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ENVIRONMENT : EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT AGENCY COMMENDED.

Only a few days after the European Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) had decided, on 19 March, to postpone issuing a budget discharge to the European Environment Agency (EEA) for its management of funds in 2011, the agency has been commended. In compliance with its statute, which requires that it publish an independent evaluation on its activities and efficiency every five years, the EEA published its report for the 2008-2012 period.

The agency has entrusted this periodic evaluation to the independent Danish consultancy COWI. The evaluation covered the agency's effectiveness, its structures and work procedures as well as its impact in the wider world. It also assesses the needs of and satisfaction among stakeholders with EEA outputs and the internal working processes of the EEA and cooperative relations within the EIONET.

According to this report(1), the EEA and its European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET) "are well established and well functioning structures, delivering comprehensive and reliable outputs which, to a large extent, satisfy stakeholders' needs. The qualitative assessment inherent in this evaluation indicates that the EEA continues to be the most effective and efficient solution to providing credible information on the state of the European environment". EEA reports and datasets are described as being of "high quality" by the evaluators, while methodologies used by the EEA for defining and compiling data were described as "state of the art".

Concerning its internal management, COWI found that the organisation provides good value for money for EU taxpayers. As a network, the EEA and the EIONET are stable and "function well," the report says, although "some working practices could be improved". The report recommends that the EEA continues to strengthen dialogue with stakeholders and maintain its high quality outputs. The planning system used by the EEA should be reviewed and upgraded, says COWI, while the use of the Scientific Committee should be reassessed to ensure enhanced value to EEA's work.

This report will undoubtedly come as a relief to the agency's leaders - but will it be enough to convince the MEPs? Nothing could be less certain because, on 19 March, the latter were not exactly in the best of moods regarding the EEA. They refused to approve the agency's accounts because they found that there was "too much ambiguity". If this position is confirmed during Parliament's plenary session, MEPs will have to vote again on whether or not to grant a discharge this autumn. This is not the first time that the discharge has been postponed: last year it was also postponed. MEPs also keep in mind the fact that OLAF, the EU's Anti-Fraud Office, is investigating certain of the agency's activities for "lack of transparency".

(1) The report is available at www.eea.europa.eu/@@search?Subject%3Alist=EEA%20evaluation

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Publication:Europe Energy
Date:Apr 17, 2013
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