Janusz Lewandowki, the EU Commissioner for Budget joined yesterday the European Parliament in repelling the severe cuts on EU funding for 2014 proposed by the Council. The usually low tone Polish Commissioner appeared rather shocked when he understood that the Council proposal was infested with deep reductions in crucial items of the 2014 budget. For the first time the responsible Commissioner for the Budget right after the Council presentation in the Parliament didn’t lose one minute and briefly dismissed the proposal.
It’s now certain that the Council offer for the EU 2014 budget, as presented in the European Parliament by the Lithuanian Presidency, will surely trigger a long fight between the Parliament and the Commission on the one side and the Council on the other. The Sting noted yesterday morning that “The Parliament’s rapporteur on 2014 budget, Anne Jensen (ALDE, DK) observed that the “Council has chosen to do “business as usual” by cutting the Commission’s already very tight budget proposal. It is unacceptable that the Council should make the biggest cuts in growth policies such as research and innovation”. The Lithuanian Vice-Minister Algimantas Rimkūnas who represented the Council in the Parliament made a very negative impression not only related to the cuts.
Even the Lithuanian Presidency’s Press release issued after the Parliament plenary didn’t clarify what kind of Vice-Minister Rimkūnas is for. For one thing it was a probably intended but quite incomprehensible disparagement of the Parliament by the Presidency, sending a Vice-Minister to present the most important item that the legislators are called to discuss and approve or vote down. The discussion on the budget as proposed by the executive and its approval or disapproval has been historically ‘la raison d’être’ of the European Parliament as of any other Parliament in Europe.
An irritated Commissioner
Coming back to Lewandowski, he didn’t chew his words when speaking to the Parliament after the presentation of the Council’s proposal by the Lithuanian Vice-Minister. The EU Commissioner stressed that when the Commission presented its own Budget proposal for 2014 “we were clear in our message – this is not business as usual. Compared to the 2013 budget – including the amending budgets already proposed by sheer necessity – the Draft Budget 2014 is (as proposed by the Commission) a reduction of EUR 9.1 billion, or – 6% for commitments and €8.4 billion, or -5.8% for payments… However, following its tradition, the Council has reduced commitments by another €240 million and payments by over €1bn”.
The Polish Commissioner had more to say about the items that the Council has slashed in its proposal. He noted that those cuts are “at odds with the repeated calls from the European Council to rapidly implement the Structural Funds as well as the programmes for the competitiveness of enterprises and SMEs (COSME) and for research and innovation (Horizon 2020)”.
Then Lewandowski threw his glove before the Council by inviting the Parliament to align with the Commission in the fight for the 2014 budget. To this effect he said, “I would ask you, the Parliament, to take account of these concerns during the preparation of your reading of the 2014 budget. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Rapporteur, Mrs Jensen, for making available an indicative list of new Pilot Projects and Preparatory Actions…adopted by the Parliament”.
There is no doubt that the fight over the 2014 EU budget will be tough and long. The Lithuanian Presidency will need much more than what Vice-Minister Rimkūnas had to offer during the European Parliament plenary of the last two days. The fight over the budget will presumably outdo the abilities of Vilnius because it will certainly divide deeply the Council itself. It’s highly possible that the whole affair will end up for final disentanglement at the EU Summit of the 28 leaders in December.