situation, where Parliament is only able to check the reports of the Court and of the Ombudsman and the information on the Council’s website, but does not receive written or oral answers from the Council during the annual discharge procedure, i.e. the Council refuses to collaborate with Parliament in the context of the annual discharge procedure, makes it impossible for Parliament to carry out its duties properly and for it to make an informed decision on granting discharge;

10.

Deplores that the Council, for more than a decade, has shown that it does not have any political willingness to collaborate with Parliament in the context of the annual discharge procedure; underlines that this attitude has had a lasting negative effect on both institutions by jeopardising the image of the Union as a whole, discrediting the management and democratic scrutiny of the Union budget and reducing the trust of citizens in the Union as a transparent entity; deeply regrets the Council’s continual refusal to engage in loyal cooperation in the framework of the discharge procedure;

11.

Stresses that, while the current situation has to be improved through better interinstitutional cooperation within the framework of the Treaties, a revision of the Treaties could render the discharge procedure clearer and more transparent by giving Parliament the explicit competence to grant discharge to all Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies individually;

12.

Recalls that the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union supports the right of taxpayers and the public to be kept informed about the use of public revenues; demands, therefore, full respect for Parliament’s prerogative and role as guarantor of the democratic accountability principle; calls on the Council to duly follow up on the recommendations adopted by Parliament in the context of the discharge procedure;

13.

Calls on the Council to resume negotiations with Parliament as soon as possible in order to find a solution in the current framework of the discharge procedure, if Council is interested in showing Union citizens that it takes proper budget control and transparency seriously while respecting the respective roles of Parliament and the Council in the discharge procedure;

14.

Notes that despite the Council being unwilling to cooperate in the discharge procedure, the Parliament nevertheless stresses some political priorities and sets out some observations concerning the budgetary and financial management of the Council and other observations relevant for the discharge procedure in this report;

15.

Notes that while completing this report, Parliament has had to work with information provided by the Council via its website since the Council has chosen, as in previous years, not to respond to the questionnaire that was sent to the General Secretariat of the Council and has chosen not to accept an invitation to come and answer questions from democratically elected representatives of Union citizens, like all other institutions are doing as part of the discharge procedure;

Political priorities

16.

Recalls that pursuant to Article 286(2) TFEU, the Council appoints the members of the Court after consultation with Parliament; regrets that the Council has failed repeatedly to take into consideration the recommendations of Parliament in Parliament’s consultative role regarding the appointment of members of the Court but, rather, continues to appoint members of the Court that have been rejected by Parliament;

17.

Regrets generally that the Council exerts its prerogative in the nomination and appointment procedures for many Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies without taking into account the views of interested parties or the recommendations of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF); insists on the need for a review of the Council’s prerogative with a view to guaranteeing and strengthening the participation of the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies concerned and increasing the legitimacy of those appointed;

18.

Points out the serious gender imbalance in the Court, where at the end of 2021 there were only 8 female members compared to 18 male members; notes that the difficulties in achieving gender balance in the Court are due to the current nomination procedure; reiterates its call on the Council to reconsider the nomination procedure with the aim of tackling this problem with concrete actions, such as making it compulsory for Member States to present at least two candidates of different genders;

19.

Regrets that the Council has so far ignored Parliament’s resolution of 17 December 2020 on the need for a dedicated Council configuration on gender equality (1) and insists that a dedicated institutional forum would ensure stronger integration of gender equality in Union policies and strategies, as well as essential coordination and progress in the main files related to gender equality;

20.

Recalls and supports the recommendations of the Ombudsman regarding the transparency of the Council legislative process in strategic inquiry OI/2/2017/TE; regrets that the decision-making process in the Council is still far from fully transparent, which affects the trust of the citizens in the Union as a transparent entity and thereby jeopardises the reputation of the Union as a whole; urges the Council to take all the measures necessary to implement the recommendations of the Ombudsman and the relevant rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union without undue delay; underlines in that regard the importance of the recent judgement of the General Court in Case T-163/21 De Capitani v Council (2) on transparency within the Union legislative process, in which it is stated that the documents produced by the Council in its working groups are not of technical nature but legislative and are therefore subject to access to documents requests; highlights that the Court clarifies that when refusing access to such documents, the Council should provide concrete and precise explanations, and completely rejects Council references to vague risks as a sufficient reason; strongly supports the Court’s view that access to legislative documents would not undermine in any way the decision-making process, despite such claims by the Council, and would simply correspond to the obligation of public accountability of the co-legislators and the Member States, which is enshrined in any system founded on democratic legitimacy;

21.

Believes that the use of unanimous voting in the Council in certain policy areas is paralysing the Union’s decision-making process, making it prone to blackmailing by governments of Member States for domestic political purposes, especially those who fail to respect the rule of law; calls on the Council to apply the qualified majority voting procedures whenever provided by the Treaties and to consider the review of the Treaties with respect to voting procedures; believes that the generalised shift to a qualified majority voting procedure in the Council is a crucial step towards more efficient policy-making;

22.

Expresses its deep concern regarding the increasing role of the European Council in legislative files, despite the fact that it has neither a legislative nor an executive function and that it does not apply the same transparency standards as the Council, meaning that it is not being held accountable;

23.

Regrets the fact that the participation of the Member States’ Permanent Representatives in the Transparency Register is completely voluntary and insists that all Permanent Representations should take an active part in the Transparency Register before, during and after their Member State’s Council presidency; believes that the existing ethics rules on conflicts of interest, revolving doors and transparency on lobbying should be strengthened and harmonised; encourages the Council to fully utilise the Transparency Register beyond its current limitations and calls on the Council to refuse to meet with unregistered lobbyists;

24.

Regrets the Council position on the Transparency Register, refusing to consider any strengthening of the measures and rejecting any recommendation for improvement;

25.

Reiterates its deep concern with respect to the confirmed conflicts of interest of Member State representatives involved in policy and budget decision-making processes; believes that Member State representatives who benefit directly from Union subsidies through the businesses they own should not be allowed to participate in policy or budgetary discussions and votes related to those subsidies;

26.

Reiterates its call on the rotating Council presidencies to decline any corporate sponsorship to contribute to covering their expenses; understands that financial resources from national budgets vary significantly among Member States and that each Member State, irrespective of its size and available budget, should have an equal opportunity to organise a successful Council presidency, but believes that the acceptance of corporate sponsorship causes reputational damage because it risks creating conflicts of interest; reiterates its call on the Council to budget the Council presidencies to ensure adequate and uniform standards of efficiency and effectiveness in the work in Council in general; is disappointed with the non-binding guidance issued on corporate sponsorships by the Council and is of the opinion that it should be revised;

Budgetary and financial management

27.

Notes that the budget for the Council was EUR 594 386 954 for 2021, representing a marginal increase of 0,6 % compared to 2020, which is lower than the increase from 2019 to 2020 (1,5 %);

28.

Reiterates its regret that the budget of the European Council and the Council has not been divided into two clearly separated budgets as recommended by Parliament in previous discharge resolutions in order to improve transparency and accountability, not least concerning the European Council where it is currently impossible to get reliable information about the its costs;

29.

Notes that the General Secretariat of the Council publishes a series of annual activity reports covering different parts of the General Secretariat but that it is difficult to get a comprehensive overview of the activities of the General Secretariat of the Council since there is not a single report summarising and presenting a coherent overview of Council activities;

30.

Notes with satisfaction that the annual activity reports contain declarations of assurance from the Council’s authorising officers by delegation (AODs), stating that resources have been used for their intended purpose and in accordance with the principles of sound financial management and that control procedures put in place give the necessary guarantees concerning the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions;

31.

Notes that the Council carried out 43 budget transfers in 2021, all on the basis of Article 29 of the Financial Regulation and of which two involved informing the budgetary authority;

Internal management, performance and internal control

32.

Welcomes that the General Secretariat of the Council was able to ensure that decision-making could continue in the European Council and the Council despite the continuing exceptional situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic;

33.

Notes that, in 2021, the Council organised a total of 4 581 meetings, representing a significant increase of 30 % compared to 2020 where 3 520 meetings were organised; notes that the major part of the increase comes from a significantly higher number of working group meetings, which increased by 48 % from 2 790 to 4 135;

34.

Notes with satisfaction that the Council provides the discharge authority with a summary of the number and types of internal audits carried out in the General Secretariat of the Council, a synthesis of the recommendations made and the action taken on those recommendations; notes that eight internal audits were carried out in 2021;

35.

Notes that the internal audits cover the annual planning and reporting of the AODs; notes that the main recommendations from the internal audits include a recommendation that the Council’s finance directorate should provide guidance to the AODs on how to document the assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of their internal control system to ensure full compliance with Article 74(9) of the Financial Regulation; welcomes the fact that the audit of the Council’s finance helpdesk did not compel the Council’s internal auditor to issue any recommendation with high priority;

36.

Notes that the internal audit on data protection shows that, overall, the internal control system in place provides reasonable assurances about the processes designed to allow the services of the General Secretariat of the Council to process data with the required high level of protection; notes, however, that the Council’s internal auditor issued recommendations focussing on clarifying roles and responsibilities, enhancing the role of data protection contact persons and adopting further implementing decisions for the implementation of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 of the European Parliament and of the Council (3) (the ‘EUDPR’) in the General Secretariat of the Council; resolving the backlog of notifications made under the former regulation, which need to be transformed into records under the EUDPR, communicating clearly the kind of activities that require a data protection record and establishing a plan to absorb the existing backlog of legacy notifications; and reviewing the cloud policy;

37.

Notes that the audit of recruitment led the Council’s internal auditor to issue recommendations to the General Secretariat of the Council regarding the establishment of indicator(s) to monitor the achievement of the key objective of the recruitment policy which is to ‘provide the Council General Secretariat with the best staff to fulfil its needs’; welcomes that the audit of the ordinary legislative procedure did not compel the internal auditor to issue any recommendation with high priority;

38.

Notes that the audit of the operational security led the Council’s internal auditor to conclude that, overall, the internal control system in place provides reasonable assurances regarding the achievement of the objectives set up for operational security; notes, however, that the internal auditor issued recommendations concerning documentation of follow-up of quality controls and penetration tests, enhancement of physical security, updating instructions to security staff and performing a new risk assessment of the IT security network;

39.

Notes that the audit of the office automation network of the General Secretariat of the Council led the Council’s internal auditor to issue recommendations relating to the clarification of mandates, the allocation of vulnerability assessment activities of network devices and the migration of sensitive systems to more protected network locations;

40.

