President. – The next item is the joint debate on the following reports:
- A7-0354/2011 by Francesca Balzani and José Manuel Fernandes, on behalf of the Committee on Budgets, on the draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2012 as modified by the Council – all sections [13110/2011 – C7-0247/2011 – 2011/2020(BUD)];
- A7-0353/2011 by Reimer Böge, on behalf of the Committee on Budgets, on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on mobilisation of the Flexibility Instrument in favour of the EU 2020 strategy and the European neighbourhood policy, in accordance with point 27 of the Interinstitutional Agreement of 17 May 2006 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline and sound financial management [COM(2011)0373 – C7-0164/2011 – 2011/2126(BUD)].
Francesca Balzani, rapporteur. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we live in a time of crisis – not only economic crisis but also a crisis of confidence. This crisis of confidence affects all citizens, but especially the youngest, who as a result find it harder to summon the courage and desire to build their own futures.
The European Union has set a challenge to tackle this crisis, which is also a challenge for the EU itself: the great Europe 2020 strategy must genuinely combat this lack of confidence and help us back onto the path towards a better future and a better life.
That is precisely why Parliament has put funding for this strategy at the heart of the budget for 2012, starting with its very top priority: higher employment, better employment and quality employment in a Europe that focuses on innovation and research. Hence, we in this Parliament have asked and are asking for greater resources for three key programmes, which are the true engines behind the 2020 strategy: the Lifelong Learning Programme, the Seventh Framework Programme and the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP).
Today, therefore, what we need is consistency, to follow up on our intentions, to send out a positive message and hence start really building this future. Not funding a strategy to combat the crisis because we are in a crisis would be a gloomy message that would be hard to justify. Right now, our citizens are expecting us to act consistently and with sincerity. However, they are not the only ones watching us: this year the markets are also particularly attentive to our decisions and our ability to take the necessary decisions – in the right ways and in the right timeframes – in order to get back on track.
Sending out positive messages is therefore a particularly sensitive issue. In this respect, it would not only be great to produce a budget that makes a genuine start on putting the 2020 strategy in place, but it would also be really important for us to do so in an atmosphere of major institutional collaboration. Parliament decided to place huge trust in the estimates of the Commission precisely in order to send out a positive message. The Commission is undoubtedly working as well as is feasible at this difficult time, which is why Parliament deemed its estimates on payment requirements to be reliable.
There is another emergency: the institutional frameworks of many Mediterranean countries are currently undergoing change. Europe cannot remain removed from this process; we cannot stand in the wings but instead we must take a central role in international politics. We therefore need to react to the crisis and assume renewed leadership on the international stage.
We request the use of the Flexibility Instrument for these two fundamental objectives. It will therefore be important to overcome these two challenges, instil confidence, prove our credibility and prove our reliability to citizens and the other institutions that are watching us. That is not all though, for I believe that this year there is yet another real challenge ahead: doing it in a transparent way. Indeed, our budget reading is not tactical or a negotiating tool: it is exactly the budget that this Parliament believes is essential for 2012, because I think this year it is also important to find a common position quickly and in good time, in order to communicate the essence, the ability and the image of a Europe that knows how to galvanise itself at the right time.
José Manuel Fernandes, rapporteur. – (PT) Mr President, we are experiencing a financial, economic and social crisis which requires and obliges all of the institutions to make an effort. At the same time, the crisis requires these institutions to have sufficient means at their disposal to address the concerns of the public. At present, this crisis is also proving an opportune moment for eurosceptics; extremists on the left and right who are finding fertile ground for populism and demagoguery. At such times these opportunists always find new ways of taking advantage of the difficulties.
However, even they cannot hide the massive efforts in terms of real cuts that all the EU institutions are making in the 2012 budget. It should be noted that total administrative and operational expenditure for all of the institutions represents only 5.59% of the total EU budget. It should also be stressed that we have surpassed expectations for the Council, the Commission and Parliament, as shown by the margin of approximately EUR 500 million in Heading 5, which covers all the expenditure of all the EU institutions. This was managed in spite of new tasks, new Members of this House, the costs of Croatia’s accession, and the establishment of new institutions, such as the European External Action Service.
The overall increase in the 2012 budget for all the institutions is about 1%: far below inflation, meaning that there is negative growth, in real terms, in their budgets.
I would like to say to the Council that it cannot ignore the efforts and cuts made by all of the institutions, and that it has the opportunity to show that the institutions have already made as many cuts as they can in order to ensure greater rigour, and it is clear that commitments they have made cannot be delayed and must be met. Amongst other things, basic spending on electricity, security and maintenance must be ensured.
With regard to the European Parliament budget, I welcome the efforts made by the political groups and the Bureau of the European Parliament, which have led to real cuts, yet also to cuts that I deem damaging. Since the start of negotiations with the Bureau, we have cut more than EUR 74 million and have reached a comprehensive agreement with the Bureau, following several conciliation meetings, which led to the increase in the 2012 budget being the lowest since 1999, even though it includes the costs of Croatia’s accession and the 18 new Members. Once we include, in conciliation with the Council, the costs of Croatia’s accession, we forecast only a 1.9% increase in Parliament’s 2012 budget; in other words, well below inflation. It should be noted that the estimates that this House approved in April for the 2012 budget corresponded to a 2.3% increase, which did not include the costs arising from Croatia’s accession and the 18 new Members. In order to reduce these estimates, we reopened discussions with the Bureau and cut more than EUR 25.1 million.
If we are to be thorough and make a comparison with 2011, we have to remove these two new expenses arising from Croatia’s accession and the entry of the 18 new Members, which results in one of the lowest increases in the history of this Parliament: only 0.8%. However, despite these cuts, we will remain up to the job, and will still have the minimum enabling us to carry on with the European project, in order to live up to the European public’s expectations.
Reimer Böge, rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we are proposing the mobilisation of the Flexibility Instrument in accordance with point 27 of the Interinstitutional Agreement, for the benefit of the Europe 2020 strategy for growth and jobs and the European neighbourhood policy.
I would like to say straight away that we are not submitting this report, which has been voted on by the Committee on Budgets, for a vote in plenary, because we are complying with the terms of the Treaty. We know that the Flexibility Instrument can only be mobilised jointly by the budgetary authority in accordance with the Interinstitutional Agreement. However, we believe that this is urgently needed to support the Europe 2020 strategy under Heading 1a with an additional EUR 30.7 million and to provide a further EUR 208.6 million for the neighbourhood policy, in the light of the requirements which have emerged as a result of developments in neighbouring areas.
I would like to say once more at this point that the European Parliament, given its commitment to a sensibly funded European budget, does not deserve to be criticised by the public and by the Council, as is sometimes the case. With regard to the obligations, the Commission and the Committee on Budgets are at the same level, while the Council is slightly lower.
In the case of the payment appropriations, Parliament is slightly above the Commission proposal and with around EUR 3.7 billion a little higher than the Council proposal. That is where the classic difference lies. The Council or parts of the Council continue to regard the European budget as a hostile element. They see it only from the perspective of ‘what do I pay in and what do I get out?’. They also neglect one aspect, in a similar way to budgetary policy as a whole, which is the fact that the obligations that they have entered into must at some point be transformed into payments and the longer they hesitate, the greater the amount will be at the end of the day. That is exactly what we must avoid in proper budgetary policy.
In addition, we have had to explain constantly to the public that between 2000 and 2010 the national budgets in the European Union have on average increased by 62%, while the European Union budget has increased by 37%. At the same time, we have provided the necessary funding for expansion.
Also part of this debate is the fact that in 2011, of the 27 Member States, 23 are spending more than in the previous year and, according to the most recent forecasts, in 2012 a total of 24 of the 27 Member States will have budget increases. This means that what we will be voting on today is a serious offer by Parliament to the Council in order to allow us to produce a sensible budget for 2012.
I would also like to congratulate the rapporteur on his efforts in the case of the Parliament budget. This is a budget with the lowest rate of increase for a long time. Without Lisbon and without Croatia, the increase is 0.8%. Overall the figure is 1.9% and this includes a sensible balance between the interests within the House.
At this point, I would also like to say that, given the situation in which we have done our homework on the Parliament budget for this year, showcase motions do not make sense. The House as a whole will confirm this.
At the same time, I would like to make it clear that all the institutions must consider how they can reduce costs and bureaucracy for the following few years of the next Multiannual Financial Framework, without impairing the efficiency and the ability to act of the European institutions. The European Parliament will also have to make a contribution in this area with a larger package.
Jacek Dominik, President-in-Office of the Council. – (PL) Mr President, honourable Members, I have listened with interest to what has been said so far, and am very pleased in particular to hear the desire which has been expressed to be prompt and efficient in achieving approval of a realistic budget for 2012. We are all aware of the great efforts currently being made by the Member States and the serious budgetary restrictions they are having to face. Under no circumstances should a pessimistic signal be sent to the citizens of Europe at a moment when the Member States are trying to consolidate their budgets.
I refer here to the fact that the Member States have managed to achieve – by a small majority of votes – agreement on the Council position on the 2012 budget. This agreement accepts an increase of 2.9% in commitment appropriations as compared to 2011 and an increase in payment appropriations of 2.02%. In reaching its position on the draft budget for 2012, the Council made particular efforts not to break the applicable ceilings of the Multiannual Financial Framework. Where needed, suitable margins have been ensured under certain headings to facilitate the management of unforeseen situations. Consequently, the Council is disturbed by the amendments tabled by the European Parliament, which would significantly reduce some of these margins or even mean exceeding the ceiling of the Multiannual Financial Framework.
The Council would also like to express its regret in relation to the increases in payment appropriations which the European Parliament intends to put to the vote, particularly in a situation in which the level of these increases exceeds the amounts set out in the Commission’s draft budget for 2012. Even if the European Parliament does want to support accomplishment of its priorities and give emphasis to them, a level of payment appropriations should be established which is sufficient but not too high. We all have to realise that overestimation of the level of payments has contributed to an unnecessary increase in the budget deficit in many Member States and to an increase in borrowing needs, which in the current situation in the capital markets is very dangerous. In relation to this, it is necessary to make allowance for the use of financial resources in the future and also to include realistic needs for 2012.
