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Text adopted – General budget of the European Union for 2018 – all sections – P8_TA-PROV(2017)0408 – Wednesday, 25 October 2017 – Strasbourg – Provisional edition

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 314 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Council Decision 2014/335/EU, Euratom of 26 May 2014 on the system of own resources of the European Union(1)
,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(2)
,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020(3)
(MFF Regulation),

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management(4)
(IIA of 2 December 2013),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 March 2017 on general guidelines for the preparation of the budget(5)
,

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 April 2017 on Parliament’s estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 2018(6)
,

–  having regard to the draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2018, which the Commission adopted on 29 June 2017 (COM(2017)0400),

–  having regard to the position on the draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2018, which the Council adopted on 4 September 2017 and forwarded to Parliament on 13 September 2017 (11815/2017 – C8‑0313/2017),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2017 on the mandate for the trilogue on the 2018 draft budget(7)
,

–  having regard to Rule 88 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgets and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A8-0299/2017),

Section III

General overview

1.  Stresses that Parliament’s reading of the 2018 Budget fully reflects the political priorities adopted by an overwhelming majority in its abovementioned resolutions of 15 March 2017 and of 5 July 2017; recalls that sustainable growth, jobs, in particular youth employment, security and climate change are at the core of those priorities;

2.  Highlights that the Union continues to face numerous challenges and is convinced that, while maintaining budget discipline, the necessary financial resources must be deployed from the Union budget, in order to meet the political priorities and allow the Union to deliver concrete answers and to effectively respond to those challenges; underlines that Union spending should be based on the principle of European added value and should respect the principle of subsidiarity;

3.  Reaffirms its commitment to financing Union policies that enhance jobs and growth in all its regions through investment in research, education, infrastructure, SMEs and employment, in particular youth employment; fails to understand how the Union can achieve progress in those fields considering the cuts proposed by the Council under subheading 1a; decides instead to additionally reinforce research and innovation programmes that have a very high implementation rate and which, due to oversubscription, are faced with a particularly low success rate for applications;

4.  Remains committed to the pledges made by Parliament during the negotiations on the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), namely to minimise the impact of EFSI-related cuts on Horizon 2020 and the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) in the framework of the annual budgetary procedure; proposes, therefore, to offset those cuts by restoring the original annual profile of those two programmes, in order to allow them to fully accomplish the objectives agreed during the adoption of the relevant legislation;

5.  Expresses its political support for the establishment of the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) and welcomes the legislative proposal put forward in this regard by the Commission; considers, however, that, pending a decision on the financing of the ESC and the adoption of the relevant regulation under the ordinary legislative procedure, no financial provision should be entered for this purpose in the 2018 Budget; decides, therefore, that relevant appropriations and redeployments, entered by the Commission in the Draft Budget 2018 (DB), should be for the moment reversed, as the decision on the 2018 Budget should not prejudge in any way the outcome of the legislative negotiations; remains fully committed to integrate the decision on ESC financing in next year’s budget immediately via an amending budget, in case the negotiations on the relevant regulation are not concluded before the end of the 2018 budgetary procedure;

6.  Is concerned by the fact that youth unemployment remains at unprecedented levels and is convinced that, in order not to jeopardise the future of an entire generation of young Europeans, additional actions need to be undertaken; decides therefore to reinforce the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) beyond the level proposed by the Commission for 2018; stresses that such reinforcement should be considered as additional to the overall allocation that was politically endorsed for YEI in the context of the MFF mid-term revision, and not as a mere frontloading of that allocation in the 2018 Budget;

7.  Recalls that cohesion policy plays a primary role in achieving economic and social convergence in the Union, and thus in ensuring development and growth; stresses that in 2018, cohesion policy programmes are expected to catch-up and reach cruising speed; emphasises Parliament’s commitment to ensuring adequate appropriations for those programmes that represent one of the core policies of the Union; is however preoccupied by the unacceptable delays in the implementation of operational programmes at national level; calls on Member States to ensure that the designation of managing, auditing and certifying authorities is concluded and that implementation is accelerated; furthermore calls on the Commission to go further with the simplification of the related procedures;

8.  Is highly concerned at the rise of instability and uncertainty both within and outside the Union; insists on the need for a renewed focus on the Union’s approach to cohesion, integration, peace, sustainable development and human rights; calls upon the Commission and the Member States to connect and boost efforts towards further sustaining peace and conflict prevention; recalls the worldwide inspiration brought by the Good Friday Agreement while acknowledging the unprecedented challenges and pressures in the aftermath of the United Kingdom 2016 Referendum; calls upon the Commission and Member States to enhance their support for reconciliation to secure peace and stability in Ireland;

9.  Believes that, while at present the peak of the migratory and refugee crisis seems to have decreased, the Union must stand ready to respond to any future unforeseen event in this area and pursue a more proactive approach in the field of migration; therefore urges the Commission to continuously monitor the adequacy of allocations under Heading 3 and make full use of all available instruments under the current MFF to respond in a timely manner to any unforeseen event that might require additional funding; recalls that, while the Union managed to put in place some mechanisms helping to cope with this situation, still over one hundred thousand refugees and migrants have arrived to Europe by sea so far in 2017 according to the UNHCR; decides therefore to reinforce in a limited manner the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund and the Internal Security Fund, as well as the agencies with responsibilities in the field of asylum, such as the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which need to be provided with adequate financial and human resources; notes, once again, that the Heading 3 ceiling is vastly insufficient to provide for appropriate funding for the internal dimension of the migration and refugee crisis as well as other priority programmes, such as culture and citizenship programmes;

10.  Underlines that Heading 3 has been largely mobilised in recent years to address the migratory and refugee crisis and that such actions should continue for as long as needed; notes however that the funding provided so far is insufficient; decides for this reason to reinforce agencies in the field of Justice and Home Affairs which, due to increased workload and additional tasks, have been facing shortage of staff and funding in the past years;

11.  Underlines that, in light of recent security concerns across the Union, funding under Heading 3 should also have regard to measures which will lead to enhancing the security of Union citizens;

12.  Reiterates that an essential part of the solution to the migratory and refugee crisis as well as to the security concerns of Union citizens lie in addressing the root causes of migration and devoting sufficient financial means to external instruments that aim at tackling issues such as poverty, lack of employment, education and economic opportunities, instability, conflict and climate change which is one of the underlying causes behind increasing migration flows; is of the opinion that the Union should make an optimal use of financial means under Heading 4 which proved to be insufficient to equally address all external challenges, considering that the resources are clearly insufficient and should be increased in a more organic way;

13.  Regrets that, while preparing its position, Parliament has not been sufficiently informed about the budgetary impact of a possible political decision to extend the Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRT); reiterates its longstanding position that new initiatives shall not be financed to the detriment of existing EU external projects; calls therefore on the Commission, in the event of the prolongation of the FRT, to propose its financing through fresh means and involve more local NGOs in its implementation; notes that the Heading 4 ceiling is vastly insufficient to provide a sustainable and effective response to the current external challenges, including the migration and refugee ones;

14.  Recalls that the Union budget must support the fulfilment of the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Union’s own long-term climate goals by achieving the target of 20 % climate spending in the 2014-2020 MFF; regrets that the Commission has failed to put forward concrete and realistic proposals to achieve these goals; therefore proposes increases above the level of the DB for climate-related actions; notes however that these increases are not sufficient and calls on the Commission to present all the necessary proposals to reach the goals in the forthcoming draft budgets; notes, in this context, that 8,2 % of total commitment appropriations proposed in the DB are related to biodiversity protection; highlights that an annual increase of 0,1 % stands in contrast to the worrying and accelerating decline in species and habitats;

15.  Appreciates that the new approach of ‘Budget Focused on Results’ has for the first time been integrated into the internal budgetary preparation of the Commission in order to review the expenditure based on experience achieved so far and identify possible adjustments;

16.  Restores the cuts proposed by Council to the DB; fails to understand the reasoning behind the proposed cuts, for example those to Horizon 2020 and CEF, two programmes already affected by redeployments to EFSI, as well as those to external policies; contests, in any event, Council’s declared intention to target budget lines with a low execution rate or absorption capacity, as this is not substantiated by the actual implementation figures and ignores the varying implementation patterns of certain programmes;

17.  Concludes that, for the purpose of adequately financing all pressing needs, and considering the very tight MFF margins in 2018, all means available in the MFF Regulation in terms of flexibility will need to be deployed; expects that the Council will share this approach and that an agreement will easily be reached in conciliation, allowing the Union to rise to the occasion and effectively respond to the challenges ahead; underlines that the deviation each budgetary year from the original programming under the current MFF advocates in favour of an upward adjustment of the ceilings in the MFF post-2020;

18.  Sets the overall level of appropriations for 2018 at EUR 162 597 930 901 in commitment appropriations and EUR 146 712 004 932 in payment appropriations;

