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An extra €150 million for urgent humanitarian aid and food assistance and €37 million for the Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights for this year was approved by Parliament’s Budgets Committee on Thursday. This will enable the European Commission to pay the most urgent bills, but payment problems in the external action field will surely recur in the course of this year, MEPs said.

The additional funds are taken from the budget lines for pre-accession assistance (€45 million), development cooperation with Latin America and Asia (€74 million), the emergency aid reserve (€50 million), the Neighbourhood Instrument (€10 million) and the Instrument for nuclear Safety Cooperation (€8 million). Nevertheless, these budget lines will also run dry in the course of the year, so fresh money will be needed later on, MEPs said.

"Filling one hole by digging another"

"The payment problems in the field of humanitarian aid did not come as a surprise, given the low budgeting in this area for this year. We are now filling one hole by digging another", said the MEP in charge of the 2014 budget, Anne Jensen (ALDE, DK) about the budgetary patchwork needed to fund the EU's external action.

Syrian Refugees

These problems were discussed in detail at an External Action Monitoring Group Meeting on Monday (see the press release below). But Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Georgieva and Budgets Commissioner Lewandowski also warned on several occasions that the pledges made for humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria proper could not be matched by necessary funds in the current budget.

"Unpaid bills a millstone around our neck"

During Monday's External Action Monitoring Group in the Budgets Committee an official of DG ECHO called the amount of unpaid humanitarian aid bills "a millstone around our neck". He added that "the Commission’s enlargement and development and cooperation departments helped us out by transferring €150 million to ECHO, but we need at least €250 million extra to meet our 2014 obligations. That will be enough to muddle through, but by the end of the year we shall again face a backlog of €160 million".

In the chair: Jutta Haug (S&D, DE)