The European Parliament is calling for more EU investment in research, innovation, education and energy, as well as increased support for Palestine, but is sticking to a restrictive overall spending level for next year's EU budget. In Wednesday's vote on the 2011 budget, Parliament also demanded negotiations on new sources of financing for the budget as well as pledges to provide sufficient funding for the new tasks and priorities stemming from the Lisbon Treaty.
The vote is important not only for next year's budget but also for future budgets under the current financial perspective (2007-2013) and thereafter.
For 2011, Parliament proposes an increase in commitments of 0.8% as compared to the 2010 budget. MEPs understand the pressures on Member States' budgets and have therefore broken with their tradition of suggesting a notably larger budget than the Commission has proposed. MEPs agreed on a total of €130.56 billion in payments and €143.07 billion in commitments (compared to the Commission's €130.14 billion in payments and €142.56 billion in commitments).
Parliament "understands the concern expressed by some delegations in the Council that the pressures on Member States' budgets are particularly heavy for the financial year 2011 and that savings are all the more necessary", explain MEPs in their resolution.
However, Parliament considers "arbitrary reductions in payment appropriations not to be in line with sound budgeting" and that "arbitrary reductions in commitment appropriations jeopardize the implementation of Union policies and programmes already agreed". This is why MEPs do not support the cuts proposed by the Council.
Mayor increases and cuts per heading
In most budget lines, MEPs restored the Commission's draft budget, after the cuts made by Council. In addition, they adopted other increases and cuts, for example:
1a Competitiveness for growth and employment - MEPs asked for more money for the Lifelong Learning Programme (+€18 million), the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (+€10 million) and Intelligent Energy — Europe programme (+€10 million). To compensate for these increases, MEPs cut the fusion energy research project "ITER" by €47 million.
1b Cohesion for growth and employment - MEPs added a new line, worth €2.5 million, for the Baltic Sea strategy
2 Preservation and management of natural resources - +€300 million for a dairy fund, +€6.7 million for the environment programme Life+ and +€2 million to support for the management of fishery resources
3a Freedom security and justice - +€2.35 million to the Daphne programme for the fight against violence against women and children and +€1 million for prevention of terrorism
3b Citizenship - +€4 million to support the World Special Olympics in Athens and +€3 million to the Youth in Action programme
4 The EU as a global partner - +€100 million to Palestine, the peace process and UNRWA, compensated by cuts in the Banana accompanying measures (-€18 million), in the Cooperation activities other than Official Development Assistance (-€23.5 million) and in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP -€45.7 million)
5 Administration - MEPs add money in a reserve, to be paid to employees at the EU institutions in case the Council loses the Court case against the Commission.
All figures are commitments.
Revision of long-term budget framework urgently needed
The resolution points out that the margins in the current long-term budget framework (also called the financial perspective or multiannual financial framework, MFF) are too restrictive. This framework was established for 2007-2013, but does not take account of additional spending as a result of the financial crisis, new policy areas or agreed new tasks stemming from the Lisbon Treaty.
In four new budget lines for "Lisbon mid-term review needs", MEPs ask for a "sufficient level of spending" and "proper involvement of Parliament in the negotiations for a renewed multiannual financial framework".
Opening up discussion on new own resources
Parliament also wants to start talks with the Council about new sources of income for the EU. MEPs ask the Council to open the negotiations on new own resources, adding that this element is a "full part of the overall agreement on the 2011 budget". In addition, they ask the Council and the Commission to "decide on mechanisms to facilitate the transfer of unused appropriations of year N in particular in the context of the revision of the Financial Regulations". Until now, money that is not used has been paid back to the Member States at the end of the year.
Provision for the stability mechanism
The Parliament also wants, by a broad majority, to add two budget lines, one for expenditure and one for revenues, to be created for the EU stabilisation mechanism, which was established by the EU governments after the Greek debt crisis. These lines are still empty, but could be activated if the mechanism is used.
See link below for table of figures.
On 27 October, Parliament and the Council start a conciliation period of 21 days to agree on a joint text. If they can agree, the final budget will be approved in mid-November.
Commitments and payments
For each budget line, there are two different types of budget appropriations: commitments and payments. The commitments refer to how much the EU may commit itself to (e.g. sign a contract or start a tender procedure) in a certain year. The payment level regulates the actual payments being made that year.
There are two budget rapporteurs: Sidonia Jędrzejewska (EPP, PL) is responsible for the European Commission budget, including the EU's operational spending, while Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA, DE) is leading Parliament's work on the other institutions' budgets.