MEPs want future EU budgets to accommodate new policy priorities as well as negotiations on new sources of financing. In its position on the 2011 budget, approved Thursday, the Budgets Committee inserts new budget lines for Lisbon Treaty priorities and for new revenue sources, including transferring unspent money to future budgets instead of returning it to Member States. These budget lines are empty for now, but the intention is to open negotiations on the budget after 2011.
In its final vote on the 2011 budget, the Budgets Committee, led by rapporteurs Sidonia Jędrzejewska (EPP, PL) and Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA,DE), urged that the budget ceilings agreed in 2006 be brought into line with today's reality and pointed out that the EU budget should be viewed not as an additional burden to national budgets, but rather as an opportunity to gear up national initiatives and investments to which it can add value.
However, MEPs understand the pressures on Member States' budgets and therefore broke with the tradition of suggesting a much larger budget than the Commission proposes, and increased it only very slightly. The committee agreed on a total of €130.14 billion in payments and €142.65 billion in commitments (compared to the Commission's €130.14 billion in payments and €142.56 billion in commitments).
Revision of long-term budget framework urgently needed
The Budgets Committee points out that the margins in the current long-term budget framework (also called financial perspectives or multiannual financial framework, MFF) are too restrictive. This framework was established for 2007-2013, but does not take account of additional spending as a result of the financial crisis, new policy areas or agreed new tasks stemming from the Lisbon Treaty. This is for example the case for energy, research, financial supervision, climate change and foreign policy. MEPs feel the EU lacks the necessary room for manoeuvre to react to new or unexpected policy challenges.
"A substantial budget review is absolutely needed" and an "immediate revisions of the ceilings of the current MFF... has been rendered unavoidable by the various challenges and new priorities that have arisen", the committee says.
The Commission is set to present its mid-term review of the long-term budget framework on 19 October, one day before the plenary votes on the 2011 budget.
Opening up discussion on new own resources
The Budgets Committee also wants to start talks with the Council and the Commission about new sources of income for the EU. It therefore added two new lines to the 2011 budget. One line asks the Council to open the negotiations on new own resources, adding that this element is a "full part of the overall agreement on the 2011 budget". The other budget line asks the Council and the Commission to "decide on mechanisms to facilitate the transfer of unused appropriations of year N in particular in the context of the revision of the Financial Regulations". Until now, money that is not used has been paid back to the Member States at the end of the year. The budget lines do not contain any figures.
"Lisbonisation" of the budget
A majority of the committee, notably its S&D, liberal, green and GUE/NGL members, added four new budget lines for "Lisbon mid-term review needs" in the areas of competitiveness, natural resources, freedom, security and justice and external actions. In these lines, MEPs reiterate the EU's new responsibilities following the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty. They also ask for a "sufficient level of spending" and proper involvement of Parliament in the negotiations for a renewed multiannual financial framework.
Provision for the stability mechanism
The committee also asks, by a broad majority, for two budget lines, one for expenditure and one for revenues, to be created for the EU stabilisation mechanism, which was established by the EU governments after the Greek debt crisis. These lines are still empty, but could be activated if the mechanism is used.
The figures and the resolutions will be put to a plenary vote on 20 October. Parliament and the Council will then form a conciliation committee, which will have 21 days to agree on a joint text. If they can agree, the final budget could be approved in mid-November.
In the chair : Alain LAMASSOURE (EPP, FR)