21st Sep 2020

MEPs ignore commission on 2012 budget increase

  • MEPs argue the rise is still below EU inflation (Photo: EUobserver)

MEPs have said the European Parliament's budget should be increased by 2.3 percent next year, despite a call for greater restraint from the European Commission.

Members of parliament's budgets committee on Thursday (24 March) voted for the hike to the €1.7 billion a year kitty, arguing that the 2.3 percent figure, below the EU-27's current inflation rate of 2.7 percent, represents a cut in real terms.

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In a letter to the heads of all EU institutions in February EU budget commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said the commission would limit itself to a 1 percent rise, calling on others to make similar efforts.

"The European Institutions cannot ignore the broader economic and budgetary context and must undertake all possible efforts to make the best use of their administrative resources," the letter said.

A commission official on Thursday said they were disappointed by the parliamentary vote.

"We were hoping for a smaller increase considering commissioner Lewandowski's letter, the current austerity climate and the fact that the parliament's budget got reasonable increases in previous years," said the source on condition of anonymity.

The commission will come forward with a draft EU budget for 2012 this April, incorporating the forecast spending figures from parliament and the council of ministers, the EU institution which represents member states.

In an apparent move to put pressure on other institutions, the council earlier this month indicated its intention to cut its 2012 budget by 4.4 percent, including a €8 million saving on interpretation costs and €7 million in travel costs.

Parliamentary officials have dismissed this figure however, pointing to council's substantial underspend in previous years as essentially negating the value of the cuts.

"They could have cut it by 20 percent with all their underspend," one parliamentary source said.

Tensions between the two institutions were exacerbated earlier this week when parliament's budgetary control committee voted to delay its approval of council's 2009 accounts, a process known as the budgetary discharge.

A 'gentleman's agreement' of limited scrutiny of each others budgets has gradually broken down in recent years. But parliament is unwilling to sign a new memorandum of understanding which would formalise the discharge procedure.

Drafted by the Hungarian EU presidency and experts in the council's secretary general, parliament feels the memorandum text, which calls for greater transparency including the sharing of documents between the two sides, undermines parliament's traditional role.

"Parliament is the discharge authority. This drives right to the heart of what democracy is about. This is not the member states' role," German centre-right MEP Ingeborg Grassle, a member of the budgetary control committee, told EUobserver earlier this week.

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