The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived must be at least maintained at today's €3.5 billion, not cut to €2.5 billion, said Parliament in a vote on Wednesday. The €1 billion cut has been proposed by the EU Commission and member states, in negotiations on the EU's long-term budget.

"Almost 120 million Europeans are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Over 40 million suffer from severe material deprivation and over four million are homeless. The new fund is an important instrument for alleviating the effects of the economic and social crisis and a practical expression of Europe's solidarity with its most vulnerable citizens," said rapporteur Emer Costello (S&D, IE), in the debate preceding the vote.

The new programme for 2014 to 2020 is intended to replace the Food Distribution Programme which was designed to make best use of EU food surpluses produced under the Common Agricultural Policy. The scope of the new fund will be expanded beyond distributing food to also meet other basic needs of the EU's most deprived citizens.

At least maintain the budget

Parliament voted to maintain the budget for the new fund for 2014-2020 at least at the current level of 3.5 billion instead of cutting it to €2.5 billion, under the EU's "cohesion" budget, as proposed by the European Commission and the member states.

Member states must take part

A majority of MEPs voted in favour of making participation in the Fund mandatory. This means that if a member state decides not to make use of the fund, the budget should remain available for the most deprived citizens. However, a large minority MEPs argued that member states' participation should be voluntary.

Co-financing rate

MEPs also want the EU's "co-financing" standard contribution towards the cost of the programme to be 85% of eligible expenditure (the Commission had proposed 85% as a maximum) and say it should be possible to increase this rate to 95% for those hardest hit by the crisis.

Next steps

The amended text was approved by 513 votes to 149 with 27 abstentions. However, the final vote on the legislative resolution was postponed, to allow time for informal negotiations with the Council. The fund's final budget will also depend on the outcome of the EU's 2014-2020 budget negotiations.

Procedure: Co-decision (Ordinary Legislative Procedure), 1st reading