EU institutions mark out 'red lines' ahead of budget summit
By Benjamin Fox
EU politicians are squaring up for a showdown on the bloc's seven year budget ahead of next week's summit.
Both the European Parliament and Commission set out their respective stalls on Friday (25 January).
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"The further away the figures are from the Commission figures then the higher the possibility of a No," European Parliament President Martin Schulz told reporters. Schultz added that the Commission's proposal reflects "what Europe actually needs."
Schultz also reminded member states that MEPs need to give their approval to whatever a deal is struck by EU leaders. "You'd be surprised by just how little that seems to be known," he commented.
The Parliament backs the Commission's proposal for a multi-annual financial framework (MFF) budget worth €1 trillion between 2014-2020. It is particularly keen to safeguard the "Connecting Europe" infrastructure programme as part of EU measures to support growth and jobs.
Failure to reach agreement on the longterm budget in the coming months could result in the 2014 and 2015 budgets being taken on a year-by-year basis.
EU budget commissioner Janusz Lewandowski for his part warned that any agreement would involve a reduction in spending. "Realistically, we will have to do more with less," he told an audience at the European Policy Centre, a Brussels-based thinktank on Friday.
"This is not the position of the Commission but political reality," he added.
However, Lewandowski struck an exasperated tone at demands by member states to reduce the total commitments in the budget commenting that "the MFF is like the limits of a credit card - it doesn't actually reflect total spending."
The commissioner also warned that the EU's overseas development spending could be an easy target for cuts.
Under the the most recent proposal by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, the "Global Europe" budget line, which covers all EU development spending, would be reduced to under €60 billion between 2014-2020, a near 15 percent cut on the €70 billion of funding tabled by the EU executive.
EU leaders will meet on 7-8 February to try and reach a deal on the long-term budget. Their last talks on the budget - in November - broke up without agreement.
In a letter circulated to national capitals in advance of the summit, van Rompuy stated that the settlement would be a "budget of moderation".
"We all - and I stress the word "all" - need to compromise. No single Member State can have all its wishes fulfilled - just like in national budget talks within coalitions," he said.