EP News Report, 19 March 2003
Parliament's Committee on Environment and Public Health today voiced its opposition to releasing all of the budget for the new European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). The committee's view is only advisory but had been requested by Parliament's Budgets Committee before it takes a decision on the release of the funds that were placed in reserve by Parliament last year (4.36 million euros, i.e. half of EFSA's administrative budget). Environment Committee budget draftsman Robert GOODWILL (EPP-ED, UK) proposed instead that 2.18 million euros (a quarter of the budget) should still be kept in reserve as long as the final decision on the seat of the EFSA is pending and the other quarter released on condition that funds are only spent in accordance with the statute of the EFSA.
Geoffrey Podger, Executive Director of EFSA, explained in the meeting why he had asked for the money to be released. He told MEPs that for the time being EFSA is able to deliver only 70% of the scientific opinions it is supposed to be providing and has been unable to carry out any risk assessments at all.
MEPs also had a lively exchange of views about the legal basis of the compromise deal reached by two prime ministers - Paavo Lipponen of Finland and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy - on the seat of the EFSA. The prime ministers have proposed that EFSA should be located in Helsinki and a new agency responsible for the registration and protection of European food products should be set up in Parma. The question of the seat will probably be raised at the EU spring summit this Friday.
Several MEPs asked whether it was up to two prime ministers to take a decision to split the seat of an agency whose statute had been formalised by a European regulation. The decision will affect the way budgetary resources can be used. MEPs stressed that this also showed the problem of needing unanimity for certain Council decisions. Committee chair Caroline JACKSON (EPP-ED, UK) said she would be writing to Commission President Romano Prodi on this point, and said it was the committee's view that if a new agency were to be set up in Parma it should be done according to the Treaties and only after an official proposal had been tabled by the Commission to Parliament and the Council.