Subheading 1a – Competitiveness for growth and jobs

19.  Rejects Council’s unjustified EUR 750 million cuts to subheading 1a, which alone represent almost two thirds of the overall Council cuts in commitments in MFF headings; notes that such cuts contradict Council’s own stated political priorities;

20.  Insists that in order to achieve sustainable growth and job creation in the Union, boosting investments in research, innovation, education, infrastructure and MSMEs is key; warns that such cuts proposed by the Council would jeopardise programmes with real European added value and a direct impact on job and growth creation, such as Horizon 2020 or CEF; points out, in particular, that sufficient funding for Horizon 2020 is essential to allow for the development of research and innovation, leadership in digitalisation and for the support of SMEs in Europe; recalls that this programme has demonstrated a strong European added-value with 83 % of Horizon 2020-funded projects that would not have gone ahead without Union-level support; reiterates the importance of the CEF funding instrument for the completion of the TEN-T network and for achieving a Single European Transport Area; consequently decides to reverse all cuts made by the Council and, furthermore, to fully restore the original profile of the Horizon 2020 and CEF lines that were cut for the provisioning of the EFSI Guarantee Fund;

21.  Stresses, in addition, the need to strengthen both the education and training and the youth strands of Erasmus+, as part of strategic investment in European youth;

22.  Stresses that sufficient financial support for microenterprises, entrepreneurs and SMEs should be the key priority for the Union as these are the main source of job creation across Europe; emphasises that securing good access to finance is essential for keeping SMEs competitive and for helping them to overcome challenges related to access to the internal market as well as to the global market;

23.  Decides, therefore, to further reinforce beyond the DB and the pre-EFSI and pre-ESC profiles those programmes that are key to boosting growth and jobs and that reflect widely agreed Union priorities, namely Erasmus+, Horizon 2020 (Marie Curie, European Research Council, SME Instrument), COSME, and EaSI (Progress and Eures); calls on the Commission to provide sufficient funding for budget lines related to WIFI4EU and to keep its investment commitment between 2017 and 2020;

24.  Welcomes the inclusion of the Special Annual Events budget line in the 2018 Budget, which will allow the development of a sense of European belonging among citizens; notes that the scope of the Special Annual Event should demonstrably serve the added value to the European citizens across the Member States;

25.  Stresses the importance of stimulating cooperative defence research in Europe for addressing key capability shortfalls at a time when international developments and uncertainties increasingly require Europe to step up its efforts on defence; supports the increased allocation for the Preparatory Action on defence research; calls for a defence research programme with a dedicated budget within the next Multiannual Financial Framework; reiterates, nevertheless, its longstanding position that new initiatives shall be financed through fresh appropriations and not to the detriment of existing Union programmes; underlines, furthermore, the need to improve the competitiveness and innovation in the European defence industry;

26.  Is of the opinion that increased resources should be allocated in the framework of the 2018 Budget in order to conduct a comprehensive and unbiased assessment of the risk posed by third countries in terms of their strategic deficiencies in the area of anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing, based on criteria defined in Article 9 of Directive (EU) 2015/849(8)
, and to establish a list of ‘high-risk’ jurisdictions;

27.  Calls on the Commission to ensure an adequate level of allocations enabling the European Union Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing (EURL ECVAM) to effectively perform its duties and tasks listed in Annex VII to Directive 2010/63/EU(9)
, with particular reference to coordinating and promoting the development and use of alternatives to animal testing including in the areas of basic and applied research and regulatory testing;

28.  As a result, increases the level of commitment appropriations for subheading 1a above the DB by EUR 143,9 million (excluding pre-EFSI and pre-ESC restoration, pilot projects and preparatory actions), to be financed within the margin available as well as a further mobilisation of the Global Margin for Commitments;

Subheading 1b – Economic, social and territorial cohesion

29.  Disapproves of Council’s proposed cuts of EUR 240 million in payments under subheading 1b, including on support lines and reverses them, pending updated forecasts from the Commission;

30.  Notes with increasing concern that the unacceptable delays in the implementation of the European Structural and Investment Funds have undermined their effectiveness and put pressure on the managing authorities and beneficiaries; reiterates once again the risk that the current delays can have on the accumulation of unpaid bills in the second half of this MFF and at the beginning of the next one; reiterates strongly its call on the Member States to seek advice and assistance from the Commission in order to address the delays in the designation of the managing, certifying and auditing authorities; is further alarmed by the downsize trend and the lack of accuracy of the Member States’ estimates;

31.  Recalls that youth unemployment rates remain unacceptably high in the Union; emphasises that, in order to address this issue, it is of importance to ensure proper funding of the Youth Guarantee schemes through the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and the ESF; welcomes the agreement on the need to provide fresh funding for the YEI, and the inclusion of the corresponding appropriations in the DB 2018; considers nevertheless that, given the challenges and risks posed by youth unemployment, the YEI should benefit from increased appropriations and therefore decides to bring the YEI to EUR 600 million in commitments in 2018; moreover, considers that professional training actions, towards the youth and in particular the apprenticeship should be eligible for financing under the cohesion policy;

32.  Welcomes the new EUR 142,8 million financial envelope which has been created to facilitate the implementation of the Structural Reform Support Programme between 2017-2020;

Heading 2 – Sustainable growth: natural resources

33.  Recalls that the Commission’s proposal to increase appropriations to finance the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) needs are largely due to a significantly lower amount of assigned revenue being expected to be available in 2018; notes the Council’s cuts of EUR 275 million, but considers that the Commission’s Amending Letter should remain the basis for any reliable revision of EAGF appropriations and restores the DB levels accordingly, pending an examination of this Amending Letter in conciliation;

34.  Stresses that storage programmes have proved effective in times of crisis and that a reduction in the financial resources earmarked in the planning process would be counter-productive;

35.  Underlines that part of the solution to address youth unemployment lies in adequately supporting young people in rural areas; proposes therefore an increase of EUR 50 million above the level of the DB for payments for young farmers; emphasises the need to use the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and other Union funding schemes to facilitate young people’s access to jobs in the fishing industry;

36.  Decides, in line with its Europe 2020 targets and with its international commitments to tackle climate change, to propose an increase of EUR 21,2 million above the level of the DB for climate-related actions; reiterates that both the European Court of Auditors (ECA) as well as ECOFIN ascertained that the Union budget is not in line with its climate targets;

37.  Recalls that taxpayers’ money should not be used to support the rearing or breeding of bulls for fighting activities; believes that breeding or rearing for those purposes should not be eligible for basic payments and asks that the Commission submit a proposal in order to amend the current legislation on this issue;

38.  Increases therefore commitment appropriations by EUR 78,1 million, thus leaving a margin of EUR 619,7 million below the ceiling for commitments in Heading 2 once pilot projects and preparatory actions have been deducted;

39.  Emphasises, with regret, that disasters generally affect those who have less means to protect themselves, whether they be individuals or States; considers that the response to natural or man-made disasters should be as rapid as possible so that damage is minimal and people and property can be saved; calls attention to the need for an additional increase in funds, particularly in the budget lines linked to disaster prevention and preparedness within the Union, taking into account, in particular, fires in Spain and Portugal (resulting in tragic loss of human life), which have a dramatic and substantial impact on people;

40.  Draws attention to the threat factors weighing on numerous forest ecosystems, such as, among others, the spread of invasive alien species, pests (such as pine nematode and others) and forest fires; considers that sufficient financial resources should be addressed through community support programmes and measures to the evaluation of ecological and plant health of forests and their rehabilitation, including reforestation; notes that such resources are particularly important and urgent to some Member States, namely Portugal and Spain following previous successive fires throughout the national territory;

Heading 3 – Security and Citizenship

41.  Emphasises that for Parliament, tackling migration and security must remain top Union priorities and reiterates its conviction that the Heading 3 ceiling has proven vastly insufficient to fund adequately the internal dimension of those challenges;

42.  Notes that, while the number of migrant crossings on the Central and Eastern Mediterranean routes into the Union fell in the first nine months of 2017, pressure on the Western Mediterranean route remains; notes that more than one hundred thousand migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in the first nine months of 2017, with over 75 % arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain; is of the opinion that increased funding is needed to fully cover the needs of the Union in the field of migration, notably through the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund to support Members States in improving integration measures and practices for those in need of international protection, especially unaccompanied minors, and, where necessary, carrying out return operations for those not entitled to protection while fully respecting the principle of non-refoulement; in this context also insists that the EASO shall be equipped with adequate financial and human resources to allow the agency to fulfil its assigned tasks;

43.  Is in favour of the creation of a new budget line for a Search and Rescue Fund to support Member States in their obligations under international maritime law; asks the Commission to present a legislative proposal to set up such an EU Search and Rescue Fund;

