Committee guide: CONT fighting to protect the EU's financial interests

Written by Ingeborg Gräßle on 12 April 2017 in Opinion

Parliament's budgetary control committee will continue to protect citizens' financial interests, says Ingeborg Gräßle.

Ingeborg Gräßle | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

1. What do you see as the committee's main achievements in the first half of the current mandate, and What do you see as its principal priorities for the remaining two and a half years?
Parliament's budgetary control (CONT) committee has developed a more balanced method to managing the discharge procedure by better combining the follow-up of compliance with the rules and performance in the form of results. 

During the first part of the mandate, the committee's achievements include a new approach to the tobacco agreements, new rules for the secretariat of the OLAF supervisory committee and the new composition of this committee, as well as managing the hearings on the appointments of Commissioners Kristalina Georgieva and Günther Oettinger.

The CONT committee will continue to fight against fraud and to protect the EU's financial interests and providing the best possible value of EU expenditure for taxpayers. 

The committee will work closely together with European Court of Auditors and the European Commission on key issues such as the annual discharge procedures and managing the EU's financial interests during Brexit.


2. What do you believe are the main challenges and issues facing the committee for the remainder of the current legislature?
The CONT committee's priority dossiers for the second half of the mandate include the conclusion of the directive on the protection of EU's financial interests, where a political agreement was reached at the end of November last year. 

A solution needs to be found for the Council's discharge, as the situation remains blocked and the Council is not providing the European Parliament with the necessary information.

The CONT committee aims to draw lessons from the past as to the consequences of the rigid budgetary framework and the multiplication of the shadow budgets, in order to prepare the revision of the next MFF and to ensure sufficient flexibility in view of unforeseen developments. The committee plans to maintain a tight rein on its controlling job in view of the next European elections.

Successfully setting up the European Public Prosecutor's Office will be one of the key challenges for the coming years. Simplification of the rules and practices remains a key challenge. My objective as rapporteur on the revision of the financial regulation is to make a real contribution towards simplification, without jeopardising the fight against fraud.


3. What, if any, impact will Brexit and other events such as national elections in France, the Netherlands and Germany, have on the committee's work?
The CONT committee aims to keep its line and to continue seriously scrutinising the implementation of the EU budget. Providing proof that the EU uses its funds efficiently is the best way to regain the trust of the citizens.

Brexit will be a tough nut to crack from a scrutiny point of view and the CONT committee will work diligently to ensure sufficient safeguards that EU funds are raised and spent without problems during the Brexit negotiations, and in the aftermath.

The CONT committee will cooperate closely with the European Court of Auditors on Brexit-related issues in order to make sure that sufficient mechanisms for scrutiny and auditing are in place with well-defined responsibilities as well as to define the appropriate methodology for the valuation of the United Kingdom's assets and liabilities.

It is also important that procedures in the case of fraud or irregularities, as well as the corresponding rules for prevention, prosecution and complaints are in place during the Brexit negotiations and post-Brexit.


4. How can citizens become more engaged in what your committee does and how can you better communicate the work of the committee to voters and stakeholders?
Budgetary control issues interest the citizens and the media. It is a question of trust and credibility of the European Parliament. 

Active citizens can follow the work of the CONT committee - meetings, hearings and workshops that are of interest to them - through web-streaming in many languages (either live or after the meetings on demand) or via social media. The plenary debates are interpreted into all languages and can be followed live or afterwards.

The CONT committee tries to involve stakeholders in its work. As an example, civil society organisations were able to take the floor in the recent NGO funding workshop.


5. Are you concerned by the apparent reduction, in recent weeks and months, in the legislative output of the Commission due to the Refit exercise and do you expect this to continue? Will this impact on your committee's workload and, if so, how?
Budgetary control is the main task of the CONT committee, so the reduction in legislative tasks does not have a particular impact on our workload. 

The CONT committee, together with the budgets committee, continues the legislative work on the directive on protection of EU's financial interests and the reform of the financial regulation.

In addition, the CONT committee is also an active contributor of opinions to the other committees.


About the author

Ingeborg Gräßle (EPP, DE) is Chair of Parliament's budgetary control committee

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