Budget MEPs endorsed on Tuesday a commitment together with Council and Commission to reduce the amount of unpaid bills of European programs. The statement by the budget negotiators of the three institutions comes on the eve of the presentation of the Union’s draft budget for 2016.

The joint statement on a payment plan for 2015 and 2016, endorsed by the Budgets Committee, was agreed in three-way negotiations on 19 May. It acknowledges the problem of delayed reimbursement of invoices from the member states, and aims to reduce the backlog to a sustainable level by the end of 2016. It also seeks to improve the capacity of the Commission to forecast actual payment needs, thus giving a new tool to the budgetary authority - the Parliament and the Council - to follow the development of incoming bills and their payment.


Prior to the budgetary negotiations in the autumn, the European budgetary decision makers also agreed on avoiding the accumulation of unpaid bills as was experienced at the end of 2014, when an unprecedented €24.7 billion was left to be paid late.


For years, Parliament has been calling for the respect of the contractual obligations of the Union by paying its bills on time and not to endanger regions, companies, universities, research projects by late payments. At its insistence, the Commission agreed to analyse how to bring down the level of unpaid bills.


An analysis of the Commission, attached to the declaration, includes that the level of unpaid bills at the end of 2016 could be brought down to €2 billion in the field of cohesion policy According to the Commission, this can only happen if the draft budget of the Union includes €21.7 billion in payments for next year.


Background


Since 2010, bills mostly of mostly cohesion programs, but also research, education and aid projects, were left unpaid at the end of the budgetary year. This meant that either final beneficiaries of these programs or local, regional authorities were at risk of financial difficulty despite existing contracts with the European Union. The main reason for the lack of resources to pay for contracted services is the insufficient budgeting of payment appropriations (actual available money) as compared to commitment appropriations (promises to finance).


In the budgetary negotiations at the end of 2014, Parliament has ensured €4.25 billion extra resources to pay off certain invoices thus to avoid an even larger accumulation.


In the chair: Mr Jean Arthuis (ALDE, FR)

 

Budget rapporteurs:José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT), Eider Gardiazabal Rubial (S&D, ES) and Gérard Deprez (ALDE, BE)