Europe needs harmonised public sector accounts, says Van Rompuy

30 May 13
A single set of accounting standards across the European Union would improve surveillance of fiscal policy and help ensure decision-making was accountable and transparent, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy has said.

By Nick Mann l 30 May 2013

A single set of accounting standards across the European Union would improve surveillance of fiscal policy and help ensure decision-making was accountable and transparent, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy has said.

Harmonised accounting rules would also make a ‘significant contribution’ towards European integration, Van Rompuy told a conference discussing the potential for European Public Sector Accounting Standards in Brussels yesterday.

Creating the right standards was ‘easier said than done’ Van Rompuy acknowledged, but said that his message was clear: ‘We need harmonised public sector accounts in Europe.’

‘The deeper economic and financial integration of the union calls for further harmonisation of public sector statistics,’ he explained. ‘Our revised fiscal framework, the reinforced Stability and Growth Pact and the "two-pack", provides for closer monitoring of the public finances of member states.

‘Such enhanced fiscal surveillance needs adequate accounting underpinnings, where country monitoring takes place on a level playing field, where there is no room to shun responsibility through budgetary gimmicky.

‘The reliability and timeliness of fiscal statistics is essential for the smooth functioning of a rules-based budgetary framework that includes recommendations and even sanctions to member states in breach of the rules,’ he explained.

Any framework must take into account the ‘specificities, procedures and institutional set-up’ of Europe, he added. The Brussels conference follows the publication of a report by the European Commission in March which concluded that the International Public Sector Accounting Standards should serve as an ‘indisputable reference’ for any Epsas.

Harmonised public sector accounts will also be required for the effective co-ordination of national budgets expected in the eurozone as member states increase their links, Van Rompuy said.

‘As we continue on our road towards deeper European integration, towards a genuine economic and monetary union, we will increasingly need fully comparable public sector accounts covering all sub-levels of general government,’ the president explained.

‘In a union consisting of member states with a wide range of internal budgetary arrangements, from federations to centralised states, ensuring such comparability is essential to the pursuit of sound fiscal policies.’

A single set of standards would contribute to the transparency and accountability of the decision-making process, he claimed.

‘Reliable, timely and complete public sector accounts contribute to high quality budgetary debate in our lively democracies,’ said Van Rompuy.

‘Harmonised public sector accounting would help strengthen the discussions on budgetary matters between all stakeholders, at national level and at the European level.’

 

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