44.  Is convinced that, in order to effectively tackle security concerns of Union citizens, the budget of the Internal Security Fund needs additional funds to equip the Member States better in the fight against terrorism, cross-border organised crime, radicalisation and cybercrime; underlines, in particular, that sufficient resources must be provided for reinforcing security infrastructures and boosting information-sharing between law enforcement agencies and national authorities, including through improving the interoperability of information systems while guaranteeing at the same time respect for individual rights and liberties;

45.  Highlights the crucial role played by the Union agencies in the area of justice and home affairs in addressing pressing concerns of Union citizens; decides therefore to increase budgetary appropriations and staffing of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), including the creation of 7 staff posts for the new operating unit called Europol operating unit for missing children, as well as to reinforce the European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust), EASO and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL); reiterates the contribution of these agencies to enhancing cooperation between Member States in the field;

46.  Asks the Commission, in the light of the actual progress made in ongoing interinstitutional negotiations, to provide updated information on the financial implications in 2018 of pending legislative proposals as part of the European Agenda on Migration, in particular the reform of the Dublin system, the Entry/Exit System, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System and EASO, so that it can be taken into account in the conciliation phase;

47.  Regrets Council’s arbitrary cuts of more than EUR 30 million in commitment appropriations to numerous programmes in the areas of culture, citizenship, justice, public health, consumer rights and civil protection, in disregard of these programmes’ excellent implementation rates and despite already insufficient levels of financing that leave many high-quality projects unfunded; restores all lines to the level of the DB and proposes additional increases to relevant lines;

48.  Reiterates its conviction that it is time to boost funding for important Union programmes in the areas of culture and citizenship, in particular Creative Europe and Europe for Citizens, which have a key role in supporting cultural and creative industries, as well as participatory citizenship, especially in view of the European elections in 2019; reiterates that all institutions must honour the political agreement found on the 2018 funding for the European Year of Cultural Heritage by providing sufficient appropriations for it through Creative Europe’s Culture sub-programme, in the absence of a separate budget line for the Year; calls on the Commission to review initiatives under the ‘multimedia actions’ budget line to ensure that the budget effectively supports high-quality independent coverage of Union affairs;

49.  Is in favour of increased transparency of and visibility for the Daphne objective of the Rights, Equality and Citizenship programme, as a key Union tool in combatting all forms of violence against children, young people, women, LGBTI people and other at-risk groups; supports setting up a European monitoring centre on gender-based violence within the European Institute for Gender Equality;

50.  Reinforces Heading 3 by EUR 108,8 million in commitment appropriations above the DB, excluding pilot projects and preparatory actions, and proposes to finance these reinforcements by a further mobilisation of the Flexibility Instrument;

Heading 4 – Global Europe

51.  Stresses once again that the Union’s external action is faced with ever growing funding needs which greatly exceed the current size of Heading 4; considers that the mobilisation of the Union budget to respond to the migration challenge will continue to require dynamic responses in the coming years; stresses that an ad hoc one-year increase, such as that in 2017, cannot be considered sufficient in view of the complex challenges that the Union is facing and the urgent need for stronger Union external presence in today’s global world;

52.  Is of the opinion that priority should be given to the Union’s immediate neighbours and to measures aimed at tackling the main issues they are facing, namely the migratory and refugee crisis and corresponding humanitarian challenges in the Southern Neighbourhood, and the Russian aggression in the Eastern Neighbourhood; believes that stability and prosperity of the Union Neighbourhood are beneficial to both the concerned regions and to the Union as a whole; reiterates its call to increase support to the Middle East Peace Process, the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA to cope with growing needs, in order to achieve the Union’s stated objective of promoting development and stability in the region and support the resilience of Palestinians; reiterates that supporting countries which are implementing association agreements with the Union is pivotal to facilitating political and economic reforms, but stresses that such support should apply as long as those countries meet the eligibility criteria, especially as regards the rule of law and enforcing democratic institutions; therefore decides to increase resources for the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), for the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) and for Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA);

53.  Stresses the importance of the role that Europe plays at global level in eradicating poverty and ensuring development of the most deprived regions, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals; therefore, allocates additional financial resources to the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and Humanitarian Aid; recalls that, since a significant proportion of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea are coming from Sub-Saharan Africa, Union support in this region is key to tackling the root causes of migration;

54.  Opposes the drastic reductions in financial contributions from the external financing instruments (ENI, IPA, PI and DCI) to Erasmus+, despite the fact that youth exchange programs are one of the most successful long-term investments into cultural diplomacy and mutual understanding, and decides therefore to increase these contributions;

55.  In view of the worrying deterioration of the situation as regards democracy, rule of law and human rights, decides to decrease the support for political reforms in Turkey; decides to put part of the remaining appropriations in reserve to be released when Turkey makes measurable improvements in the fields of rule of law, democracy, human rights and press freedom, with the aim of redirecting these funds to civil society actors for implementing measures supportive of these objectives;

56.  Is of the opinion that in order to adequately tackle disinformation campaigns, and to promote an objective image of the Union outside its borders, additional financial means are needed; calls therefore to step up funding to counter disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks; decides therefore to increase resources for strategic communication actions to be carried out in the Neighbourhood as well as in the Western Balkans; recalls the importance of investing in the visibility of the Union’s external action in order to strengthen the impact of funding in that field and enhance Union public diplomacy in line with the ambitions of the Global Strategy;

57.  Deems it necessary to increase appropriations for the Turkish Cypriot Community budget line for the purpose of contributing decisively to the continuation and intensification of the mission of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus, the wellbeing of Maronites wishing to resettle and that of all enclaved persons as agreed in the 3rd Vienna Agreement, and of supporting the bicommunal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, thus promoting trust and reconciliation between the two communities;

58.  Stresses that the trend by the Commission to resort to satellite budgetary mechanisms such as trust funds and other similar instruments has not always proven to be a success; is concerned that the establishment of financial instruments outside the Union budget could threaten its unity and circumvent the budgetary procedure and at the same time undermine the transparent management of the budget and hamper the right of the Parliament to exercise effective scrutiny of expenditures; considers, therefore, that external instruments which emerged in recent years must be incorporated into the Union budget, with Parliament having full scrutiny over the implementation of these instruments; notes that by end of September 2017 a total of EUR 795,4 million has been committed for EU Trust Funds in the 2017 Budget; asks the Commission to present to the European Parliament and the Council the amount it intends to commit in 2018 to the Trust Funds; reiterates its concern that Member State contributions to these Trust Funds tend to lag behind their pledges; takes note of the ECA Special Report 11/2017 on the Bekou EU Trust Fund for the Central African Republic; is concerned about the deficiencies identified by the ECA, such as the lack of assessment for overall needs and the dysfunctional coordination mechanisms with other donors; expresses its intention to assess the added value of EU Trust Funds as an instrument of Union external policy;

59.  Recalls that in accordance with Article 24 of the MFF Regulation, all expenditures and revenues of the Union and Euratom shall be entered in the general budget of the Union in accordance with Article 7 of the Financial Regulation; calls on the Commission to preserve the unity of the budget and to consider it as a guiding principle when introducing new initiatives;

60.  Stresses the importance of election observation missions in strengthening democratic institutions and building public confidence in electoral processes, which in return promote peace-building and stability; emphasises the need to ensure sufficient financial resources for that objective;

61.  Points out that DCI funding shall not be redeployed in order to finance the new Capacity Building for Security and Development (CBSD) initiative under the IcSP; deplores the DB proposal to redeploy EUR 7,5 million from the DCI to the CBSD and stresses the urgent need to find alternative solutions to fill this gap;

62.  Reiterates its request that the budget line for EU Special Representatives be transferred, in a budget-neutral manner, from the CFSP budget to the administrative budget of the EEAS in order to further consolidate the Union’s diplomatic activities;

63.  As a result, decides to reverse almost all of the Council’s cuts and to reinforce Heading 4 by EUR 299,7 million above the DB in commitment appropriations (excluding pilot projects and preparatory actions, the transfer of EUSRs and adopted cuts);

Heading 5 – Administration; Other headings – administrative and research support expenditure

64.  Considers that Council’s cuts do not reflect the real needs and thus jeopardise the already significantly rationalised administrative expenditure; restores therefore the DB for all Commission administrative expenditure, including administrative and research support expenditure in Headings 1 to 4;

65.  Decides, in line with the conclusion of the “Joint Opinion of the Legal Services of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on three aspects of the relationship between OLAF and its Supervisory Committee” of 12 September 2016, to hold 10 % of appropriations of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) until the Supervisory Committee is granted access to OLAF cases files, while slightly reinforcing its budget, in line with increased responsibilities;

