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.