(3) Historical Concepts of EU

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Accountability

 

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Accountability has been a major concern of the European Union (EU) since the early 1990s, as the EU’s institutions have become perceived to be increasingly remote from the people.

Although the EU has a democratically elected European Parliament, which has seen its powers increased, it continues to suffer from an increasing democratic deficit, with citizens feeling that decision-makers in Brussels are unaccountable. In response, the EU has sought to promote greater transparency and openness. It has also sought to increase monitoring of the activities of the European Commission and to ensure tighter financial control over the budget. Europe Aid has a key role to play in the European Commission’s external relations and development policies. It main purpose is to implement most of the Commission’s external assistance instruments. This vital task requires EuropeAid to deliver the EU’s aid budget in an open and accountable fashion.

The European Union spends billions of euros assisting developing countries. It is up to EuropeAid to get the best possible results from the aid budget. In line with set objectives, it must ensure that resources are used and managed appropriately. EuropeAid must, therefore, report on its activities in an accurate, accountable and transparent manner.

In this context, accountability takes in a number of factors. These include:

  • Developing a culture based on individual and collective responsibility.
  • Ensuring quality in the design and implementation of projects  – in terms of their relevance, sustainability and timeliness. This is pursued through close coordination with other donors, partner countries and EuropeAid’s own Quality Support Groups. Quality is the watchword that runs through the design and implementation of external aid programmes and projects. Monitoring and evaluation is thorough and regular assessment means that feedback on lessons learned can be used to inform subsequent activities.
  • The establishment of management, supervision, support and control systems that are required to achieve EuropeAid’s objectives. The aim is to ensure sound financial management, consistency and transparency in contract award procedures. Good systems also allow for simplification and rationalisation of external aid management procedures and help to improve the auditing of operations.
  • Developing a dialogue with other European institutions, partners and stakeholders from civil society, business and government.
  • Reporting in a transparent way on the activities, results and use of allocated resources. In accordance with the Charter of Authorising Officers – through sub-delegation – each EuropeAid director reports regularly to the director-general, taking into account field reports from the devolved delegations. In turn, the director-general must report annually to the College on EuropeAid’s activities, policy achievements, management performance, internal controls and financial statements. The declaration appended to the director-general’s report is an explicit demonstration of EuropeAid’s accountability for the management of resources it has at its disposal.

EuropeAid’s activities are also subject to scrutiny by the EU’s Court of Auditors and the Legislative Authority in the context of annual discharge procedures relating to the way the Commission executes its budget and its use of the European Development Fund (EDF).

EuropeAid must also ensure that the public is made aware of its work. The recently established External cooperation Info point will improve communications activities and help to raise the profile of the Commission’s external aid programmes and performance.

The EU Accountability Report on Financing for Development  assesses on a yearly basis where the EU and its Member States stand in relation to their common commitments on financing for development, including aid levels  and aid effectiveness, EU support to sustainable debt levels in developing countries, aid for trade, fast-start climate finance and good governance in tax matters and development. The report fulfils the Council’s mandate to the European Commission to monitor progress and report annually on common EU commitments. The report is also intended to serve as input for EU preparations for several international meetings.  It is compiled on the basis of feedback to a questionnaire circulated to all Member States and the various Commission services and provides a compilation on an annual basis of what policies are being put in place or strengthened.   (accessed on March 20, 2013)


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