The resolution, adopted on Thursday by show of hands, is Parliament's way of sending an early signal to the Commission about MEPs' wishes and priorities for next year's budget.
"Today's resolution is above all a strategic document looking at the new role that the European budget must play in the context of greater economic governance... The budgets of the Member States should be brought into line with the major goals of the European budget. And the major European objectives can only be those laid down in the Europe 2020 strategy", said Francesca Balzani (S&D, IT), who is leading Parliament's work on next year's budget.
The 2012 budget should focus on the five targets of the EU 2020 strategy: employment, innovation, research and development, climate change and energy, education and social inclusion, says the resolution. MEPs therefore oppose any attempt to limit or cut budget funds linked to delivery of the Europe 2020 strategy's headline targets.
Parliament also stresses that the ongoing European Semester must be used, as intended, to improve the coordination, consistency and synergies between European and national public investments, so as to achieve the EU’s overall policy objectives more effectively.
Support for north African countries
Parliament warns that the Council's wish to underfund parts of the budget, especially those for cohesion, citizenship and foreign affairs, could put existing measures at risk, if unforeseen events such as those in several north African countries, or new political priorities, arise. The EU has a key role to play in supporting Arab countries at this historic point of their democratic development, say MEPs.
Increased payments to be expected
The EU budget is to a large extent an investment budget, including projects running over several years, such as research and infrastructure programmes. 2012 is the sixth year of the current financial perspective (2007-2013) and projects have now reached cruising speed. This requires higher levels of payments as the real work is now being done, so MEPs believe an increase in payments in 2012 is "foreseeable". Budgets Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski also announced recently that he expects payments to increase by €6 billion to €7 billion in 2012 as compared to this year.
The payments (money actually paid out) are a direct consequence of commitments (funding that is promised) and often appear with a time-lag compared to the commitments. Since all legal commitments have to be fulfilled, the most important political decisions are taken when the commitments are established. Traditionally, MEPs rely on the Commission, as the competent institution, to calculate the level of payments, while they themselves are deeply involved in the discussions on commitments.
The Commission is set to present its formal proposal for the 2012 budget on 20 April. The budget of Parliament and the other EU institutions, except the Commission, was dealt with in a separate report, by José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT), adopted on 9 March.
Procedure: Budgetary procedure