Notes that the audit on the network that supports the building management systems of the General Secretariat of the Council led the Council’s internal auditor to issue recommendations with a view to defining a strategy on the future of the building management systems and the level of involvement of digital services in related operational activities; agreeing a minimum set of information security requirements to be included in contracts with third parties to manage the risk resulting from external providers’ access to the systems of the General Secretariat of the Council; and assessing the migration of building management IT systems to the digital service data centres in order to mitigate physical and environmental threats to current information processing facilities;

41.

Notes with satisfaction that, as part of the digitalisation of the General Secretariat of the Council the relative share of e-invoices has been increasing continuously from 1 % in 2014 to 74 % in 2020 and 89 % in 2021;

Human resources, equality and staff well-being

42.

Notes that the number of posts in the establishment plan of the Council in 2021 was fixed at 3 029; deplores, however, that the Council publishes very limited data about the composition of its staff; notes that, according to the information provided on its website, on 16 January 2022, the General Secretariat of the Council employed 3 119 members of staff out of which 1 791 (57 %) were women and 1 328 (43 %) were men; notes that 50 members of staff were categorised as senior management out of which 19 (38 %) were women, while 31 (62 %) were men; notes that 82 members of staff were categorised as middle management out of which 36 (44 %) were women, while 46 (56 %) were men; notes that 1 459 members of staff were categorised as administrators out of which 806 (55 %) were women, while 653 (45 %) were men; finally notes that 1 412 members of staff were categorised as assistants and secretaries out of which 889 (63 %) were women and 523 (37 %) were men;

43.

Regrets the gender imbalance in senior management positions within the General Secretariat of the Council; calls on the Council to take immediate and concrete measures to achieve gender balance at all levels of hierarchy;

44.

Regrets the lack of information on the implementation of the Council’s gender action plan and on the measures taken to ensure equal opportunities for persons with disabilities employed by the Council; calls on the Council to provide information to the budgetary authority on the gender balance, geographical distribution and disabilities of its members of staff and on the related internal policies; notes that all 27 Member States are represented on the staff but that the geographical balance remains suboptimal (with some Member States being over-represented);

Ethical framework and transparency

45.

Regrets that, despite several requests by Parliament, the code of conduct for the President of the European Council has not been brought into line with those of Parliament and the Commission, in particular in terms of activities to be approved after the President leaves the post;

46.

Regrets not having received information about the code of conduct applicable to all members of staff of the Council; reiterates that ethical conduct contributes to sound financial management and increases public trust and that, as stressed by the Court in its Special Report No 13/2019, there is scope for improvement in the ethical frameworks of the Union institutions, something that is crucial as any unethical behaviour by staff and members attracts high levels of public interest and reduces trust in the Union;

47.

Recalls the recommendation issued by the Court in the above-mentioned Special Report No 13/2019 with regard to improving the Council ethical framework; expresses concern about the lack of a common Union ethical framework governing the work of the representatives of Member States in the Council as identified by the Court;

48.

Notes that the General Secretariat of the Council publishes an annual report with information regarding the occupational activities of former senior officials of the General Secretariat of the Council after leaving the service (Article 16, third and fourth paragraphs, of the Staff Regulations); notes that, according to the report from 2022, two senior officials declared their intention to engage in occupational activities with a total of seven requests; notes that none of the requests were found to fall within the scope of Article 16;

Digitalisation, cybersecurity and data protection

49.

Notes that the Council budget for computer systems and telecommunications in 2021 was EUR 47 116 000, which represents an increase of 5,9 % compared to 2020;

50.

Welcomes that the number of videoconference meetings and hybrid meetings increased by 107 % from 1 380 in 2020 to 2 859 in 2021;

51.

Calls on the Council to explore ways to use open-source technologies as widely as possible and report on the progress in using such systems;

Buildings

52.

Notes that the Council budget for buildings in 2021 was EUR 57 151 000, which represents an increase of 0,9 % compared to 2020;

53.

Notes that the Council declares that their building policy is stable and that the aim since 2004, to accommodate all its activities and those of the European Council in Brussels in buildings it owns, was completed with the addition of the Europa Building in 2016;

Environment and sustainability

54.

Notes that it is difficult to obtain updated information about any initiatives from the Council concerning the environment and sustainability; encourages the Council to report systematically on environmental and sustainability elements of its work as part of its annual reporting;

55.

Calls on the Council to establish systems, if they have not already been established, to encourage staff to use public transportation or other low emission transportation like bikes to reduce the carbon footprint of the Council;

56.

Notes that the financial statement of the Council mentions that, at the end of 2021, the Council was in possession of 2 589,2 Green Energy Certificates, based on the energy produced by solar panels located on the roof of Council buildings; asks the Council to report back on the sale of those certificates on the open market and the intended use of the revenue generated;

Interinstitutional cooperation

57.

Calls on the Council to follow up on the European Parliament resolution of 9 June 2022 on the call for a Convention for the revision of the Treaties (4);

58.

Calls on the Council to comply fully with the obligations set out in the Interinstitutional Agreement of 16 December 2020 between the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management, as well as on new own resources, including a roadmap towards the introduction of new own resources (5);

Communication

59.

Notes that 2021 was a record year with more than 20 million visits on the Council’s website, representing an increase of 23 % compared to 2020, and that the number of followers on Facebook increased by 3 %, whereas the number of followers on Twitter and Instagram increased by 11 % and 29 % respectively;

60.

Encourages the Council to engage with the European Data Protection Supervisor with a view to utilising the two open-source social media platforms, EU-Voice and EU-Video, that were launched as a public pilot project to promote the use of free and open -source social networks; encourages the Council to use decentralised social network alternatives to very large online platforms, such as Mastodon.

(1)   OJ C 445, 29.10.2021, p. 150.

(2)  Judgment of the General Court of 25 January 2023, De Capitani v Council, T-163/21, ECLI:EU:T:2023:15.

(3)  Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2018 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 and Decision No 1247/2002/EC (OJ L 295, 21.11.2018, p. 39).

(4)   OJ C 493, 27.12.2022, p. 130.

(5)   OJ L 433 I, 22.12.2020, p. 28.


29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/45


DECISION (EU, Euratom) 2023/1817 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

of 10 May 2023

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (1),

having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (COM(2022) 323 – C9-0227/2022) (2),

having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2020 financial year (COM(2022) 331), and to the detailed replies to the specific requests made by the European Parliament,

having regard to the Commission’s 2021 Annual Management and Performance Report for the EU Budget (COM(2022) 401),

having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2021 (COM(2022) 292), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2022) 160),

having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2021, together with the institutions’ replies (3), the Court of Auditors’ report on the performance of the EU budget – Status at the end of 2021, together with the institutions’ replies (4), and to the Court of Auditors’ special reports,

having regard to the statement of assurance (5) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2021, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 28 February 2023 on discharge to be given to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2021 (06247/2023 – C9-0063/2023),

having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (6), and in particular Articles 69, 260, 261 and 262 thereof,

having regard to Rule 99 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Regional Development, the Committee on Culture and Education, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality,

having regard to the letter from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0101/2023),

1.

Grants the Commission discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021;

2.

Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and executive agencies;

3.

Instructs its President to forward this decision, and the resolution forming an integral part of it, to the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to the national parliaments and the national and regional audit institutions of the Member States, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

The President

Roberta METSOLA

The Secretary-General

Alessandro CHIOCCHETTI


(1)   OJ L 93, 17.3.2021.

(2)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 1.

(3)   OJ C 391, 12.10.2022 p. 6

(4)   OJ C 429, 11.11.2022, p. 8.

(5)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 240.

(6)   OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.


29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/47


DECISION (EU, Euratom) 2023/1818 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

of 10 May 2023

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency (Chafea) for the financial year 2021

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (1),

having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (COM(2022) 323 – C9-0227/2022) (2),

having regard to the final annual accounts of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency for the financial year 2021 (3),

having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2020 financial year (COM(2022) 331), and to the detailed replies to the specific requests made by the European Parliament,

having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2021 (COM(2022) 292), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2022) 160),

having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on Union agencies for the financial year 2021, together with the agencies’ replies (4),

having regard to the statement of assurance (5) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2021, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 28 February 2023 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2021 (06250/2023 – C9-0055/2023),

having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (6), and in particular Articles 69, 260, 261 and 262 thereof,

having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (7), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (8), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2013/770/EU of 17 December 2013 establishing the Consumers, Health and Food Executive Agency and repealing Decision 2004/858/EC (9),

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2014/927/EU of 17 December 2014 amending Implementing Decision 2013/770/EU in order to transform the Consumers, Health and Food Executive Agency into the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency (10),

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/173 of 12 February 2021 establishing the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency, the European Health and Digital Executive Agency, the European Research Executive Agency, the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, the European Research Council Executive Agency, and the European Education and Culture Executive Agency and repealing Implementing Decisions 2013/801/EU, 2013/771/EU, 2013/778/EU, 2013/779/EU, 2013/776/EU and 2013/770/EU (11),

having regard to Rule 99 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Regional Development, the Committee on Culture and Education, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality,

having regard to the letter from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0101/2023),

1.

Grants the Interim Director of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2021;

2.

Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and executive agencies;

3.

Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Interim Director of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

The President

Roberta METSOLA

The Secretary-General

Alessandro CHIOCCHETTI


(1)   OJ L 93, 17.3.2021.

(2)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 1.

(3)   OJ C 478, 16.12.2022, p. 21.

(4)   OJ C 412, 27.10.2022, p. 12.

(5)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 240.

(6)   OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.

(7)   OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.

(8)   OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.

(9)   OJ L 341,18.12.2013, p. 69.

(10)   OJ L 363, 18.12.2014, p. 183.

(11)   OJ L 50, 15.2.2021, p. 9.


29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/49


DECISION (EU, Euratom) 2023/1819 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

of 10 May 2023

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency – CINEA (before 1 April 2021 the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency) for the financial year 2021

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (1),

having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (COM(2022) 323 – C9-0227/2022) (2),

having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency for the financial year 2021 (3),

having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2020 financial year (COM(2022) 331), and to the detailed replies to the specific requests made by the European Parliament,

having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2021 (COM(2022) 292), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2022) 160),

having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on EU agencies for the financial year 2021, together with the agencies’ replies (4),

having regard to the statement of assurance (5) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2021, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 28 February 2023 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2021 (06250/2023 – C9-0055/2023),

having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (6), and in particular Articles 69, 260, 261 and 262 thereof,

having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (7), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (8), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2013/801/EU of 23 December 2013 establishing the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency and repealing Decision 2007/60/EC as amended by Decision 2008/593/EC (9),

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/173 of 12 February 2021 establishing the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency, the European Health and Digital Executive Agency, the European Research Executive Agency, the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, the European Research Council Executive Agency, and the European Education and Culture Executive Agency and repealing Implementing Decisions 2013/801/EU, 2013/771/EU, 2013/778/EU, 2013/779/EU, 2013/776/EU and 2013/770/EU (10),

having regard to Rule 99 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Regional Development, the Committee on Culture and Education, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality,

having regard to the letter from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0101/2023),

1.

