Negotiations for the EU's 2018 budget are currently under way. Find out about Parliament's priorities in our interview with leading MEP Siegfried Mureșan.
On 25 October MEPs adopted Parliament's position on the EU's budget for next year, calling among other things for more funds to boost the economy, create jobs and increase security. They also opposed cuts proposed by the Council to the original European Commission draft budget. We talked to Romanian EPP member Siegfried Mureșan, who is the MEP responsible for most of the matters related to the EU's 2018 budget. Parliament is now negotiating with the Council to come to an agreement on the budget.
In your proposal you point out that the EU faces increasing challenges in its dealings with other countries such as migration, cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns in the coming years. Should more funding be invested in external affairs?
One of the priorities of my budget for the next year is safety and security because this is what citizens of the EU expect us to deliver.
The EU will unfortunately not be able to solve all of the world's problems, so we should focus in our external action on our immediate neighbourhood. The Russian Federation is becoming more active: it’s very aggressive, it disinforms and it operates with fake news and propaganda. We need to counter that and we need to stand by the side of those countries in the eastern neighbourhood which have embarked on a European path, such as Georgia, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. We have to help them build their institutions, fight corruption, strengthen their economy. Only then will they really be able to face the more aggressive Russian Federation.
The same applies to the EU's southern neighbourhood in Northern Africa where many migrants and refugees come from. There we should invest in education, healthcare, infrastructure, food and water. Only then will people stop taking risks in order to come to Europe, because we provide a perspective for them there.
In addition, we need to spend EU funds in the Western Balkans to increase stability and bring those countries closer to Europe.
You identify security and safety as the priorities for the EU's external policies, but would you also like the EU to play a larger role on the international stage, for example because the US is taking on a less prominent role?
Without any doubt. An active, globally-responsible United States is in the interest of both the United States and Europe. I think it will be a mistake for the US to isolate itself from the world. What we have to do is make sure that Europe raises its game if there is more free space at the global level. But we have to be aware that the United States is also withdrawing in terms of financial commitments and we will not be able to fill that gap. We will have to make choices and I say we definitely have to first protect our immediate neighbourhood.
You oppose the cuts to the Commission's proposals that the Council wants to make. However, isn't it necessary to start getting accustomed to having a lower budget due to Brexit?
The Brits have committed themselves to the EU's current [long-term budget] until the end of 2020. They need to pay and they can also benefit from it as long as they are members. But afterwards we have to make a decision: do we want an EU able to deliver what citizens expect? Then we need to make sure that it has a robust budget.
We can also say that we want a less robust EU with a smaller budget, but then we have to be honest with people and tell them that in terms of security, Europe will not be able to deliver. Member states will have to solve problems on their own and I’m not sure that these are problems that you can solve at the national level better than at the European level.
We want a future-oriented budget that enables an innovative and strong EU that can protect citizens and ensure security. This is what the Parliament defends. With the cuts of the Council we will not be able to deliver what the citizens of Europe expect.