I would now like to mention several issues which are of particular importance to the Council. The Council is afraid that the increases which the European Parliament intends to put to the vote exceed the ceilings for Subheading 1a and Heading 4 by over EUR 240 million. The Council notes that the European Parliament intends, therefore, to propose mobilisation of the Flexibility Instrument. As for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, the Council would like to reach agreement as soon as possible on granting the project additional funding. However, the Council would like to express its regret at the European Parliament’s rejection of all possibilities for the redeployment of budget appropriations in order to support funding of the project.
As for Heading 1b, the Council has accepted an increase of over 5% in payment appropriations. The Council is also worried by the amendments proposed by the European Parliament which expect restoration of the draft budget for 2012. This would result in an increase of over 8%. The Council also notes the efforts being made by the European Council to limit increases in funds which would mean exceeding the ceiling for Heading 4. It is, however, seriously concerned by the European Parliament’s proposals to decrease resources allocated to implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, because it is a policy which is of great importance to the Council and to the European Union as a whole. As for Heading 5, the Council would like to stress the importance of strict control of administrative expenditure, particularly by strengthening interinstitutional cooperation and increasing administrative efficiency. Such measures need to be employed to optimise the use of limited resources in relation to the rigorous fiscal consolidation currently being undertaken by all the Member States.
In my opinion, there is no difference between the Council and Parliament over the European Union’s priorities, and these priorities should be given support in next year’s EU budget. There is, however, disagreement over the level of funds necessary to ensure accomplishment of these priorities. That level, and in particular the level of payments, should be set in a way which does not result in excessive budgetary burdens for the Member States or force them to reduce other important expenditures financed from national budgets.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that the Council wants to express the hope and desire that the remaining stages of the budgetary procedure will progress in a positive atmosphere of cooperation, which will allow us to achieve, in these particularly difficult budgetary conditions, an agreement on the 2012 budget which will be satisfactory to all parties.
Janusz Lewandowski, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, in the September plenary we discussed the Council reading. Now we have the Parliament reading, just several hours before it is to be finalised. It is clear that Parliament has taken a different approach from the Council on several very important issues and, if the Council is to reconfirm its position, despite the fact that we now have this very exceptional triangle with President Buzek, Minister Dominik and the Commissioner all coming from the same country, it is very likely that we will need a conciliation starting on 1 November and lasting 21 days.
As regards the general line taken by Parliament and now endorsed by the rapporteurs Ms Balzani, Mr Fernandes and Mr Böge, we welcome the position to restore the draft budget in general. What is more, Parliament has exhausted the margins in Heading 1A; mainly the margins, but it is also asking for the flexibility instrument in Heading 1A and in Heading 4 more than requested by the Commission. As for the priorities, they are the same. We endorse the priorities reinforced by Parliament. I think we should finance the goals of the 2020 strategy better. This is also conducive to growth and jobs and we should accommodate it within the very restrained economic and fiscal framework of today’s Europe.
In the field of external action, we are in favour of the Flexibility Instrument but this is precisely to reinforce neighbourhood policy, a sensitive issue of great importance for all the institutions. We have to invest in the stability of our neighbourhood and it cannot be financed exclusively via redeployment. As for the numbers – I mean a EUR 400 million reinforcement – there is agreement between the institutions but we cannot just do this via redeployment. This is simply not workable under the present restraints of Heading 4.
Now there is a different stance on ITER. Here the Commission’s mission to invent one more compromise amendment after the compromise amendments so far submitted makes sense only if there is goodwill to go in parallel and not to make ITER a hot issue as it was last time, which would make agreement over the 2012 budget more difficult.
Now to the level of payments. The level of payments is always a sensitive issue. Our draft budget was based on the information delivered by the 27 Member States and we were placing the level of payments roughly EUR 9 billion below the margin for 2012. Therefore this already represents self-restraint, but now I can reconfirm that the payments are moving. This is not unusual at the end of a financial perspective. We have requests for payments. This year it is not about a surplus, it is about a shortage of payments for 2011, reflected already in Amending Budget 6/2011. This is the state of play regarding the payments; therefore we cannot endorse the position of the Council to limit payments in the framework of inflationary adjustment. We are facing a shortfall of payments in research and development and in other areas already this year 2011.
As for the administrative budget, I think what has to be appreciated is the effort of the largest body, that is the Commission, to freeze nominally and not ask for any more posts. However, we note that Parliament was voting as usual for some reserves, hopefully to be released at the time of conciliation. Our letter of executability signed today should indicate also our position on pilot projects and preparatory actions.
One last comment on the deprived persons scheme. We made an additional effort to release money in its total value, but regrettably last week’s Agriculture Council did not overcome the deadlock over the legal basis for the deprived persons scheme, therefore the Commission is forced to put part of the appropriations into the reserve: that is EUR 340 million out of EUR 500 million. There is still time to act and we still have time to act to release the overall amount.
Ahead of the process of conciliation, our role is to submit the most updated forecasts on how it is developing this year. This is instructive for the next year and we are also to play as usual the role of honest broker in order to shape the compromise for 2012.
María Muñiz De Urquiza, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. − (ES) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, what can I say about Heading 4 that is not already common knowledge? It is a historically underfunded heading which we must nevertheless use to fulfil the European Union’s mounting commitments in the area of external action. We must rise to the challenge, which we have set ourselves, of making a global player of the European Union even though resources are once again – or rather, particularly this year – diminishing.
Furthermore, we have to rely on this underfunded Heading 4 to finance previous commitments which were political priorities for the European Union in the past and must be carried through, as well as new priorities, such as providing funding for the ‘Arab Spring’ this year.
Parliament and the Committee on Foreign Affairs have acted in an extremely responsible manner, using the utmost restraint to ensure we had the minimum necessary to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Thus, we have proposed that the allocations for inescapable priorities including Palestine and the Stability Instrument be reverted to those envisaged in the Commission’s draft budget, although unfortunately we have also had to make cutbacks in other areas which are equally important for Parliament.
Charles Goerens, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Development. – (FR) Mr President, the European Parliament’s Committee on Development has reiterated its priorities in its opinion on the 2012 budget.
First, Heading 4 of the EU budget is chronically underfunded. It is important to rectify this, to ensure that the Millennium Development Goals become something more than a pipe dream.
Second, the ‘Arab Spring’ is also a challenge for us in terms of the budget. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the solution: we must mobilise additional resources. The same applies to funding policies that aim to mitigate the impact of climate change on developing countries.
Third, let us be more selective in how we allocate our funds. Let us target our budget resources at combating poverty in poor countries. Rich and emerging countries already generate enough resources to reduce poverty within their own borders.
Fourth, there are many of us who believe that without new forms of funding, in particular the financial transaction tax, we may not be able to afford to meet the goals we have set ourselves in the context of the European Consensus on Development.
Peter Šťastný, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on International Trade. − Mr President, in times of economic difficulties and fiscal prudence we still have to make investments which will create the economic growth and prosperity of tomorrow. In the Committee on International Trade (INTA), where I am rapporteur, we have approved initiatives of this type, such as the coordination platform for EU businesses to participate in global growth and Euromed innovation entrepreneurs for change. These two proposals were passed in the INTA committee almost unanimously.
The first project opens the door to the involvement of many more SMEs in global growth. The second intends to incubate and spread business activities in North Africa through mentoring and partnerships with EU entrepreneurs. The members of my committee clearly saw the benefits of these projects and it is my sincere hope that the EU Council will see them too.
Olle Ludvigsson, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. – (SV) Mr President, the main message from the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs is that the new European Financial Supervisory Authorities must be given the resources they need to be able to operate effectively.
It is good that Parliament is now sending a clear signal to the effect that the supervisory authorities must be built up quickly and their budgets increased in line with the extension of their mandate. The fact that the Council wants to make cuts in the Commission’s draft budget is utterly absurd.
The work of the European Banking Authority in carrying out stress tests shows that supervision needs to be made more robust. The watering down of the stress test in June was largely due to the fact that the authority was not strong enough to withstand the banking lobby and individual national interests.
The more accurate reassessment of the test that the authority has now carried out indicates increased independence, but still does not provide an accurate picture of how bad the situation is in European banks. The aim must be for the authority to be able to act in a completely independent manner in the next test, and for that it requires adequate resources.
Pervenche Berès, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. – (FR) Mr President, we welcome the fact that the Commission’s draft budget has been restored in the areas that concern the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. The Commissioner was good enough to welcome this, and we feel this is important overall.
This is the first budget since 14 January 2011, and hence the first since the Arab democratic revolution began. We welcome and back the European Training Foundation’s initiative to secure EU budget funding to help support industrial relations and the development of the labour market, in the context of the dialogue we will be entering into with these southern Mediterranean partner countries.
Unfortunately, this is not the first budget of this economic crisis we are going through. We therefore feel that all initiatives that can be undertaken to support youth employment, especially through the pilot project we have begun, and the ‘Your first EURES job’ project for young people, are absolutely vital; and we hope that when the budget conciliation takes place, the budget for this project will be kept at the figure we voted for.
Jutta Haug, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. – (DE) Mr President, Mr Dominik, Mr Lewandowski, ladies and gentlemen, let us not be under any illusions. We are in the same position in the budget process for 2012 that we find ourselves in every year: faced by a Council that does not understand the issues. As always, the Council has cut the appropriations for the Commission, even the not very large amount for the environment and climate change, for public health and for food and feed safety. Together with the four agencies, this amounts to just under EUR 1 billion, in other words, all of 0.67% of the EU budget. Therefore, we are very pleased that the Committee on Budgets has complied with all our requests and has restored the funding from the draft budget in all cases.
At this point I would like to give my warm congratulations to the rapporteur. Ms Balzani has done an excellent job. We are also pleased that the package which has been negotiated includes seven pilot projects and three preparatory actions from the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. We have never been as successful as this in the past. All that remains now is for us all, together with the Council – and perhaps it will work – to ensure that good results for the citizens of Europe come out of the negotiations.
Reinhard Bütikofer, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. − Mr President, in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy there has been a shared conviction from all sides that the budget priorities must reflect the strategic goals of EU 2020 and we are glad that the Committee on Budgets has also supported this position. For our committee there have been three particular priorities.
First, the need for FP7 to be fully implemented in order to stimulate competitiveness and sustainability and help address the major societal challenges of our time. No money should be diverted from FP7 – I repeat, no money – and this is a shared view of the committee. We know that the fight with the Council over ITER will be hard but we should stick to this.
