EU must do 'more with less' in 2015
By Benjamin Fox
Europe will have to do more with less, the bloc’s budget commissioner said Wednesday (11 June) as he unveiled the EU’s spending plans for 2015.
The plans are worth €142.1 billion, up by €1.3 billion on projected spending levels for 2014.
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If approved by MEPs and government ministers, spending would still be €2.5 billion lower than in 2013, reflecting the 3 percent cut to the EU’s spending between 2014 and 2020.
The EU’s flagship infrastructure and public investment projects including the Connecting Europe facility and youth guarantee schemes are in line to get the biggest increase in cash, being allocated €15.6 billion by the Commission, a 29.5 percent increase on this year.
Conversely, structural and cohesion funding for the bloc’s poorest regions sees the largest cut of 5 percent but, at a projected €51.6 billion, will remain the largest single item of spending.
The number of staff in the European Commission is also set to drop by over 1,000.
“We are dealing with more commitments with less money," said commissioner Janusz Lewandowski.
“Some member states don’t take account that political promises have financial consequences,” he added.
More than €57 billion, equivalent to around 40 percent of the total budget, will cover outstanding bills from 2007-13, the previous budgetary cycle.
But if recent history is anything to go by, Wednesday’s proposal will only be the first in a long-running saga between the EU executive, MEPs and ministers.
The Commission has been forced to request extra cash in the last two years, tabling a series of nine amending budgets worth over €15 billion last year, in a bid to plug funding shortfalls.
The EU executive says that it has been the victim of continuous under-budgeting in recent years, leaving it unable to pay its bills without extra money.
The practice is unlikely to go away, with Lewandowski admitting that there was a €23.4 billion overhang of bills from 2013 still to be paid.
Meanwhile, Lewandowski refused to speculate on his own future, despite being elected as an MEP in his native Poland last month.
He remains keen to secure a second term as his country’s commissioner, although foreign minister Radek Sikorski has been touted as a possible replacement for EU foreign affairs chief and commission vice-president Catherine Ashton.