66.  Takes note that, at the beginning of 2017, OLAF investigated a severe case of customs fraud in the UK which was caused by undervaluation of imported products and which has created a loss of income of almost EUR 2 billion for the Union budget in the period 2013-2016; is concerned that that fraud has not been stopped to date and that losses to the Union budget are still ongoing; asks the Commission to take into account the slow reaction of the UK administration to its recommendations in this regard when negotiating Brexit; asks those Member States that objected to the Union legal framework for customs infringements and sanctions to reconsider their position in order to allow for a speedy solution of this problem;

Decentralised Agencies

67.  Endorses, as a general rule, the Commission’s estimates of the budgetary needs of agencies; considers, therefore, that any further cuts proposed by the Council would endanger the proper functioning of the agencies and would not allow them to fulfil the tasks they have been assigned; considers that the new posts adopted in its position are needed to fulfil additional tasks due to new policy developments and new legislation; reiterates its commitment to safeguard resources and where necessary provide additional resources as to ensure the proper functioning of the agencies;

68.  In the context of the challenges the Union is still facing in terms of migration and security, and bearing in mind the necessity for a coordinated European response, decides to reinforce the appropriations for the Europol, Eurojust, CEPOL, EASO and the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA);

69.  Recalls the importance for the Union focusing on competitiveness for growth and jobs; recalls the strategic priority for the Union of fully developing and implementing its Galileo and EGNOS projects for which the European GNSS Agency (GSA) is partially responsible; recalls the GSA has a resourcing gap for cyber security and public regulated service and decides, therefore, to increases its level of appropriations;

70.  Considers that additional appropriation and staff are needed for the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) to fulfil its expanded mission related to the implementation of the electricity and gas network codes and guidelines and its monitoring;

71.  Recalls in particular that the European Environment Agency (EEA) helps the Union to make informed decisions about improving the environment, integrating environmental considerations into economic policies and moving towards sustainability, and that, in the context of the 2030 Union climate and energy policy, the Commission has proposed new work for EEA on the Governance of the Energy Union, without any corresponding increase in the establishment table;

72.  Stresses that while the budgetary resources and the number of posts for the European Border and Coast Guard seem adequate for the time being, the future needs of the agency in terms of operational resources and staff will have to be closely monitored;

73.  Welcomes the inclusion of adequate resources provided for in the 2018 budget to support the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs); underlines that the role of the ESAs is essential in fostering the consistent application of Union law and better coordination between national authorities, and in ensuring financial stability, better integrated financial markets and consumer protection and supervisory convergence; emphasises that in the interest of a prudent use of their budgets, the ESAs must stick to the tasks and to the mandate assigned to them by the Union legislator;

74.  Reiterates that, as agreed in the IIA of 2 December 2013, 2018 is the last year of implementation of the 5 % staff reduction and redeployment pool approach to the staffing of agencies; reiterates its opposition to any continuation of a global approach on agency resources after 2018; reaffirms its openness to achieving efficiency gains between agencies through increased administrative cooperation or even mergers where appropriate and through pooling certain functions with either the Commission or another agency; welcomes in this regard the initiative to further coordinate agencies activities via establishing the Network of EU Agencies’ Permanent Secretariat (now called the Shared Support Office) and supports the allocation of an additional establishment plan post to the European Food Safety Agency whose costs will be mutualised from the Union Agencies’ existing budgets and seconded to that office;

Pilot projects and preparatory actions (PP-PAs)

75.  Having carried out a careful analysis of the pilot projects and preparatory actions submitted as regards the rate of success of the on-going ones, excluding initiatives already covered by existing legal bases and taking fully into account the Commission’s assessment of the projects’ implementability, decides to adopt a compromise package made up of a limited number of PP-PAs, in view also of the limited margins available and the ceilings for PP-PAs;

76.  Stresses therefore the efforts made by the Parliament in this regard and asks the Commission to show good will in the implementation of the adopted PP-PAs at the end of the budgetary procedure, regardless of its implementability assessment, as for any decision of the European Parliament and the Council;

Special instruments

77.  Recalls the usefulness of special instruments to provide flexibility over and beyond the extremely tight ceilings of the current MFF and welcomes the improvements brought about by the mid-term revision of the MFF Regulation; calls for an extensive use of the Flexibility Instrument, the Global Margin for Commitments and the Contingency Margin in order to finance the wide range of new challenges and additional responsibilities that the Union budget is facing;

78.  Calls for an increase in the Emergency Aid Reserve (EAR) and the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) in light of the most recent and tragic disasters, namely the fires and extreme drought in Portugal and Spain;

79.  Recalls also the significance of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF), the EAR and the EUSF; supports the Commission’s intention to provide for a quicker mobilisation of the EUSF by putting most of its annual amount in a reserve in the Union budget, on top of the amount already budgeted for advances; regrets the Council’s cut in that respect and restores partially the DB level, with the exception of the amount which has been frontloaded to 2017 via Amending Budget No 4/2017 and the mobilisation of the EUSF for Italy; calls for the extension of the scope of the EUSF to provide assistance to victims of acts of terrorism and their families;

Payments

80.  Is concerned about the current under-execution trend in payments throughout the Union budget, not only in subheading 1b, but also in Headings 3 and 4, despite the need to answer the surge of new challenges and the setting-up of flexible funding mechanisms; recalls that for the past two years the payment level of the Union budget was considerably decreased, coupled with a high level of budget surplus; expresses, therefore, its concern that the DB still leaves an unprecedented margin of EUR 10 billion below the payment ceiling, which reflects a low execution trend that may lead to an acute payment pressure at the end of the current MFF;

81.  Insists on the necessity to restore the DB in payments on all lines cut by the Council and reinforces payment appropriations in targeted manner, mostly on those lines which are amended in commitment appropriations;

Other Sections

82.  Regrets the repeated Council practice of increasing the standard flat rate abatement for the Union institutions; believes this to have a particularly distorting effect on the budgets of institutions with historically accurate abatement rates; considers that this approach does not constitute a targeted reduction nor sound financial management; restores therefore the abatement rate at the level of the DB;

Section I – European Parliament

83.  Maintains the overall level of its budget for 2018, as adopted in its abovementioned resolution of 5 April 2017, at EUR 1 953 483 373; incorporates budgetary-neutral technical adjustments to reflect updated information which was not available earlier this year;

84.  Notes that the level of estimates for 2018 corresponds to 18,88 %, which is lower than that achieved in 2017 (19,25 %) and the lowest part of Heading 5 in the past fifteen years; insists nevertheless that the drive for the lowest expenditure possible for the European Parliament should not come at the cost of a reduced capacity for Parliament’s ordinary legislative work;

85.  Reiterates Parliament’s priorities for the forthcoming financial year, namely, consolidating the security measures already taken and improving Parliament’s resilience to cyber-attacks, improving the transparency of the Parliament’s own internal budgetary procedure, and focusing the Parliament’s budget on its core functions of legislating, acting as one arm of the budgetary authority, representing citizens and scrutinising the work of other institutions;

86.  Welcomes the creation of the Parliament’s Bureau Working group on the general expenditure allowance; recalls the expectations of greater transparency regarding the general expenditure allowance and a need to work on a definition of more precise rules regarding the accountability of the expenditure authorised under this allowance, without generating additional costs to Parliament;

87.  Calls on the Bureau to make the following concrete changes concerning the general expenditure allowance:

   the general expenditure allowance should be handled in all cases in a separate bank account;
   all receipts pertaining to the general expenditure allowance should be kept by Members;
   the unspent share of the general expenditure allowance should be returned at the end of the mandate;

88.  Reduces the establishment plan of its General Secretariat for 2018 by 60 posts (1 % staff reduction target), in accordance with the agreement of 14 November 2015 reached with the Council on the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016; recalls that the 35 posts granted to Parliament in 2016 related to new activities reinforcing security and, as such were exempted from the staff reduction target, as confirmed at the adoption of the Amending Budget No 3/2016 and the 2017 general budget(10)
; calls on the Commission to adjust its monitoring tables accordingly in order to provide to the European Parliament and the Council with accurate information at all steps of the procedure;

89.  Welcomes the exchange of views on Parliament’s building policy held on 11 July 2017 between the Committee on Budgets, the Secretary General and the Vice-Presidents responsible for Parliament’s building policy; considers that this dialogue ought to be a continuous process, particularly in the light of upcoming Bureau discussions on the refurbishment of the Paul Henri-Spaak building;

90.  Reiterates Parliament’s position as expressed in its abovementioned resolution of 5 April 2017 that there is further room for improvement on the control mechanisms related to European political parties and political foundations; notes in this regard the Commission’s proposal to amend Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1141/2014(11)
and welcomes any effort to improve the accountability and transparency of spending;

91.  Recalls the 2014 ECA analysis which estimated the costs of the geographic dispersion of the Parliament to be EUR 114 million per year; furthermore, notes the finding from its resolution of 23 October 2013 on the location of the seats of the European Union’s Institutions(12)
that 78 % of all missions by Parliament statutory staff arise as a direct result of the Parliament’s geographic dispersion; emphasises that the report also estimates the environmental impact of the geographic dispersion to be between 11 000 to 19 000 tonnes of CO2
emissions; reiterates the negative public perception caused by this dispersion and calls therefore for a roadmap to a single seat and a reduction in the relevant budget lines;

