President. – The next item is the report by Giovanni La Via, on behalf of the Committee on Budgets, on the mandate for the trialogue on the 2013 draft budget (2012/2016 (BUD)) (A7-0215/2012).
Giovanni La Via, rapporteur. – (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the vote on the mandate for the trialogue comes today at a time of crucial importance for Europe, but, first and foremost, for the Europe of tomorrow. The European Council on 28 and 29 June decided to adopt a series of measures to ensure that Europe is financially stable and competitive. This can only delight me, given that Heads of Government have essentially indicated, as a way out of the crisis, in order to build a stronger Europe, what we have been stressing since the beginning of this process: support for growth, for competitiveness and for employment, first and foremost for young people, as well as backing for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
These are the priorities that we have set ourselves as a Parliament, aware of the pressing need to revive our economy, a process which must necessarily involve competitive growth in the European system, accompanied by measures to ensure considerable support to help young people integrate into the world of work. Then there is the need for a sufficient level of payments to cover the costs of implementing European programmes and projects, especially under Headings 1a, 1b and 2.
As we know, this is one of the central issues of the negotiations, perhaps the most difficult one of all, given the different directions in which Member States have been heading up to now. However, I want to recall one point, a passage from the Council’s conclusions, which we wish to include in our report for tomorrow’s vote, via an oral amendment in which the Council states that the EU will continue to do everything required to bring Europe back on the road to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. It seems clear that such a manifestation of political will has to be followed up by active commitment on the part of all Member States to do whatever is needed to achieve such goals, restoring public confidence and giving fresh impetus to growth. Let me also note that the payment appropriations proposed by the Commission in its draft budget are based on estimates carried out on Member States and revised downwards by the Commission, and which Member States must then, of course, meet.
With regard to outstanding commitments or reste-à-liquider (RALs), and to the interinstitutional meeting on payments on 30 May, I would like to add that I consider it essential for the proper conduct of this year’s process, and for a result that is truly focused on the needs of European citizens, that constant monitoring of expenditure be put in place, capable of accounting for needs and identifying future trends. For this reason, I believe it is essential to ensure close interinstitutional cooperation, which has, unfortunately, been lacking.
We must also avoid what happened during last year’s process, so as to adequately cater for the 2012 payment needs through an amending budget. Considering that 2013 is the last year of the financial perspectives and that we expect a physiological increase in payment levels, it will be even more important to avoid the dangers of deferring 2012 payments to 2013.
At the centre of the debate, however, as well as payments, there is a need for a sufficient level of funding and commitments, because we believe that in a time of crisis, as the Council too has stated, we need more Europe, not less Europe, and for this reason, in terms of commitments, we need to strengthen our political priorities and promote the necessary investments for growth and the creation of new jobs in order to help get us out of the crisis.
One last matter that is certainly important is the financing of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). We have already taken note of the Commission’s proposal to use some of the resources saved through cuts within the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), but I would like to reiterate the point that Parliament intends, in any case, as agreed in the Joint Declaration, to make full use of all means available within the financial regulation and the interinstitutional agreement.
I would like to conclude by thanking my colleagues and especially the shadow editors for their work and, since the Council is not present, allow me to extend to Commissioner Lewandowski alone an invitation to close interinstitutional cooperation throughout the process, which I hope will be a success and provide adequate financial allocation in the interests of European citizens and within a timescale envisaged under the Treaty.
Janusz Lewandowski, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, there are two parallel procedures as usual on the basis of our proposal for the 2013 budget and this is being done in the very specific climate of today’s Europe. These are the fiscal consolidations seen as condicio sine qua non of sustainable development in Europe and, on the other hand, even at a time of crisis, the need for investment to create conditions for future growth and jobs. This was clearly stated in the conclusions of the recent European summit.
I think that the answer as presented by the Commission in the 2013 draft budget is the correct one and I think the mandate of Parliament, as expressed by the rapporteur, Mr La Via, is going in the same direction. We need restraint – that is clear – in administration; there are performance savings in the other areas, very restrained growth of commitment, 2% only at the end of the financial perspective but, on the other hand, we need a sufficient level of payments to pay out what is legally binding – what is financially and legally binding for 2013 – and this is the end of the financial perspective that cannot come as a surprise to anybody. At the end of the financial perspective the programmes are gaining maturity and the payments are accelerating, so the bigger need for payment.
There is also the specificity of the 2013 budget; the n+2 rule and the n+3 rule means that we should pay at the latest in 2013 for the commitments from 2010 and 2011. Meeting of the payment obligations is not my duty. This is a collective duty of the European Union. I underlined the areas with the biggest growth potential – research, development and cohesion.
