After three days of negotiations and voting, Parliament's Budgets Committee on Thursday finalised the bulk of its position on next year's budget. Its key changes increased funding for research, innovation, student mobility, energy and support for the Middle East peace process. This was the first budget exercise under the Lisbon Treaty, which gives Parliament a full say on the whole budget, including farm spending.
Committee members agreed to stick to the limits laid down in the multi-annual financial framework, which applies until the end of 2013. The committee's position reflects priorities such as research, innovation, student mobility, energy and support to Palestine.
Unlike the Council of Ministers, the committee chose to create headroom for additional spending that might become necessary but is still uncertain. This approach should make the budget more realistic and transparent from the start and should avoid remedial patchwork after the whole budget has been decided.
In general, MEPs sought to restore the draft budget proposed by the Commission, after cuts by the Council in August. Exceptionally, the Budgets Committee voted to increase the budget above the Commission's draft version. The committee position will thus be slightly above the draft budget, which is more restrictive than in previous years.
Research, innovation and education (heading 1A)
This heading is difficult to decide upon because of a very tight limits in the long-term budget. "I am aware that in the times of economic crisis we have to make cuts and concessions, but we cannot forget that our future economic growth will depend on today’s investments, especially in the area of education, research an innovation", said rapporteur Sidonia Jędrzejewska (EPP, PL), explaining the committee's proposed increases in areas such as entrepreneurship and innovation, Erasmus Mundus, the lifelong learning programme and energy-related projects.
Because of restrictions in the long-term budget framework, MEPs decided to compensate for parts of these increases by making equivalent cuts in the ITER international fusion energy project, judging that it will not need all the proposed appropriations in 2011.
Cohesion policy (heading 1B)
MEPs added a new line, worth €2.5 million, for the EU Baltic Sea strategy.
Agriculture and environment (heading 2)
The Budgets Committee, at the request of the Agriculture Committee, agreed on a €300 million dairy fund to compensate farmers for low milk prices. They also agreed to increase budgets for the Life Plus Programme, fishery resources management and combating animal diseases.
Freedom, security and justice (heading 3a)
MEPs approved extra funding for the DAPHNE programme to combat violence against women children and young people and for programmes to prevent terrorism and combat drugs.
Citizenship (heading 3b)
MEPs approved extra funding to co-finance the World Special Olympics Summer Games in Greece and the Youth in Action programme.
Foreign affairs (heading 4)
MEPs agreed to approve an increase of €100 million in aid to the Palestine under UNRWA and the Middle East Peace Process, bringing the total back in line with last year. To fund this, MEPs cut other lines back to 2010 levels, and also proposed cuts in the Banana Accompanying Measures (to support banana-exporting ACP countries) and the Instrument for Co-operation with Industrial Countries. MEPs do not see how these new projects can be funded without fresh money.
Administration (heading V)
MEPs agreed that the budget should be reflect next year's spending as accurately as possible. In contrast to the Council of Ministers, the Budgets Committee added 1.85 % to all the salary headings. This percentage is the subject of a dispute between the Council and the European Commission that awaits a judgment by the European Court of Justice.
The overall budget for Parliament's administrative expenses continues to account for about 20% of total spending on administration. "In some cases we are not fully convinced that funds are needed. So we decided to put the money in reserve and agreed on conditions for its release. This is for example the case for the additional funds for Parliamentary Assistance. We first want to evaluate how the money was spent last year and have a debate on the merits", said rapporteur on administration Ms Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA, DE).
The Budgets Committee will take its final vote at its 4-5 October meeting. The budget figures decided by the committee be available only after this vote. Then on 7 October, the committee will vote on draft budget resolutions, explaining why these figures were adopted. 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)