On 10 September 2020, Finnish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Eero Heinäluoma of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“COVID-19 is having an impact on the way in which work and business travel are organised. A survey undertaken by the Climate Group indicates an average decline in business trips of up to 40 %. This decline is going hand in hand with a substantial rise in the use of virtual meeting tools. Although meetings in person undoubtedly have advantages, this is a welcome trend. Given the political importance of the digital and green agenda, it is key that the Commission leads by example as a pioneer. Channelling efforts into virtual meetings would strengthen the EU’s conviction in digitalisation. Furthermore, virtual meetings save time and money and help to cut down on CO 2 emissions.
1. Can the Commission provide an annual breakdown of the budgets used by its different DGs for travel costs (flights and hotels) for the period 2015–19? Can it also provide a breakdown of the budgets allocated to the different DGs for travel in 2020, and how much of these has actually been used?
2. Can it provide an estimate of how much has been saved in CO 2 emissions by reducing the number of official trips this year?
3. Can it provide an overview of the budgets allocated to the use of virtual meeting tools this year?”
On 2 February 2021, Budget and Administration Commissioner Johannes Hahn responded on behalf of the European Commission stating:
“1. The primary budgetary source for the financing of missions in different Directorates-General is the Global Envelope of decentralised administrative expenditure under heading 5 Administration. Tables 1 and 2 in annex show the implementation for the years 2015-2019, as well as the situation for 2020 (to date).
2. The CO2 emissions of missions are calculated on an annual basis. The next calculation will be made in the course of 2021 with data for 2020, through the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) report. The first data will be available during the second quarter of 2021 and final verified data during the fourth quarter of 2021.
3. In 2020, the budgets allocated to the Directorate-General for Informatics for the Commission use of various types of virtual meeting tools amount to EUR 5 020 684. This amount covers personal communication means (videoconferencing, chatting, voice messaging and screen sharing…), multipoint videoconference capacity for internal Commission meetings and Audio and Web-conferencing solutions for meetings with external parties, including large-scale online events, conferences and webinars. In addition to this, the Directorate-General for Interpretation allocated EUR 432 000 to licences and services for a video-conference tool (Interactio) that allows hybrid meetings with interpretation and the Directorate-General for Human Resources and Security used a limited number of Zoom licences costing EUR 9 826 to organise online workshops and webinars. In general, the Commission had sufficient basic equipment already in place to allow a swift functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further improvements will be gradually deployed in line with the Commission digital strategy.”
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