Deferring payments is not an option because it either results in a liquidity problem in the Member States or a shortage of investment possibilities and increasing appeals for the future. That was clearly reflected in the discussion over the payment methodology agreed by the Chair of the Committee on Budgetary Control. Perhaps that is a modest forecast for the future on the payment levels at the end of May.
I think we see a lot of understanding of the logic of the multiannual financial perspective for the annual budgets at the end of the annual perspective in the mandate as expressed by Mr La Via. What is coming on the other side, in the Council, is a matter of concern. There is a propensity to cut, even though knowledge is widespread as to what the real needs are for 2013, as we are not basing our forecasts and our draft budget on our own assumptions. This comes from the Member States – we are cutting. We are less optimistic than the Member States themselves in shaping the level of payments for 2013.
Nevertheless, I believe that we are able to find interinstitutional cooperation. I have to thank the rapporteur for already making the indicative list of pilot projects and preparatory actions available and making implementation in 2013 easier. Once more, I am confident that even under the specific extreme conditions of our time, we can find a proper way of dealing with the budget for the next year.
Anneli Jäätteenmäki, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. – (FI) Madam President, the countries of the EU are making savings, and that is what the EU also has to do. Despite this, the Commission is proposing an increase of almost 7% in the EU budget.
In my country, Finland, an increase in the EU budget of this sort would either mean a cut in the national budget of EUR 70-100 million or more debt. That also happens to be precisely the same sum that the Finnish Government decided to cut from health care.
Today, however, I am speaking on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The European External Action Service is proposing an increase of 5.7%; the main reason for this is the fact that the security situation in Afghanistan and Iraq has become so much worse, and security costs money. At the same time, though, those involved in the EU’s external relations say that the situation in those areas has stabilised. We need to be consistent in what we say: the situation has either improved or it has not.
My message is that we have to make savings. Of course, we have to ensure that EU officials are safe, but the money has to be found elsewhere. The EU cannot keep proposing that more money should be spent on this and that. The time has come to make savings, especially if we are lecturing the Member States about saving money.
Gay Mitchell, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Development. – Madam President, I would like to thank my colleague, Giovanni La Via, for his extensive work on this. In the time that is available to me, can I say that I understand that some Member States may wish to reduce their contributions to development aid in these very difficult times, but the 0.7% is pegged to GNI. As GNI goes down, it is understandable that the percentage should go down, but surely it should not be double jeopardy for the people in the poorest parts of the world.
Let me remind this House that 23 000 children continue to die each and every day. It used to be 36 000 children per day. Look at the progress we have made. We can make more progress. So let us keep it pegged to GNI. There should not be a double jeopardy. Within the next generation, 92% of the two billion people born will be born into the developing world. There will be massive migration from south to north if we do not meet our commitments.
So I make a special plea. It is fine if we have to reduce the amounts, but the GNI should not be reduced as well. Congratulations to Britain for striving to move ahead, and to Denmark which is already at one percent. They show that it can be done, even at a time of retrenchment.
Peter Šťastný, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on International Trade. – Madam President, as rapporteur for budgetary issues in the Committee on International Trade, I strongly support activity that stimulates economic growth, improves bilateral relations and contributes to global stability and solidarity. For that reason, I call for the maintenance of funding for Aid for Trade, ICI/ICA Plus and MFA. I also call for improved funding to finance activity that directly contributes to higher growth and employment, such as the internationalisation of EU business through improved SME access to high-growth countries, assistance to trading partners in the southern and eastern neighbourhoods, as well as resources for the existing high-level dialogues with USA, Russia, China and emerging countries.
All these activities, if well executed, will prove very beneficial to all EU citizens. I want to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr La Via.
Philippe Boulland, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. – (FR) Madam President, I would like to thank Mr La Via for his report, but I think that employment should be one of Europe’s priorities.
I think that Europe must now make all of the necessary efforts to develop real social governance and that can be achieved through measures which favour social convergence and social cohesion.
The 2013 budget must support flagship initiatives, including the initiative in favour of innovation but, although the 2013 budget is the last budget in the current multiannual framework, it should not be limited to paying for programmes that are in the final stages of implementation. It should enable us to create an environment in which we can help young people who are looking for work and promote small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are the main job creators in Europe.
We must not wait until 2014 to continue combating unemployment and youth unemployment in particular. The European Social Fund (ESF), a key instrument for social policy, must be reassessed and reoriented. We must support the development of appropriate skills for sectors affected by labour shortages and we must therefore strengthen programmes such as PROGRESS, EURES and the Progress Microfinance Facility. Finally, innovative measures and measures in favour of social progress undertaken by companies, whether they are very small, medium or large, must absolutely receive financial support from the European Union.
