Sunday

18th Nov 2018

Ministers face new battle over next year's EU budget

  • Institutional wrangling over the EU's budget has became an annual ritual in Brussels. (Photo: snorski)

Finance ministers will meet in Brussels on Friday (14 November), as EU lawmakers face yet another race against time to seal agreement on the bloc's spending plans.

The main item on the agenda will be to broker a compromise with the European Parliament on the 2015 budget.

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The EU's two law-making bodies are just over €6 billion apart, with member states wanting to cap spending at €140 billion and MEPs demanding €146.4 billion, over €4 billion more than the €142.1 billion proposed by the European Commission.

On the table will also be amendments to this year's budget aimed at providing extra funds for the commission to pay overhanging bills from this and previous years.

Sources representing the Italian EU presidency, which is chairing the ministerial meeting, have confirmed that governments are yet to agree among themselves on the extra funds.

However, once an agreement among governments is struck it will still have to pass through parliament.

MEPs say that the sum of outstanding bills will reach €28 billion by the end of this year and insist that the bloc's spending plans for 2015 cannot be finalised until a deal is reached on the backlog of existing bills.

Ministers will also seek agreement on a proposal that would allow the nine governments facing higher national contributions to the budget as a result of the new statistical methodology to pay their adjustment fees in instalments until next September.

The commission proposal came after the UK and the Netherlands were slapped with surcharges of €2.1 billion and €640 million respectively at last month's EU summit.

Lawmakers have a final deadline of 17 December - the last day that the European Parliament will be sitting in Strasbourg - to seal a budget deal. If not, the EU will operate on a month-to-month basis based on a spending plan that will be adjusted for inflation from the 2014 budget.

An institutional battle between MEPs and ministers over the EU budget has become an annual pre-Christmas ritual in Brussels.

Ministers seek to keep EU spending as low as possible while the parliament usually asks for slightly higher spending than what is proposed by the commission.

Failure by MEPs and ministers to reach a budget settlement last month prompted a three-week conciliation process between the EU institutions.

But although the deadline of Sunday midnight for the conciliation is rapidly approaching, MEPs and governments are still no closer to agreement.

"A compromise never emerges until the last minute…if it emerges," a presidency source said on Thursday.

He added that "rationality should prevail in the end but only with the willingness of all actors at the table".

Netherlands to pay EU top-up bill this year

The Netherlands is paying its extra EU bill, a net payment of €642 million, before the end of 2014, well ahead of the extended deadline of 1 September 2015.

Unpaid bills main hurdle in EU budget talks

Britain and the Netherlands no longer have a problem with paying their EU top-ups, but EU budget talks are stuck on how to settle a €28bn lag of unpaid bills.

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