A provisional agreement on the European Union budget for 2015 and the means to settle this year’s most urgent unpaid bills was reached by negotiators for Parliament and the Council on Monday. The deal still needs to be endorsed both by the full Parliament and the Council. For payments, MEPs secured €4.8 billion more to pay bills for 2014-2015. For 2015, the negotiators agreed to a compromise of €145.3 billion in commitments and €141.2 billion in payments.
"The winding down of a pile of unpaid bills has been Parliament’s quintessential goal. We cannot go on rolling invoices over from year to year due to a lack of resources, just watching as cash-strapped contractors suffer and the EU loses its credibility as a reliable partner", said Budgets Committee Chair Jean Arthuis (ALDE, FR), who led the parliamentary delegation. "We know member states' difficulties, but it was the member states themselves which agreed to enter into contracts that need to be paid. The bills of the EU are also part of their debt", he added.
The total amount of pending claims rose from €5 billion in 2010 to €23.4 billion at the start of this year, and without the top-up that Parliament fought for, it would rise further, threatening an eventual collapse of the budget.
A plan to wind down the pile of unpaid claims
"The Commission, based on member states’ estimations, asked for €4.8 billion, and we supported this request", said Gérard Deprez (ALDE, BE) who led talks on the budget top-up for 2014. "But we have to know how the Commission wants to wind down the backlog by 2016", he added.
Parliament’s negotiators agreed to the 2015 budget on condition that the Commission presents a plan to reduce the amount of the unpaid bills to a sustainable level by 2016.
Slightly more for growth
"We secured a substantial amount to ease the strain on contractors, like small and medium sized enterprises, local collectives, and non-governmental players. Nevertheless this is far from what we wanted. It must be borne in mind that even though the EU budget is only one percent of EU GDP, it must act as a magnet to encourage other investors to join in", said Eider Gardiazábal Rubial (S&D, ES), the main rapporteur on the 2015 budget.
Parliament negotiated €45 million more for the EU research and development programme Horizon 2020 and €16 million more for the student exchange programme Erasmus+. For foreign policy, the budget was increased by €32 million. Banking supervisory agencies and Frontex also received more funding.
The EU's budget for 2015 pledges one percent more money for projects than the previous year and suffices to deliver one percent more payments than in 2014. Ninety-four percent of this amount is spent in and by the member states, and only 6 percent is used to run the EU. The draft budget is presented by the Commission and amended by the Council and the Parliament.
To seal the compromise reached in the budgetary talks, the Council must approve the agreed text, followed by the Budgets Committee and the full Parliament. The latter two votes will take place at Parliament's last plenary session this year in Strasbourg, on 15-18 December.