MEPs pull their punches in reform probe

Author (Person)
Series Title
Series Details Vol 7, No.2, 11.1.01, p8
Publication Date 11/01/2001
Content Type

Date: 11/01/01

By John Shelley

THE European Commission still has a long way to go to reform its outdated employment practices and overseas aid programmes, MEPs warn in a report due to be agreed next week.

Euro MPs will offer a mixed review of the progress made by the Commission, agreeing that some steps have been taken to combat fraud and corruption and improve the way expenditure is monitored. But they argue that in other key areas the administration needs to

do more."The Parliament regrets that as regards two of the key areas identified by Parliament, the Commission still needs to improve staff policy and deliver rapid and effective external aid, especially to Palestine," says the report on reform by Dutch liberal MEP Lousewies van der Laan.

The call for more action comes as part of a review of how the Commission has reacted to criticisms made by the Parliament after the assembly's analysis of EU spending in 1997.

Originally MEPs had refused to approve the Commission's budget for that year but, cheered by reform promises from the Prodi regime, they eventually discharged it last January - subject to recommendations on eight areas in which they felt more work was needed.

In the follow up report on those recommendations Van der Laan says the Commission has made progress in five areas, including overhauling the institution's management methods and fighting corruption. But she questions the legality of a plan to replace 600 officials through an early retirement scheme.

In the external relations field, the report lambastes the Commission for poor organisation in its Palestinian office, pointing out that the institution's failure to appoint a head of delegation meant that between mid-1999 and mid-2000 the Union's office for the West Bank and Gaza was represented by just one administrator.

In other areas, though, the report offers praise for the EU executive, lauding the introduction of legally binding codes of conduct for Commissioners and their advisors.

The Parliament also welcomes moves to reform staff regulations so as not to penalise whistle-blowers and an action plan to reduce the "unacceptably high" percentage of errors, caused either by mistake or by fraud, in the Union's accounts.

Insiders say the generally positive tone of the report shows a willingness by parliamentarians to pull their punches while they await the results of the Commission's ongoing internal reforms.

"It reflects the general attitude among MEPs that the new Commission is trying to do as much as it can within the limits of the staff regulations and that they shouldn't rock the boat by throwing too much criticism their way," said one insider.

The European Commission still has a long way to go to reform its outdated employment practices and overseas aid programmes, MEPs warn in a forthcoming report.

Subject Categories