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New Open Europe briefing: Cost of EU quangos to taxpayer rises by 33% over two years

20 Apr 2012

Press Release: IMMEDIATE

23 April 2012

New Open Europe briefing: Cost of EU quangos to European taxpayers has risen by 33% over two years, now standing at €2.64bn

The EU Commission is set to publish its proposed budget for 2013 on Wednesday which is expected to call for an increase in spending. Ahead of this announcement, Open Europe has published an updated briefing assessing the effectiveness and cost of the EU’s 52 agencies and committees. The total cost to European taxpayers of these bodies now stands at €2.64bn (£2.17bn), up 3.4% from last year and a massive 33.2% compared with 2010. This comes as UK Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander announces that government departments at home will have to find even more cuts.

Open Europe research analyst Pawel Swidlicki said:

“While some of these EU quangos perform valuable work, many others serve no practical purpose whatsoever apart from soaking up taxpayers’ money. Ironically, many of these bodies would never have survived the type of austerity programmes that the EU is now drawing up for member states as Europe fights through its worst crisis in a generation.”

To read the briefing in full, click here:

Key Points:

The total cost of EU agencies to European taxpayers now stands at €2.64bn (£2.17bn), up 3.4% from last year and a massive 33.2% compared with 2010. Over 90% of this comes from EU member states (the rest from non-EU member states such as Norway) – with the UK paying around €362m (£298m) this year, Germany paying €490m and France paying €386m.

There are currently 52 EU quangos, double the number in 2004.

Some agencies, such as the European Chemicals Agency, help to facilitate trade in the single market or to pool expertise. However, many agencies add little or no value while duplicating the work of each other, the core EU institutions, member states' organisations and civil society. For example, there are currently two EU agencies specifically dedicated to human rights in addition to similar bodies in member states, the Council of Europe, the ECtHR, a specific EU Commissioner for “fundamental rights” and a range of NGOs.

Others have no impact on policy whatsoever. For example there is no evidence that the €129m a year Economic and Social Committee, an “advisory” body that has existed since the 1950s, has actually altered the outcome of an EU proposal in recent years, and yet it remains in place.

As an evaluation for the European Commission concluded, the system of EU agencies also “creates an indirect but powerful incentive for spending” taxpayers’ cash. For example: 

  • The European Environment Agency (EEA) has set a financial ceiling of €250,000 over a four year contract in order to assess its own media coverage.
  • The EEA also spent €300,000 on a ‘living map’ of Europe, created from 5,000 plants affixed to the outside wall of its headquarters in Copenhagen in order to promote biodiversity. The facade stayed up for around 5 months in 2010. On its website, the EEA said it wanted to “illustrate the significance of vertical gardens.”
  • Each board meeting of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – whose mandate already overlaps with that of another EU agency, and whose board only consists of 15 people – costs €92,630 on average, working out at €6,175 per member.

Open Europe has identified at least ten agencies that serve no unique purpose and ought to be abolished. Most of the remaining should be cut by 30%, saving EU member states just over €668m (£566.4m) every year, with the UK saving €100.4m (£82.6m), France saving €107.3m and Germany saving €136m. In parallel, all agencies should be given strict performance targets and funding should then be dependent on whether these are met.

A full table showing contributions and savings to the EU agencies for all member states is available below:


1) For more information, please contact Pawel Swidlicki on 0044 (0)207 197 2333 or 0044 (0)796 607 0172.

2) Open Europe is an independent think-tank calling for reform of the European Union. Its supporters include: Lord Leach of Fairford, Director, Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd; Lord Wolfson, Chief Executive, Next Plc; Hugh Sloane, Co-Founder and Chief Executive, Sloane Robinson; Sir Stuart Rose, former Chairman, Marks and Spencer Plc; Jeremy Hosking, Director, Marathon Asset Management; Sir Henry Keswick, Chairman, Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd; Sir Martin Jacomb, former Chairman, Prudential Plc; Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover KG, Life President, J Sainsbury Plc; Michael Dobson, Chief Executive, Schroders Plc; David Mayhew, former Chairman, JP Morgan Cazenove.

For a full list, please click here:

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