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22nd Jan 2022

Declaration opens way for MEP vote on 2011 budget

  • The dispute between MEPs and member states has rumbled on for months (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament is set to vote next week on the EU's 2011 budget after months of protracted negotiations with EU member states. Approval would avoid the need to roll over this year's budget on a month-by-month basis, a step policymakers had warned would hinder the EU's ability to operate smoothly.

The decision to push ahead with the parliamentary vote was taken by political group leaders during a meeting with parliamentary president Jerzy Buzek on Thursday (9 December) after the Belgian EU presidency tabled a solution to the key remaining obstacle in discussions.

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Parliament has insisted its support for the 2011 budget would only be granted once its role in upcoming talks on the EU's multi-annual financial framework (post 2013) was ensured.

With the Belgian EU presidency keen to avoid the issue running over into next week's EU summit, negotiators appear to have found a solution in the form of a political declaration that would ensure parliament's participation in the multi-annual talks.

The non-binding declaration would be issued by the Belgian presidency, but would signal that incoming holders of the rotating six-month job would also be willing to engage with the parliament.

It would cover the next four EU presidencies: Hungary, Poland, Denmark and Cyprus, say EU officials, covering the years 2011 and 2012. To date, Sweden, the UK and the Netherlands have been the most vocal in opposing a greater parliamentary role.

The breakthrough means MEPs will debate the issue next Tuesday before a vote is held on Wednesday, with next week's plenary being the last of this year.

Other sticking factors have slowly been removed in recent weeks.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has indicated his institution would come forward with formal proposals on EU 'own resources' next summer. This pleased member states by separating the controversial issue from the 2011 budget debate, but also ensures it will return to the EU agenda in the near future, as parliament has insisted.

Forced to implement tough spending cuts back home, member states had also opposed initial commission and parliamentary requests for a six percent rise in next year's EU budget. On Wednesday MEPs in parliament's budget committee agreed to a more limited rise of 2.91 percent.

While not yet finalised, an agreement on flexibility has also inched closer. Euro deputies have called for the transfer of money between different EU budget categories to be made easier, but member states have proved reluctant.

EU sources say the issue will not hold up next week's vote, however.

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