The outcome of the latest European Council and the political agreement on the EU's long-term budget of 27 June received a lukewarm welcome from lead MEPs of the different political groups Tuesday morning. The plenary is to vote on the political support of the MFF on Wednesday. Nearly all speakers came down hard on the United States over weekend press reports of its spying activities.
In the regular debrief debate after a European Council with Commission President Barroso and European Council President Van Rompuy, EPP, S&D and ALDE leaders welcomed the summit's recognition that youth employment schemes should take priority and that, after much prodding from MEPs, every euro of the EU's long-term budget must be well spent. However, they also stressed the need for further work to tackle social problems, improve access to finance for business, and spur progress towards completing the banking union.
Greens and GUE group leaders, by contrast denounced the budget deal, arguing that it missed the real targets of addressing youth unemployment, other social concerns and environment protection.
The ECR and EFD representatives argued not only that youth unemployment would not be solved by more EU money, but that the EU itself was partly responsible for it.
"We asked for conditions based on common sense. We cannot accept taking the Union down the slippery slope of debt," said Joseph Daul (EPP, FR), severely criticising the prolonged decision-making process: "We cannot go through such a haggling every seven years. We have to get a clear definition of areas financed by the member states and by the Union."
Although supporting the agreement on the MFF, social democrats deplored what they view as ongoing austerity. "We have to move to growth policy. You have taken a small step. We were fighting to the bitter end to get more funds, but Council made it impossible. Budgetary discipline is necessary, but austerity is unacceptable," said Hannes Swoboda (S&D, AT).
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso called the MFF agreement an "almost one-trillion-euro investment fund for growth and jobs", a view echoed by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy: "I hope you'll approve the MFF. This is a catalyst for growth and jobs", he said.
"We have almost full flexibility, making sure that the €908 billion will be fully available, unlike in the last period when €55 billion were lost", said Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE) of Parliament's achievement in making payment appropriations movable between years and headings.
Mr Verhofstadt also stressed that Parliament must not give its final go-ahead to the deal until the Council agrees to the payment of €3.9 billion in outstanding bills for 2013, a binding revision clause, the development of a new own resources system and finally a modern budget with more money for innovation and the digital agenda.
Martin Callanan (ECR, UK) backed the MFF deal because the Union is to spend less than in the previous seven years: "Less is more should apply to the European Union", he said.
Gabrielle Zimmer (GUE/NGL), by contrast, called the agreement a "bad deal". "The EP has been sidelined in this compromise. This was tinkering at the margins with an eye to the German and the European elections instead of tackling desperate social and environmental issues", she said.
Nigel Farage (EFD, UK) demanded the reversal of the entire EU project calling the efforts to tackle youth unemployment with the help of flexibility in the MFF "more bureaucracy and overregulation".
Clarity urgently needed on spy scandal
Rebecca Harms (Greens/EFA, DE) called for an immediate halt to prepations to open trade talks with the United States in the wake of press reports that the US might have spied on European institutions both inside and outside the EU. "The talks should not be opened until the magnitude of the problem is checked", she said.
Mr Verhofstadt advocated setting up an inquiry committee and Mr Swobada said a data protection package should be in place before trade talks start.