Commission challenges Council over EU 2014 budget

State of the Union Address 2013 by José Manuel Barroso, President of the EuropeanCommission. Several Members of the College of the Barroso II Commission, in front of the press in the 1st row Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the EC, and José Manuel Barroso, in the 2nd row Joaquín Almunia, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Competition, and Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship (EC Audiovisual Services, 11/9/2013).

State of the Union Address 2013 by José Manuel Barroso, President of the EuropeanCommission. Several Members of the College of the Barroso II Commission, in front of the press in the 1st row Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the EC, and José Manuel Barroso, in the 2nd row Joaquín Almunia, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Competition, and Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship (EC Audiovisual Services, 11/9/2013).

Another €460 million should be added to the 2014 EU budget spending said yesterday the European Commission. This is a direct challenge to the Council’s position presented last week in the European Parliament shaping a severely cut down 2014 EU budget. The Commission asks additional funding exactly for those programmes that the Council wants to cut down, namely Erasmus+ (EU’s new programme for education, training and youth, €130 million more), COSME (also a new programme promoting entrepreneurship, in particular for small and medium enterprises, €30 million more) and Horizon 2020 (research and innovation, €200 million). On top of that the Commission proposes that the Union invests an extra €200 million in the tormented Cypriot economy of which €100 million to be disbursed next year. All those extras add up to €460 million more spending for 2014.

To support this new proposal the Commission notes that, these “changes mainly reflect the political agreement reached on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020 between the leaders of the European Parliament, Council and Commission on 27-28 June”. At this point it has to be reminded that during the European Summit meetings of 27 and 28 June, the 27 EU leaders decided to “actively support youth employment and strengthen competitiveness, growth and jobs”. Following those directions from EU’s top leadership the Commission now proposes increased spending exactly for the relevant programmes, the same that the Council now wants to cut further.

Who pays for the party?

The idea behind this bold announcement is that the Commission in this way addresses itself directly to the 27 + 1 EU leaders reminding them what they decided last June and also avoiding pointless negotiations with the Lithuanian Presidency. Needless to say that the European Parliament backs all the way through the Commission’s proposal for the 2014 budget albeit restricted in relation to this year but not so severely cut as the Council wants.

This last new Commission action is a new episode in the long and difficult fight for the 2014 EU budget. The European Parliament and the Commission want to safeguard the EU’s financial strength at a time of austere fiscal policies in all member states. All the 28 EU leaders though staged last June a popular show, advertising their support for the young and unemployed, the SMEs and the students. Now that the time has come to pay for the party they try to hide behind the Lithuanian Presidency.

The Parliament insists

During the Budgets Committee meeting of the Parliament last Monday 9 September the Commission and the legislative joined forces, in repelling the Council’s decision for a severely crippled EU budget for 2014, as presented to them by a Lithuanian vice-minister. Janusz Lewandowki, the EU Commissioner for Budget on that occasion after strongly rejecting the Council proposal told the parliamentarians, “I would ask you, the Parliament, to take account of these concerns during the preparation of your reading of the 2014 budget”.

It is important to mention that during the same ungrateful day on 9/11 this Parliamentary Committee decided also to postpone the consent vote to the EU’s 2014-2020 budget regulation thus holding back the Union’s Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) for the next seven years. When the full Parliament will give the MFF its final blessing remains to be seen, as the conditions set out in its resolution of 3 July are still not met. This was exactly the meaning of a statement issued on Tuesday 10 September by the three largest political groups of the Parliament, the EPP, S&D and ALDE. Obviously the legislators will continue holding back their approval of the MFF 2014-2020 until an agreement is reached also on the 2014 budget.

It is more than certain that the whole issue of the EU’s future spending will be resolved at the end year summit of the 28 leaders. The compromise to be achieved will be indicative of what kind of EU the member states want.

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