Thursday

22nd Oct 2020

Member states 'dishonest' in EU budget talks, MEP says

  • Less money now means more "amending budgets" next year (Photo: Fotolia)

The European Parliament is ready to back down on its 2011 EU budget increase demands, but governments are being "dishonest" by simply "delaying" payments to which they have already committed for next year, a key MEP has warned.

With less than one week left for the European Parliament and member states to agree on the 2011 EU budget, euro-deputies' demand for a 6.19 percent increase compared to last year is unlikely to materialise, Polish centre-right MEP Sidonia Jedrzejewska told journalists on Monday (8 November) in Brussels.

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A group of 12 member states led by Britain 10 days ago published a joint letter saying they would not agree to an increase above 2.9 percent compared to 2010, at a time when most governments are being forced to pass painful budget cuts at home.

But Ms Jedrzejewska, who is responsible for drafting the Parliament's position on this matter, says that if the Parliament agreed to the 2.9 percent figure, more money would have to be added in "ammended budgets" throughout the course of next year.

"It's not an honest proposal and people who wrote the letter know it will be more in the end. They are just postponing payments," she said.

This tactic – already seen this year with no less than 10 amending budgets – increases the lack of transparency of EU accounts, which only leads to more lack of understanding from EU citizens, she argued.

"On one hand member states are asking us to cut payments for 2011, but on the other they are demanding supplements for 2010," Ms Jedrzejewska said.

Listing the extra expenditures already agreed for next year, she mentioned: compensations for banana producers agreed by EU member states and the World Trade Organisation, which would be worth €80 million; the France-based nuclear fusion project (ITER) project, for which international funding to the tune of €1.5 billion still has to be found; and the new EU diplomatic service which will need at least €34 million extra funds in 2011.

Not included in the draft budget is the humanitarian aid to Pakistan, for which the European Commission has not tabled a figure yet, or extra aid for the Palestinian territories, amounting to some €100 million.

Ms Jedrzejewska also said that the European Commission had underestimated the needs within the cohesion policy for this year, with an extra €1.2 billion having to be added from other budget lines.

"Implementation speeded up in second half of 2010 and it's very probable that this trend continues, as it is the normal half-way through the multi-annual budget cycle. Obviously, in the first years you have hardly any invoices, but then they start coming and they have to be paid for," she explained.

One trick to come to a reasonable agreement with member states, in the Polish politician's view, is to agree on the basis of the highest figure available for the 2010 budget. "They won't move on the 2.9 percent. But the question is, 2.9 percent of what?" she said, in reference to the successive amendments which increased the total 2010 budget.

According to the latest figures published by the EU Parliament, the total 2010 budget was of €122.9 billion in actual payments and €141.4 billion in future payments (commitments). The Parliament requested an actual budget of €130.5 billion and €143 billion in virtual money for 2011, while the EU Council wants to approve only €126.5 billion in payments and €141.77 in commitments.

Most of the money comes from national coffers, with only a quarter coming from "own resources" such as VAT and import duties levied on products coming from countries outside the EU.

Leading MEPs such as Parliament chief Jerzy Buzek have pressed for a linkage between their accord on the 2011 budget and assurances that the future multi-annual EU budget from 2013 on will be increased. But Ms Jedrzejewska was sceptical that the tactic of "all or nothing" will work.

"If we reject the budget the situation will be worse than if we accept the council proposal," she said. In case the EU institutions don't agree on the next year's budget, a temporary one will be adopted based on the amounts of 2010.

The 35-year old politician criticised the "generals of this House" who think that "every opportunity should be used to strengthen the EU institutions."

"We should not risk the 2011 budget. If we forget pragmatism and only think of the ambitions, programs will be damaged and several-year contracts put at risk. I find the ambitions of the Parliament in relation to the multi-annual budget fully justified, but when you take a hostage, you have to make sure the hostage survives," she said.

'Wishful thinking'

The British government, which is spearheading demands to cap the EU budget increase to 2.9 percent, has meanwhile strongly rejected the suggestion that it would agree to supplement spending in 2011.

"It is untrue to suggest we're acting dishonestly," a spokesperson for the UK government told this website.

"This is not about postponing payments and we're not privately planning to agree to further increases to the 2011 budget through amending budgets next year. That's wishful thinking on behalf of MEPs. Any future amending budgets should be about re-prioritising expenditure within these limits, not increasing them," he added.

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