Hungary, which holds the presidency of the Council of Ministers, is to try to break a political stalemate with MEPs over moves to bring greater transparency to the administrative spending of the Council and the European Parliament.
Zsolt Becsey, the minister of state for international economic relations in Hungary, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of Ministers, will make a fresh appeal to MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday and Wednesday (10-11 May) to open negotiations on a deal for mutual budget scrutiny.
The minister is expected to present a proposal to pave the way for the Parliament and the Council to review each other’s administrative budgets based on “transparency and reciprocity”, presidency sources said.
His appeal was seen as an attempt to defuse a row with angry MEPs, who are expected on Tuesday to endorse a budgetary control committee recommendation – drafted by Crescenzio Rivellini, an Italian centre-right MEP – to postpone the approval of the Council’s 2009 accounts until the autumn. The deferral is a protest at what MEPs claim is the Council’s lack of co-operation in providing more detailed information about its 2009 spending. The Council justifies its refusal as being in line with a 40-year-old ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ under which Parliament and Council agreed not to scrutinise each other’s administrative budgets.
The Council and the Hungarian presidency are, however, calling for that understanding to be scrapped and replaced by a new inter-institutional agreement for mutual budgetary scrutiny
on an equal basis. Efforts to get talks off the ground have so far failed.
Ingeborg Grässle, a German centre-right MEP, said that the Parliament “did not see the need” for such a deal, which “would curb” the Parliament’s rights under the EU treaty to review the budgets of all other EU institutions. The proposal would also open the Parliament’s own spending to review from member states. “It is a question of democratic accountability,” she said. “If we don’t scrutinise all the budgets we might as well give up our jobs as MEPs.”
Diplomats and MEPs said an exchange of letters between Klaus Welle, the Parliament’s secretary-general, and Pierre de Boissieu, the secretary-general of the Council, had failed to break a three-year stalemate on the issue. Diplomats said that they did not see “any way” by which member states will concede MEPs’ demands unless the Council is given a right to review the Parliament’s budget.
The Parliament is, however, expected to approve the 2009 European Union accounts. Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a German Liberal MEP who drafted the Parliament’s position, said that the European Commission “has turned onto the right path” in making commitments to introduce more stringent checks on cash paid out to member states for regional fund projects. This had been the Parliament’s precondition for approving the 2009 accounts.
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