Confusing EU Budget figures: What are the real cuts and increases?
Will cuts to agricultural and cohesion funds be bigger than announced? MEPs stress the lack of clarity of the MFF figures put forward by the Commission.
When publishing its proposals on the next Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 on 2 May, the Commission has extensively compared its new proposal with the current 2014-2020 period, claiming that e.g. Erasmus+ would be doubled, research spending increased by 50% and agriculture and cohesion suffer "limited" cuts from 5 to 7%.
The actual figures tell a different story. Parliament's own comparisons, made by using real terms i.e. constant prices, contradict the Commission's public statements and notably show:
- Cuts by around 15% in agriculture and 10% in cohesion, including a 45% reduction to the Cohesion Fund and a 27% reduction to the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development;
"There is a gap between what was announced by the Commission and the data we have. Commission figures are part of a political narrative rather than of a fair and transparent budgetary proposal. Without a common methodology between the three institutions, no comparisons nor proper negotiations can take place. Waiting for it, Parliament will use its own", said co-rapporteur Isabelle Thomas (S&D, FR) in the debate in the Committee on Budgets on 16 May.
"We must start very quickly the negotiations with the Council. We need to know what are the reactions of Member States to the Commission's proposal and what Member States think about significant changes in different EU policies", co-rapporteur Jan Olbrycht (EPP, PL) added.
The Parliament's preliminary analysis shows that the Commission very often compares by using current prices, i.e. nominal terms without excluding inflation. This results in presenting much more favourably its proposed cuts or reinforcements
Furthermore, for the purpose of its calculations, the Commission deducts from the 2014-2020 amounts the expenditure made in the UK. While this is understandable in policy areas based on pre-allocated national envelopes (cohesion, agriculture, fisheries), such a deduction may not be fully justified when dealing with genuine EU-wide programmes such as research, or Erasmus.
Therefore, the Chair of the Committee on Budgets has asked Commissioner Oettinger to provide MEPs without delay with all the background information necessary to clarify the abovementioned questions. The Commission has now replied by providing more detailed calculations.
"The latest set of figures prove us right - it confirms that the Commission deliberately painted a rosier picture for communication purposes", said the co-rapporteurs. "This will not go unnoticed when Parliament's plenary assesses the Commission proposal."
When meeting next week in Strasbourg, Parliament is set to vote on a draft resolution put forward by several political groups.