Leading MEPs set the stage for negotiations on the EU's long-term budget in a debate with the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Commission President José Manuel Barroso on Monday. Most parliamentarians consider the recent deal on the Union's seven-year budget unacceptable. Parliament has the power to veto the proposal.
The EU's next long-term budget – known as the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) – sets limits on EU spending, per year and per heading, for 2014-2020. When Parliament and member states must respect these ceilings when they agree annual EU budgets.
EU leaders at the 7-8 February summit agreed to commitments of up to €960 billion, with actual payments of €908 billion, both representing significant cuts compared to the original Commission proposal.
"The compromise reached at the last European summit is not up to the challenges that lie ahead. Parliament asked – and will keep asking – for a modern and ambitious EU budget to help boost the recovery and put the economic and financial crisis behind us", said EP Vice-President Gianni Pittella (S&D, IT), opening the debate.
President Van Rompuy confirmed the Council's intention to discuss with Parliament by describing the political deal reached among member states as a "strong mandate to negotiate".
Parliament reiterated calls to be able to re-channel unused funds from one heading to another and one year to another. "Flexibility in the budget is essential," said Hannes Swoboda (AT) for the S&D group. "Without the proper level of flexibility the proposed MFF simply can not work", agreed President Barroso.
"There is a firm commitment on introducing a revision clause in two to three years. We won't accept austerity throughout the entire seven-year period the long-term budget runs", said EPP group leader Joseph Daul (FR).
Growing deficit: against the treaties
Several MEPS warned that the proposed budget cements the trend of growing deficit in European books, which is forbidden in the treaties. "We have 200 billion Euros of unpaid commitments now and [would have] over 300 billion in 2020. That is the deficit of Europe we're creating", warned Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE).
Critical of "a budget full of rebates", Isabelle Durant (Greens, EFA, BE) said, "Let's have another framework after 2014 (...) that does not tie the hands of the next Parliament".
Martin Callanan (ECR, UK) said the deal was "far from perfect" but strikes "a sensible, pragmatic balance".
"The budget is not more social or greener. We must not talk only about the amounts; better spending is needed," said Kartika Liotard (GUE/NGL, NL).
Paul Nuttall (EFD, UK) said the cuts to spending represented "peanuts" and added in reference to the UK that "it shows us the exit door".
The proposal for a long-term EU budget must be set in legal acts before it can be put to a vote in Parliament.