Reinhard Bütikofer, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. – (DE) Madam President, as a Member of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance on the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, I disagree with many of my fellow Members concerning the proposed financing for the ITER programme. As the rapporteur on this committee, I can tell you that we were very much in agreement concerning the principle that the budget should reflect the priority objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. From the perspective of our committee, this means three things in particular: focusing on energy policy and, most importantly, the SET-Plan, prioritising research and innovation and providing support for small and medium-sized businesses.
Georgios Stavrakakis, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. – (EL) Madam President, once again this year, the debate on the EU budget is being held against the background of an economic and social crisis that is testing the budgets of all the Member States prepared on the basis of more rational public spending.
As regards cohesion policy, we all know that it is the main and most appropriate investment instrument in terms of delivering growth and job creation in the European Union. We had a large number of delayed payments at the end of 2011 that should have been addressed by allocating adequate payment appropriations in 2012. Shortfalls in payments are likely to worsen in 2013, when the application of cohesion policy programmes is expected to accelerate.
The European Parliament, Commission and Council should therefore immediately analyse the figures and requirements, in order to ensure that the implementation of programmes for 2013 is not jeopardised. The European Parliament should oppose any potential reduction in the level of payment appropriations in comparison with such requirements.
Esther de Lange, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. – (NL) Madam President, with an increase of 1.6%, the agricultural budget will actually rise very modestly next year with respect to the 7% overall increase proposed by the Commission. The increase in the agricultural budget is, therefore, largely due to the phasing in of income support in new Member States. However, in times of economic crisis, I believe that we should look critically at spending here, too, since many Member States need to tighten their belts.
The Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development will also try to do that. What then are our priorities for the 2013 budgetary procedure in terms of content? Price volatility, Commissioner, is a growing problem and one that will not go away. We therefore propose setting up a pilot project that will help farmers to deal with these increasingly volatile markets.
We are also unhappy that the Commission is so poorly implementing the pilot projects that were previously set up, for example, the prices and margins observatory, which is important for farmers who often get a bad price from the market. The Commission has committed itself to doing one or two things in that area but we have seen very little in terms of results.
My last point, Madam President: I would like to call on the Commission to provide a sufficient margin for emergencies. You know that agricultural markets can react very quickly and that an emergency situation can arise very quickly, as was the case last year with EHEC in the fruit and vegetable sector. As a result, you need to ensure that we, as Parliament, as the Committee, are able to respond in a timely fashion.
Salvatore Iacolino, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. – (IT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, there is no doubt that at such a complicated time of spending rationalisation, restraints and restructuring of expenditure, defining a reasonable balanced budget, as our rapporteur Mr La Via has done, is a clear sign of how we can do well even in a context of great difficulty.
That said, as the LIBE Committee, we take note of the information that, once received from the Committee on Budgets (BUDG), was then tangibly transposed into positive assessments. I am referring to Frontex, as well as to the question of the Refugee Fund. However, when it comes to the safety of citizens, we believe that in 2013, the bridge year for the next financial perspective, something more tangible needs to be done.
I refer, in particular, to that list of political priorities which, Madam President, leaves no reasonable doubt as to the efficacy of the fight against organised crime. In this area, more can probably be done, and we are confident that the same indication can later be drawn up by the Committee on Budgets.
Enrique Guerrero Salom, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs. – (ES) Madam President, Commissioner, as rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, I would like to express the committee’s position in favour of a consistent European Union budget. The Union budget is a catalyst for investment and periods of crisis are the very times when the EU needs a budgetary voice, in order to create employment and promote growth in our countries.
2013 is a pre-election year, so the Committee on Constitutional Affairs believes that there should be specific funding for informing the public about what is at stake in the European elections, and also for informing them of their rights to take part in the political life of the Union. For this same reason, there should be a consistent budget for the Communicating Europe in Partnership programme.
Finally, I would like to point out that the European citizens initiative came into force in April. Some initiatives have already been put before the Commission. Hearings in Parliament will probably be needed, and the budgetary resources should be provided in order to organise them.
Alain Lamassoure, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, with regard to the Community budget, it is now the Council’s credibility which is at stake. Last Friday, the Council unanimously adopted a growth pact. It has decided to allocate an additional EUR 55 billion of Structural Fund money over two years to finance future investments. It has not specified where this additional budget will be allocated.
This is an intelligent, pragmatic and reasonable decision. It respects the expenditure ceilings that were set five years ago. It is based on the considerable efforts made by the Commission – to which I would like to pay tribute – and by national governments to identify economically sound projects. However, this will not mean anything unless the announced funds can actually be mobilised, that is, committed and paid into the budget for the current year and into the 2013 budget.