Number two, in the current economic situation we need to support SMEs and all programmes that have proven their value for SMEs. Number three, we should see to the priorities in the energy policy and we are grateful to the Budgets Committee that they have helped us in sticking to this priority.
Edvard Kožušník, rapporteur of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. – (CS) Mr President, we are all talking about the crisis today. Yes, it is a crisis. Member States are obliged to make fundamental cuts in national budgets and Union budgets. We have an acute lack of funds. I consider it wholly inappropriate that the Union budget has been increased by more than 2%, as the Member States proposed. The proposal we have on the table here today for a 4.9% increase makes me think that its authors inhabit a different economic reality.
Yes, I am in favour of a budget that supports employment. I am in favour of a budget that supports growth. This can be achieved, however, through a change in philosophy, not by a flat rate increase in all budget chapters, but by reviewing the case for currently funded projects and simply cutting the funding for the non-viable ones. We will then focus the resulting savings on areas such as the internal market, the functioning of which is key to the economic growth and competitiveness of the entire Union.
Bogusław Liberadzki, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Transport and Tourism. – (PL) Mr President, Mr Lewandowski, Mr Dominik, in this committee there is basically one line in the budget which is of interest: trans-European transport networks. In fact, the proposal for cuts in this line in comparison with Parliament’s draft budget was the greatest, as it was over 10%. As far as the committee is concerned, this line is a fundamental priority. Furthermore, the Member States are also saying that trans-European transport networks are among their national priorities. So I do not see the consistency in Mr Dominik’s speech when he said that levels of payments should not interfere with national priorities. In this instance it would seem that they are interfering. I would like to welcome the response of Mr Lewandowski, who wants to be a spokesperson for our affairs concerning the reduction in payments proposed by the Council.
László Surján, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. − (HU) Mr President, Minister, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the members of the Committee on Regional Development warmly welcomed the decisions made by the Committee on Budgets, and ask the House not to make any more changes of substance in the course of voting.
Our dispute is therefore not with each other but with the Council, and primarily concerns the payment appropriations for development resources. We consider it unacceptable to put the brakes on development in regions that are lagging behind. As the Commissioner also pointed out, the Commission’s draft budget includes a EUR 9 billion cut in the level of payments.
We, the Committee on Regional Development, did not enter into this fight to start a haggling process. We thought that the Council too would consider it worthwhile and necessary to accept the wisdom of the Commission in this regard. For this to happen there needs to be a readiness to compromise during the conciliation process, and readiness to compromise can only come from ministers invested with the authority to make policy decisions.
Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. – (PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, Mr Dominik, I would like to say something about the agricultural component of the budget. Now more than ever, Europe needs a strong common agricultural policy capable of ensuring consumers receive quality food at affordable prices, within a framework of environmental sustainability. We all know this to be the case. In view of all this, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to reiterate the need for an adequate agricultural budget for 2012. I am pleased with the welcome that the budget proposals from the Committee on Agriculture have received in the Committee on Budgets, and I call for them to be confirmed by this House.
I am still shocked at the decisions of the last Council of Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries, and cannot refrain from speaking out about the unspeakable blocking of food aid to the most disadvantaged people by six Member States. At a time of severe economic and social crisis, when millions of Europeans are experiencing great difficulties, such insensitivity is incomprehensible. However, I do appreciate the Commission’s efforts to find a satisfactory solution.
Britta Reimers, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Fisheries. – (DE) Mr President, Mr Dominik, Mr Lewandowski, ladies and gentlemen, in the Committee on Fisheries we have reached a viable compromise which ensures that we largely have the same level of funding as last year. It is important that we have the financial means available to us to provide long-term, forward-looking management of our fisheries. The European Union must be able to continue to fulfil its role in the fisheries sector. We want to promote dynamic growth. This also applies to the pilot projects which aim to strengthen marine research and integrated marine management.
I would like to ask you to support this line in the vote and I hope that the funding will remain available during the subsequent discussions with the Council.
Morten Løkkegaard, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education. − (DA) Mr President, as budget coordinator for the Committee on Culture and Education, I am obviously pleased to see that our priorities look as though they will, by and large, be met in all areas – in only one case requiring more money than we had expected. This fact demonstrates well that the Commission has the same views in this area as Parliament, namely that we need – even in the middle of a time of austerity – to invest in areas that can actually produce growth and meet the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. In this regard, I am, of course, thinking in particular of the funds that, as it seems now, are earmarked for the Lifelong Learning Programme, which is central to the efforts to achieve the growth targets – first and foremost, of course, through the mobility programmes, Erasmus being one of the most successful of these.
Sport has also received a small sum to get things off the ground. It is not as much as we had hoped, but it is nevertheless enough to get started. We obviously hope that the sports programme, once it actually attains the status of a programme, will be allowed to develop.
Lastly, I would like say that I hope the Commission is prepared to fulfil the conditions that the Culture Committee has set with regard to the reserve in the area of communications.
Franziska Keller, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. − Mr President, the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs is of course happy to receive a tiny bit more for the area of civil liberties, justice and home affairs – as proposed by the Commission at least – because we believe that this area is a very important one for our citizens, for their liberties, for safeguarding their rights across borders and for building a European citizenship. But of course we also want to do our share in saving money.
We believe that, before drawing up new programmes or prolonging existing ones, a thorough evaluation of the existing programmes should be carried out and we should very much follow the lessons learned. Furthermore, we believe that spending should be concentrated in areas where the EU has a clear added value. However, it does not make sense to create new agencies or give new tasks to existing agencies if we do not have a financial basis for that. An agency cannot carry out tasks for which it does not have money. We should take that into consideration when we are creating new programmes and setting up new agencies.
Silvana Koch-Mehrin, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Petitions. – (DE) Mr President, in the Committee on Petitions we are concerned with ensuring that the European Ombudsman receives adequate funding. The office of the European Ombudsman is an important European body. It provides assistance to citizens and resolves problems and errors in the institutions. It also brings the EU closer to its citizens.
In the 2012 budget there is very moderate increase of 0.47% for the European Ombudsman. For example, no new posts have been requested and no new employees will be appointed. Nevertheless, the Council wanted to make some cuts. Therefore, I would like to thank the Committee on Budgets for reversing these cuts and I hope that we can confirm the committee’s position today. This would send out a signal that the EU needs to move closer to its citizens.
Giovanni La Via, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, Minister, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would like to thank the rapporteurs Ms Balzani and Mr Fernandes for their valuable work and all my fellow Members for the spirit of cooperation that we have seen this year.
The Commission has done excellent work on the proposal for the draft budget. However, Parliament’s reading revealed a slight disagreement over the horizontal cuts made by the Council so Parliament essentially restored the commitments and payments to the draft budget levels, with a few exceptions.
I must point out that 2012 is the sixth year of the financial perspective, which is something that must be fully reflected in considerations on the level of payments, given that many programmes and actions are nearing conclusion. Parliament today intends to give a complete demonstration of its responsibility for Europe, which is intimately linked to the ongoing crisis in the continent.
We decided, following a process of sound rationale, to request the mobilisation of the Flexibility Instrument for just two headings. First of all, Heading 4 has seen a series of unexpected and unforeseeable events that require a significant financial commitment that cannot be reconciled with the meagre 2012 margin. Secondly, under our proposal, Heading 1A is to receive an extra EUR 30.7 million to revive industrial competitiveness and to fund Parliament’s policy priorities, which reflect the heart of the 2020 strategy.
We in the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) believe that the European budget should, at times of crisis such as the present, provide a way to stimulate recovery that can generate real European added value. I hope that the Council can understand our approach and will show that it is open to negotiations carried out in a spirit of cooperation that aim at drawing up a smart and realistic budget together – a budget for the citizens of Europe.
Göran Färm, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (SV) Mr President, I would like to say a big thank you to Ms Balzani, Mr Fernandes and Mr Böge, who have succeeded in obtaining broad support for their proposals at a very difficult time, and that is important.
When I meet with my constituents, I often encounter myths regarding the EU budget. Many people believe that the EU is a heavy and growing burden on taxpayers. They hardly believe me when I tell them that the EU budget corresponds to only around 2% of Europe’s public expenditure, that most of it goes back to the Member States and that the rate of increase is lower than that of the Member States’ own budgets. They also find it hard to believe that we do not have any debts and that every year we give the surplus back to the Member States. Unfortunately, they also often believe that all taxpayers would benefit from cuts in the EU budget. The truth is, of course, that it would make it harder for the most vulnerable countries to overcome the crisis. Certain Member States, with the Polish Presidency at the forefront, are defending the EU’s role in this situation against those who only care about the net result for their own national treasuries. I am grateful for this.
In the current situation, we have decided to take a cautious approach. We are making more cuts than ever before in the European Parliament’s own budget. We are asking for increases in only three priority areas: investments in research and development, jobs and lifelong learning, aid for Palestine and North Africa and payment appropriations for the Structural Funds, so that they really can be used to help to combat the economic crisis.
I am very pleased that we in the European Parliament are in agreement about defending these requirements. I am convinced that there will in reality be support for them in many Member States, too. Let us try to find a solution that enables us both to defend the EU’s role and to strengthen these economic priority areas.
Anne E. Jensen, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (DA) Mr President, I would like to start by thanking the two rapporteurs, Ms Balzani and Mr Fernandes, for their excellent cooperation on this budget. My group would have liked to have accepted lower payment appropriations, but there was no majority support for this. However, we are able to support the result that we have ended up with. There is more money for research and education and the necessary amount has been allocated to foreign policy. We are therefore happy to support the proposal.
I think that some of the savings that the Council has proposed are very strange. Mr Ludvigsson spoke of cuts for the new financial supervisory authorities. I am sorry, but we have a financial crisis out there that we need to resolve, and so it is very strange to start by cutting the budget of these institutions. What is the rationale behind that? I would say to the Council that I hope this time we can have a debate and a dialogue that concerns something other than merely the size of the payments and a simple percentage, and that we can get down to the crux of the matter and have a real debate on the needs of the EU budget. This also requires the Council to be willing to go into details and to look at what the actual needs are. I hope that we can have a constructive dialogue. My hopes are on the Polish Presidency. I think it has shown good intentions so far. It is a difficult task for the Polish Presidency, but I hope that we can find a solution so that we can have a budget fit for the future.
