18th Mar 2018

MEPs: next EU budget should spend more on research, infrastructure

  • MEPs say EU leaders promised spending rises on research and competitiveness at the June summit (Photo: jurvetson)

The European Parliament is ready to hang tough with governments in upcoming talks on the seven year EU budget framework from 2014-2020, demanding "significant increases" in funding for research and development, small businesses and infrastructure projects.

Adopting their interim report on Thursday (11 October), MEPs on the influential budget committee said the spending rise is necessary and had been promised by EU leaders at the June summit as part of a growth and jobs pact.

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Speaking after the vote, Bulgarian centre-left MEP Ivailo Calfin described the EU budget as "a pure investment tool" adding that "94 percent is invested back in the member states or for their external priorities."

German centre-right deputy, Reimer Boge, rejected calls for cuts, saying "the level of the future EU budget has to be sufficient to accommodate the priorities and commitments of the Union."

MEPs also called for EU spending on cohesion policy and EU farm aid (CAP) to be maintained "at least at the level of the 2007-2013 period." The two programmes account for the majority of budgetary spending.

The move is the latest sign of hardening stances between the EU institutions as talks on EU spending reach their critical stage.

On Wednesday (10 October), France and Germany released a joint statement endorsing a freeze in CAP spending, while a number of countries, including the Netherlands and the UK are demanding a settlement well below the 11 percent increase proposed by the European Commission.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is threatening to wield his veto if a smaller deal cannot be agreed.

The parliament's position will be finalised at the October Strasbourg session.

A special EU summit will also be convened in November in a bid for EU leaders to agree a common negotiation position on a deal worth almost €1 trillion over the coming seven years.

MEPs also want to see revenue from a financial transactions tax agreed by 11 EU countries to be classified as an "own resource" and to reduce the budget contributions of the countries involved.

A revised "own resources" regime should aim at a maximum level of national contributions of 40 percent, less than half the current 85 percent figure, they said. U

The budget committee also wants to see corrective policies - including the 30 year old British rebate - to be phased out.

There was scepticism about the idea mooted by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and endorsed by France, Germany and the UK, to establish a separate budget for the 17-country eurozone.

Socialist group leader Hannes Swoboda warned that a eurozone budget could create a split within the EU, saying that the idea "would only be feasible and acceptable if it were anchored in the framework of the European Union budget."

Helga Truepel, a German MEP who is the Green group's budget spokesperson, warned it could "jeopardise the European Parliament's co-deciding role in the budget."

Despite the concerns, the proposal is expected to be on the agenda at next week's EU summit.

At a conference in Brussels on Thursday (11 October) on the EU response to the debt crisis Van Rompuy defended the concept. "Every currency union needs also a fiscal capacity, and certainly a fiscal capacity to stabilise the euro zone," he said.

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