Section IV – Court of Justice

92.  Restores the DB on all budget items cut by the Council which are essential to the functioning of the Court and restores the estimates for two budget items in order to enhance the Court’s ability to deal with increasingly high translation demands;

93.  Expresses its disbelief at the unilateral statement of the Council and the related appendix on the 5 % staff reduction in the Council’s position on the 2018 draft budget according to which the Court still needs to reduce its establishment plan by 19 posts; underlines that those 19 posts correspond to the 12 and 7 posts duly granted by Parliament and the Council in the 2015 and 2016 budgetary procedures respectively to address additional needs and insists therefore that those 19 posts should not be given back, the Court having already duly achieved its 5 % staff reduction requirement by suppressing 98 posts during the period 2013-2017;

Section V – Court of Auditors

94.  Restores the DB on all items cut by Council, in order to implement the work programme of the Court of Auditors and deliver the planned Audit Reports;

95.  Places a reserve on the item “Limited consultations, studies and surveys” pending the outcome of the ongoing negotiations on the revision of the Financial Regulation, and the revision entering into force in 2018;

Section VI – European Economic and Social Committee

96.  Restores the DB on all items cut by the Council;

97.  Increases two lines above the DB in relation to the work of Domestic Advisory Groups in trade agreements;

Section VII – Committee of the Regions

98.  Restores the DB on all items cut by the Council;

99.  Increases a number of lines above the DB in line with the Committee of the Region’s own estimates;

Section VIII – European Ombudsman

100.  Welcomes the work done by the Ombudsman in finding efficiency savings in her own budget when compared with the previous year;

Section IX – European Data Protection Supervisor

101.  Questions why the Council would reduce the budget of the European Data Protection Supervisor given the additional tasks conferred upon the institution by Parliament and the Council; restores therefore all the budget lines cut by Council to enable the European Data Protection Supervisor to fulfil his obligations and commitments;

Section X- European External Action Service

102.  Restores all lines cut by the Council;

103.  Creates a Strategic Communication Capacity budget item in line with the European Council conclusions of March 2015 and to equip the EEAS with adequate staff and tools to face the challenge of disinformation from third states and non-state actors;

104.  Decides furthermore to transfer EU Special Representatives from the CFSP chapter to the EEAS budget to strengthen the coherence of the Union’s external action;

105.  Provides an additional amount above the EEAS estimates for trainees in Union Delegations, in response to the findings of the European Ombudsman’s inquiry into unpaid traineeships(13)
;

o
o   o

106.  Takes note of the unilateral statement of France and Luxembourg annexed to the Council’s position on the draft budget for 2018, as adopted on 4 September 2017; recalls that representatives of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission agreed on the pragmatic calendar for the conduct of the budgetary procedure, including the dates for the conciliation period, at the spring budgetary trilogue on 27 March 2017; recalls that the General Affairs Council approved that pragmatic calendar at its meeting of 25 April 2017, in full knowledge of the Parliament’s calendar of part-sessions for 2017; notes, therefore, that the budgetary procedure is proceeding in conformity with the pragmatic calendar agreed between the three institutions;

107.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution, together with the amendments to the draft general budget, to the Council, the Commission, the other institutions and bodies concerned and the national parliaments.

(1) OJ L 168, 7.6.2014, p. 105.
(2) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.
(4) OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1.
(5) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0085.
(6) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0114.
(7) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0302.
(8) Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 2015 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing, amending Regulation (EU) No 648/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Commission Directive 2006/70/EC (OJ L 141, 5.6.2015, p. 73).
(9) Directive 2010/63/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (OJ L 276, 20.10.2010, p. 33).
(10) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0401 / P8_TA(2016)0411.
(11) COM(2017)0481.
(12) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0498.
(13) European Ombudsman, 454.2014/PMC.

Report – 2015 discharge: European Police College (CEPOL) – A8-0081/2017 – Committee on Budgetary Control

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Police College (now European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training) (CEPOL) for the financial year 2015

(2016/2178(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Police College for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the European Police College for the financial year 2015, together with the College’s reply(1),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(2) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of .21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the College in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05873/2017 – C8-0064/2017),

–  having regard to Article 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(3), and in particular Article 208 thereof,

–  having regard to Council Decision 2005/681/JHA of 20 September 2005 establishing the European Police College (CEPOL) and repealing Decision 2000/820/JHA(4),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2015/2219 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015 on the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) and replacing and repealing Council Decision 2005/681/JHA(5), and in particular Article 20 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1271/2013 of 30 September 2013 on the framework financial regulation for the bodies referred to in Article 208 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council(6), and in particular Article 108 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0081/2017),

1.  Grants the Executive Director of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training discharge in respect of the implementation of the Agency’s budget for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision, and the resolution forming an integral part of it, to the Executive Director of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

2. PROPOSAL FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DECISION

on the closure of the accounts of the European Police College (now European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training) (CEPOL) for the financial year 2015

(2016/2178(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Police College for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the European Police College for the financial year 2015, together with the College’s reply(7),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(8) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the College in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05873/2017 – C8-0064/2017),

–  having regard to Article 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(9), and in particular Article 208 thereof,

–  having regard to Council Decision 2005/681/JHA of 20 September 2005 establishing the European Police College (CEPOL) and repealing Decision 2000/820/JHA(10), and in particular Article 16 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2015/2219 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015 on the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) and replacing and repealing Council Decision 2005/681/JHA, in particular Article 20 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1271/2013 of 30 September 2013 on the framework financial regulation for the bodies referred to in Article 208 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council(11), and in particular Article 108 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0081/2017),

1.  Approves the closure of the accounts of the European Police College for the financial year 2015;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Executive Director of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

3. MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Police College (now European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training) (CEPOL) for the financial year 2015

(2016/2178(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Police College (now European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training) for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0081/2017),

A.  whereas, according to its financial statements, the final budget of the European Police College(“the College”) for the financial year 2015 was EUR 8 471 000, representing an increase of 1,22 % compared to 2014; whereas the entire budget of the College derives from the Union budget,

B.  whereas the Court of Auditors (“the Court”), in its report on the annual accounts of the European Police College for the financial year 2015 (“the Court’s report”), has stated that it has obtained reasonable assurances that the College’s annual accounts are reliable and that the underlying transactions are legal and regular,

C.  whereas in the context of the discharge procedure, the discharge authority stresses the special importance of further strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the institutions of the Union by improving transparency and accountability, implementing the concept of performance-based budgeting and good governance of human resources,

Budget and financial management

1.  Notes that the budget monitoring efforts during the financial year 2015 resulted in a budget implementation rate of 95,51 %, representing a decrease of 1,89 % from 97,40 % in 2014; takes note of the fact that the payment appropriations execution rate was 79 %, representing a decrease of 3,40 % from 82,40 % in 2014;

2.  Takes note of the fact that, following the signature of the grant agreement with the Commission on the EU/MENA Counter-Terrorism Training Partnership, a budget of EUR 2 500 000 was agreed, out of which EUR 300 000 was inscribed in the College’s budget as assigned revenue in 2015 with the remaining EUR 2 200 000 being transferred during 2016 and 2017; requests a thorough evaluation of this project and its added value for the security of the Union, and if beneficial, requests the continuation and extension of the project in the coming years;

3.  Acknowledges that, at year-end, 89 % of all payments were paid in time, thereby exceeding the objective of 85 % of all payments paid within the legally-set timeframe; notes that no interest was charged by suppliers through late payments;

Commitments and carry-overs

4.  Observes that a total of EUR 1 406 984 was carried over to 2016, amounting to 17 % of the overall 2015 budget; notes that, according to the Court’s report, the level of committed appropriations carried over was at EUR 212 456 (49 %) for Title II (administrative expenditure) compared to EUR 383 940 (59 %) in 2014; acknowledges that these carry-overs resulted from the College’s relocation from the United Kingdom (UK) to Hungary in September 2014 and the consequential need to initiate new service and supply contracts; acknowledges that most of the services procured under these annual contracts had not been provided by the end of 2015;

5.  Notes that carry-overs may often be partly or fully justified by the multiannual nature of an agency’s operational programmes and do not necessarily indicate weaknesses in budget planning and implementation nor are they always at odds with the budgetary principle of annuality, in particular if they are planned in advance and communicated to the Court;

