Social affairs committee rejects cut to fund for the EU's most deprived
The social affairs committee voted on Monday to reject the one billion euro cut to the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived proposed by the European Commission, and called for support for the EU's neediest citizens be kept at the 2007-2013 level of. 3.5 billion euros. "The new Fund is an important instrument to alleviate the effects of the economic and social crisis. It will provide tangible aid for the most disadvantaged people and will help bring in vulnerable people from the margins of society, including homeless people and children in impoverished homes. It is in short a practical expression of Europe's solidarity with its most vulnerable citizens," said the rapporteur, Emer Costello (S&D, IE).
The new programme for 2014 to 2020 is intended to replace the Food Distribution Programme which was designed to use up food surpluses produced under the Common Agricultural Policy. The scope of the new fund will be expanded in order to provide not only food distribution but also basic material assistance to the EU's most deprived citizens.
Bugdet maintained at same level
A majority of MEPs on the committee voted to maintain the budget for the new fund over the 2014-2020 period at the level of 3.5 billion euros currently allocated to the European Food Aid Programme to the Most Deprived from 2007 to 2013, instead of cutting it to 2.5 billion euros, under the EU's cohesion budget, as proposed by the European Commission and the member states in the European Council negotiations over the EU's long-term budget.
Participation in the programme
Participation in the programme was the most hotly debated issue in the committee. A majority considered that, as for most EU programmes, participation should be mandatory, and that if member states decide not to make use of the fund, the budget should remain available for the most deprived. However, other MEPs said that member states that do not take part in the programme should be able to reallocate the money to other projects financed under the cohesion funds.
The social affairs committee wants the cofinancing rate for the programme to be 85% of eligible expenditure (the Commission proposed 85% as the maximum level) and says it should be possible to increase this rate to 95% for those hardest hit by the crisis
The draft resolution was adopted by 36 votes to 4, with 3 abstentions. Parliament's mandate for negotiations with the Council will however be decided by the plenary, since MEPs in committee did not give the necessary 25 votes to start informal negotiations with Council.
In 2010, nearly a quarter of Europeans (almost 120 million) were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, approximately four million more than in the previous year.
Parliament fought hard in 2011 to prolong the food aid programme for needy EU citizens until the end of 2013 and made clear that MEPs also wanted the programme to continue after 2014.