The EU's 2014 budget has pitted the Parliament against the Council over disagreements over what should be cut, what needs to be saved and what needs to happen with unpaid bills. On Wednesday 23 October MEPs are expected to vote in favour of reversing cuts proposed by the Council. For the inside story, we talked to the two MEPs in charge of leading the budget negotiations: Anne Jensen, a Danish member of the ALDE group, and Monika Hohlmeier, a German member of the EPP group.
Safeguarding funding for refugees and growth
While working out the EP's position on the budget, the budget committee voted to reverse the cuts that the Council proposed for the Commission's draft. Members insisted on maintaining funding for refugees, humanitarian aid and initiatives aimed at boosting economic growth.
Ms Jensen, who is in charge of dealing of the EU's general budget on behalf of the Parliament, said of the Council cuts: "This is very difficult to understand. Even in the proposal from the Commission you have a budget which is about 6% below this years' budget. So member states will get savings no matter what but finance ministers believe that they have to come up with cuts specifically in areas that are dear to Parliament."
The Council and the Parliament also have a dispute over what should happen with the unpaid bills for this year. The Council wants to roll them over to next year's budget, but the Parliament inisists on the bills being settled this year to avoid future problems. Ms Jensen warned: "92% of the money for projects will be paid for old bills and only 8% goes for new things that are being created. Budget commissioner Janusz Lewandowski has confirmed that there is a snowball of unpaid bills and it's rolling and getting bigger."
Budget MEPS vote for cuts in Parliament budget
MEPs have also been busy identifying where savings could be made in the Parliament. The budget committee voted in favour of proposals to make real-time cuts to the Parliament's own budget next year. Ms Hohlmeier, who is responsible for the EP's administrative budget, explained: "We managed to cut the Commission`s draft budget by almost €10 million mainly due to the implementation of the new staff regulation, savings inter alia on buildings and redeployment of administrative costs to the year 2013. As a matter of self-restraint, the budget for members' travels has been reduced by €1.3 million, limiting the visits of parliamentary delegations for the next year."