6.  Notes that the cost of the relocation from Bramshill, UK to Budapest, Hungary was estimated at approximately EUR 1 006 515, to be spent during 2014 and 2015; notes moreover that in accordance with the agreement between the Commission and the UK, the amount of EUR 570 283 was financed with 50 % from the UK authorities and with 50 % from the Commission; acknowledges the fact that the UK contribution to the relocation funds was inscribed in the College’s budget as assigned revenue, which was fully used; welcomes the fact that the remaining relocation funds corresponding to 35 % of the final relocation budget were financed with the College’s budget by savings deriving from the lower correction coefficient applied to staff entitlements in Hungary;

7.  Takes note of the fact that a number of staff members initiated a legal dispute against the College concerning the conditions in which the relocation had been carried out and its financial impact on their income; notes furthermore that the Court has not yet delivered a judgment and that court proceedings remain ongoing; acknowledges that the final amount for the cost of relocation needs to cover the financial obligation arising from the Court’s judgement and invites the College to report on the outcome and the final financial figure of the relocation;

Transfer

8.  Notes that the College carried out ten budgetary transfers over the course of the year, all of them with the same budget title; notes with satisfaction that the level and nature of transfers in 2015 remained within the limits of the financial rules;

Prevention and management of conflict of interest and transparency

9.  Acknowledges that the declarations of interest and curriculum vitae (CVs) of the members of the governing board were published on the College’s website; acknowledges that the College’s staff members and other individuals directly collaborating with the College were requested to fill in a declaration of interest; notes with satisfaction that the CVs and declarations of interest are well organised, visible and accessible in a user-friendly manner on the College’s website;

10.  Deplores that, despite the adoption of the College’s policy on the prevention and management of conflict of interests in November 2014, the curricula vitae and declarations of interest of its experts are not published on the College’s website; reminds the College that it should make them available for the public in order to ensure transparency and uphold Union citizens’ trust in the Union institutions; calls upon the College to adopt a clear and solid whistleblowing strategy and rules against “revolving doors” according to Article 22c of the Union Staff Regulations, which came into force on 1 January 2014;

11.  Notes that the College drafted a communication strategy as part of the overall strategy set out by its governing board in May 2016, which aims to increase its online visibility mainly by driving traffic to it through social media; notes that the College conducted an in-depth audit of its website at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017; asks the College to report to the discharge authority on the result of this audit;

Performance

12.  Notes that in 2015 the College’s training portfolio encompassed 151 training activities, including 85 residential activities and 66 webinars, 428 exchanges in the framework of the European Police Exchange Programme (EPEP), 24 online modules, one online course, and nine common curricula; notes with satisfaction that for the fifth year in a row the outreach of the College has increased, resulting in the College training 12 992 law enforcement professionals in 2015 compared to 10 322 in 2014;

13.  Acknowledges that the number residential activities (85) exceeded the target one (80) and that they have brought together 3 073 law enforcement participants, representing a 12 % increase from the originally forecasted number (2 755); encourages, however, the College to better report effects of its activities on the security of the Union;

14.  Takes note of the fact that the College has a comprehensive assessment system in place to ensure the quality of its training portfolio; notes moreover that the course evaluation not only aims at assessing training efficiency but also at measuring participants’ satisfaction rates; notes that the overall satisfaction was high, with close to 94 % of the participants stating that they were very satisfied or satisfied with the College’s activities;

15.  Welcomes that in 2015 the College organised webinars to provide law enforcement officials with up-to-date information and best practice on identifying and investigating hate crimes and different forms of gender-based violence, and offered trainings to raise awareness about the challenges experienced by Roma communities and LGBTI persons (such as over- and under-policing and the lack of trust towards members of the police force), and how these can be addressed at the level of law enforcement; calls for the continuation of the provision of trainings in the field of fundamental rights and the related sensitisation of the police force;

Other comments

16.  Notes that, according to the Court’s report, the College’s audited budgetary implementation report differs from the level of detail provided by most other agencies, which demonstrates the need for clear guidelines on agencies’ budget reporting; acknowledges that the College outsourced the role of the accounting officer to the Commission’s accounting officer, as well as the fact that the different level of detail was based on the practices of the Commission’s reporting; supports the Commission’s intention to establish guidelines for agencies’ budget reporting for the 2016 accounts;

17.  Acknowledges that the College is strengthening its administrative links and cooperation with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, in particular as regards procurement and staff related issues; notes, in particular, the cooperation on scrutinising the Implementing Rules of the Staff Regulations, the advanced plans to form a common staff committee as well as the organisation of a number of training activities open to staff from both agencies;

18.  Notes that, with regard to the College’s expanded responsibilities and increased mandate, the current resource levels are insufficient; notes that, based on the College’s five-year evaluation which was finalised in 2016, there is a clear need for a significant reinforcement of the College with both human and financial resources; invites the Commission to take this into account in its budget proposals for the College; invites the budgetary authority to examine the possibility of providing additional human and financial resources to the College so as not to hinder its ability to perform its tasks;

°

°  °

19.  Refers, for other observations of a cross-cutting nature accompanying its decision on discharge, to its resolution of [xx xxxx 2017](12) [on the performance, financial management and control of the agencies].).

15.2.2017

OPINION of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

for the Committee on Budgetary Control

on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Police College for the financial year 2015

(2016/2178(DEC))

Rapporteur: Petr Ježek

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs calls on the Committee on Budgetary Control, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

1.  Welcomes the Court of Auditors’ conclusions that the annual accounts of the European Police College (CEPOL) fairly present its financial position on 31 December 2015 and that its transactions are legal and regular;

2.  Welcomes the high implementation rate of the 2015 budget that reached 95,5 % out of which 79 % has been paid; notes, however, that according to the Court of Auditors, the level of committed appropriations for administrative expenditure carried over from 2014 to 2015 reached 49 % at the end of 2015, which is relatively high, although lower than in 2014 (59 %); notes that the relocation of CEPOL from the United Kingdom to Hungary in September 2014 and the consequential need to initiate new service and supply contracts is the main reason for the level of committed appropriations carried over from 2014 to 2015;

3.  Welcomes the solid output of CEPOL; acknowledges the training of 12 992 law enforcement officers, which represents an increase of over 25 % in comparison with 2014; welcomes the very high level of satisfaction of training participants, which reached 93% for residential courses, 94 % for webinars and 94 % for European police exchange programmes; acknowledges that the number residential activities (85) exceeded the target one (80) and that they have brought together 3 073 law enforcement participants, representing a 12 % increase from the originally forecasted number (2 755); encourages, however, CEPOL to better report effects of its activities on the security of the Union;

4.  Welcomes that in 2015 CEPOL organised webinars to provide law enforcement officials with up-to-date information and best practice on identifying and investigating hate crimes and different forms of gender-based violence, and offered trainings to raise awareness about the challenges experienced by Roma communities and LGBTI persons (such as over- and under-policing and the lack of trust towards members of the police force), and how these can be addressed at the level of law enforcement; calls for the continuation of the provision of trainings in the field of fundamental rights and the related sensitisation of the police force;

5.  Notes the Commission grant of EUR 2 500 000 to implement a counter-terrorism training capacity building project in four countries in the Middle East and North Africa region; requests a thorough evaluation of the project and its added value for the security of the Union, and if beneficial, requests the continuation and extension of the project in the coming years;

6.  Deplores that, despite the adoption of CEPOL’s policy on the prevention and management of conflict of interests in November 2014, the curricula vitae and declarations of interest of its experts are not published on CEPOL’s website; reminds CEPOL that it should make them available for the public in order to ensure transparency and uphold Union citizens’ trust in the Union institutions; calls upon CEPOL to adopt a clear and solid whistleblowing strategy and rules against “revolving doors” according to Article 22c of the Union Staff Regulations, which came into force on 1 January 2014.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

9.2.2017

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

36

3

3

Members present for the final vote

Heinz K. Becker, Michał Boni, Caterina Chinnici, Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra, Tanja Fajon, Kinga Gál, Ana Gomes, Nathalie Griesbeck, Sylvie Guillaume, Monika Hohlmeier, Eva Joly, Dietmar Köster, Barbara Kudrycka, Cécile Kashetu Kyenge, Marju Lauristin, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Roberta Metsola, Péter Niedermüller, Soraya Post, Judith Sargentini, Birgit Sippel, Branislav Škripek, Csaba Sógor, Sergei Stanishev, Helga Stevens, Traian Ungureanu, Bodil Valero, Marie-Christine Vergiat, Udo Voigt, Josef Weidenholzer, Kristina Winberg, Tomáš Zdechovský

Substitutes present for the final vote

Petr Ježek, Jeroen Lenaers, Nadine Morano, Morten Helveg Petersen, Emil Radev, Barbara Spinelli, Anders Primdahl Vistisen, Axel Voss

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

Josu Juaristi Abaunz, Georg Mayer

INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

Date adopted

22.3.2017

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

22

4

0

Members present for the final vote

Inés Ayala Sender, Dennis de Jong, Tamás Deutsch, Martina Dlabajová, Luke Ming Flanagan, Ingeborg Gräßle, Cătălin Sorin Ivan, Jean-François Jalkh, Bogusław Liberadzki, Monica Macovei, Notis Marias, José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, Petri Sarvamaa, Claudia Schmidt, Bart Staes, Hannu Takkula, Derek Vaughan, Joachim Zeller

Substitutes present for the final vote

Richard Ashworth, Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, Benedek Jávor, Karin Kadenbach, Julia Pitera, Patricija Šulin

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

Jens Geier, Piernicola Pedicini

FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

22

+

ALDE

ECR

GUE/NGL

PPE

S&D

VERTS/ALE

Martina Dlabajová, Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, Hannu Takkula

Monica Macovei

Luke Ming Flanagan, Dennis de Jong

Tamás Deutsch, Ingeborg Gräßle, José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, Julia Pitera, Petri Sarvamaa, Claudia Schmidt, Joachim Zeller, Patricija Šulin

Inés Ayala Sender, Jens Geier, Cătălin Sorin Ivan, Karin Kadenbach, Bogusław Liberadzki, Derek Vaughan

Benedek Jávor, Bart Staes

4

ECR

EFDD

ENF

Richard Ashworth, Notis Marias

Piernicola Pedicini

Jean-François Jalkh

Key to symbols:

+  :  in favour

–  :  against

0  :  abstention

(1)

OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 36.

