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7th Dec 2019

MEPs' budgetary wishlist likely to irritate states

  • Several European capitals have called for an EU budgetary 'freeze' (Photo: Fotolia)

MEPs have called for a five percent increase in the EU's next long-term budget (post 2013), a system of own resources and the abolition of national rebates, setting the European Parliament on a collision course with a coalition of large member states.

Members of the parliament's policy challenges committee agreed the provocative wish-list on Wednesday evening (25 May) after a day of discussions, with cross-party support suggesting the full plenary of MEPs will also give their backing in two weeks time.

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In doing so, parliament hopes to lay down a marker for the upcoming long-term budgetary discussions which European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek has identified as the top priority for the rest of his mandate.

The commission is scheduled to publish its first draft of the EU's next long-term budget on 29 June, with the leaders of the UK, France, Germany, Finland and the Netherlands in December calling for future EU spending to remain below inflation.

"All around Europe countries are tightening their belts to deal with their deficits. Europe can not be immune from that," British Prime Minister David Cameron said at the time.

In adopting the report by centre-right MEP Salvador Garriga on Wednesday however, members of the policy challenges committee said a five percent increase in the EU's next long-term budget was the bare minimum.

They challenged member states which did not agree to: "clearly identify which of its political priorities or projects could be dropped altogether, despite their proven European added value."

The report says EU spending on cohesion and agricultural policy must "at least" be maintained at their current levels, while a "substantial increase in EU investment" will be necessary in the fields of research, innovation, energy and transport.

Likely to provoke further indignation in some European capitals, especially London, the MEPs called for an abolition of all national rebates and the creation of an EU self-funding mechanism to avoid further budgetary squabbles in the future.

Negotiated in 1984 by former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Britain's annual rebate has gained almost mystical status in Brussels circles and currently weighs in at roughly €3 billion. Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen recently said his country also deserved one.

As well as its draft long-term budgetary proposals, the commission is also expected to publish detailed plans on EU own resources next month, although member states have also proved wary of this in the past, concerned that it could see the EU institutions become excessively independent.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon recently said that one of the touted options - an EU-wide value added tax - was not supported in Paris.

In their report, the MEPs also came forward with suggestions on the duration of the EU's next long-term budget, suggesting one final seven-year period (2014-2020), before moving into a system of five-year cycles.

Not all among their ranks were happy with the suggestions however.

"The EU is telling national governments to pay their debts yet we are asking them to borrow more for Brussels," Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth said.

"The committee talked a lot about prioritisation of EU spending but it never materialised."

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