Lajos Bokros, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, timing is everything. We are holding our debate on the budget when the leaders of Europe are trying to resolve the eurozone crisis in Brussels. They are using the intergovernmental method and are keen on maintaining their primacy and supremacy in shaping European affairs.
Is anybody paying attention to our debate here? The draft budget fails to take into consideration the hard political realities of Europe. There are two aspects to it. First, Parliament does not seem to have learned the lessons of the trialogue from last year. Despite stern warnings, there are futile attempts again to increase payment appropriations by almost 5%. Does Parliament wish to suffer another humiliating defeat at the hands of the European Council in late December?
Second, to insist on an increase of more than 4% in commitment and almost 5% in payment appropriations is flying in the face of European public opinion in times of severe austerity in most Member States and extreme austerity in some of them. It is a blatant disregard of the hardship suffered by the taxpayer when the countries in crisis need to cut back on spending and the donor countries are being asked to dole out ever-growing transfers. Can we live in an ivory tower when the European taxpayer is being asked in Brussels to cough up hundreds of billions of euros in order to save, not only the eurozone, but the whole European project?
The ECR supports investment in the future, but prudent budgeting would require commensurate cuts in other items whenever there is a significant increase in clearly-defined priority areas. While Parliament’s draft resolution blames the Council for cuts in several hundreds of budget lines, Parliament represents the other extreme, proposing increases without significant cuts elsewhere.
The only positive sign on the horizon is the Fernandes report, which is to be commended for foreseeing long-overdue cuts in spending on translation and interpretation, freezing general expenses, travel costs, etc. The ECR Group would support all these amendments and call for further savings in due course.
Helga Trüpel, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner Lewandowski, ladies and gentlemen, as budget coordinator for the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, the crucial criterion for me is that we have to manage natural resources in a sustainable way, national budgets must be set up in such a way as to do that and financial resources must also be managed in a sustainable way. That is something that we have learnt from the debt crisis in Europe. We are all called on to work together towards this goal in the three European institutions and to improve our policies.
We all know how difficult the situation is in the Member States of this Union. We know that because we all come from the various Member States. We are not aliens in Brussels or Strasbourg who do not understand how difficult the situation is. However, those of us who are pro-Europeans are convinced that we need targeted political strategies to support the European budget and serve the common good of our economic and strategic interests and help our citizens to cope with the future. It is therefore right for the Europe 2020 strategy to be taken so seriously and for more investment to be made in the targeted areas of achieving a low-carbon economy, sustainability in connection with new products and technologies, energy saving and energy efficiency, because the success of the internal market and our global competitiveness depend on these types of new products and also on new jobs that are dependent on just such an economic policy that promotes a new competitiveness. For that reason, it is right to use the EU budget to focus on these interests, too, in order to make progress in these areas. That is not a hostile act towards the Member States; rather it is particularly smart from a strategic point of view to advocate European added value in this regard and thereby also promote the economic policy of the Member States.
We therefore need to make savings whilst at the same time investing wisely in sunrise industries. Where can we make savings? In our opinion, we need to make savings in areas where we are investing in the wrong high-risk technologies and spending money that is not genuinely being used in a future-oriented way, such as with regard to the ITER nuclear fusion reactor – an additional EUR 1.3 billion that is yet to be found. The majority of this House, the Commission and the Council are adamant about funding these high-risk technologies. Why is that? That is where we can make savings. We can also make savings in the European administrative budget. We have made that clear. We want to see savings of EUR 20 million on translations and simultaneous interpretation. I am also of the opinion that we can save money on business class flights. We do not need to fly business class on short-haul flights, where Flex Economy would suffice. I hope that you will still make a move in this direction, because this will also allow us to demonstrate that we are capable of self-restraint.
Miguel Portas, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (PT) Mr President, the first problem with this 2012 draft budget is that it was essentially decided in 2006. The major figures predate the crisis of 2008 and 2009, and predate the debt crisis: the proposal under discussion neither resolves nor reflects the crisis that is to come in 2012.
This is a meagre budget that offers far too little for Europe’s needs, and only the governments seem to be convinced otherwise. The proposal’s second problem lies in its old commitments to very powerful interests. This budget spends more on security policy than on education; this budget supports big business more than small and medium-sized enterprises; this budget channels more resources into multinational pharmaceutical companies than into university research. We appreciate the rapporteur’s efforts, but you must understand that we cannot support this draft budget.
Mr President, I shall now say a few words about Parliament’s budget. For the first time, efforts are being made to rein in spending, so I do not understand why these efforts are overlooking the incomes and expenditure of the Members themselves. This draft budget cuts EUR 21 million from interpretation and translation, with an impact on jobs and multilingualism, but it does not dare touch the funds available to us for our office expenses. A majority in this House advocates austerity policies. In some countries these policies are causing mass unemployment and cuts of 20-30% in salaries and pensions.
Against a backdrop of such massive injustice, how can we stick to the unwritten principle that our own income is untouchable? How do you want the public to see us? Worse still, how can we bear to look our fellow citizens in the eyes? How can we possibly look them in the eyes? A Parliament that continues to insist that its Members’ incomes are untouchable is awash with irresponsibility and social insensitivity. In the next three hours, our consciences will decide the vote. Mine has not been kidnapped by my wallet.
Marta Andreasen, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, in an act of contempt towards many Member States that are having to implement tough austerity measures, the European Commission came up with a 4.9% increase for the 2012 budget. This increase, given the countries’ shared predicament, naturally could not be accepted by the Council, but they still allowed for a 2% increase, which I find unacceptable.
This House has turned a deaf ear to the Council’s proposal, as it is now asking for a 5.2% increase. The justification for the increase is the need for investments to take the EU out of the crisis. Stop! Think! Ask yourselves what happened with all the taxpayers’ money we have already invested to achieve the long-promised objectives of the Lisbon Agenda. Why do we need to put more money into failed projects like GALILEO, which is costing the taxpayer EUR 22 million? Why do we need to put more money into vanity projects like the House of European History? Why can we not reduce MEPs’ allowances? But above all, when will this Parliament stop saying: let them eat cake?
Lucas Hartong (NI). - (NL) Mr President, I have a very strong feeling of déjà vu today. Once again, this Parliament wants to increase its spending and, again, there is no political will to cut spending. Parliament has even succeeded in asking for more money than the Commission for certain things, such as EUR 3 million for the Turkish Cypriots, millions more for costly agencies, EUR 20 million for pilot projects, EUR 139 million for disastrous projects on issues like climate change, wind energy and ideas, an extra EUR 27 million for developing countries such as Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Latin America. And, as the icing on the cake, an extra EUR 100 million for the Palestinian Territories.
It is Parliament’s audacity here that so deeply saddens me. Always making more and more demands and, thereby, showing a total lack of concern for the citizens, who are going through some very difficult times. Fortunately, there is one ray of hope. Today’s result should be passed back to the wise and sensible Council, where the Netherlands will be able to exercise its veto.
Salvador Garriga Polledo (PPE). – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the rapporteurs, Ms Balzani and Mr Fernandes, and also our shadow rapporteur, Mr La Via, for carrying out a quick process with a lot of consensus on very conflictive issues, despite the originally very diverse positions and interests of the political groups.
My political group’s standpoint is that this budget combines the necessary austerity with the sufficient level of funding, in terms of both commitments and payments. Our desire to avoid exceeding the ceilings for the headings has been partially fulfilled, given that we have two very specific reasons for exceeding them: the Neighbourhood Instrument and the Seventh Framework Programme. It should not be difficult to come to an agreement with the Council on this matter.
The funding of ITER is more of a problem for the future, rather than for this budgetary year. My group cannot accept a heavily modified budget for 2012 because of the Council's position on this matter.
We are waiting for conciliation on payments, but the Council should also consider the fact that the Commission will present an amending budget at the end of this year. This shows that the rate of credit uptake is higher than expected. Therefore, the Council’s wish to keep payments around 2% is incompatible with maintaining the research or cohesion policies in 2012.
With respect to Parliament’s budget, I think this is the first time a truly stringent budget has been presented, in which we believe Members too will have to make sacrifices, such as the freezing of per diems or an overall reduction in travel expenses. My congratulations, therefore, go to Mr Fernandes.
IN THE CHAIR: ALEJO VIDAL-QUADRAS Vice-President
Derek Vaughan (S&D). - Mr President, can I also thank the rapporteur and in particular welcome the approach which has led to lowering the increase to an actual figure of 0.8%? I particularly welcome the freeze on the general expenditure allowance for 2012: a cut of 5% in the travel budget, savings in translation and interpretation costs, plus all the other savings we identified in our negotiations. The S&D Group would perhaps have liked to have gone a little further, and that is why we have tabled amendments calling for a freeze in all allowances, including the daily allowance, for 2012.
We have also asked the Bureau to have a proper review of travel costs, including finding ways of reducing the number of business flights. We have also called for a comparative study of the European Parliament’s budget, comparing our budget with, perhaps, Member States’ parliaments and the Congress in the US. We have also called for a more transparent and open buildings policy and we would like to ensure that this Parliament is fully informed in the future about proposals on new building developments.
I would have liked to have gone even further than that and called for a freeze in all allowances for the rest of this particular mandate. I have no doubt that with more work, with further analysis of our spending in this Parliament, we can go further and make even more savings. We have made a good start his year. We have shown that we can make savings and, at the same time, we can protect the proper functioning of this Parliament.
Alexander Alvaro (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, good morning Commissioner, good morning President-in-Office of the Council. I believe that the rapporteur, Mr Fernandes, has for the first time in years achieved a significant breakthrough in respect of this part of Parliament’s budget, and I am pleased that the cooperation was so constructive, particularly with the Secretariat and the Bureau.
At a time when people are having to tighten their belts, we have helped to demonstrate that money can actually be used efficiently and that savings can be made, despite everything. At a time when there is a discussion going on in every Member State about how to deal with this crisis, I believe that the fact that we have set a good example here is an important signal. We have achieved savings amounting to tens of millions – nearly 74 million, in fact. Mr Vaughan has just explained what that equates to in the budget in terms of percentages.
However, I am sure that we still have the potential to make further savings. It is not absolutely necessary for us to purchase and renovate a building for EUR 30 million in order to meet here. I believe that resources can be used much more efficiently in this regard. Incidentally, I also believe that we would discover significantly more potential savings and be able to create a smarter and more efficient administrative structure if, rather than it being only the budget lines in which savings are proposed by the Secretary-General of this House that are presented to the competent Committee on Budgets, the committee were to be given an overview of the whole budget, as we could then see how the resources are used overall, enabling us to work on the structure.