(2)

OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 36.

(3)

OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.

(4)

OJ L 256, 1.10.2005, p. 63.

(5)

OJ L 319, 4.12.2015, p. 1.

(6)

OJ L 328, 7.12.2013, p. 42.

(7)

OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 36.

(8)

OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 36.

(9)

OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.

(10)

OJ L 256, 1.10.2005, p. 63.

(11)

OJ L 328, 7.12.2013, p. 42.

(12)

Texts adopted of that date, P[8_TA(-PROV)(2017)0000].

Opinion – 2015 discharge: European Police College (CEPOL) – PE 595.383v02-00 – Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

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Council conclusions on migrant smuggling

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

–               ALERTED by the high number of casualties and migrants risking death in trying to reach Europe and considering that it is estimated that in 2015 there were more than 1.8 million irregular border crossings into the EU, according to Frontex sources, which represented an increase of 546% compared to 2014, and that international organisations, such as IOM, estimate that over 3.770 migrants lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015;

–               EMPHASISING that all forms of migrant smuggling, including in countries of origin and transit, should be addressed, and that migrant smuggling is a serious form of organised crime which can only be countered through a comprehensive, multidisciplinary and cross-border approach by Member States, including law enforcement and judicial authorities, labour, social, health and fisheries inspectorates, border forces, immigration services, local and regional governments, tax and customs authorities, NGOs, businesses, trade unions, employers’ organisations and embassies as well as relevant EU agencies such as Europol, Eurojust and Frontex;

–               STRESSING that a coherent, credible and effective policy with regard to preventing and countering migrant smuggling, which fully respects human rights and the dignity of the smuggled migrants as well as of those providing humanitarian assistance, as well as the principle of non-refoulement, and the prohibition of collective expulsion laid down in Article 19 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights are essential parts of a comprehensive EU migration policy;

–               STRESSING the need to encourage partner countries which have not yet done so to become Parties to the UN Convention on Organized Crime and the UN Protocol on Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air and to promote the full implementation of this Protocol;

–               STRESSING the fact that Article 1.2 of Council Directive 2002/90/EC, defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence of 28 November 2002, provides the possibility for Member States to exempt persons facilitating irregular entry or transit in order to offer humanitarian assistance to migrants from sanctions;

–               ACKNOWLEDGING the need to strengthen co-operation and improve capacity of Member States and relevant EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, where applicable, to investigate, prosecute and sanction the smuggling of migrants and related offences;

–               EMPHASISING the important role played by Europol’s JOT MARE initiative and the significant value to be gained from FRONTEX debriefing intelligence in supporting law enforcement action to detect, deter and disrupt migrant smuggling rings;

–               TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the launch of the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) within Europol, to further develop a coordinated and effective law enforcement response against the organised criminal networks behind people smuggling;

–               ACKNOWLEDGING that smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings are two distinct forms of crime, covered by distinct legal frameworks at EU and international level, and that both forms of crime can be interlinked, and acknowledging that migrant smuggling has become an increasingly violent form of crime, which may involve serious physical or psychological violence and human rights abuse, exposing women and children to particular risk;

–               ACKNOWLEDGING that Europol’s Serious and Organised Crime Threat assessment 2013 (SOCTA) demonstrates links between organised crime groups active in migrant smuggling, which is characterised by low risks and high profits, and other crime areas , such as illicit drugs and trafficking of Human Beings (THB);

–               STRESSING the need to significantly increase and improve the collection, sharing and analysis of data and knowledge about migrant smuggling, in order to develop more effective, coordinated evidence-based policies;

–               EMPHASISING that since smugglers are motivated by the financial profits they are able to make, it is essential to follow the financial flows in migrant smuggling cases for the purpose of evidence gathering, identifying and mapping criminal organisations and connections, gathering of financial intelligence, identifying criminal assets, and freezing and confiscating the proceeds of crime of the smugglers and other facilitators involved;

–               ACKNOWLEDGING the risk presented by the worrying increase in false or stolen identification documentation being used to facilitate unlawful entry into Member States and the urgent need to develop and deploy improved biometric identification capabilities;

–               TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the fact that the importance of the fight against migrant smuggling is emphasised repeatedly in different Council conclusions, in particular the Council conclusions of 9 November 2015 inviting Member States, in coordination with the Commission, to set up a network of single operational contact points on migrant smuggling;

–               EMPHASISING that “Facilitation of illegal immigration” is one of the EU Crime Priorities set by the Council within the framework of the EU Policy Cycle for Organised and Serious International Crime for 2014-2017;

–               TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the EU Internal Security Strategy 2015‑2020 as renewed by the Council Conclusions of 4 and 5 December 2014 and the Council conclusions of 15 and 16 June 2015, based on the principles of the Commission’s Communication “European Agenda on Security;

–               BUILDING ON the European Agenda on Migration of 9 May 2015 and the EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling 2015-2020 of 27 May 2015;

–               NOTING the EU Action Plan on return of 9 September 2015, which is an essential part of the EU’s comprehensive efforts to address migration and, in particular to enhance return, as a deterrent for irregular migration;

–               NOTING the Council conclusions of 14 September 2015 and more specifically the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan of 15 October 2015 and the decisions of the EU-Turkey meeting of Heads of State and Government of 29 November 2015, all of which recognise that Turkey, being a major first reception and transit country for asylum seekers and irregular migrants, is a main partner of the EU in the management of migratory flows and in the fight against migrant smuggling;

–               TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the Action Plan of the Leaders Meeting on the Western Balkans migration route on 8 October 2015 and the Political Declaration and the Action Plan following the Valletta Summit on migration of 11-12 November 2015, where the EU, its Member States and third countries agreed to prevent and address irregular migration and to fight related organised crime, such as migrant smuggling;

–               REITERATING that the fight against criminal networks of traffickers and smugglers remains a priority and welcoming the transition to the first step of the second phase of the EU military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean, EUNAVFOR SOPHIA, on the high seas, as laid down in point (b)(i) of Article 2(2) of Decision (CFSP) 2015/778;

–               NOTING that there is a wide range of countries of origin or transit and that there is a range of root causes for and forms of migrant smuggling, and stressing the need for multidisciplinary cooperation with third countries.

INVITES MEMBER STATES to:

–               Accelerate the process of a systematic registration, including fingerprinting of illegally entering third-country nationals according to the Eurodac Regulation and to perform systematic security checks by using relevant databases, in particular SIS II, Interpol, VIS and national police databases, with the support of Frontex and Europol;

–               Phase out non-biometric, non-machine readable identity documents and to update identification documents in line with ICAO recommendations to deter secondary movement within the EU;

–               Cooperate with the Commission in ensuring that the collection and exchange of reliable, updated and comparable crime statistics on migrant smuggling is stepped up, notably by extending the existing Eurostat collection of crime statistics to include data on migrant smuggling, with the support of relevant EU agencies, as set out in the EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling;

–               Make optimal use of the information systems in place as well as of public data, platforms and partnerships with social media companies, and all other available instruments to gather, cross check and share smuggling-related data and use these systems for the purpose of predictive analysis of migrant flows and consequent smuggling activities;

–               Fully participate, in the EU Policy Cycle for Organised and Serious International Crime and especially the EU Crime Priority on the “Facilitation of illegal immigration” and to use fully the resources made available through the Operational Action Plan on “illegal immigration”, under the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT), as agreed by the Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI), and share all relevant information including data from social media;

–               Enhance cooperation with Europol, in particular by sharing reliable and updated information and intelligence on migrant smuggling and by cooperating actively with the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC);