Grants the Director of the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2021;

2.

Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and executive agencies;

3.

Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Director of the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

The President

Roberta METSOLA

The Secretary-General

Alessandro CHIOCCHETTI


(1)   OJ L 93, 17.3.2021.

(2)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 1.

(3)   OJ C 427, 09.11.2022, p. 10.

(4)   OJ C 412, 27.10.2022, p. 12.

(5)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 240.

(6)   OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.

(7)   OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.

(8)   OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.

(9)   OJ L 352, 24.12.2013, p. 65.

(10)   OJ L 50, 15.2.2021, p. 9.


29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/51


DECISION (EU, Euratom) 2023/1820 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

of 10 May 2023

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Education and Culture Executive Agency – EACEA (before 1 April 2021 the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency) for the financial year 2021

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (1),

having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (COM(2022) 323 – C9-0227/2022) (2),

having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Education and Culture Executive Agency for the financial year 2021 (3),

having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2020 financial year (COM(2022) 331), and to the detailed replies to the specific requests made by the European Parliament,

having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2021 (COM(2022) 292), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2022) 160),

having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on EU agencies for the financial year 2021, together with the agencies’ replies (4),

having regard to the statement of assurance (5) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2021, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 28 February 2023 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2021 (06250/2023 – C9-0055/2023),

having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (6), and in particular Articles 69, 260, 261 and 262 thereof,

having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (7), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (8), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2013/776/EU of 18 December 2013 establishing the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency and repealing Decision 2009/336/EC (9),

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/173 of 12 February 2021 establishing the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency, the European Health and Digital Executive Agency, the European Research Executive Agency, the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, the European Research Council Executive Agency, and the European Education and Culture Executive Agency and repealing Implementing Decisions 2013/801/EU, 2013/771/EU, 2013/778/EU, 2013/779/EU, 2013/776/EU and 2013/770/EU (10),

having regard to Rule 99 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Regional Development, the Committee on Culture and Education, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality,

having regard to the letter from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0101/2023),

1.

Grants the Director of the European Education and Culture Executive Agency discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2021;

2.

Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and executive agencies;

3.

Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Director of the European Education and Culture Executive Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

The President

Roberta METSOLA

The Secretary-General

Alessandro CHIOCCHETTI


(1)   OJ L 93, 17.3.2021.

(2)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 1.

(3)   OJ C 427, 9.11.2022, p. 11.

(4)   OJ C 412, 27.10.2022, p. 12.

(5)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 240.

(6)   OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.

(7)   OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.

(8)   OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.

(9)   OJ L 343, 19.12.2013, p. 46.

(10)   OJ L 50, 15.2.2021, p. 9.


29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/53


DECISION (EU, Euratom) 2023/1821 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

of 10 May 2023

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency – Eismea (before 1 April 2021 the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) for the financial year 2021

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (1),

having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (COM(2022) 323 – C9-0227/2022) (2),

having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency for the financial year 2021 (3),

having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2020 financial year (COM(2022) 331), and to the detailed replies to the specific requests made by the European Parliament,

having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2021 (COM(2022) 292), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2022) 160),

having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on EU agencies for the financial year 2021, together with the agencies’ replies (4),

having regard to the statement of assurance (5) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2021, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 28 February 2023 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2021 (06250/2023 – C9-0055/2023),

having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (6), and in particular Articles 69, 260, 261 and 262 thereof,

having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (7), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (8), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2013/771/EU of 17 December 2013 establishing the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and repealing Decisions 2004/20/EC and 2007/372/EC (9),

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/173 of 12 February 2021 establishing the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency, the European Health and Digital Executive Agency, the European Research Executive Agency, the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, the European Research Council Executive Agency, and the European Education and Culture Executive Agency and repealing Implementing Decisions 2013/801/EU, 2013/771/EU, 2013/778/EU, 2013/779/EU, 2013/776/EU and 2013/770/EU (10),

having regard to Rule 99 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Regional Development, the Committee on Culture and Education, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality,

having regard to the letter from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0101/2023),

1.

Grants the Director of the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2021;

2.

Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and executive agencies;

3.

Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Director of the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

The President

Roberta METSOLA

The Secretary-General

Alessandro CHIOCCHETTI


(1)   OJ L 93, 17.3.2021.

(2)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 1.

(3)   OJ C 427, 9.11.2022, p. 23.

(4)   OJ C 412, 27.10.2022, p. 12.

(5)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 240.

(6)   OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.

(7)   OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.

(8)   OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.

(9)   OJ L 341, 18.12.2013, p. 73.

(10)   OJ L 50, 15.2.2021, p. 9.


29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/55


DECISION (EU, Euratom) 2023/1822 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

of 10 May 2023

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA) for the financial year 2021

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (1),

having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (COM(2022) 323 – C9-0227/2022) (2),

having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Research Council Executive Agency for the financial year 2021 (3),

having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2020 financial year (COM(2022) 331), and to the detailed replies to the specific requests made by the European Parliament,

having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2021 (COM(2022) 292), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2022) 160),

having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on EU agencies for the financial year 2021, together with the agencies’ replies (4),

having regard to the statement of assurance (5) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2021, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 28 February 2023 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2021 (06250/2023 – C9-0055/2023),

having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (6), and in particular Articles 69, 260, 261 and 262 thereof,

having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (7), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (8), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2013/779/EU of 17 December 2013 establishing the European Research Council Executive Agency and repealing Decision 2008/37/EC (9),

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/173 of 12 February 2021 establishing the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency, the European Health and Digital Executive Agency, the European Research Executive Agency, the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, the European Research Council Executive Agency, and the European Education and Culture Executive Agency and repealing Implementing Decisions 2013/801/EU, 2013/771/EU, 2013/778/EU, 2013/779/EU, 2013/776/EU and 2013/770/EU (10),

having regard to Rule 99 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Regional Development, the Committee on Culture and Education, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality,

having regard to the letter from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0101/2023),

1.

Grants the Acting Director of the European Research Council Executive Agency discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2021;

2.

Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and executive agencies;

3.

Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Acting Director of the European Research Council Executive Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

The President

Roberta METSOLA

The Secretary-General

Alessandro CHIOCCHETTI


(1)   OJ L 93, 17.3.2021.

(2)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 1.

(3)   OJ C 427, 09.11.2022, p. 32.

(4)   OJ C 412, 27.10.2022, p. 12.

(5)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 240.

(6)   OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.

(7)   OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.

(8)   OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.

(9)   OJ L 346, 20.12.2013, p. 58.

(10)   OJ L 50, 15.2.2021, p. 9.


29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/57


DECISION (EU, Euratom) 2023/1823 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

of 10 May 2023

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HADEA) for the financial year 2021

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (1),

having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (COM(2022) 323 – C9-0227/2022) (2),

having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Health and Digital Executive Agency for the financial year 2021 (3),

having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2020 financial year (COM(2022) 331), and to the detailed replies to the specific requests made by the European Parliament,

having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2021 (COM(2022) 292), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2022) 160),

having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on EU agencies for the financial year 2021, together with the agencies’ replies (4),

having regard to the statement of assurance (5) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2021, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 28 February 2023 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2021 (06250/2023 – C9-0055/2023),

having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (6), and in particular Articles 69, 260, 261 and 262 thereof,

having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (7), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (8), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/173 of 12 February 2021 establishing the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency, the European Health and Digital Executive Agency, the European Research Executive Agency, the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, the European Research Council Executive Agency, and the European Education and Culture Executive Agency and repealing Implementing Decisions 2013/801/EU, 2013/771/EU, 2013/778/EU, 2013/779/EU, 2013/776/EU and 2013/770/EU (9),

having regard to Rule 99 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Regional Development, the Committee on Culture and Education, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality,

having regard to the letter from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0101/2023),

1.

Grants the Director of the European Health and Digital Executive Agency discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2021;

2.

Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and executive agencies;

3.

Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Director of the European Health and Digital Executive Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

The President

Roberta METSOLA

The Secretary-General

Alessandro CHIOCCHETTI


(1)   OJ L 93, 17.3.2021.

(2)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 1.

(3)   OJ C 427, 9.11.2022, p. 47.

(4)   OJ C 412, 27.10.2022, p. 12.

(5)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 240.

(6)   OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.

(7)   OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.

(8)   OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.

(9)   OJ L 50, 15.2.2021, p. 9.


29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/59


DECISION (EU, Euratom) 2023/1824 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

of 10 May 2023

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Research Executive Agency – REA (before 1 April 2021 the Research Executive Agency) for the financial year 2021

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (1),

having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2021 (COM(2022) 323 – C9-0227/2022) (2),

having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Research Executive Agency for the financial year 2021 (3),

having regard to the Commission’s report on the follow-up to the discharge for the 2020 financial year (COM(2022) 331), and to the detailed replies to the specific requests made by the European Parliament,

having regard to the Commission’s annual report to the discharge authority on internal audits carried out in 2021 (COM(2022) 292), and to the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2022) 160),

having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on EU agencies for the financial year 2021, together with the agencies’ replies (4),

having regard to the statement of assurance (5) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2021, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 28 February 2023 on discharge to be given to the executive agencies in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2021 (06250/2023 – C9-0055/2023),

having regard to Articles 317, 318 and 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (6), and in particular Articles 69, 260, 261 and 262 thereof,

having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (7), and in particular Article 14(3) thereof,

having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1653/2004 of 21 September 2004 on a standard financial regulation for the executive agencies pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes (8), and in particular the first and second paragraphs of Article 66 thereof,

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision 2013/778/EU of 13 December 2013 establishing the Research Executive Agency and repealing Decision 2008/46/EC (9),

having regard to Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/173 of 12 February 2021 establishing the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency, the European Health and Digital Executive Agency, the European Research Executive Agency, the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, the European Research Council Executive Agency, and the European Education and Culture Executive Agency and repealing Implementing Decisions 2013/801/EU, 2013/771/EU, 2013/778/EU, 2013/779/EU, 2013/776/EU and 2013/770/EU (10),

having regard to Rule 99 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Regional Development, the Committee on Culture and Education, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality,

having regard to the letter from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0101/2023),

1.

Grants the Director of the European Research Executive Agency discharge in relation to the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2021;

2.

Sets out its observations in the resolution forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and executive agencies;

3.

