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EU parliament: Bloated bureaucracy?

by Sven Triloqvist Wed Mar 4th, 2009 at 10:15:26 AM EST

I guess the view of many voters would be that the bureaucrats in Brussels are spewing out directives on bent bananas like a machine gun and have all their trotters deep in the feeding trough.

In fact, the admin costs of the EU - running the Parliament, Commission, Agencies and the 40.000 civil servants etc, is a bit over 6% of the €120 bn annual EU budget. Less as a % in fact than the admin costs of many charities.

The total 40.000 EU civil servants is not as many as you would think. There are some single ministries of large national governments that exceed that figure - and they work in only one or two languages. The EU bureaucracy uses 23 languages.

The EU is also more decentralized than many imagine. Most of the money that flows around is paid out by National governments directly, not Brussels. When voters hear that such and such a country has to pay in billions to the EU, they see that as 'lost' money - a kind of price of entry. Unless you are Germany, most of that money never leaves your country.

Of course how that money is spent by the national governments is defined by the common agreed directives, regulations and policies decided at the EU level. But still, national governments have a lot of control over detail.

They need to be sensible however - the Court of Auditors and, in the worst cases, OLAF will be on their tail. OLAF is the EU fraud squad.

The EU is getting better in administrative performance all the time. And I agree with Jérôme that without top down political interference the EU civil service would probably be rated as lean and mean. (my words not J's).

Yes, it is hard to see where the power lies. Is it with the President of the Commission, the Commission, the Director-Generals, the Presidency of the Council, the Council, the Committees? Power is certainly not with the EU Parliament, but Lisbon would change that a bit.

Theoretically the EU has been built to spread power within the organization, not concentrate it. There is a lot of redundancy - many parts duplicating, in name and description, the work of other parts. But this is how our brains work ;-)

So imo the EU as an organization is less hierarchical than at first appears. And it is a work in progress, slow though that progress may be. Increasing the 'value' of the EP elections for as many voters as possible will speed up progress. That is our task.

I just came across this pdf. It is a Eurobarometer report from late 2008 on the forthcoming EP elections. It includes a caveat about doing surveys during the economic and financial crisis.

It's a face to face survey with over 26.000 EU voters. It contains many useful pointers to the perceptions of voters.

I will only quote a short sample, I think it is worth reading for everybody.

Europeans feel that:

􀂃 The EU has grown too fast (56% agree; 32% disagree)

􀂃 What brings citizens of different countries together is more important than what separates them (72% agree, 17% disagree)

􀂃 Currently, the EU is short of ideas and projects (42% agree; 38% disagree)

􀂃 The EU is indispensable in meeting global challenges: climate change, terrorism, etc. (73% agree, 16% disagree)

On reading these results it is clear that the construction of Europe is not called into question but however it must be given a new lease of life. Conversely, the majority of those surveyed, except for in Italy and in Poland, consider that the EU has grown too quickly. Surprisingly, this feeling is even expressed in the 12 new countries.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Mar 4th, 2009 at 11:49:09 AM EST
European Tribune - EU parliament: Bloated bureaucracy?
national governments have a lot of control over detail.

An example is the Common Agricultural Policy, where each national government decides on the exact distribution of farm subsidies in its country (the total amount per member state, and overall guidelines, being decided in Brussels).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Mar 5th, 2009 at 03:32:24 AM EST
CAP has changed in the way it has been applied over the years. The wine lakes and butter mountains have been removed by different funding mechanisms. Price controls and subsidies have been forgotten, with a move toward direct payments based on farm size. This is intended to have the effect of allowing the market to dictate production levels while maintaining agricultural income levels.

It should be noted that 'small farmers' only get around 8% of CAP's subsidies. The CEO of one of Finland's leading finance groups, Nalle Wahlroos, and one of Finland's most wealthy, is also a 'farmer' receiving €300.000 in subsidies for his 'working' estate.

He's a former Hippy ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Mar 5th, 2009 at 06:28:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My understanding was that one of the largest CAP subsidies recipient is the Queen of England... but apparently her paiement is similar to that hippie Finn.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Mar 5th, 2009 at 06:36:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All true. But each member state still decides on the precise share-out of CAP funds within its borders.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Mar 5th, 2009 at 10:21:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep - i am currently trying to read more on CAP to get a better handle on it.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Mar 5th, 2009 at 11:41:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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