Thursday

22nd Oct 2020

EU 2012 budget request sets scene for fresh battle

  • Squabbling between MEPs and EU member states last year almost left the Union without a budget (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission has asked for a 4.9 percent increase in next year's EU budget, setting the scene for a fresh game of tug-of-war between EU member states and the European Parliament.

Presenting the commission's 2012 draft proposal to journalists in Brussels on Wednesday (20 April), EU budget commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said the raise was necessary to meet already-made spending commitments, particularly in the area of EU regional policy.

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He predicted the forthcoming negotiations would go more smoothly than last year's stormy battle which saw an eleventh-hour deal narrowly avoid a budget-less Union, but the UK government immediately sounded the alarm, branding the raise as "unacceptable".

"We'll be working closely with other member states to drive the hardest possible bargain," said a government spokesman.

EU member states eventually agreed to a 2.9 percent increase to the EU's budget in 2011, after the commission and parliament requested an almost six percent jump.

In December Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland signed an alliance calling for EU budgetary restraint, although British Prime Minister David Cameron's initial calls for an annual budgetary 'freeze' were quietly dropped.

Richer member states have balked at higher levels of EU spending while they opt to push through unpopular austerity measures at home, prompting grumbling among EU net recipient states such as Poland.

But the commission and MEPs argue that Europe's current economic difficulties require investments, not cutbacks, stressing that the EU budget is not running a deficit, unlike most member states.

If agreed, a 4.9 percent increase would see next year's EU budget swell to €132.7 billion in payments, with increased spending slated for most policy areas, including cohesion and regional aid, agriculture, internal affairs and for the European External Action Service (EEAS).

Lewandowski stressed however that savings were foreseen in programmes that were not delivering results, as well as when member states failed to meet EU project criteria.

The Polish politician also promised to freeze the commission's own administrative budget, hinting that EU civil servants can expect to see their benefits trimmed in a forthcoming proposal.

"I can announce that there will be a very deep revision of the status of [EU] fonctionnaires ... it will come in a proposal in June," Lewandowski said.

MEPs criticised the commission's proposal on Wednesday, but for different reasons.

Socialist MEP Francesca Balzani, who will lead parliament's negotiating team in discussions with member states, said the proposed rise was insufficient.

"There is now an alarming drop in public investment and if current trends continue, we risk hindering the future growth and economic recovery of Europe," she said in a statement.

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