The question is: from next week, are the Permanent Representatives going to bury behind closed doors the solemn decision taken by the Heads of State or Government some days ago?
If the Union is suffering today, if economic actors have lost faith, if the financial markets are sceptical, if the citizens have doubts, it is because, all too often, governments play on the diverse range of bodies which represent the Union in order to take contradictory decisions. No one understands what has really been decided any more.
However, when the house is on fire, this little game is no longer possible. It is now the responsibility of the Cypriot Presidency – and I am sorry that it is not here for this debate – to faithfully apply the decisions taken and to thereby stop the Council from looking powerless or hypocritical.
Eider Gardiazábal Rubial, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (ES) Madam President, Commissioner, we are obviously all referring to the Council meeting last week during which it was decided to mobilise EUR 120 billion. This is not a minor issue, especially because the Council had so far placed the emphasis solely on budgetary austerity.
Here in March, during a similar debate, I said that they were following the wrong policies and needed to change course. Fortunately, it seems that the Council is beginning to change course, and we are not only talking about budgetary discipline, which is needed, but also about promoting sustainable growth. Therefore, mobilising EUR 120 billion is significant, but we cannot forget that we already have the tools to mobilise and invest in the European economy, in the form of the Union budget.
We are talking about a budget that makes EUR 151 billion available to the European Union, which is more than was approved last week. Now the finance ministers just need to follow the course set by the last Council meeting, put it into practice and apply it to the European Union budget. It needs to be applied to this budget and to the 2013 budget, because last year, we warned you that we were not going to be able to afford to fund the policies chosen and commitments made and, unfortunately, we were right: for example, there are currently programmes in the Seventh Framework Programme for Research on hold due to a lack of funding.
I therefore call on the Council to put a stop now to this policy of cuts and genuinely to provide the money for financing the mandate of the Commission and the European Council.
Alexander Alvaro, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (DE) Madam President, Mr Lewandowski, the draft budget for 2013 includes funding of almost EUR 150 billion for commitments alone. These commitments are directly related to the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy and they have increased by 2.7% to EUR 64.5 billion in total. The figures under Heading 1, sustainable growth, in particular, have risen by 3.5%.
The central programmes for growth and investment, small and medium-sized businesses, employment and young people and new initiatives, for example, the planned pilot phase for the project bond initiative in the fields of transport, energy and ICT, should help to resolve liquidity problems and, therefore, to promote investment and growth, which Europe currently needs more urgently than ever.
The payments in the draft budget amount to a total of EUR 138 billion. In the last year of the current financial framework, the draft budget includes higher funding for payments than in 2012, in particular, in the Seventh Framework Programme, where the increase is around 28%, and in the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund, where the increase amounts to about 12%. These correspond exactly with the estimated payment applications from the public and private partners, which are responsible for projects in these areas.
The proposed increase of 6.8% in the total payment appropriations is the result and the inevitable consequence of the EU’s commitments under the terms of the Treaties to enable all the larger programmes to continue and to take into account the outstanding commitment appropriations from the current year and from previous years. This is conscientious and responsible budgeting.
We are also setting priorities, such as the programme for supporting ICT policy, which will be concentrating in 2013 on increasing the spread of these technologies and ensuring that they are used as effectively as possible, in line with Europe’s digital agenda. Overall, this programme will support Europe and the draft budget is a positive approach which we will hopefully be able to adopt together with the Council. Incidentally, if you will allow me to, I would like to conclude by saying that we would have saved a significant amount of money if we had held this debate in Brussels and not in Strasbourg.
Helga Trüpel, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Madam President, in the debate on the summit this morning, Mr Barroso said that the European budget is the decisive instrument for sustainable growth. I share his view and Mr Lewandowski has just made the same point. As things currently stand, it is important for us to emphasise once again that the way in which we debate the budget is part of the Community method. Parliament must decide together with the Council and only when we reach an agreement will there be a joint budget.
Then the Council decided last week at the summit to mobilise an additional EUR 55 billion from the Structural Funds so that it could finally take measures to stimulate growth for the necessary consolidation policy in crucial areas, including education, research, sustainable energy and renewable energy, all of which are goals which we in the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance share.
However, what the Council failed to do was to explain where this money would come from at such short notice. I would like to endorse what the previous speakers have said. In political terms, the Council is totally schizophrenic. On the one hand, it calls for the growth pact and, on the other hand, it is not prepared to raise the payments for the budget either this year or in 2013. It is true that, following the reports from the Member States, the Commission’s estimates were cautious. However, they are based on the fact that we have to comply with the Treaties. Therefore, I and my group are calling on the Council and on the Cyprus Presidency to be brave in the negotiations, to take a bold European approach, and to ensure that the necessary payments are made. Otherwise, the Council’s decision will lead to us deceiving the citizens of Europe.
