MEPs will debate the Parliament's position on the EU's budget for next year on Tuesday 21 October and vote on it the following day. The EP's budgets committee recommends reversing the Council's cuts, but this would mean the Parliament would have to negotiate with the Council. We discussed the issue with Eider Gardiazábal, who is drafting the Parliament's position on the general budget. The Spanish member of the S&D group said the Parliament would fight hard to defend its position.
What stance will the Parliament take during the upcoming negotiation with the Council?
We hope to find a compromise. It would not be acceptable for the Council to say - as they always do - this is our position and we are not ready to move by one euro. We will fight hard.
How have the previous annual budgets influenced the situation?
The payments crisis started in 2010 and at the end of 2013 the sum of unpaid bills from EU programmes was about €25-26 billion. We have to resolve the situation. The Council should first acknowledge the problem and then come up with a strategy to resolve it.
When the EU's long-term budget for 2014-2020 was put together, the Council and the Parliament agreed to have more flexibility when it comes to annual budgets and budget lines. Is it working?
The Parliament accepted a reduced long-term budget because of the flexibility instruments that allow us to use the funds to the maximum. But now the Council is not doing what they agreed to. They are trying to use many legal, political and economical reasons.
Which are the programmes that suffer the most because of the lack of payments?
The most sensitive area is humanitarian aid. We commit to programmes, but we are not covering that expenditure, so NGOs working in the Sahel, Syria or Palestine are closing hospitals and cannot accept refugees.
How are programmes such as Horizon 2020 for research and innovation and Erasmus+ for studying and training abroad doing?
We are trying to invest in research and development and in students, but the situation is schizophrenic, if I may say so. The Council say they are priorities, but then doesn't fund them. Students are still going abroad, but are they going to be paid? Small and medium-sized enterprises are already participating in Horizon 2020 programmes, but they are not being reimbursed.
For more about the proposals for the EU's budget for next year, check out our fact box on the right. Commitments are legal pledges to provide finance, while payments refers to the actual cash or bank transfers to the beneficiaries.
- Commission proposal: commitments €145.6 billion, payments €142.1 billion
- Council position: commitments €145.08 billion, payments €140 billion
- EP position (following the vote by the budgets committee): commitments €146.3 billion, payments €146.4 billion