Finally, I would like to say that we could save around five times as much if we held these part-sessions in Brussels and did not meet each month in Strasbourg.
James Elles (ECR). - Mr President, I would like to rise to support the line taken this morning by my group, which is looking for savings as well as spending funds in the budget of 2012. In the discussions so far I think we have been right to be able to focus on priorities for the European Union but, in the context of the big discussions today and tomorrow elsewhere on the continent about how we are going to be dealing with our debt problems, I think that in this 2012 procedure we have not yet focused sufficiently on where savings could be generated in the budget so that we can then find the monies for future programmes on competitive innovation and other things where we have a large consensus in the House.
We have presented information for the budget procedure on where we can get funding of up to EUR 2 billion, savings where lines have been insufficiently implemented. When we move into conciliation with the Council, we are going to have to focus very clearly on those lines where we can identify that we are spending money inefficiently and unwisely.
François Alfonsi (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, our group will be abstaining from this vote. Our abstention is the outcome of conflicting reactions.
On the one hand, we cannot help but deplore the Commission’s inertia, or even ‘autism’ over the energy question. Since our previous budget debate, the Fukushima nuclear disaster has happened. Germany, Italy, Switzerland and others immediately learnt fundamental lessons from it. However, at the Commission, and this budget is a reflection of this, there is little movement, if any. There has been some barely noticeable tinkering around the edges, together with this obstinate persistence in supporting ecologically and technologically dead-end projects, such as shale gas, or the very costly ITER project.
On the other hand, we want to add our weight to the vast majority who are against the unsustainable budget cuts the Council has made. By cutting EUR 3.5 billion payment appropriations at a time when the 2012 financial year is approaching, with the 2007–2013 contracts reaching their term: at a time, therefore, when there is a high level of importance attached to needs, the measure the Council is proposing is not an economy measure, but one of strangulation. Parliament should stand together in the face of this kind of anti-Europe attitude.
As we approach the negotiations, it is important to remind ourselves that the EU budget has never been in deficit, that there is no EU debt, and that through our pooling of resources and policies, this budget yields a high return in terms of value added. If we attack the European Union’s financial resources, we will not combat the economic and financial crisis: we will worsen it.
Jürgen Klute (GUE/NGL). – (DE) Mr President, for years, the size of the EU budget has been hovering at more or less the same level. In that time, the responsibilities of the EU have continually expanded and the need for finance has increased significantly. Thus, financial market supervision made it necessary to establish new institutions. However, in order for them to be able to carry out their tasks effectively, these institutions need adequate financial resources. As a result of the financial and banking crisis, the economic weaknesses of some Member States of the EU have become clear. A comprehensive economic recovery plan would be needed to strengthen the economies of these countries. Some economic experts even talk of the need for a Marshall Plan for the crisis-stricken Member States.
The EU does not need austerity programmes that impair growth; instead it needs a growth-promoting spending programme that will safeguard jobs and incomes for workers and young people in the EU. Yet what does the Council do in this situation? It curtails the Commission’s proposal, which already falls far short of what is needed. If an appropriate increase in the budget is not feasible in the current political climate, Parliament and the Commission should at least do everything they can to ward off the cuts proposed by the Council.
Claudio Morganti (EFD). - (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is at times of crisis like this that Europe must provide genuine answers and offer real added value – quite apart from a budget increase that is, perhaps, excessive. Cutting funding for small and medium-sized enterprises under the Seventh Framework Programme was therefore absolutely out of the question, which is something I am very pleased about.
Frontex is another important point. The Council was wrong when it gave Frontex new powers without providing it with adequate resources. Parliament has certainly shown greater responsibility on this point and on the whole question of immigration and border control.
The report cites Parliament’s travel expenditure among the costs to be cut. There is no use in beating about the bush: the real savings would be made by cutting out Strasbourg. The treaties can be amended and under these difficult circumstances the issue of Parliament’s location should finally be reviewed.
Angelika Werthmann (NI). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the European Parliament’s guideline in connection with the draft general budget of the EU for 2012 is, above all, to target measures at achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. The 2012 budget is, in fact, a shrinking budget. Additional costs for the accession of Croatia and 18 new MEPs provided for under the Treaty of Lisbon must be included.
The result is a total increase of 1.9% compared with the 2011 budget. It should be mentioned that this is the lowest rate of increase for 15 years. In the past, we have succeeded time and again in managing new tasks and the additional costs arising from them without any serious increases, for example the introduction of the three new financial market agencies.
I consider the most urgent tasks ahead of us to be the completion of the internal market and greater investment in education, particularly for our young people. I would also like to thank Ms Balzani, Mr Böge and Mr Fernandes.
Alain Lamassoure (PPE). – (FR) Mr President, I would like to congratulate our rapporteurs on the quality of their work, and to add a further commentary.
Barely two years ago, as some of our fellow Members seem to have forgotten, finance ministers were accusing the EU of spending too little too slowly. It is a cruel irony in that right now, the Council is trying to find a solution to the excessive indebtedness to which this attitude has led.
Parliament has been keen to participate in finding solutions since this crisis first began. We are aware, President-in-Office of the Council, of the constraints from which national budgets can no longer escape. They are measured in terms of payment appropriations.
We are willing to come to an agreement quickly, but we will be watching four particular points closely. The first is how far Parliament’s priorities, as mentioned by our rapporteurs, are taken into consideration, especially as regards spending on competitiveness and on Europe’s international action.
The second is consistency between decisions made by the Council and how these are translated into budgetary terms. Finance ministers sometimes present a skewed picture of this consistency, for example in the areas of immigration policy and resources for financial oversight.
The third point is justice to countries that most need EU aid in order to catch up on delays to which tragic historic events have condemned them. These countries must not become the indirect victims of some Member States’ poor management.
The fourth point is funding for the flagship Europe 2020 priority initiatives. The financial markets themselves are now realising that a return to growth will be the surest way of guaranteeing that debt will be paid back.
We often accuse the markets and bankers of being short-sighted. Let us not become blind now, just when they are starting to be a bit more clear-sighted.
Edit Herczog (S&D). – (HU) Mr President, for my part I would like to congratulate both Ms Balzani and Mr Bütikofer, who was the rapporteur in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. I would like to mention three brief points: first, it may be that we have no more money, but we definitely need more Europe, a stronger internal market, more solidarity, more regional support and more growth.
My second point is that the budget of the European Union is not spending but investment – investment in the future, investment in the economies of the Member States. This is the only way to bring about smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This can create new jobs in the European Union, which is what combating poverty is really about. The European Parliament will certainly insist on this in the fight between the Council and Parliament. We will not be drawn into the sort of deal that jeopardises our common policy, the goals of the 2020 strategy.
Carl Haglund (ALDE). – (SV) Mr President, I would like to start by thanking our rapporteurs, who have done an excellent job so far. However, we are far from finished with these budget negotiations and we still have some very difficult negotiations with the Council ahead of us. The fact is that the level of expenditure that we now have on the table is something that the Member States will not accept. This means that we need to find a common viewpoint.
This is also something that I have emphasised in my capacity as the person responsible for the 2012 budget on behalf of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and we would have liked to have seen a lower level of expenditure. We also proposed cuts in the budget that we, unfortunately, did not receive support for in the votes in the Committee on Budgets. That is also the reason why we will probably abstain in the vote on the resolution today.
The positive aspect is that we are in the process of shifting the main focus to what is referred to as Europe 2020, where we have higher costs for, and possibilities to invest in, research, development, innovation and so on. This is good, but at the same time we ought to realise that the economic situation will not allow the budget to increase to whatever we happen to want it to be. We therefore need to be able to prioritise, and this, unfortunately, is where Parliament’s weakness lies. We are good at finding new ways to spend money, but not nearly as good at finding ways to save it. In this regard, we had hoped that we would be able to conduct a more constructive debate on where we could spend less. We did not succeed in doing so, and this will be a challenge ahead of the negotiations with the Council.
Derk Jan Eppink (ECR). - Mr President, as we ask citizens to tighten their belts, they ask us what we are doing. The European Parliament should lead by example but does not have any record of austerity. On the contrary, its budget has been increased to over EUR 1.6 billion. Until recently cuts in the budget of the European Parliament were regarded as an anti-European act, but in current conditions it is a pro-European act.
As a member of the ECR, I have always proposed an overhaul of the budget of the European Parliament. Together with my colleague Geoffrey Van Orden, I recently launched a paper in the framework of our think tank, New Direction, to cut the budget of Parliament over the years by 25%. New Direction’s paper is called ‘Ending the Excess’ and a copy has been sent to members of the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Budgetary Control.
We have to cut excess in Parliament, like subsidies for restaurants. We have to review the language regime and limit the number of languages for translation of documents in preparatory stages and we have to scrap the House of European History, which is a prestige project out of place and will become the white elephant of the European Parliament, for which citizens will despise us.
Frank Vanhecke (NI). - (NL) Mr President, now that the whole of Europe is in the grip of a serious crisis, the budget that we are proposing is, all things considered, actually a kind of a disgrace. A disgrace, because we are not making any serious attempt to cut our spending fundamentally, for example by abolishing a number of completely useless European institutions, agencies and subsidies. I am thinking, in particular, here of the Committee of the Regions, the Economic and Social Committee. These are institutions whose concrete usefulness I am yet to be convinced of and, yet, which cost the taxpayer EUR 200 million annually. To say nothing of the EUR 9 million which is annually spent on EuroparlTV, the EUR 3 million which we are now giving away to the Turkish occupiers of Cyprus, and a lot of other pointless rubbish.
Another reason why this is a disgraceful budget is because we have not succeeded in keeping our own pay and this Parliament’s own costs down to a reasonable level. Those who are calling such criticism hypocritical had better adopt the cutback amendments in the vote. If that happens, then we will no longer have any hypocrisy and we will finally be sending out a signal to our own citizens that we, the privileged ones, are also prepared to make a serious effort.
Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE). – (RO) Mr President, we are debating the 2012 budget at the same time as the European Council in Brussels is discussing national budget problems. I find it ironic that we are approving the EU budget at the same time as budget aid schemes are being approved. I think that it is imperative for us to do this.
