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The EU must honour its promises to pay humanitarian aid bills by all possible means and make full use of the budget flexibility secured by Parliament, said speakers during a debate on Tuesday in the budgets committee on the funding difficulties affecting EU humanitarian aid. Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said the EU humanitarian aid portfolio needs a further €400 million.

"It is totally unacceptable that the EU writes out checks on an empty bank account. We cannot make commitments without being able to foot the bill afterwards," Anne Jensen (ALDE, DK), the rapporteur for the 2014 budget said.

"The Commission must propose to use all means to provide the necessary funding, including the flexibility instruments Parliament managed to secure in the negotiations on the multiannual financial framework," Ms Jensen added.

With four on-going humanitarian emergencies of the highest level in Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Philippines, as well as the backlog of payments from last year that must be paid, a third of the EU humanitarian aid budget has already been spent, Commissioner Georgieva said. She expected payment shortfalls later in the year.

"Delays in payments mean that people die," the Commissioner said. "The short and the long is that we need a further €400 million this year, of which €150 million by July."

To provide the missing funding for humanitarian causes such as the operation of hospitals and food distribution centres in war-stricken areas, budget MEPs called for the use of full flexibility, a feature of the current multi-annual budget that the Parliament successfully fought for during the negotiations of the long-term budget.

In the chair: Alain Lamassoure (EPP, FR).The meeting was co-chaired by Ms Michèle Striffler (EPP, FR), DEVE's vice-chair and standing rapporteur for humanitarian affairs.