Instructs its President to forward this decision, the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and the resolution forming an integral part of those decisions, to the Director of the European Research Executive Agency, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

The President

Roberta METSOLA

The Secretary-General

Alessandro CHIOCCHETTI


(1)   OJ L 93, 17.3.2021.

(2)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 1.

(3)   OJ C 427, 9.11.2022, p. 50.

(4)   OJ C 412, 27.10.2022, p. 12.

(5)   OJ C 399, 17.10.2022, p. 240.

(6)   OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1.

(7)   OJ L 11, 16.1.2003, p. 1.

(8)   OJ L 297, 22.9.2004, p. 6.

(9)   OJ L 346, 20.12.2013, p. 54.

(10)   OJ L 50, 15.2.2021, p. 9.


29.9.2023   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 242/61


RESOLUTION (EU) 2023/1825 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

of 10 May 2023

with observations forming an integral part of the decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission and executive agencies

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT,

having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2021, Section III – Commission,

having regard to its decisions on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budgets of the executive agencies for the financial year 2021,

having regard to Rule 99 of and Annex V to its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Regional Development, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, the Committee on Culture and Education, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A9-0101/2023),

A.

whereas the Union budget is a significant instrument for achieving common policy objectives, and on average represents 1,3 % of Union gross national income or 2,4 % of the Member States’ general government expenditure and total public spending in the Union;

B.

whereas, when the Parliament grants discharge to the Commission, it verifies and evaluates whether or not funds have been used correctly and policy goals have been achieved after internal and external audits, thus confirming the regularity and the performance of the Commission’s spending in terms of value for money;

Political priorities

1.

Recalls its strong commitment to the fundamental principles and values enshrined in the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), including sound financial management as set out in Article 317 and the combating of fraud and protecting the financial interests of the Union as set out in Article 325;

2.

Stresses that transparency, accountability, and integrity are essential ethics principles within the Union institutions; recalls the Court of Auditors’ (the ‘Court’) conclusions and recommendations in its Special Report 13/2019 on the ethical frameworks of Union institutions, as well as Parliament’s resolution of 16 September 2021 on strengthening transparency and integrity in the Union institutions by setting up an independent Union ethics body with, on the one hand, a preventive role via awareness-raising and ethical guidance, and, on the other hand, a compliance and advisory role with the ability to issue recommendations on ethical matters, including conflicts of interest;

3.

Emphasises the role of the EPPO, the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust), Europol and OLAF in the fight against corruption; calls for the capacities of the EPPO and OLAF, as well as cooperation between them, to be strengthened further; calls for common anti-corruption rules applicable to all staff of Union bodies;

4.

Highlights the importance of the Union budget for achieving the Union’s political priorities, as well as its role in assisting Member States in unforeseen situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences; stresses that the sound and timely implementation of the budget contributes to addressing more efficiently and effectively the needs and challenges in different policy areas; warns that the implementation of the budget under time pressure may lead to an increase in errors and irregularities;

5.

Recalls the importance of an ex post evaluation including for financial programmes created to respond to a crisis; the evaluation of the performance of the programme in relation to effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, coherence and Union added value would be in line with the Financial Regulation, the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making and the Better Regulation Guidelines;

6.

Underlines the relevance of reporting on the performance of the Union budget’s programmes for the discharge procedure; draws attention to the fact that the added value of the invested resources is closely linked to the results achieved and their contribution to improving the daily life of Union citizens and the economic impact within the Union;

7.

Reiterates its deep concerns regarding the situation concerning the rule of law in a number of Member States, which is deeply worrying in its own right and leads to serious losses for the Union budget; underlines that Union funds must not be used for anti-democratic activities or for strengthening authoritarianism; recalls that the Union introduced a legal conditionality mechanism to withhold funding from Member States that subvert the rule of law and welcomes the first application of this mechanism in the case of Hungary, that procedure was launched in November 2021 and concluded in December 2022 with the freezing of 55 % of three cohesion policy programmes (around EUR 6,35 billion); although the facts would have justified the freezing of 100 %, notes that Hungary’s and Poland’s Recovery and Resilience Plans (RRPs) have been approved; emphasises that both plans contain several so-called rule of law super milestones; demands the Commission to continuously monitor the situation and withhold funding as long as the rule of law violations threaten the sound financial management of the Union budget; reiterates in this context its strong conviction that Member States must respect democracy and the rule of law in order to receive Union funds and draws attention to the Commission that the rule of law situation has also been deteriorating in other Member States; calls therefore on the Commission to trigger without delay the application of the conditionality mechanism whenever breaches of the principles of the rule of law are identified to be affecting or are in serious risk of affecting the sound financial management of the Union budget or the protection of the financial interests of the Union in a sufficiently direct way; moreover stresses the need for a strong cooperation between Parliament, Council and the Commission while reinforcing the institutional checks and balances; underlines its strong and repeated requests to the Commission and executive agencies to ensure the protection of the Union budget by making global and systematic use of digital and automated systems for reporting, monitoring and audit and by making common anticorruption rules and by making the interinstitutional Transparency register (1) mandatory for all Union institutions, even agencies;

8.

Recalls that economic development in Hungary has been largely linked to foreign capital investments; therefore deplores the anti-multinational rhetoric of the Hungarian government and deplores that the institutionalisation of corruption and the opaque public procurement system, which should be addressed through the reforms requested in the context of the application of the conditionality mechanism, allowed the government to increase, in recent years, its ownership in energy, banking, telecom and media spheres; deplores the selective and biased denial of permits and imposition of arbitrarily rigid conditions and restrictions with the goal of economically weakening and bleeding out certain foreign companies until they are forced to accept a hostile takeover in full or in part by the Hungarian government or oligarchs close to the government at prices well below the real value of the company; criticises the Commission for not fulfilling its responsibility with regard to defending the internal market and fair competition by not intervening in these broad breaches of the rule of law and internal market rules;

9.

Notes with concern the findings of the Court regarding the protection of the Union budget; takes note of the Court’s Special Report 11/2022 ‘Protecting the EU budget’ where the Court found that although the Commission’s exclusion system has some strengths, shortcomings limit its effectiveness; notes with concern that the implementation of the Early Detection and Exclusion System (EDES) has taken longer than planned; is worried that differences in the approaches undermine the overall effectiveness of exclusion; calls on the Commission to work hand-in-hand with Parliament on recast of the Financial Regulation to further improve the EDES and make it an efficient and effective tool;

10.

Stresses the need to enlarge the areas where the EDES is used beyond direct management and requests the Commission to use it for all Union funds including funds under shared management: notes that the EDES has to be used systematically to ensure that companies and beneficial owners who have been convicted in relation to fraud, corruption or other serious economic criminal activities cannot benefit from Union funds; stresses the need to harmonise the indicators in Arachne with the exclusion grounds of EDES to ensure that excluded economic operators are also visible in Arachne; calls for maximum interoperability between Arachne, EDES and other IT tools to reduce the need to insert information items into various IT systems multiple times and keep the administrative burden as low as possible; believes that not more but better targeted control systems are needed, including the use of new technologies in order to fight fraud, corruption or other serious economic criminal activities that cannot benefit from Union funds;

11.

Reiterates the imperative need of a single mandatory integrated and interoperable information and monitoring system provided by the Commission, allowing for the electronic recording and storage of data on the recipients of Union funding, including their beneficial owners and allowing for the availability of this information for data-mining and risk-scoring purposes; underlines that it is essential to get a clear and transparent overview of the distribution and potential concentration of Union funds disbursed, including through a functionality that allows for the aggregation of these funds; underlines that this would reduce the bureaucratic burden on the financial actors, on controllers and auditors, as well as on the recipients of Union funds, and should facilitate risk assessment for the purposes of selection, award, financial management, monitoring, investigation, control and audit and would also contribute to effective prevention, detection, correction and follow-up of fraud, corruption, conflicts of interest, double funding and other irregularities, which have to be seriously tackled at both Member State and Union levels, through effective and efficient preventive and deterrent measures, including clear sanctions; notes that this digitalisation is overdue and indispensable given the cross-border nature of misuse of funds, fraud, misappropriations, conflicts of interest, double-funding and other systemic problems; underlines that this single data mining tool should be easily searchable and available for OLAF, the EPPO and the Commission, in order to enhance the protection of the Union budget and Next Generation EU against irregularities, fraud and conflicts of interest;

12.

Regrets that not all Member States make use of the Commission’s data-mining and risk-scoring tool for identifying projects, beneficiaries and contractors at risk of fraud, conflicts of interest and irregularities under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF); notes that five of the Member States in the Court’s audit sample (Greece, Spain, France, Croatia and Italy) will use the Commission’s data-mining and risk-scoring tool; recalls that a common data-mining and risk-scoring tool is a key element in protecting the Union’s financial interests and, more specifically, in preventing fraud, conflicts of interest and double funding, and in increasing transparency and accountability;

13.

Appreciates the utility of the Kohesio website and the Open Data Platform put in place by the Commission as transparency and accountability tools for cohesion policy and shared management related investments for the 2014–2020 and 2021–2027 programming periods, bringing together the national lists of Union supported projects and offering a mapping of operations (Kohesio) and providing up to date data on adopted programmes, regular monitoring of finances and Union commitments and payments (Open Data Platform); notes the ongoing adaptations performed to adequately cover the 2021–2027 programming period, but stresses the imperative need of coordination and interoperability with the Arachne risk-scoring tool; calls, therefore, on the Commission to ensure effective interoperability between the different tools;

14.

Reiterates the need to better balance the further simplification of rules and procedures with better controls over the most repeated areas of irregular spending, develop mandatory training sessions and practical information for applicants, in particular new applicants, and improve the assistance and guidelines for SMEs, spin-offs, start-ups, administration and payment agencies and all other relevant stakeholders;

15.

Stresses the increased use and importance of performance indicators, including the selection of indicators, definition of targets and milestones and monitoring and reporting in light of the new delivery models for the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and the reformed Common Agricultural Policy; in this regard calls on the Commission to further improve monitoring and reporting on performance of the Union budget with more streamlined and qualitative indicators such as indicators on climate-related spending, on gender mainstreaming and indicators on biodiversity, as reflected in the adopted basic acts of the 2021–2027 spending programmes; notes that milestones and targets as well as output indicators are different in nature; notes that the RRF further differentiates between investments and reforms; reiterates its call on the Commission to provide an overview of the complete audit cycle within the Member States, the Commission as well as an overview of the cooperation with the respective audit authorities including the Court, as well as OLAF and the EPPO;

16.

