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Monday, October 25, 2010

The EU's problems with agency-itus

The past week has seen the EU come under immense pressure, from press and politicians from across member states, as negotiations for 2011's budget come to a head. However, criticisms have seemed to fall on deaf ears, as the Commission and the European Parliament have continued to push for an overall 5.9% increase in spending.

We released a new report yesterday examining one of the growth areas that provokes serious cause for concern: EU agencies and committees.

While the UK government has announced that it wants to scrap some 190 quangos as part of the spending cuts, the Commission - cheered on by MEPs - has proposed a staggering 8% increase to the budget for EU agencies from 2010 levels.

This would see the EU's annual quango-budget rise by €180mn to €2.4 billion in 2011. The extra cash would be used to fund five new agencies, taking the total number of EU quangos - including the Economic and Social Committee and the Committe of the Regions which are the mothers of all talking shops - to 52. Extra cash will also be sprayed on the existing EU agencies.

And what do taxpayers get in return?

It's Brussels worst kept secret that many of the EU's agencies do not add much value: some duplicate eachother's work; many duplicate work being carried out by the core EU institutions; some deal with issues that shouldn't concern the EU in the first place; while others have no impact on actual policy whatsoever. A worrying number of them tick all of these boxes.

It's also not clear who these agencies are actually accountable to.

We identify eleven agencies and committees which could be downsized or abolished altogether without citizens noticing any difference whatsoever. If combined with 30% efficiency savings, to mirror austerity measures in member states, the EU could save €709mn per year starting in 2011.

First on the list: the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee.

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