Parliament endorsed the final size and priority spending areas of the 2012 EU budget, as agreed by its negotiating team and the EU Member States on 18 November, in a vote on Thursday.
Parliament's priorities adopted
In its proposals, the European Parliament had focussed on growth, innovation, employment, border control, migration management, and support of democratic development in the Arab world. These priorities were all taken on board by the Member States in the final deal.
Limited increase in payment appropriations
The increase in payment appropriations will be limited (1.86%) as requested by the Member States. The Commission, Council and Parliament agreed to take stock in the course of next year to see if the budget is realistic or if repairs are necessary. Member States signed a declaration to this end. The overall budget for next year will amount to €129.1 billion (1.86% increase) in payments and €147.2 billion (+3.8%) in commitments.
EP conciliation delegation chair Alain Lamassoure (EPP, FR) said: "In times of crisis we have managed to reduce operating costs while maintaining growth and competitiveness." He was nonetheless critical of the Council's preoccupation with the level of payments, whereas commitments were being disregarded. "We have to bring the two back in line to avoid having to discuss haircuts across the board every year", he said.
Mr Lamassoure thinks that the only way forward is to reduce Member States' contributions to the EU budget and replace them with own resources. "There will be no future financial framework without a political agreement on new resources", he said.
Parliament's rapporteur for most of next year's budget, Ms Francesca Balzani (S&D, IT) welcomed the adoption of Parliament's priorities by the Member States. But she also warned that the agreed level of payments might not be sufficient to pay all the bills next year.
The MEP who steered the administrative budgets through Parliament, José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT), said that the budget for administration - making up somewhat less than 6% of the total budget - "strikes the right balance between austerity and administrative needs". He underlined that administrative budgets for the different institutions were treated with rigour and will grow by around 1% only, which is a cut in real terms.
Budgets Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski welcomed the outcome of the negotiations and the self-restraint of the institutions in deciding their own budgets. However, he also warned that the agreed level of payments might be too low. "We have to reflect on our annual budget procedure, especially at the end of a multiannual financial framework. For now I trust the joint declaration signed by the Member States", he said
Nuclear Fusion Research (ITER)
The negotiated deal included an additional €100 million to finance the ITER nuclear fusion research programme in the south of France. A much greater amount will be needed to accommodate all the additional costs for this programme in future years. This will be further discussed in the Budgets Committee and with the Member States in "trailogue" meetings.
Amending the budget for 2011
Parliament also adopted an agreement on the additional financial needs for 2011. This was necessary as the Commission could no longer pay the bills in some policy areas. Apart from a reshuffle between budget lines, an additional €200 million will be added to the budget so that payments can again be made for Social Fund projects and research.
Another draft amending budget for 2011 will be voted in the Budgets Committee next week. It should meet the financial needs to cover EU Solidarity Fund aid totalling €38 million to Spain and Italy to repair damage caused by earthquakes in Lorca and flooding in the Veneto region.