Parliament's mandate to negotiate the EU budget for 2014-2020 with the EU member states' Irish Presidency was approved in a resolution voted on Wednesday. Parliament rejects the 8 February European Council conclusions in their current form. MEPs want more flexibility and efficiency within the budget.
The resolution - prepared by the group leaders of the EPP, S&D, ALDE, Greens and GUE/NGL - was adopted by 506 votes to 161, with 23 abstentions.
The resolution highlights the growing problem of payment shortfalls, which prevent bills being paid and jeopardize EU programmes. Last year's shortfalls meant that several important EU programmes, such as Erasmus, the Research Framework Programme and the Social Fund ran out of funds early in the year.
Parliament insists that the issue of unpaid bills from 2012 must be settled before concluding the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations, as agreed in last year's budget talks. Parliament also wants a political undertaking from the Council that all bills falling due in 2013 will be paid in 2013, so as to avoid "rolling over" a deficit into the new MFF. The EU cannot legally run a deficit.
Flexibility, review, own resources
The resolution gives Parliament's negotiators a strong mandate to ensure that the MFF is flexible enough to allow available funds to be used optimally. Parliament also calls for a review of MFF spending, so as to give the newly-elected Parliament and Commission an opportunity to influence the budgets that they will inherit from today's legislators.
Furthermore, Parliament makes the case for a system of genuine own resources to fund the EU budget and stresses that all EU expenditure should go through the budget.
The informal negotiations should result in a regulation laying down the MFF, for which parliament's consent is required, as well as an inter-institutional agreement between Parliament, the Council and the Commission.
Parliament is negotiating the legal bases for the various EU programmes in parallel, but for these, Parliament and the Council decide on the basis of co-decision. If there is no agreement by the start of 2014, the MFF ceilings from 2013, adjusted for inflation, will apply.
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution