Monday 23 February 2009

The Council's budget committee: A rare insight - corrected

Martin Westlake, Secretary General of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), has given a rare insight into what is happening in the Council budget committee in his blog, although his report only covers a specific transfer of reserve money into a particular EESC budget line:
A number of Member State delegations quite rightly pointed out that it was very, very early in the year for the Committee to be asking for such a transfer, particularly since, in comparative terms, it was quite large (since there is 15 meuro on the line, this transfer will represent an increase of one fifteenth). My counter-argument was that it was precisely because of the relative size of the amount involved that we needed to know we had got it as early as possible in the year so that we could indeed be sure to spend the money soundly and efficiently. The Presidency called for a vote and asked those against the request to raise their hands. Nobody did. Unanimity! The Committee had unanimously voted in favour of the transfer!
We do not have the possibility to compare this with other decisions taken in the committee because the publicity of what is going on in there is rather low. So we don't know whether all decisions made in the Council's budget committee are taken this easily. But since Martin seemed rather happy to get the money, I suppose that sometimes the member states are more reluctant to spend more (or to re-allocate money).

By the way: From the public agenda (PDF) of the meeting you would know that something related to EESC was going on, but that we are talking about the sum of 1 Million Euro (which Martin clarifies in his post) would never be clear. Another hint towards the lack of transparency in the Council and its working groups!

Correction: In fact, today the issue has been published in document 6471/09. The 1 Million is mentioned there, so the main insight we get from Martin is the argumentation from the meeting.