3.4%! 3.4%!

This morning, at short notice, I dashed off to the Council’s Budget Committee to defend the EESC’s draft supplementary budget for 2010. The EESC, like the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions, is finding itself on the end of a hiding to nothing at the moment. Last year, when this year’s budgets were being drafted and approved, all institutions were strictly instructed not to anticipate the Lisbon Treaty in any way, given the sensitivity of this for the Irish people and government. Now, however, the Treaty has been ratified and is being implemented and the institutions are, quite rightly, being asked to do their bit. Granted, extra tasks don’t automatically mean extra resources, but mostly they do, and there’s the rub; how can EU institutions be asking for supplementary resources in a year of economic, financial and social crisis? EESC members agonised long and large before its Bureau regretfully but unanimously decided that the Committee had to be consistent with the intentions of the draftsmen of the Lisbon Treaty – as I put it, to revive the ‘spirit of Laeken’, which was all about bringing the EU closer to the citizen. Here are some statistics which I cited in making my case: the EESC’s budget represents less than one one thousandth of the EU’s overall budget. It costs each EU citizen 25 eurocents per year, and the supplementary budget would add 0.8 eurocents to that. Like the CoR, the EESC suffers from small institution syndrome – by which I mean that small figures look like big percentages but, as I put it, 3.4% of a peanut is only 3.4% of a peanut, and I strongly persist in believing that both Committees provide excellent value for money.