We are discussing the crisis, jobs and the need for investment. The EU budget preserves and creates jobs. The development of investments and the economy helps reduce the deficit. Investment amounts to 95% of the EU budget.
We are discussing the need for European networks: transport, energy and communication. The EU budget invests in this area. We say that the European Union is the strongest economy in the world and that all we need to do is complete the single market, particularly the services market, to be able to maintain this position. The EU budget contributes to this.
We have set ourselves EU 2020 strategy targets for education, employment and young people. The EU budget helps us meet them. At the same time, it is said that there are Member States which contribute more and others which contribute less, and that the budget allocation is not in the same proportion. However, we have not seen any study highlighting the real benefits of the European Union budget up to now.
I would like to know how much of every euro invested in a Member State remains in that Member State, and how much is transferred to other Member States. I would also like to know what influence this budget exerts on labour mobility. Perhaps the Commission will carry out such a study.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that one euro invested in a region of the European Union has an influence in all the other regions. The EU budget safeguards the European Union’s future and, regardless of the situation that we are going through today, our future depends on the future of the European Union.
To conclude, I believe that we must put populism to one side and vote for the budget in the form it has been proposed.
Roberto Gualtieri (S&D). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Heading 4 is structurally underfunded with respect to the EU’s commitments and strategic interests. This has forced us to make painful choices to protect our priorities and particularly resources for Palestine, which are clearly necessary, especially in the light of the decisions taken by the United States Congress.
That is what is behind the cuts to the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) budget, which are not generic, linear cuts but policy-based cuts on specific issues, which do not therefore affect other operations. First of all, Afghanistan: this is a painful cut, but at the same time we must be aware that, despite the good results of our mission, the EU is a bit-part player on this issue, subordinate to the strategies of others which, moreover, are not seeing great success.
In terms of emergency measures, the issue of special representatives is coming to the fore, so this is a logical cut to make. In terms of preparatory measures, the Council rejects Article 51(5)(c) of the Financial Regulation, which gives Parliament a limited role in these measures, in line with the Madrid agreement. Hence, this cut is inevitable. It is not Parliament that has chosen this path of austerity: the Council can hardly be taken aback by its consequences.
Estelle Grelier (S&D). – (FR) Mr President, for the second year running we are in a no-win situation, as the Commission – correct me if I am wrong, Commissioner – has produced a budget proposal that will barely be enough to implement the programmes we have undertaken, and will certainly not develop them or take on board the powers of the Treaty of Lisbon. The Council is clinging to its austerity dogma, and arbitrarily deciding on cuts to programmes that are extremely important in the light of the economic and social climate.
Our proposal seeks to mobilise the EU budget to work towards the Europe 2020 strategy goals, and places the emphasis on programmes for research, employment, competitiveness, cohesion and public investment. It is a cohesive position, and one which we owe to the strong commitment of our rapporteur, Ms Balzani. We owe her our thanks for this.
The EU budget is underfunded, due to the squeeze by Member States whose only goals are austerity, reducing public expenditure, punishing the regions – I am referring to macroeconomic conditionality – and punishing citizens, starting with the most deprived among them. I am referring to the deplorably sad fate that the Council intends to mete out to the European food aid scheme for the most deprived.
If we take an honest look at the situation, at present we have no own resources, no Eurobonds, a predominantly intergovernmental method, a budget that is derisory, as this discussion also seems to be, considering the stakes at play in the European Summit and the billions that Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy are waving about to reassure the financial markets.
Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE). - (NL) Mr President, I would like to confine myself this morning to one issue which concerns the use of the Flexibility Instrument for 2012 for two purposes: for the Neighbourhood Programme and for research and development (R&D). Both these core elements have a major added value at EU level and there is also talk of acute shortages in the implementation.
Last Sunday, I was an observer at the first free elections in Tunisia. When you are that close, you can see that the Arab Spring is calling for the European Union’s clout and visibility, for concrete support for further democratisation and construction. And R&D, the Seventh Framework Programme, is not only essential for competitiveness now, but will continue to be essential in the near future.
The use of the Flexibility Instrument gives us an opportunity today to send out an important signal about these two priorities. It is therefore on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) that I appeal to the Council to agree to it.
Eider Gardiazábal Rubial (S&D). – (ES) Mr President, we are in a crisis, yes, but that is why we need to see the European budget as a tool for supporting all countries and as a tool for securing and increasing investment in public policies.
With this budget, we are maintaining the funding levels of basic policies, such as cohesion policy or the common agricultural policy; we are creating a fund destined for specific measures to help the producers affected by the E. coli crisis; and we are also maintaining our support for the most disadvantaged through the European food aid programme. Within this budget, we are also emphasising the need to strengthen European Union investment in order to provide us with an intelligent, supportive and sustainable policy of growth. Also strengthened by our proposal are schemes such as the Lifelong Learning Programme, Erasmus, Youth in Action, and funding schemes for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Palestine is also included in the budget, for example, as well as an increase in funding for the neighbourhood policy, with special attention for the ‘Arab Spring’.
Accordingly, I would like to request effort and commitment from the Council, because I think we can come to an agreement for a more ambitious Europe.
Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska (PPE). – (PL) Mr President, as was the case last year, we face difficult negotiations over the budget for 2012. I would like to emphasise very strongly several aspects of Parliament’s position which I think are very important and which in large part are a continuation of that for which the European Parliament appealed last year.
I would like to draw attention specifically, here, to amendments which increase the funding of the Lifelong Learning Programme, the Youth in Action Programme and the whole series of programmes related to the Seventh Framework Programme on research and innovation. I would very much like the Council to take a close look at these amendments and to look favourably at the objectives which Parliament has set itself, so that the budget for next year will give particular attention to questions related to the innovativeness of the economy and to prospects and opportunities for young people, particularly in a situation in which an issue of very great importance is unemployment among young people and their permanent lack of the skills they need to be able to find a place in the labour market.
We do know, of course, that what the European budget and European policies propose in this area is not enough, but I do think that it is a very important signal showing the direction in which the European Union should move – towards support for growth and employment. I am pleased, too, by the increase in payments for cohesion policy which has been proposed by the Commission. Parliament supports increasing payments for cohesion policy. I would like the Council to support this, too, because we can already see that these payments are going to be very much needed next year.
Damien Abad (PPE). – (FR) Mr President, amid a climate of acute economic crisis, this is a balanced, responsible budget that establishes several priorities.
The European Union needs competitiveness, mutually beneficial international trade terms, and producers; but it also needs strong industrial, research and energy policies, and it needs Europe to speak with a united voice in the world.
I also believe we need a budget that, as other Members have emphasised, maintains the European food aid programme for the most deprived – this goes without saying – and which focuses on young people, who have been among the main victims of this crisis.
By increasing our support for lifelong learning by 5%, we are sending out a helpful signal, and we must do the same for mobility, voluntary work and support for vehicles of change for Europe’s young people, with the Youth on the Move programme. We must also develop it further, by introducing a fully fledged Erasmus scheme for apprentices.
Lastly, in the face of the economic crisis, we need a proper federal budget, with own resources raised by the financial transaction tax for example, as proposed by President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel.
Amid an increasingly difficult international climate, we need to stand firm, and make the budget a tool for confirming and strengthening Europe as a citizens’ Europe, a workers’ Europe and a producers’ Europe.
Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D). - (LT) Mr President, the situation in Europe today really is very complex, and reaching a consensus when presenting the 2012 budget was a major task. First of all, I would like to thank my colleague Francesca Balzani and my other two colleagues who presented this draft budget. Yes, today we are expecting a codecision which should be adopted in Brussels, but whatever decision is taken it will have to be financed and the 2012 budget may therefore be an historic budget which will perhaps enable Europe to stabilise the economic situation and possibly also guarantee growth. I believe that to do this, as many have already said, we must not reduce investment in research work and innovation. The common agricultural policy should also be reviewed so that in future all Member States are funded more fairly, so we can guarantee the creation of additional jobs. Of course, our main objective is probably more efficient use of funds. We should devote all of our attention to this.
Barbara Matera (PPE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I should like to congratulate the two rapporteurs, Ms Balzani and Mr Fernandes, and the shadow rapporteur, Mr La Via, for their excellent work on the 2012 budget. It represents a victory for Parliament considering this period of austerity, despite the difficulties in keeping the increases to a minimum. For the first time, the objectives and priorities of the 2012 budget are built around young people, small and medium-sized enterprises, research and innovation.
As rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, I can declare myself satisfied, because the funding for the Daphne programme, which supports measures to combat violence against women, has been restored to the levels proposed by the Commission. The Institute for Gender Equality has retained the level of funding set out in the draft budget and therefore I once again offer my congratulations on the work carried out.
Peter van Dalen (ECR). - (NL) Mr President, I am not going to support the proposed budget increase. The majority of this House wants to increase the liabilities by almost 4% and payments by more than 5%. This is in stark contrast to what is currently happening in all the capitals of Europe. There, people are working hard to implement cuts and to balance expenditure and income. Parliament is closing its eyes to reality and is continuing the trend of recent years: more, more, more.
However, things seem to be moving in the right direction in one aspect of the new proposals. The Committee on Budgets has adopted a proposal of mine to hold back 15% of the money allocated for travel costs. First of all, the Secretary-General of Parliament must demonstrate that more money really is needed for travel, then we will decide in the coming spring whether we are still going to make that percentage of 15% available and, if so, how. In my opinion, this will soon become the standard course of things for every budget procedure.
João Ferreira (GUE/NGL). – (PT) Mr President, once again this budget makes quite clear the extent and the real meaning of Europe’s much-vaunted solidarity. A figure that is only 1.08% of the total gross income of the Twenty-Seven and is more than EUR 8 billion lower than the one provided for in the Multiannual Financial Framework agreed in 2006, the little more than EUR 130 billion provided for in payments for 2012 renders any economic and social cohesion increasingly unfeasible, in the context of the ongoing aggression against countries targeted by International Monetary Fund and EU programmes.
Unfortunately, we are increasingly seeing a divergent Europe, and this budget proves it. To give a sense of scale, and an idea of the EU’s real nature and objectives, the overall total of this budget is near, very near, to a sum whose channelling into the recapitalisation of Europe’s banks has been accepted. Once again, this budget goes further than it should in terms of external interventionism, militarism and the repression of immigration; once again it falls far short of what was needed in terms of cohesion, employment, social issues and environmental preservation.
