A Conservative MEP today led calls for underperforming European Union agencies to face the axe as costs for the EU quangocracy rise to over €3.3 billion (£2.8 bn) a year.

Marina Yannakoudakis MEP led calls in the European Parliament’s Women’s Rights Committee, where she is Conservative spokesman, not to approve the budget of the European Institute for Gender Equality. The institute, based in Vilnius, has a budget of €7 million and duplicates the work of Member States, the work of the European Commission’s DG Employment, and another EU agency: the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.

The London MEP tabled a number of amendments to the committee’s draft report on the approval of the agency’s 2011 budget. Marina called for the scope of activities to be reduced and duplication to be eliminated. She was particularly critical of the fact that the agency was unable to spend 50% of its budget. Marina’s amendments were rejected and the budget passed by members of the committee, including with votes from the UK Labour Party.

Marina said: “EU agencies are out of control. They have been handed out to Member States at European summits like party favours, many with no logical objectives or purpose.

“The EU urgently needs reform and where better to start than the growing EU quangocracy. An agency which cannot spend 50% of its budget clearly does not have enough work to do. Let’s merge the European Gender Institute with the European Agency of Fundamental Rights.

“A number of EU agencies have been plagued by conflicts of interest and the European Court of Auditors found earlier this year that 11 agencies could not properly account for half the expenses they filed in 2010. This is a disgrace.

“In the UK, a clampdown on quangos has seen 114 public bodies axed; 13% of the total. A further 17% have seen their functions merged. This bonfire of the quangos will save the British taxpayer at least £2.6 billion (€3.1 bn) by 2015. If the EU were to turn fire-starter it could also find savings in its already bloated budget.”