Is concerned about the increasing number and complexity of the Commission’s quasi-legal instruments such as opinions, recommendations, communications, non-legislative resolutions, notices, guidance documents and statements of administrative priorities; calls on the Commission to simplify and streamline these instruments and use them with the intention of further simplifying the procedures and reducing the bureaucratic burden; recalls the REFIT programme to simplify Union rules and reduce unnecessary burdens, while achieving the benefits of legislation and by introducing the ‘one in, one out’ approach; asks for the systematic application by the Commission of the principle that means that newly introduced burdens are offset by removing equivalent burdens in the same policy area;

17.

Reiterates the need to step up the efforts in the fight against fraud both at Union and Member State level, in close cooperation with the EPPO and OLAF; appreciates the remarkable efforts and stresses the role of the EPPO in the investigation and prosecution of fraud and other criminal offences affecting the financial interests of the Union; highlights the importance of the EPPO’s full independence and impartiality for the effective exercise of its functions; stresses the fact that the EPPO and OLAF’s independence, impartiality and their effectiveness demands sufficient financial and human resources, especially in light of the new tasks related to the NextGenerationEU(NGEU); invites the Commission to urgently take action on the requests made by the EPPO on its budgetary implementation, so that the EPPO can become a fully effective prosecution office;

18.

Notes that the Commission presents its annual report on the protection of the Union’s financial interests (PIF report) in the autumn of the following year making it impossible for Parliament to adopt the report sooner than 2 years after the concerned period in the report (n+2); stresses that in order to achieve better efficiency in adopting Union policies and counter-measures to the fraud, tax evasion and other financial irregularities presented in the report, Parliament should be able to process and adopt the PIF report no later than next year (n+1); calls on OLAF and the Commission to adopt their reporting on PIF accordingly;

19.

Underlines the importance of transparent operations of NGOs and intermediaries as regards their funding and ownership, as they are important actors in the implementation of the Union budget under the different management methods and especially in the area of external action; is deeply concerned by the funding of projects carried out by or involving NGOs with links to radical religious and political organisations; calls on the Commission to guarantee that Union funds only finance organisations that strictly respect all Union values; urges the Commission to set up ex ante mechanisms clearly identifying NGOs operating on Union territory and abroad that have acknowledged ties to religious fundamentalist networks and push forward an agenda that is undermining Union values; calls, in this context, for the creation of a public black list of NGOs, that have engaged in activities such as hate speech, incitement to terrorism, religious extremism supporting or glorifying violence, or have misused or misappropriated Union funds and are listed in the EDES database, in order to ensure they are blocked from access to Union institutions and Union funding programmes; reiterates that no funds can be allocated or linked to any cause or form of terrorism and/or religious or political radicalisation; stresses the need for a thorough pre-check in the registration in the transparency register to disclose all funding sources; notes that funding from Union funds must be traceable from the direct recipient to the final beneficiary when funds are passed on in a chain; recalls that as regards public funding, Union basic acts regulate how transparency and visibility in this regard need to be handled, therefore reminds the Commission about the responsibility it has to check compliance with rules and procedures, especially rules and procedures on sub-granting to NGOs and intermediaries of financial institutions; moreover, demands that the Commission provides the discharge authority with an overview of the total amount of Union’s NGOs related expenditure;

20.

In the interests of clarity, legal certainty and the rule of law, calls on the Commission to put forward a proposal for an NGO Regulation including a clear definition and categorisation ofthe fields of activity and size of NGOs; the legislation should provide for a clear overview of the conditions for receiving Union funds by NGOs, covering the following obligations:

(a)

report amounts and sources of funding received as well as log all their activities performed on behalf of the foreign principals;

(b)

label material that is disseminated with the requisite information;

(c)

disclose their financial and non-financial inflows and outflows, including payments or non-financial donations that are passed on from one NGO to another other within an umbrella organisation to its members;

(d)

disclosure of the financing of political advertising or political campaigns by NGOs;

(e)

compliance with democratic accountability and respect for Union values;

(f)

for very large NGOs with corporate structures similar to private companies, reporting obligations on corporate social responsibility, compliance with employee protection provisions, provision for the promotion of gender equality, sustainability reporting obligations, the taxonomy for investments and supply chain links in purchasing;

21.

Stresses that the proposal should also cover transparency obligations on behalf of the Commission, including as regards the disclosure of financial, administrative or cooperation agreements with NGOs;

22.

Reminds the Commission that all legislative proposals, that have a significant economic, social and environmental impact have to be accompanied by solid and thorough impact assessments; stresses that this is part of the Commission’s better regulation agenda and underlines that the discharge authority will closely monitor that these impact assessments are conducted in a completely neutral and impartial way and that they systematically analyse the impacts of the options considered, the costs and benefits of the preferred option, including by taking into account the stakeholders’ views, through open public consultations;

23.

Points to the Court Special Report 17/2022 ‘External consultants at the European Commission’ which emphasises that the European Commission spends about EUR 1 billion each year contracting external consultants’ services, using them to support a wide range of consultancy, study, evaluation and research activities and concluded that Commission’s management of the use of external consultants did not ensure that it maximises value for money, nor fully safeguards its interests; stresses furthermore that there are significant gaps in the framework governing the use of these services, with potential risks related to the concentration of service providers, overdependence and conflicts of interest which are not sufficiently monitored; demands in this context the Commission to further develop its framework governing the use of external consultants, make better use of the results of external consultants’ services, enhance monitoring to mitigate the risks arising from using external consultants’ services and improve its reporting on the use of external consultants’ services, providing accurate and complete data on the volume and types of acquired services. Moreover stresses the unused potential of Union Agencies in providing for specific, relevant information and the same quality products as external consultants, if their mandates would allow for it; invites the Commission to look into this possibility in the future for consultancy and research purposes in specific areas;

24.

Welcomes the RRF’s initial contribution and its further potential with regard to preventing a strong economic downturn following the COVID-19 pandemic; notes that the RRF has been instrumental in making progress with the implementation of the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) stemming from the European Semester in almost all Member States; notes however that several CSRs remain unaddressed, further notes the contribution of the RRF to making Union economies and societies more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions;

25.

Notes the findings and conclusions of the Court in its first annual assessment of the RRF; understands that the implementation of the RRF takes place under time pressure, in order to provide timely support to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, with, however, a much more straight forward delivery model that puts much lighter requirements on both the Commission and the Member States, and reduces the control burden on the Commission and transfers it towards the Member States, in particular in comparison with the financing, reporting and control structure of cohesion or agricultural policy; highlights that any fast delivery model is to be accompanied by a robust control system of which the Commission has to be in charge; calls on the Commission to make sure that when proposing new Union programmes and policies with a performance-based delivery model as used in the implementation of the RRF, to fully integrate the lessons learned from the implementation of the RRF, as well as findings and recommendations on the RRF from audits and assessments made by the Court; recalls the importance of knowing whether the absorption of funds is on course, as 2023 is the mid-point of the RRF; acknowledges progress made by the Commission in addressing concerns of the discharge authority regarding transparency and accountability through the set-up of a platform similar to the Kohesio platform for Cohesion policy;

26.

Welcomes the agreement reached in the interinstitutional negotiations on RePowerEU on the bi-annual publication of the 100 biggest final beneficiaries per Member State on the RRF Scoreboard; reiterates its call for the list of all final beneficiaries in all Union policies and projects to be made available in the framework of the discharge procedure to the relevant Union institutions and to the discharge authority;

27.

Notes the successful efforts of the Commission to raise funds on the financial markets to provide the financial means for the RRF, as an important instrument in a time of severe crisis; nevertheless expresses concerns about the rising interest rates and the resulting uncertain capacity to repay the loans and the risk this poses for the agreed Union budget and Union policies; calls on the Commission to mitigate the risk and keep Parliament fully informed on the annual status of these loans;

28.

Expresses concern about the limited number of cross-border projects under the RRF; acknowledges at the same time that one of the objectives of the RRF is to support economic recovery in the Union Member States after the COVID-19 pandemic; stresses that the alignment of the national RRPs with Union policy objectives, including cross border projects, generates Union added value;

29.

Is concerned that the late adoption of a number of regulations governing different Union policies has, similarly as at the beginning of the 2014–2020 programming period, implied a significant delay in the start of implementation for the 2021–2027 programming period; urges the Commission to take all the necessary measures to speed up the implementation of the policies on the ground, while keeping a high focus on quality and the need to step up the fight against fraud and protect the financial interests of the Union; draws attention to the fact that especially under shared management a significant part the 2021 budgetary allocation has to be reprogrammed to the following years; highlights in this context the risk that outstanding commitments bear on the Union budget, possibly generating significant decommitments which in turn would decrease the impact of the Union budget; demands that the Commission indicates to the discharge authority the measures it intends to take to avoid this situation and draws the necessary conclusions and experience to ensure that a similar situation is prevented from occurring at the start of the 2028–2034 MFF;

30.

Encourages the Commission, the Court and the Council to work towards accelerating the discharge process to n+1;

31.

Notes that Protocol No 7 of the TFEU (Privileges and immunities of the European Union) provides for the so-called Laissez-Passers to be issued to members of Union institutions, and to Members of the European Parliament in particular, for use as travel documents; is concerned by the fact that the Commission’s central service for Laissez-Passers is opposed to recording the ‘function’ of Member of the European Parliament on the document, meaning that members are not able to prove their status when travelling, contrary to EEAS diplomatic staff for example; calls on the Commission to take urgent action to rectify this inconsistency so that members of the institutions can adequately prove their office when travelling;

32.

Regrets that, again, the Court issued an adverse opinion on the legality and regularity of expenditure, and found that the control mechanisms of the Commission and Member States are simply not reliable enough; underlines the importance of reinforcing the control mechanisms of the Commission and Member States which are considered not reliable by the Court, therefore compromising the reliability of the AMPR;

33.

Recalls that the Commission should follow up in detail on all of Parliament’s observations, including all of the political priorities;

CHAPTER I

Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF)

The Court’s statement of assurance and budgetary and financial management

Reliability of the accounts

34.

Welcomes that the Court, for the year 2021, finds that the accounts of the European Union are reliable, in accordance with the Financial Regulation and that the revenue side of the budget is free from material error;

35.

Notes that at 31 December 2021, total liabilities amounted to EUR 496,4 billion, compared with EUR 414,1 billion of total assets; highlights that the difference of EUR 82,3 billion represented (negative) net assets, comprising reserves and the portion of expenses already incurred by the Union up to 31 December that must be funded by future budgets;

36.

Notes that at the end of 2021, the estimated value of incurred eligible expenses due to beneficiaries but not yet claimed was EUR 129,9 billion (2020: EUR 107,8 billion), recorded as accrued expenses; notes that the increase in that estimate relates mainly to the RRF, the centrepiece of the NGEU programme set up to address the immediate economic and social damage brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic; highlights that payments to Member States under the RRF follow a predefined instalment profile up to 2026;

37.

