Parliament's key negotiators on the EU long-term budget for 2014-2020 expressed dismay at the Cypriot Presidency proposal for the so-called multiannual financial framework (MFF), presented Tuesday. MEPs directed their main criticism at a proposed cut by €50 billion as compared to the Commission's initial proposal of 16 months ago.
A very bad signal
"We strongly oppose this development as it will inevitably put in jeopardy the future of certain key policies and programmes. We feel this will hamper the role of the EU budget as an instrument to generate economic growth and jobs", rapporteurs Reimer Boege (EPP, DE) and Ivailo Kalfin (S&D, BG) said today. They think the Presidency proposal "sends out a very bad signal when it comes to policy priorities, as the deepest cuts are made precisely in those policy areas that are considered vital for stimulating competitiveness, growth and employment".
The European Parliament had already said in a resolution on 23 October, adopted by an overwhelming majority, that even the original Commission proposal for a freezing of the budget at the level of 2013 ceilings would not be sufficient to finance existing policy priorities in the "Europe 2020" strategy, which comprises the new tasks laid down in the Lisbon Treaty, let alone any unforeseen events.
Deep concerns about level of spending, flexibility and own resources
The rapporteurs deeply regret that the main points of Parliament's position, repeated over and over again, were not taken on board by the Council Presidency. These include not only the level of spending but also reforms to the way the budget is put together, i.e. the system of "own resources". Parliament insists that the European Council - the EU government leaders - reach a political agreement on a far-reaching reform of the financing of the EU budget "to make it fairer, more transparent, more stable and more accountable".
The current proposal by the Cypriot presidency, while putting a welcomed focus on the quality of spending, at the same time reduces the flexibility to transfer money between and within policy headings in the budget. "It would become even more difficult to react to unforeseen events and evolving political circumstances", the rapporteurs fear.
They underline that the MFF sets the maximum amounts per policy heading (ceilings) and that, in fact, the annual EU budgets have always been set well below those ceilings.
Proposal contradicts European Council's 'growth and jobs compact'
If the cuts were to become reality, it would imply that a programme of the size of the Connecting Europe Facility - representing EU's key investment for the purpose of improving Europe's transport, energy and digital networks - could never be realised over the next period. The cuts would jeopardize programmes such as Horizon 2020, considered essential for stimulating innovation, competitiveness, growth and employment. The Erasmus scholarship programme would suffer and also large-scale scientific programmes like ITER (nuclear fusion), GMES and Gallileo will be put at risk. "We find the proposal incompatible with the political commitments made by the European Council, including the recent 'Growth and jobs compact' that heavily relies on the EU budget for its implementation", Boege and Kalfin said.
The EP negotiation team will now carefully study the new "negotiating box" presented by the Cypriot Presidency, but will advise the EP to act in line with its earlier positions. The European Council will be informed on Parliament's views prior to its extraordinary summit on the 22 and 23 of November. Any decision that disregards the European Parliament's position could result in a veto by the EP.