What is budget discharge?
The annual procedure on the discharge to the European Commission and its executive agencies allows the European Parliament to hold the Commission politically accountable for the implementation of the EU budget. The European Parliament decides, after a recommendation by the Council of the European Union, whether or not to provide its final approval to the way the Commission implemented the EU budget in a given year, i.e. whether it grants discharge or not. The European Parliament's granting of the discharge also leads to the formal closure of the accounts for the year in question.
When deciding whether to grant, postpone or refuse the discharge for the financial year N, the Parliament takes into consideration the integrated financial and accountability reporting published by the European Commission by July N+1. The Parliament’s decision is also based on the European Court of Auditors' annual report, published in the autumn of year N+1, and on any relevant special reports.
The Parliament takes the decision on discharge, based on a recommendation from the Council, in the first half of year N+2. Both the Council’s recommendation and the Parliament’s decision are accompanied by requests addressed to the Commission and, sometimes, to the Member States. The Commission must report on how it follows up on these requests.
Other EU institutions and bodies are subject to separate discharge procedures, only for the part of the budget they manage, which, unlike the one of the Commission and its executive agencies, is mainly of administrative nature.
The discharge procedure offers an opportunity for the EU institutions to reflect on past developments and lessons learnt, to identify both good practices and weaknesses to be addressed, with the aim of further improving EU financial management and achieving better results with the EU budget in the future.
The discharge procedure in one graph