Notes that following the end of the transition period following the UK’s withdrawal process, the Commission estimated that, at the balance sheet date, the Union accounts showed a net receivable due from the UK of EUR 41,8 billion (2020: EUR 47,5 billion), of which it is estimated that EUR 10,9 billion will be paid in the 12 months following the reporting date;

38.

Notes that the Court has assessed the impact on the accounts of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine; welcomes the Court’s assessment that the treatment of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a non-adjusting post balance-sheet event is appropriate and that its impact has been appropriately disclosed and presented fairly in the consolidated annual accounts;

39.

Notes that the Court, as part of their normal audit procedures, audited the assets, liabilities, revenue and expenses, including those related to the measures taken by the Commission in the context of COVID-19 related actions; welcomes that the Court has concluded that they are presented fairly in the consolidated annual accounts;

Legality and regularity of Union revenue and expenditure

40.

Regrets an adverse opinion on the legality and regularity of the expenditure side of the Union budget, issued by the Court;

41.

Notes the overall error rate calculated by the Court of 3,0 %, which is 1,0 % point above the materiality threshold; notes that this is a deterioration in comparison with 2020, when the error rate was 2,7 %, also well above the materiality threshold; notes the Commission’s reply that it does not dispute the Court’s established error rate but at the same time defends the results of its own work resulting in an estimated error rate at payment which is based on a different methodology; notes that the Commission calculates its risk at payment for 2021 as 1,9 %; is worried by the fact that, contrary to the Court, the Commission estimates its error rate to be both below the materiality threshold and goes even lower than the bottom range of the estimated level of error of the Court, of 2,2 %;

42.

Deplores the fact that the errors found reflect persistent shortcomings in the regularity of the expenditure declared by the managing authorities and that the Court identified shortcomings in the supervisory authorities’ sampling methodologies;

43.

Notes with concern that the Court considers that the Commission’s risk assessment is likely to underestimate the level of risk in several areas; highlights that the Court has reported weaknesses in the Commission’s ex post audits in Heading 1 ‘Single Market, innovation and digital’, underestimation of errors in Heading 2 ‘Cohesion, resilience and values’, and underestimations of risk and a high number of errors in Heading 6 ‘Neighbourhood and the world’, among other issues; highlights that in ‘Natural Resources and Environment’ both institutions are aligned in their calculations while for example for ‘Single Market, Innovation and Digital’ the Court estimates a level of error of 4,4 % while the Commission estimates a risk at payment of 1,3 %;

44.

Notes that the Commission applies controls to the Union budget both before and after payments have been made, and makes corrections if and when necessary; notes that this control system is reflected in both the ‘risk at payment’, which is an estimation of the level of expenditure that is not in compliance with the applicable rules and regulations at the time of the payment, and the ‘risk at closure’ (of the programme), which estimates the level of expenditure that is not in compliance when all controls and related corrections have been completed and, legally, no further action can be taken; further notes that the Commission’s estimated risk at closure is of 0,8 %, well below the 2 % materiality threshold;

45.

Reiterates its support for the audit approach and methodology of the Court; notes that this methodology is based on international audit standards requiring the testing of a random transaction sample and that a representative sample cannot be wholly risk-based; notes with concern the divergences between the error rates and risk at payment as calculated by the Court and the Commission; highlights that these differences do not occur in all expenditure areas; remarks the fact that the Commission’s estimates for risk at payment are consistently in the lower range or below the statistical estimations of the Court and is concerned that this represents a systematic underestimation of the existing error level by the Commission; invites the Commission to rethink its methodology and cooperate with the Court with a view to increasing harmonisation in order to provide for more comparable figures; underlines nevertheless that the general estimation of the error rate presented in the Court’s statement of assurance is not indicating the occurrence of fraud;

46.

Is worried that the Commission, acting on potentially underestimated risks, is not able to effectively protect the financial interests of the Union; is also concerned by the confusion this creates for the discharge authority and Union citizens, as the Commission, on the one hand, embraces the Court’s error rate in areas where this is below the materiality threshold (natural resources), however presents its own estimated error at payment in areas where the Court’s error rate is above the materiality threshold, raising questions regarding the reliability of its financial reporting;

47.

Calls on the Court to qualify the impact of corrective measures on the overall level of error;

48.

Notes the Court’s follow-up of observations stemming from the 2020 Annual Report as regards reporting on recoveries in the Commission’s Annual Management and Performance Report (AMPR) which the Court considers to be complex and not always clear; welcomes the Court’s observation that the Commission’s revision of its reporting has brought improvements; is however worried that the Court considers that the presentation of ‘corrections for past payments’ (EUR 5,6 billion) and the associated percentage of relevant expenditure (3,3 %) is inadequate and prone to misunderstanding; notes, in particular, the Court’s finding that the presented figures include preventive measures, which do not relate to past payments or accepted expenditure, and Member States’ preventive measures, that cannot be attributed directly to the Commission;

49.

Notes that the Court found that low-risk expenditure was free from material error but that high-risk expenditure remained affected by material error; highlights that the biggest contributors to the 3,0 % error rate were ‘Cohesion, Resilience and Values’ (1,2 percentage points), followed by ‘Natural Resources and Environment’ (0,7 percentage points), ‘Neighbourhood and the World’ (0,4 percentage points) and ‘Single Market, Innovation and Digital’ (0,4 percentage points);

50.

Notes that the Court divides their audit population into high risk (mainly reimbursement-based payments) and low risk (mainly entitlement-based payments) expenditure; notes with concern however, that the Commission, in its ‘Annual Management and Performance Report’ categorises the expenditure into higher, medium and lower risk segments, based on checks performed by national authorities, other partners and the Commission itself every year; emphasises that the use of different risk categories by the Court and the Commission presents a challenge to the work of the discharge authority in making a comparative analysis of the respective reports; notes with concern that this leads to the discrepancy between the Court’s calculation of high-risk expenditure as 63,2 % compared to Commission’s calculation of 22 %; reiterates that such discrepancies between the Court and the Commission are hampering the reliability of input data needed for the discharge authority;

51.

Notes with concern that substantial issues were detected in reimbursement-based expenditure, which accounts for 63,2 % of the Court’s audit population, in which the estimated level of error is 4,7 %; takes note that the effects of the errors found by the Court are both material and pervasive to the year’s accepted expenditure;

52.

Notes that, despite the fact that the Court considers the RRF expenditure accepted in the accounts, for the year ended 31 December 2021, as legal and regular in all material respects, it considered that one milestone in the payment to Spain had not been satisfactorily fulfilled, with doubts remaining on the Commission’s assessment of the milestone and targets associated with the related RRF expenditure; notes the Court’s assessment that considered the error to be non-material; recalls that the objective of the Court’s audit of the RRF was to contribute to the statement of assurance and provide the basis for its opinion on the regularity of 2021 RRF expenditure; notes that the audit population comprised the only 2021 disbursement, a payment to Spain, and the clearing of the related pre-financing; recalls that the only reason the identified error was not quantified was the absence of a methodology for partial payments by the Commission; acknowledges that the Commission has published such a methodology on 21 February 2023;

Budgetary and financial management

53.

Notes with concern that, in 2021, the implementation of commitments was very low, at 68 % of the total available amount, and that the late adoption of sectoral regulations during 2021 delayed the launch of new programmes; welcomes that the overall ESIF absorption rate increased in 2021 due to higher payments than in 2020; highlights that at the end of 2021, around EUR 161 billion was still to be absorbed by the closure of ESIF programmes in 2025; reiterates its concern over significant differences in absorption rates by Member States, and the fact that some Member States still have more than 40 % of their committed amounts to absorb; stresses again that huge differences in absorption capacities between Member States present one of the most serious obstacles to more effective development of less developed regions;

54.

Takes note that still not absorbed ESI Funds for the 2014–2020 period represent a significant part of the Union’s budget outstanding commitments; calls on the Commission to closely monitor the progress of implementation in Member States and analyse the differences, focusing in particular on the cases of under-implementation and low-absorption rates; expects the Commission to deliver country assessments to the discharge authority, identifying recurrent problems, and to take all the appropriate measures to optimise the situation, including through technical assistance and exchange of best practices;

55.

Reiterates its concern that, at the end of 2021, total outstanding commitments reached a record high of EUR 341,6 billion (combining Union budget and NGEU outstanding commitments); highlights that outstanding commitments are likely to exceed EUR 460 billion in 2023 but that they will then normally fall as NGEU draws to a close; underlines that a certain level of outstanding commitments is a logical consequence of the Union budget system with commitment appropriations and payment appropriations but expresses its concern that a significant amount of outstanding commitments can constitute a risk for the smooth and normal operation of the Union budget in the future;

56.

Takes note that the Union budget’s outstanding commitments decreased from a historic high at the end of 2020 and that the Commission forecasts that the increase expected in 2027 will increase by a small amount, mainly due to the smaller gap between commitment and payments appropriation; reflects that the Court has, on several occasions, pointed out that they can only be reduced if budgeted payment appropriations exceed commitment appropriations and are used; invite the Commission to consistently follow up on this recommendation, which is consistent with the requirement to maintain an orderly ratio between appropriations for commitments and payments;

57.

Highlights that the time available for implementing shared management funds under the 2021–2027 MFF is shorter than under previous MFFs; is aware of the challenges in relation to managing and controlling these funds to ensure compliance and sound financial management; is concerned by the increased administrative burden on Member States as a result of the implementation of the NGEU programme and the tendency of Member States to prioritise implementing NGEU over the traditional shared management funds, as discussed in the Public Hearing in the CONT Committee on 23 January 2023;

58.

Believes that the Commission’s Guidance on the avoidance and management of conflicts of interest under the Financial Regulation generates significant and unjustifiable bureaucracy particularly vis-a-vis SMEs, non-profit organisations and participative structures at local level; is of the opinion that the Guidance should focus on economic and financial benefits, rather than attempting to encompass the surveillance of personal life or societal relationships, explicitly at local or regional level; asks the Commission to fully respect the principle of proportionality and privacy and not put all actors under a general suspicion; calls on the Commission to clarify its current Guidance in this regard to provide clarity to applicants and decision-making bodies;

59.

Is worried about the related risks identified by the Court in its 2020 report and reiterated for 2021 financial year, namely that the level of administrative resources needed to manage different budgetary instruments in parallel may not be available and that, the introduction of flexibility in the system to cope with COVID effects, may lead to a weakening of established control systems;

60.

Notes with concern the increase in the Union budget’s total exposure to contingent liabilities from EUR 131,9 billion in 2020 to EUR 277,9 billion in 2021; acknowledges that the two main reasons for this substantial rise were the introduction of the NGEU and the increase in the amount of loans provided under the SURE instrument; understands that the risk to the Union budget from contingent liabilities is mitigated by the increase in the own resources ceiling and the counter-guarantees of Member States of SURE loans;

Recommendations

61.