I would like to raise one last concern about the cuts to Parliament’s budget. There are cuts of more than EUR 20 million to the interpretation and translation service, which represents a serious and unacceptable threat to multilingualism and to the jobs of many workers who provide a function that is essential to the operation of this House.
Paul Rübig (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, I believe that the Commission has chosen its priorities well. Above all, we must pursue a future-oriented strategy in order to create new income and new jobs. Therefore, the European budget is very well placed to provide the right structures. To those Members who are in favour of savings in Parliament, I would suggest that they also set an example themselves and make these savings accordingly. I believe that it is also necessary to set clear targets here. By 2014, we want to see advance structuring also taking place in the budget that will put us in a position to be able to get to grips with the debt crisis. Perhaps the financial transaction tax could also be a means of providing the euro safety net with creditworthiness in future, so that those who avail themselves of the bonds will receive the guarantee through this creditworthiness that the bonds can also be paid back.
Alfreds Rubiks (GUE/NGL). - (LV) Mr President, having familiarised myself with the document we are debating today, I have to say it does not strike me as a budget for a time of crisis. Everything is shared out as before — a little more for one and a little less for another, but it is not clear from the budget what in the end we wish to resolve during this crisis by implementing this budget. This relates not only to the common agricultural policy but also to science, cohesion and such a sector as control. Here, in Parliament, the control bodies often report on the squandering of hundreds of billions of euros. Yet at the same time, the budget provides for a cut in funding for the control bodies. I cannot explain this to my electorate in Latvia.
Frédéric Daerden (S&D). – (FR) Mr President, I would like to congratulate all our fellow Members, but especially our rapporteur, Francesca Balzani, for her substantial, committed report. Whilst barely exceeding the overall figures of the Commission’s draft budget, it allows for support to much-needed programmes, for which EU expenditure provides clear value added, in a spirit that is directly opposite to the Council’s blind cuts. I am referring in particular to the Structural Funds, especially the European Social Fund, and to research and lifelong learning. These European policies are vital tools for implementing the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy.
During this time of economic crisis, we certainly do need to prove to citizens that everyone is doing their bit, but not by cutting budgets that are vital to their future. The EU institutions are sending out this message by reducing their own running costs, and MEPs are doing so by freezing their allowances.
Lastly, the negotiation with the Council will be difficult, and I look forward to the day when our budget will essentially be funded by own resources. If this does not happen, some Heads of State or finance ministers will always find spending on Europe too high, crisis or no crisis.
Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE). - (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased that the Committee on Budgets has followed the advice of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and decided to increase the budget in comparison to the framework presented to us by the Commission for Heading 2, ‘Agriculture and Environment’.
Currently, the budget loss of the common agricultural policy (CAP) is 12.6% in real terms. This cut makes it unrealistic to reach such ambitious objectives as those set out in the legislative package on the new, post-2013 CAP, as presented to us a few days ago by Mr Cioloş.
The increase of EUR 200 million that we in the Committee on Budgets asked for is for funds that would have been limited to fruit and vegetable producers to tackle future crises, like last year’s killer bacteria, which we all remember so well. I hope the vote this morning will prove us right.
I would like to quickly mention another two headings where I am at pains to stress that an increase in EU funding is needed as never before. I am talking about food aid for the most deprived – a matter of priority for my country – an area in which debate over a new legal basis has reached another impasse in the Council. I am also referring to the amendment that we requested to increase expenditure on the management of migratory flows, which affect – and benefit – Italy more than most countries, given its position on the edge of Europe.
Janusz Lewandowski, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, listening to the exchange of views, it is clear to me that positions remain different, therefore we have to reconcile the position and we will proceed with the November conciliation. I have the same impression as Mr Hartong – that of déjà vu – because we are still struggling, as rightly indicated by Mr Färm, with the same prejudices and the same stereotypes that are simply not true.
According to one of them, ‘everybody is cutting and you are growing’. This is not true. On several occasions I have presented statistics showing that the national budgets of the 27 – with very few exceptions – are growing between 2009 and 2012. They are growing, despite efforts to save and reshuffle, but nominally they are growing. The European budget is the same combination of restraint and respect for legal obligations. We still have phasing-in in agriculture. This year we have unpaid research contracts. We should be serious about our pledges to the Arab world, which involves additional expenditure, and we should respect the logic of a budget which is very well known. But at the end of a financial perspective the payments in cohesion are moving, and we are still EUR 18.8 billion less – as set out in the draft – than the forecasts coming from the same Member States to Brussels.
So this is the first stereotype, and I will talk briefly about the second, because it has been already responded to by many speakers. It is intellectually dishonest to see a European budget which is equivalent to 2% of public expenditure as one of the root causes of a fiscal and financial crisis in Europe. If we now try to increase cofinancing for the countries which are in real trouble (i.e. the six countries, including Greece) and reduce the finances on their side, this means that structural funds (meaning investment) with a multiplier effect could be conducive to growth and jobs and should be the solution to the problem, and not the problem itself. The roots of the crisis are elsewhere.
Jacek Dominik, President-in-Office of the Council. – (PL) Mr President, I have listened with great interest to the debate which has just taken place on Parliament’s priorities and the approach to negotiating the EU budget for 2012. I would like to say sincerely that much of what has been said has encouraged me. I have the impression that we are all beginning to understand the need to depart from the traditional way of approving the budget, which – I remember it this way, at least – has been more or less the same for over a decade: the Council presented its draft, Parliament increased all the budget lines to more or less the same extent and we came together somewhere in between. We were all happy with this.
Times have changed. We have a crisis, and no one in the Chamber can deny it. We have to look at the EU budget in a different way. The EU budget – as Mr Lewandowski has also pointed out – must grow and is growing. It is not a budget which is getting smaller, and we now have to agree on a scale of growth which is acceptable to all of us. We cannot continue to proceed according to the same formula. We are in a crisis and we have to choose our priorities. We have to specify what in fact the Union most needs at the moment and where we have to allocate funds, and we have to do exactly the same work as is being done by all the Member States. They have their budgets, they have limited resources and they have to choose what in fact needs to be funded in this situation, and they have to determine the level of payments necessary to meet those expenditures.
We have to remember that the times are uncertain. We do not know what will happen in a few months’ time. Therefore, I am greatly worried by the move in the European Parliament towards using all the margins already – you are even using the flexibility mechanisms. If something unexpected happens next year, we will not have any resources from which to draw additional funds for this purpose. In my opinion, the practice – which unfortunately has become a permanent one during this financial perspective – is that almost every year we renegotiate the Multiannual Financial Framework, and this is not a good thing. This was not the purpose of the exercise we carried out many years ago. At the time, we agreed maximum levels of expenditure and we all treated this very seriously. Resources were shared out, taking a variety of criteria into account. We cannot negotiate everything every year and enter into negotiations on the financial perspective every time. As a matter of fact, in this situation we do not have to sit down to these negotiations now, because in any case they do not have any great significance.
We have to think about how to secure the Union and the Union budget for the future, particularly in uncertain times. We also have to rebuild the credibility of the European institutions. We must not allow discussions between the two institutions to be carried on which are long and completely incomprehensible to those outside – we will all be explaining to those outside that we are acting in the interests of the citizens, but in fact no one knows what the problem involves. At the moment the Union has to regain credibility. The EU institutions have to demonstrate that they are able to reach agreement by the prescribed deadline and produce solutions which are good for everyone.
We must not forget about one very important thing – about the fact that the present crisis and the discussion which will take place today in the European Council will concern the excessive debt in the European Union. This means that the European Union has spent too much in previous years. The Member States have spent too much money. This in turn shows something else: pouring money in as a remedy to every problem that arises is not a good solution. Sometimes it is necessary to sit down and consider if the money we are putting in really is helping to solve a specific problem. This is in fact the moment we face now. We all have to sit down and think, knowing what our priorities are. The Council is not questioning the European Union’s priorities. It is only asking that we sit down and talk reasonably together about what we can in fact afford with the limited funds we have available.
Finally, I would like to mention one more important thing. We often say we want to help particular Member States, to give them additional funds to stimulate their economies. Let us remember that these funds come from their budgets. They first have to find these additional funds, which later come back to them, and this is sometimes very difficult. I know from the budget of the country from which I come that every extra PLN 1 billion allocated to the EU budget is a decision about a potential reduction of expenditure on other purposes or a reduction of expenditure on cofinancing. We now therefore have to find a balance between what we will leave in the national budgets for cofinancing, and what we will transfer to the EU budget to help those countries.
Francesca Balzani, rapporteur. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank all my fellow Members, as well as Mr Lewandowski and Mr Dominik, for this very interesting debate, which has seen a very important issue come to the fore. There is real unity in Parliament on this budget reading and I think this is due to something that has perhaps rarely been seen: Parliament has not limited itself to asking, but has also proposed painful cuts. As a number of my fellow Members have pointed out: on Heading 4 alone – one of the most difficult – Parliament has taken on the responsibility of making almost EUR 90 million of cuts.
The motion has therefore been drawn up through effort and hard work, and – I would stress –not to fund Parliament’s priorities but to fund the Union’s priorities, because the Europe 2020 strategy is not a priority for Parliament but rather a priority for the Union. Today we are here to fund it, asking to invoke the Flexibility Instrument for EUR 240 million. We are talking about a total budget of EUR 150 billion, within the financial perspective of 2006, set up before the 2008 crisis, before the Europe 2020 strategy and even before the Treaty of Lisbon came into force.
Here, today, we are asking to invoke the Flexibility Instrument for EUR 240 million, to start to fund the EU’s priorities, which we have put on the table as a way to fight the crisis. I therefore hope that our shared vision of the priorities that you have mentioned on a number of occasions, Mr Dominik, can reach its zenith in the conciliation procedure. It is difficult to talk about priorities if you do not want to take that extremely important step of turning written priorities into priorities that are realised, true, real and tangible.
The year 2020 is almost upon us: we cannot wait for a new Financial Framework to start funding it and, as many fellow Members have said, it is not only citizens that are waiting to see what we do but also the markets. Therefore, I really hope that in the conciliation procedure we, as a budgetary authority, can find the unity that Parliament has found and I hope we can do so quickly.
