The Budgets Committee MEPs reversed the Council's proposed cuts in investments to stimulate growth and jobs in 2014 during a long voting session last week. They also reversed cuts in funding for international policy, such as humanitarian aid to the Middle East and refugees. Parliament's own budget was substantially reduced. The relevant figures are now available at the link to the right.
Live up to promises
In areas that MEPs believe are vital to boost the economy, such as research, entrepreneurship and (youth) employment measures, the committee recommended reversing the €629 million payment cuts proposed by the Council in July and to top it up with an extra €34 million.
The discrepancy between the spending pledges made by EU Heads of State and Government in June and the Council's subsequent position on the 2014 budget proposal was highlighted by Anne Jensen (ALDE, DK), who is steering the lion's share of the proposal through Parliament. "We agreed to a €360 million frontloading in investments, research, education and innovation, an effort that is sorely needed. It is strange to see that the Council has cut the budget in precisely these areas", she said.
The Council had previously reduced the Commission's budget proposal by €240 million in commitments and €1.06 billion in payments, to €141.8 billion and €134.8 billion respectively. Parliament proposes €142.6 billion for commitments and €136.1 billion for payments. These amounts are down on this year's budget by €8.1 billion (commitments) and €4.3 billion (payments)..
"Alarming" state of payments
Committee chair Alain Lamassoure (EPP, FR) warned that the lack of payments - a result of too low budgeting over the last three years - makes the 2014 budget exercise extremely tense: "The situation is alarming. In the best case scenario, we arrive at a budget in 2014 that is 6% lower than in 2013. But 90% of the available money for next year will be used for finalising old programmes. This means that at a time when the EU is in dire need of investment, we are scarcely able to invest in anything new."
Support for the Middle East peace process and refugees
For aid to the Middle East and refugees, MEPs voted to reinstate the €250 million which the Commission included in the draft budget and to top up this amount with an additional €50 million on condition that these funds are soundly managed by the responsible authorities. They also voted to add funds for humanitarian aid, especially in view of the situation in Syria.
MEPs had already agreed to real-terms cuts in Parliament's own budget, inter alia by reducing travel by parliamentary delegations. Parliament's budget next year will be €1.784 billion.
The plenary vote is scheduled for 23 October. After the vote, there will be 21 days of conciliation talks with the Council. If conciliation produces an agreement, it will be put to a final plenary vote at the November session.
Meanwhile Parliament is waiting for the Council to approve amending budget 8 (€3.9 billion). This amount is needed to cover this year's budgetary shortfall and the Council's approval of it is a prerequisite for Parliament to give its blessing to the EU's long-run budget for 2014-2020.
The exact positions of Parliament and the Council in each policy area,are shown in the table on the right.