Strongly supports the recommendations of the Court in its Annual Report as well as in related special reports; calls on the Commission to implement them without delay and to keep the discharge authority informed on the progress of the implementation;

62.

Particularly, calls on the Commission to:

(a)

ensure the protection of the Union budget by making general and systematic use of digital and automated systems for reporting, monitoring and audit (Arachne, EDES, etc.) and urgently establish a compulsory integrated and interoperable system building on, but not limited to, existing tools and databases in the context of the upcoming revisions of the Financial Regulation; develop the RRF Scoreboard to ensure that the description of milestones and the target and outcome of the audit are transparent; ensure that all Member States use the systems and central registers to report on beneficial owners and end beneficiaries;

(b)

substantially simplify rules and procedures, develop compulsory training sessions and practical information for applicants, in particular new applicants, and improve the assistance and guidelines for SMEs and NGOs, spin-offs, start-ups, administration and payment agencies and all other relevant stakeholders without compromising the quality of the controls;

(c)

keep increasing the administrative capacity of the Commission and Member States and propose adequate budget lines for the Court, the EPPO and OLAF to ensure their efficiency in relation to the implementation of the new upcoming tasks related to the NGEU instrument in order to protect the Union finances;

(d)

summarise and report to the discharge authority and the Court the reasons for the differences in the various expenditure areas and recoveries, and also in the results concerning the estimated level of error as calculated by the Court and the risk at payment as calculated by the Commission in the AMPR and engage in an exchange with the Court on both the managerial and technical level with the aim of introducing a single methodology on the error rate of Union expenditure;

(e)

work with the Court to align the respective risk categorisation methodologies and the audit working methodologies;

(f)

compare implementation rates of the REACT-EU instrument by Member States that were set to receive financial support under the RRF, and Member States where the National Recovery Plan has only been approved under conditions at a later stage (Hungary and Poland), and identify causes for differences identified, in particular aimed at the availability of administrative capacity;

(g)

continue supporting Member States to improve both the quality and number of checks and to share best practices in the fight against fraud;

(h)

provide for a simplification of the procedure, including the documentation required to access funding, without breaking the principles of audit and monitoring;

(i)

publish its audit reports, including for conflict of interest cases within a reasonable timeframe, helping to ensure that the recommended corrective and follow-up actions are implemented by the auditee;

(j)

strictly monitor the possible risk of corruption and fraud;

(k)

facilitate the inter-institutional cooperation by working towards speeding up the discharge process to n+1, without compromising the quality of the process;

(l)

step up efforts to improve transparency in the use of funds, including as regards information on final beneficiaries and to tighten the disbursement of funds to companies based in tax havens;

(m)

pay more attention to Member States and offer them enhanced technical assistance in cases where their management and control systems are only partially reliable or unreliable and where there is an increased risk of fraud and corruption in relation to Union funds;

(n)

re-evaluate its identification of entities as NGOs and provide for a clear definition, as well as to further improve the Union Lobby Register, making sure that NGOs who approach Union institutions are registered as lobbyists; further asks the Commission to set up an effective mechanism to assure NGOs’ activities are aligned with Union values and demand full transparency on their financing, providing a deeper insight into the financing of all entities registered should be the condition to approach all Union Institutions, bodies and agencies;

(o)

commits to guaranteeing adequate resources for the secretariat of the Transparency Register in order to ensure that the entries on the lobbying activities of interest groups, lobbies and NGOs can be checked for accuracy and that lobbying becomes more transparent;

(p)

draft a standard contract on the conditions for receiving Union funds with NGOs; stresses that this contract must be equally binding for all Union institutions and agencies;

Performance of the Union budget

63.

Welcomes the report of the Court on the performance of the Union budget – Status at the end of 2021, which focuses on the mainstreaming of five horizontal policy priorities into the Union budget, namely combating climate change, preserving biodiversity, gender equality, the sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, and the digital transition;

64.

Regrets that the Court considers that the preparation of this performance report has a negative impact on its audit and emerging Union priorities; takes note of the Court’s decision to return to reporting on performance along the lines previously used in Chapter 3 of the Annual Report; remarks that due to the legal deadlines in place, the Court may find it difficult to include its assessment of the AMPR in its Annual Report; calls for the Court to take account of the AMPRs in their annual reporting or through a separate document if necessary in order to account for the annual discharge exercise; recalls that the staff of the Court has been already increased in 2023 in order to account for the increased workload due to the NGEU;

65.

Welcomes that the Court found that there is a framework in place in the 2021–2027 MFF for addressing most horizontal priorities, that selected Union spending programmes incorporate the horizontal policy priorities that the Court selected, and that the Commission has developed methods to track spending for some horizontal priorities;

66.

Is concerned by the fact that the AMPR provides overly positive conclusions on the progress made towards mainstreaming targets, that there is little information available on whether spending contributes meaningfully to multiple priorities at the same time, that the Commission’s performance framework is mostly focused on outputs and does not yet measure outcomes, and that the Commission’s review of reported information faces challenges;

67.

Notes that, according to the Commission, climate and biodiversity priorities are integrated into the performance framework; but notes with great concern the additional findings of the Court in its Special Report 09/2022 ‘Climate Spending in the 2014–2020 EU budget’; is worried that reported spending is not always relevant to climate action and that the Union budget contribution to climate and biodiversity is overstated; notes with further concern the Court’s findings that the overall reporting on climate spending was unreliable, since it involved significant approximation and tracked only the potential positive impact on climate without evaluating the final contribution to Union climate goals; notes with concern that the risk that the planned or committed amounts would not be spent, could further inflate reported climate spending; is worried that the Court found that only limited improvements are expected in the 2021–2027 climate reporting; regrets that the Commission has not yet addressed weaknesses in the reported figures of their new methodology; expresses its profound disappointment about the reaction of the Commission which indicates a lack of responsibility and a failure to fully recognise the shortcomings in its methodology; cannot accept the Commission’s statement about ‘agreeing to disagree’ with Members of the discharge authority given the fact that, according to the Court, the amount reported as having been spent on climate action had been overstated by at least EUR 72 billion for the 2014–2020 period;

68.

Is worried by the potential lack of comprehensive analysis of previous spending, including the Just Transition Fund; is of the opinion that comprehensive impact assessments are necessary to ensure the performance of the Union budget; considers the role of the Regulatory Scrutiny Board as fundamental; encourages the Commission to develop tools and procedures that allow for the efficient use of the expertise available to it; calls on the Commission to explicitly justify the cases where it diverges from the recommendations;

69.

Notes that progress has been made in incorporating gender equality into the performance framework; notes with great concern that, in addition to numerous discussions of Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, the Court has identified weaknesses in gender mainstreaming; regrets that the Commission’s first estimation of the overall contribution of the Union budget to promoting gender equality was affected by weaknesses; notes with concern that the Commission continues to implement Union’s programmes with no spending targets and only a few indicators with regard to gender equality; calls on the Commission to continue promoting gender balance and a gender budgeting approach in the allocated funds; calls on the Commission to urgently develop a gender mainstreaming methodology in order to integrate a gender equality perspective in all policy areas;

70.

Regrets that there is limited information available on the progress of Union programmes with regard to the SDGs; notes with concern that previous work from the Court shows that the Commission does not report on the budget’s contribution to the SDGs; welcomes that the Commission has started reporting on the links between Union spending programmes and the SDGs;

71.

Welcomes that the digital transition is a new priority; understands that the Commission has provided information on the contribution to the digital transition for specific programmes and awaits the most recent assessment by the Court on the reliability of the Commission’s reporting on the implementation of this priority;

Recommendations

72.

Strongly supports the recommendations of the Court in its Annual Report as well as in related special reports; calls on the Commission to implement them without delay and to keep the discharge authority informed on the progress of the implementation;

73.

Furthermore, calls on the Commission to:

(a)

enhance performance reporting in the areas indicated above, including climate, gender mainstreaming and geographical balance;

(b)

follow up on the Court’s recommendations to better link the Union’s expenditure to its climate, biodiversity, gender mainstreaming and energy objectives;

(c)

provide a clear and comprehensive evaluation of the performance of the programmes in the Annual Management and Performance Report;

74.

Stresses the fact that the discharge authority attaches great importance to the full and timely implementation of these recommendations by the Court and will assess the situation thoroughly in the next discharge report;

Revenue

75.

Notes that the revenue of the Union budget comprises own resources, external assigned revenue mostly financing the RRF expenditure, and other revenue; notes that the gross national income-based own resource accounts for EUR 115,8 billion (48,2 %), budgetary guarantees borrowing and lending operations in the context of the NGEU account for EUR 55,5 billion (23,2 %), contributions and refunds connected with the Union agreements and programmes account for EUR 19,8 billion (8,3 %), traditional own resources account for EUR 19,0 billion (7,9 %), value added tax-based own resource accounts for EUR 17,9 billion (7,5 %), plastic packaging waste own resource accounts for EUR 5,9 billion (2,5 %), and other revenue accounts for EUR 5,7 billion (2,4 %);

76.

Notes that the Court has examined a sample of 55 Commission recovery orders, designed to be representative of all sources of revenue, the Commission’s systems for ensuring and managing the different own resources, the systems for traditional own resources (TOR) accounting and management in three Member States, and the reliability of the information on regularity contained in DG BUDG and Eurostat’s annual activity reports;

77.

Notes that the Court concludes that the level of error in revenue was not material; notes that the revenue-related systems examined were generally effective but that the key internal TOR controls in certain Member States and the management of VAT reservations and TOR open points at the Commission were found to be only partially effective due to persistent weaknesses;

78.

Notes with concern that Customs duties are at risk of either not being declared or being declared incorrectly to the national customs authorities by importers; highlights that these evaded amounts, known as the ‘customs gap’, are not captured in Member States’ TOR accounting systems and do not fall within the scope of the Court’s audit opinion on revenue; notes with concern that the customs gap may affect the amounts of duties established by Member States; is worried that, according to the Court, for a third year in a row, the Union actions taken to reduce the gap and mitigate the risk that TOR are not complete; is worried that serious weaknesses have been persisting for several years in Member States’ accounting and management of TOR; notes with concern the insufficient progress on a number of actions of the Commission’s Customs Action Plan;

79.

Welcomes that the number of open longoutstanding TOR points decreased significantly between 2019 and 2021, and that the Commission updated its procedure for processing TOR inspection results, encourages the Commission to include a system for ranking Member States’ shortcomings in order of priority and to set deadlines for their follow-up actions based on Member States’ replies;

80.

