6th Dec 2022

MEPs to cut EU foreign policy budget in tactical manoeuvre

Members of the European Parliament's budget committee have approved a plan for EU spending in 2008 which includes a tactical move aimed at securing fresh money for the controversial Galileo satellite system and European technology institute projects.

The final part of the draft budget dealing with foreign policy was approved on Monday (8 October) and its full version is scheduled to get a first reading go-ahead by the whole plenary on 23 October in Strasbourg.

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  • Fight over EU budget is also a fight for power among EU institutions (Photo: European Commission)

In a bid to strengthen their position against member states in the tough budgetary negotiations set to follow, deputies have suggested a 20 percent drop in next year's budget for foreign policy.

"This is the way for MEPs to make sure that the council negotiates further with them on other priorities, mainly Galileo and the technology institute - as the drop in sum for external policies which member states decide without the parliament's intervention is something strongly opposed by them," one official explained.

The parliament's move is in line with a suggestion by the European Commission that the EU's broad financial plan for 2007-2013 needs to be reviewed and a new injection of cash secured to cover the bill for the two controversial projects.

For the Galileo satellite navigation system, MEPs back an extra funding of €739 million to be added to the €151 million originally proposed in the seven-year-long package. The extra cash from public coffers is needed after a private consortium of firms pulled out of the funding.

Due to a series of difficulties, Galileo's completion date has slipped from 2008 to 2011 and it has already cost EU member states €388 million more than originally predicted.

"If the money cannot be secured as part of the talks on next year's budget, the project is lost as we cannot be more late with it than we are," one insider commented.

A similar situation has arisen for the technology institute, a flagship commission project particularly championed by commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

MEPs back the commission in claiming that the whole sum of €308.7 million needed to kick-start the institute should come from the union's budget.

But none of the two projects have so far managed to gather enough political support among national governments, mainly from the key contributors to the EU budget, such as Germany and the UK.

Earlier this year, four countries - Germany, France, the UK and the Netherlands complained about budget commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite's plan to spend €121.6 billion next year which is 5.3 percent more than in 2007.

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