José Manuel Fernandes, rapporteur. – (PT) Mr President, I would also like to thank the Commissioner and Mr Dominik, and in particular all the Members and shadow rapporteurs who made this budget possible. I would also like to say something about Parliament’s budget, and a word about the Bureau of the European Parliament, as we have done a difficult yet fruitful job which, with the openness of the Bureau and its collaboration, enabled us to cut more than EUR 74 million from Parliament’s budget, as I have already mentioned.
I would like to make some clarifications in relation to the savings on interpretation and translation spending. We will have a slightly squeezed principle of multilingualism. This principle is sacred to us, and the reduction in interpretation and translation expenditure is part of structural cuts which mean, for example, that committee meetings that were concentrated into Tuesday and Wednesday are to take place from Monday to Thursday. We have defended the principle of multilingualism from the very beginning, and it will never be called into question.
In terms of travel, we have proposed a 5% cut for all kinds of travel, and in order for there to be a proposal by the Bureau in good time, by 31 March, we have requested that 15% of the travel appropriation be placed in reserve.
General expenditure is a competence of the Bureau of the European Parliament, so in the conciliation meetings we asked the Bureau – and this forms part of the overall agreement – to freeze such expenditure, and that is what is happening. We have complied with the rules and competences of all parties in making savings. However, these savings do not put at risk the objective that we have set ourselves, namely excellence in lawmaking. Parliament and its institutions do have an austerity budget, but at the same time it is a budget sufficient for us to comply with the European project.
Reimer Böge, rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, I would like to start by expressing my hope that, if we follow the sound approach and the willingness of the Polish Presidency, we will be able to resolve the outstanding issues with regard to the 2012 budget in an intensive dialogue with Parliament in November. I would like to add that the spirit of the budget conference last Thursday and Friday in Brussels, which was attended by the national parliaments, the Council, the European Parliament and others, was in fact characterised by a willingness to listen to one another, to meet each other half way and to find a credible, coherent common approach.
However, I have to be quite honest, Mr Dominik, you have just undermined this positive impression somewhat with your appeal. As Parliament and as directly elected Members, we do not need an appeal from the Council for unity and for us to take responsibility. We meet our responsibility better than the Council, and I will not be told the ground rules by the Council when, for example, on the basis of Article 120 and disregarding Parliament’s budgetary rights, the Council mobilises EUR 60 billion in one long night, exceeding the ceiling of the financial framework and the ceiling of our own resources. No laws may be enacted that exceed either one of these two ceilings. When it comes to such appeals, take a look at yourselves first.
Incidentally, it is also the case that the instruments on which we are to negotiate, such as the Flexibility Instrument or even, if necessary, the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework, are part of the Interinstitutional Agreement and thus part of the Multiannual Financial Framework.
I therefore expect us to discuss the size of the commitments and payments in a calm and sensible manner, and I will say it again: do not compare applies with pears. Firstly, we do not create debt in the European budget. Secondly, I will repeat something that I have said before: the European budget has increased by 37% in the last 10 years, whereas the national budgets have on average increased by 62%. Therefore, let us finally start to dispel the myths and not use the European budget as a weapon for negative national attacks against European integration and budgetary policy. If we succeed in doing that, we will also find a solution.
Morten Løkkegaard, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education. − Mr President, I am sorry that I have to address you again, and this time in English, since I now realise what I said to you a few minutes ago about the position of the Committee on Culture and Education on this matter has been translated completely wrongly.
Some of you must have raised an eyebrow when you heard me complaining about the figures. What I said in Danish was that I am very satisfied by what we have achieved. I must admit that it is extremely worrying to experience things like this, mistranslations of what you said in your own language. So that is just for the record.
President. − Your complaint has been noted and the appropriate measures will be taken. However, you have clarified it and that is how it will be recorded in the minutes.
The debate is closed.
The vote on Francesca Balzani and José Manuel Fernandes’ report will take place today at 12.00.
The vote on Reimer Böge’s report will take place during the next part-session.
Written statements (Rule 149)
John Attard-Montalto (S&D), in writing. – It is with regret that I am going to abstain on this report. Proposals made are only relevant if combined with other meaningful cost-cutting decisions. Two examples: 1. We are proposing to have a report on the change of class in which MEPs travel. 2. We are proposing to freeze all allowances of MEPs. These may impress at a political level but in reality are not that effective unless taken with major cost-cutting measures. During a five-year legislature, over EUR 1 billion is wasted due to having two duplicate European Parliament locations, Brussels and Strasbourg. Why is the report silent on having just one location? I sense an attitude of political hypocrisy! By voting in favour of cuts which are less effective, we are conveniently bypassing the real and meaningful cost-cutting measures. Moreover, many MEPs in private do not agree with certain proposals but vote otherwise to avoid a political backlash. I may be many things but at least I am not a hypocrite.
Cătălin Sorin Ivan (S&D), in writing. – (RO) I would first of all like to congratulate Ms Balzani for her efforts during the negotiations, and I regard the outcome as unexpectedly good. I know that many colleagues may find it difficult to explain why we are proposing a budget increase at EU level during the current crisis. However, the answer is simple: precisely to offset the budget cuts in Member States and assist the European economy’s recovery.
The proposed budget increases are not limited, they target the EU’s key policies and are directly aimed at ordinary citizens. In fact, if we analyse the administrative expenses of the EU institutions, not only the Commission and Council, but Parliament as well, we can see that they actually amount to budget reductions in real terms, as they are far below the rate of inflation.
I hope that the next phase, conciliation, will be just as productive and that the Council understands that what the European Parliament is proposing is primarily for the benefit of EU citizens.
Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (PT) The presentation of this budget at a time of economic and social crisis is unacceptable, as it is lower than those of previous years in both real and percentage terms. It is a budget that once again makes quite clear the extent and the real meaning of Europe’s much-vaunted solidarity. A figure that is only 1.08% of the total gross income of the Twenty-Seven and is more than EUR 8 billion lower than the one provided for in the Multiannual Financial Framework agreed in 2006. Unfortunately, the proposals we tabled in several committees were rejected. These were aimed at increasing funding for social and environmental-protection areas, and changing the content and distribution of the funds, including cuts in the areas of the military and repression of immigration. With only about EUR 130 billion in planned payments for 2012, this makes any economic and social cohesion unfeasible, and this is all the more severe in view of the aggression currently underway against countries targeted by International Monetary Fund and EU programmes. With regard to Parliament’s budget, we regret that there has been a cut of EUR 21 million to interpretation and translation services, representing a serious and unacceptable threat to the principle of multilingualism and to the jobs of many workers, whose activities are vital to the functioning of Parliament and the protection of multilingualism.
Louis Grech (S&D), in writing. – Given the impact of austerity and the difficult economic environment on European citizens, it is appropriate that the European institutions, including Parliament, should carefully re-examine their spending. We need to ensure that we achieve real value for money and that EU spending is managed in a transparent and accountable manner. With regard to the broader EU budget, it is clear that we must manage spending effectively in order to achieve priorities, while also safeguarding adequate funding for essential services.
Vladimír Maňka (S&D), in writing. - (SK) The EU budget must be a balancing instrument with a leverage effect in respect of Member State recovery policies. It must initiate and support national investments in boosting growth and employment in fulfilling the common approved objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy.
The Council has proposed a low level of payments. This will lead to a greater difference between payment and commitment appropriations. This automatically increases the outstanding commitments at the end of the year, leading to further costs due to the interest charged on late payment. It is, to the contrary, necessary to increase structural and cohesion fund payments in the regions most affected by the financial and economic crisis.
Algirdas Saudargas (PPE), in writing. – (LT) Today’s debates on the 2012 budget are very reminiscent of last year’s discussions. The arguments of both the Council and Parliament are the same. The economic crisis continues so the Council’s goal of cutting all costs as much as possible is understandable. I believe that this really has been taken into account in Parliament’s position. The budget is only increasing by 1.9%, which is less than inflation, and there has also been agreement on some reductions in the size of the budget. I agree that it is necessary to guarantee strict discipline in budgetary execution, but we also should not forget financial commitments that have been made, the non-implementation of which will have consequences in the long term. Once again I would like to stress what I have often said, that in order to overcome the crisis we must invest in the future. It is necessary to provide adequate funding for priority programmes that stimulate economic growth and job creation. We must strive to effectively implement the goals we set ourselves in the Europe 2020 strategy. The cuts proposed by the Council to the Seventh Framework Programme for Research for small and medium-sized enterprises, or to programmes promoting the competitiveness of companies, are therefore unjustifiable. I believe that, in its position, Parliament has maintained a responsible approach to the 2012 budget, and I am convinced that efficient and balanced use of EU funds will help to revive the European economy more rapidly and will establish additional incentives for the creation of new jobs, thus producing conditions for social and economic well-being.
Monika Smolková (S&D), in writing. - (SK) Europe is facing a major crisis. The 23 million unemployed, young people, entrepreneurs, people living in poor regions, are all waiting for the adoption of the EU’s 2012 budget. The Commission, the European Parliament and the Council all agree that we want a better Europe, that we want to invest in innovation, research, lifelong learning and new job creation, but our ideas diverge when it comes to approving budget items. The budget must be transparent, but it must also be ambitious. We must not skimp on investments aimed at eliminating regional differences. I am personally in favour of savings and the freezing of non-productive overhead costs, but if we want to fulfil the aims of the 2020 strategy and other programmes, such as the agenda for new skills and jobs which we are debating and approving in this plenary, the Council must also understand that the budget submitted by the Commission and approved by Parliament is a budget for the development of the whole of Europe and its people.
Georgios Stavrakakis (S&D) , in writing. – (EL) Parliament’s position on the 2012 draft budget as modified by the Council proves that the European Parliament supports an ambitious but realistic budget for the EU. The budget proposed by the European Parliament supports investment in sectors that will strengthen and contribute towards economic growth and attainment of the EU 2020 strategy objectives through political cohesion and programmes on research, innovation, employment, the mobility of young people, energy efficiency, security of food production and food quality. It also covers emergencies that may arise inside and outside the EU via civil protection. At the same time, it takes account of the political priorities underwritten by the Union at international level, such as support for Palestine and development aid for Asia and Latin America. At times such as now, with citizens consistently facing massive problems due to the crisis, we need to join forces and use every means available at national and European level. The EU budget, with its emphasis on investment, is part of the answer to the crisis; this is a budget that will bring multiple gains to the Member States.