Notes that for the sixth year in a row, DG BUDG has maintained the reservation that the TOR amounts transferred to the Union budget are inaccurate owing to undervaluation of textiles and shoes imported from China during the period from 2011 to 2017; notes that on 8 March 2022, the Court of Justice of the European Union published its final decision on the Commission’s infringement case against the UK concluding that the UK failed to fulfil its obligations under Union law in respect of own resources;

Recommendations

81.

Supports the recommendations of the Court in its Annual Report as well as in related special reports; calls on the Commission to implement them without delay and to keep the discharge authority informed on the progress of the implementation;

82.

Furthermore, calls on the Commission to:

(a)

improve the assessment of financial risks for TOR by implementing the relevant measures of its Customs Action Plan in a timely manner;

(b)

ensure the protection of the Union budget by making general and systematic use of digital and automated systems for reporting, monitoring and audit and urgently establish an integrated and interoperable system building on, but not limited to, existing tools and databases;

Single Market, Innovation and Digital

83.

Notes that the MFF heading 1 ‘Single Market, Innovation and Digital’ accounts for 10,2 % or EUR 18,5 billion of the Union budget: of this amount, EUR 10,8 billion (58,7 %) is spent on research, EUR 2,6 billion (13,9 %) on Space, EUR 2,2 billion (11,8 %) on Transport, Energy and Digital, EUR 1,5 billion on InvestEU, and EUR 1,4 billion (7,4 %) on other areas;

84.

Notes that the Court has examined a statistical representative sample of 130 transactions covering the full range of spending under this MFF heading, the regularity information in the annual activity reports of the Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), DG RTD and REA, which is included in the Commission’s AMPR, and selected IT systems of the Commission;

85.

Notes with concern that the Court found that the estimated level of error in spending on ‘Single Market, Innovation and Digital’ was material, reaching 4,4 %, compared to 3,9 % in the previous year; is worried that the estimated risk at payment calculated by the Commission is 1,3 %, which is below both the materiality level and the range of estimated level of error of the Court; notes the Court’s observation that, despite the measures already taken by the Commission, its error rate remains understated;

86.

Notes that H2020 continues to represent the majority of projects in the Court’s sample, notes that no Horizon Europe project has yet been selected for audit, remarks that H2020 and FP7 spending remain high risk and are a main source of the errors detected;

87.

Notes with concern that the rules for declaring personnel costs under H2020 remain complex, despite simplification efforts, and their calculation remains a major source of error in the cost claims; regrets that one of the main causes of error is the incorrect application of the methodology for calculating personnel costs; welcomes the provision under its successor, Horizon Europe, of an increased use of lump sums and unit costs for personnel costs; believes, therefore, that the Commission should further foster and facilitate streamlining the declaration of personnel costs and promote a wider use of simplified cost options, as preconditions in order to stabilise error rates to below materiality level; draws attention to the Court’s observation that private entities, in particular SMEs and new entrants, are prone to error;

88.

Notes that, in 2021, specific support under the Single Market Programme produced results with regard to exchanges of good practice and success stories in supporting social economy initiatives at local and regional level and underpinning the European network of social economy regions; notes that, in 2021, the Commission ran a campaign to promote the ‘Access to Finance’ (A2F) website, a series of webinars on ‘EU support instruments for SMEs’ and a campaign dedicated to social communication platforms (Outreach to Businesses and Citizens) highlighting cross-border business support and opportunities for SMEs;

89.

Takes note that the Court found, in its Special Report 15/2022 ‘Measures to widen participation in Horizon 2020 were well designed but sustainable change will mostly depend on efforts by national authorities’ that while the design of the widening measures was mostly appropriate they can only kick-start progress in R&I performance; welcomes that the implementation of the widening measures faced challenges but shows first results; notes with concern that the Commission has made insufficient arrangements for monitoring the impact of widening measures; highlights the Court’s conclusion that to avoid situations in which the bulk of widening projects goes to just a few countries, the Commission should closely monitor participation levels in widening measures under Horizon Europe and, if continuous significant imbalances emerge, introduce measures to achieve a wider pattern of participation;

90.

Notes with concern that the Court, in its Special Report 07/2022 ‘SME internationalisation instruments’, found that the Commission’s implementation of the SME internationalisation strategy was incomplete; welcomes that the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) is achieving its main targets but regrets that there is suboptimal visibility and coverage in third countries; notes that Startup Europe addressed important needs, but that the Court found that sustainability, monitoring and coordination are variable;

Recommendations

91.

Supports the recommendations of the Court in its Annual Report, as well as in related special reports; calls on the Commission to implement them without delay and to keep the discharge authority informed on the progress of the implementation;

92.

Furthermore, calls on the Commission to:

(a)

simplify rules and procedures, develop compulsory training sessions and practical information for applicants, in particular new applicants, and improve the assistance and guidelines for SMEs, spin-offs, start-ups, administration and payment agencies and all other relevant stakeholders without compromising the quality of the controls;

(b)

issue guidance to beneficiaries on the specific differences, focusing on the eligibility aspects under HE, compared to H2020 and similar programmes;

(c)

ensure the protection of the Union budget by making general and systematic use of digital and automated systems for reporting, monitoring and audit; and urgently establish an integrated and interoperable system building on, but not limited to, existing tools and databases;

(d)

in the context of widening measures, aim for a more balanced participation of widening countries;

(e)

provide support, promote contacts between project beneficiaries and potential industrial partners, in particular through existing Union initiatives aiming to create links between research and business, and to further support the visibility of projects by encouraging beneficiaries to provide regular updates of project results and make them publicly available on the Union platforms established for that purpose;

(f)

increase awareness, coherence, and sustainability of the support to SME internationalisation; reiterates the need to simplify rules and procedures, develop compulsory training sessions and practical information for applicants, in particular new applicants, and improve the assistance and guidelines for SMEs, spin-offs, start-ups, administration and payment agencies and all other relevant stakeholders;

Cohesion, resilience and values

93.

Notes that the MFF heading 2 ‘Cohesion, resilience and values’ accounts for 44,1 % or EUR 80,1 billion of the Union budget: of this amount, EUR 45,5 billion (56,9 %) is spent on the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and other regional operations, EUR 19,4 billion (24,2 %) on the European Social Fund (ESF), EUR 9,7 billion (12,1 %) on the Cohesion Fund (CF), EUR 2,4 billion (3,0 %) on Erasmus+, EUR 1,0 billion (1,2 %) on CEF Transport, EUR 0,6 billion (0,7 %) on ESI and EUR 1,5 billion (1,9 %) on other areas;

94.

Welcomes the increased take up in 2021, when EUR 56 billion in ERDF/CF funding was disbursed from the Union budget, compared with an average of EUR 40,6 billion in previous years, resulting in a spending rate of around 75 % at the end of November 2022 (compared to 67 % at the end of 2021); notes with satisfaction that, by the end of June 2022, almost 1 million projects (988 000) had been selected on the ground;

95.

Points out that ERDF, CF and EUSF funding has played a central role in containing the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, encouraging convergence and ensuring that no one is left behind; notes the exceptional flexibility offered under the CRII+ and the resulting disbursement of around EUR 23 billion from the unallocated 2014–2020 budget appropriations; notes that additional REACT-EU funding of EUR 50,6 billion has also been earmarked for crisis repair and recovery measures up to 2023 to bridge the gap between initial crisis response and longer-term recovery;

96.

Notes with satisfaction that REACT-EU was the first NGEU instrument to channel effective support towards the European economy, businesses and workers on the ground and that it provided, inter alia, over EUR 4,6 billion in the form of grants by way of working capital for over 754 000 SMEs, EUR 4,4 billion being specifically earmarked for healthcare measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and EUR 2 billion of this amount for the purchase of medical equipment for hospitals; notes that this essential funding has provided 13 200 ventilators and 12 500 hospital beds for intensive care units and that EUR 372 million in cohesion policy funding has gone to meet all vaccination costs, including 133 million COVID-19 vaccines and the necessary refrigeration infrastructure;

97.

Notes with satisfaction that EaSI Financial Instruments (encompassing the EaSI Microfinance and Social Entrepreneurship Guarantee, the Capacity Building Investments Window and the Funded Instrument) continued in 2021 to support microenterprises and social enterprises, and that from its launch until 30 September 2021, guarantee agreements worth of EUR 401 million were signed and resulted in a total of 154 137 loans to micro- and social enterprises, with a total worth of EUR 2,5 billion; regrets, however, the late start of EaSI in 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues;

98.

Notes that, on average, more than one out of five persons and one out of four children are still at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the Union; recalls the Union’s commitment to supporting the most deprived people through FEAD and the ESF+, alleviating the worst forms of poverty in the Union, such as food deprivation, homelessness and child poverty; notes that about 13 million people, including approximately 4 million children under the age of 15, are supported by FEAD annually;

99.

Welcomes the Commission’s close cooperation with Member State authorities to speed up implementation on the ground, especially in the case of programmes considered to be in difficulty, and to help them address major problems in this respect; notes that the Commission provided early guidance to Member States to ensure that they had adequate time to prepare for the closure of the programming period and, in October 2021, adopted the relevant guidelines, which were transmitted to the Member States in the form of webinars and training courses;

100.

Notes that the Court has examined a statistically representative sample of 243 transactions covering the full range of spending under this MFF heading; notes that the Court has examined the regularity information given in the annual activity reports of DG EMPL and DG REGIO and then included in the Commission’s AMPR, as well as the work done by national audit authorities;

101.

Notes with concern that the Court found that the level of error in spending on ‘Cohesion, resilience and values’ was material and for MFF heading 2, the estimated overall level of error was 3,6 %, compared to 3,5 % in the previous year; notes that spending under subheading 2a had an estimated level of error of 4,1 %; remarks that the Commission reported a combined risk at payment for heading 2 as a whole of between 1,7 % and 2,3 %, while for subheading 2a the Commission estimated the risk of at payment to be between 1,8 % and 2,5 %; draws attention to the difference in the figures between the Commission and the Court;

102.

Welcomes that the Commission has improved its methodology for estimating maximum risk, but notes with concern that inherent risks remain in its assurance model; is worried that the Commission provides a minimum estimate for the level of error that is not final; notes with concern that the Court considers that the Commission’s desk reviews may fail to detect and correct irregular expenditure and are of limited value in confirming the validity of the residual total error rates reported by audit authorities; is worried that the risk rating of audit authorities does not always influence whether they are selected for compliance audits;

103.

Highlights that the most common source of errors found by the Court was ineligible costs, ineligible projects, and infringements of internal market rules, including non-compliance with public procurement rules and infringements of state aid rules;