–               Fully cooperate with Eurojust in the recently established thematic group on migrant smuggling, and make full use of available instruments, such as coordination meetings and coordination centres, joint investigation teams and the funding possibilities available within Eurojust;

–               Intensify financial investigations in migrant smuggling cases for the purpose of gathering evidence, mapping criminal organisations, identifying freezing and confiscating the proceeds of crime of the smugglers and other facilitators involved and to ensure that relevant knowledge, tools and expertise are made available to criminal investigators and judicial authorities who have received specific training, so that investigations into appropriate cases of migrant smuggling can be routinely, and at an early stage, accompanied by multidisciplinary financial investigations;

–               Engage with the private sector, in particular the transport sector, and other stakeholders, depending on their respective roles and capacities, in an EU-wide dialogue to explore existing and develop new best practices, codes of conduct and guidelines in order to prevent migrant smuggling and cope with associated risks, in cooperation with the European Commission;

–               Enhance effective and sustainable return of migrants who are not entitled to international protection in line with Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals, and in close collaboration with the Commission and all relevant stakeholders, including through stepping up cooperation with third countries of origin and transit, to maintain the credibility of EU migration policy and to deter migrant smuggling;

–               Increase awareness on the risk of irregular migration and migrant smuggling among the general public, vulnerable groups and professionals that could come into contact with smuggled migrants, by for instance, developing a counter-narrative in the media and to share best practice. These campaigns should be targeted at specific groups and contain a balanced message, possibly involving the diaspora community;

–               Significantly increase multidisciplinary cooperation within Member States, cross-border cooperation between Member States and EU agencies, and cooperation with third countries against migrant smuggling, more specifically with Turkey and the Western Balkans, by increasing, for instance, the exchange of information, the number of parallel and joint investigations into migrant smuggling and stimulating multidisciplinary participation in those investigations, for example through the involvement of border guard personnel;

–               Advance cooperation with countries of origin and transit, including through cooperation platforms and high level dialogues on migration, and in cooperation with the competent authorities of the third countries involved. In particular, promote initiatives and capacity building projects with the aim of fighting migrant smuggling;

–               Ensure that enough resources and a coherent mandate are provided to the single contact points to foster operational cooperation on migrant smuggling, called for by the EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling and requested by the Council in its conclusions of 9 November 2015. This needs to be in line, with existing structures with a view to promoting more effective coordination between and within Member States, in order to achieve swift and full implementation of the network of single operational contact points.

INVITES THE COMMISSION to:

–               Cooperate with Member States to ensure the effective implementation of the EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling and support Member States cooperation between all relevant migration, law enforcement and justice authorities, including projects aimed at removing practical obstacles, such as language barriers, between all relevant actors;

–               Use relevant financial instruments at EU level, and most notably the Madad Trust Fund set up as a response to the Syrian crisis, the emergency Trust Fund for Africa and the Turkey Refugee Facility, to address the push and pull factors of migrant smuggling, for instance, by supporting a more pro-active role for the countries of origin and transit through the gathering, exchange and analysis of information and through the investigation and prosecution of migrant smugglers;

–               Support the Member States in setting up a network of single contact points to foster operational cooperation on migrant smuggling in order to ensure a single entry point and to facilitate cross-border cooperation and exchange of complete and accurate information between Member States, and ensure that Member States strengthen their inter-service coordination at national level;

–               Engage in an EU-wide dialogue with Member States and the private sector, in particular the transport sector, and other stakeholders, depending on their respective roles, limitations and capacities, in order to develop, explore and share best practices, codes of conduct and guidelines to prevent migrant smuggling and cope with associated risks;

–               Ensure that the implementation of the pilot projects on information campaigns in Ethiopia and Niger, regarding the risks of irregular migration, is intensified, and review the results of the pilot projects together with the relevant Member States and Agencies as soon as possible with the aim of rolling out information campaigns in other countries of origin and transit;

–               Continue to develop and ensure the implementation of the information strategy as defined by the Migrants’ Information strategy Task Force and to foster, in its framework, cooperation with EU public media operating on international scale, and in particular with those already providing news and information services in national languages in third countries of origin and transit of migrants, and in particular in North Africa and Middle East;

–               Ensure that a mapping exercise is carried out with the cooperation of relevant agencies, on the ways in which social media is used for the purpose of migrant smuggling;

–               Support cooperation platforms in third countries in line with the Action Plan against migrant smuggling, in particular in connection with the deployment of European Migration Liaison Officers, as well as support financially through the available Commission funding programmes law enforcement and judicial cooperation in third countries of origin and transit.

INVITES THE RELEVANT EU AGENCIES to:

–               Enhance inter-agency cooperation focusing mainly on the synergy of activities of all agencies involved and on information exchange, through the use of the EU Contact Group of Agencies on migrant smuggling (in particular Europol, Eurojust, Frontex, FRA, Cepol and EASO);

–               1) Ensure that the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) can act as the main information hub and coordinating entity on migrant smuggling within Europol, and that migrant smuggling is taken up in existing platforms and units which are set up to fight organised crime, including financial crime; 2) ensure that EMSC deploys officers to increase support to Member States in need thereof by late spring of 2016; 3) ensure that Europol in cooperation with Member States develops and implements a guest officers concept to the hotspots in support of the screening process, in particular by reinforcing secondary security controls,; and 4) ensure that the EMSC in cooperation with the Internet Referral Unit, in addition to the current activities of other actors, supports the enlargement of existing and future cooperation platforms with social media and internet service providers, as well as with financial institutions (Europol);

–               Ensure that the recently established Eurojust thematic group on migrant smuggling aims at (i) supporting the needs of prosecution including by sharing appropriate information, such as ongoing investigations, investigative guidelines, landmark case-law, in a timely manner, (ii) identifying and analysing the obstacles regarding prosecution and judicial cooperation such as obstacles related to the assertion of jurisdiction especially on the high sea, the differences between the Member States as regards the definition of “illegal immigrant smuggling”, the scope of the “humanitarian exception”, and the gathering, storing and sharing of appropriate information and evidence and the admissibility thereof and (iii) improving the use of the EU and international legal instruments, also with a view to identifying the possible legal and practical shortcomings of these instruments (Eurojust);

–               Ensure, in cooperation with the Commission, that a mapping is carried out as regards existing training opportunities in the field of countering migrant smuggling, at EU level to identify needs and suitable solutions (Cepol, FRA , Europol, Frontex, Eurojust);

–               Ensure that all agencies continue to organise multidisciplinary training activities, including activities relating to fundamental rights issues and the development of risk profiles, on migrant smuggling and that such activities are open to all officials active in the fight against migrant smuggling including police officers and other criminal investigators, immigration officers and border guards, in order to promote a joint European approach (Europol, Cepol, Frontex, FRA, Eurojust);

–               Assist Member States in pro-actively using financial investigations in migrant smuggling cases, sharing knowledge and raising awareness on financial investigation for the purpose of evidence gathering, mapping criminal organisations, gathering financial intelligence and identifying criminal assets, freezing and confiscating the proceeds of crime of the smugglers and other facilitators involved, also in cooperation with third countries and including all relevant stakeholders such as relevant Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), banking and related private entities (Europol, Eurojust);

–               Ensure the swift implementation of the operational agreement between Frontex and Europol, which was signed in December 2015, in order to enhance information exchange on migrant smuggling (Europol, Frontex);

Enhance cooperation with third countries, and notably with Turkey and the Western Balkans, in order to, where necessary, assist operational cooperation of Member States such as joint investigations or border control operations.

Answer – VP/HR – Sousse attacks – E-011256/2015

1. The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) Conclusions of 9 February 2015 on counter-terrorism stated that ‘the Council has decided to step up, as a matter of urgency, its external action on countering terrorism in particular in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, including Yemen, and North Africa, in particular also Libya, and the Sahel.’ The first deliverable has been the selection and the deployment of CT security Experts into EU Delegations to MENA (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan) and also Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Nigeria. These experts are cost free ‘Detached National Experts’ from Member States. Furthermore cooperation was already ongoing in Tunisia and it has been gaining speed since the terrorist attacks. In particular, the first ‘targeted and upgraded’ CT political dialogue took place in Tunisia in September with the active participation of the EEAS DSG, the EU CTC, all relevant Commission services and the EU Agencies, Europol and CEPOL. The wide participation on both sides allowed for a constructive meeting. One key outcome has been a comprehensive CT package for Tunisia, the centrepiece of which is a EUR 23 million security sector reform programme (funded under ENI bilateral programme), with an immediate impact on enhancing the capacity of the Tunisian judiciary to handle CT related cases. This model will be followed in future CT political dialogues in the MENA region.

2. It has been decided that the CT/security experts are to be provided cost-free by EU member states.

3. The increase in efforts as regards CT cooperation is carried out as part of the regular tasks, therefore costs are overall covered by the general budget.