Richard Ashworth, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Madam President, the European economy faces challenges like never before, and it will principally be our ability to keep pace with the rest of the world that will determine the future for the European peoples.
The budget will be the key to that future, and our most pressing priority ought to be improving competitiveness to support economic growth based on a fully functioning single market and greater value for money spent at European level. That means investing in research and development, investing in border infrastructure and investing in broadband connectivity – all things which will help people in their daily lives and in the future. But it also means that, in a strictly limited budget, we should only be spending where we can see clear value for money and relevance to the challenges of the day.
This is the time when we ought to be looking again at the traditional spending areas. It is a time when we ought to be asking the difficult questions. For example: has past investment in structural funding projects really brought the benefits that were intended? Will the reform proposals for the common agricultural policy really deliver measurable environmental benefits, and at what price to the European taxpayer? Against the backdrop of the current economic challenges, this budget is missing the opportunity to seek out those new approaches. Instead, the solution is more of the same: the same policies, but more money spent.
This House would be mistaken if it was to presume that it could go on increasing spending at a time when the people of Europe are experiencing cutbacks and austerity. We should be leading by example, and that means freezing the size of the budget.
Alda Sousa, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (PT) Madam President, the only response of governments in Europe to the needs of their peoples has been austerity. We need a Europe of solidarity, not this Europe of punishment. Parliament is the only institution with direct democratic legitimacy. Exclusive authority over the EU budget cannot be handed over to governments. We already know their solution. We will therefore vote against this mandate. We have many serious disagreements with the majority in Parliament. For example, we will not support direct transfers to multinational drug companies or appropriations for a ‘Fortress Europe’. Instead, we will fight, tabling amendments to the budget so that it constitutes an effective response to the crisis.
The Commission proposes increasing the level of payments, but the reality is that these are already promised to the Cohesion Fund and the European Social Fund, whose main creditors are none other than Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal. Fewer resources will only result in fewer jobs, more poverty and more social exclusion. This is not the time for half-measures or vague decisions made by Europe’s leaders. It is time to change Europe, which, up until now, has been held hostage to the markets and banks. More than ever, this is the time to respond to the specific problems of real people, prioritising job creation, health, education and social security.
That is why we are engaged in the struggle, both here and outside Parliament.
Marta Andreasen, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Madam President, here we go again. In the worst financial crisis in living memory, this House comes up with more unrealistic and irresponsible demands. It simply beggars belief that a majority here can even dare to ask for a 6.8% increase.
The idea that genuine growth and employment can be delivered by the EU budget is simply ridiculous. Hundreds of billions have been spent to date that have added up to precisely nothing in terms of growth. Many believe, as I do, that the EU and its policies are, to a large extent, responsible for this crisis. The Commission, in particular, has failed to control the use of EU funding entrusted to it by the taxpayers, while targeting the funds towards supporting its own heavy regulation and the EU project as a whole.
Now this House wants to reward this failure with an increase. If you are listening, Mr Cameron, I have a straight-talking message for you: continue to send money to Brussels and you are effectively transferring power to an unelected, irresponsible and hugely wasteful bureaucracy. For goodness sake, give the British people a break and cut our contribution to the EU budget. I am calling for a reduction, not for a freeze.
Angelika Werthmann (NI). – (DE) Madam President, Europe is undergoing a long-term structural, financial and economic crisis, which is accompanied by constantly rising levels of youth unemployment. This has led to an explosive social situation in which all the social structures from the family to state systems have been pushed to their limits. It is affecting an entire generation of people in the EU and it needs a quick political response.
Against this background, the draft budget for 2013 is a positive and consistent reaction by Parliament, because stringent cuts have been made which even involve the staff of EU institutions. Austerity in the institutions and at all levels of political activity, together with a combined focus on growth and stimulating growth in the future, are what is needed, firstly, in order to increase the citizens’ confidence in the ability of politicians and the EU to act and, secondly, to create new jobs, so that young people, in particular, have prospects for the future.
László Surján (PPE). – (HU) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, let me congratulate the rapporteur. We could hear it from the previous speech: he does not have an easy job. The 2013 budget must contribute to the resolution of Europe’s problems. Perhaps all of us agree that one of the most serious of these problems is unemployment, and linked to that the decline in production. There are, by the way, some who see the dismal state of banks as the heart of the problem, and focus on the decrease in lending; however, amidst several unsuccessful attempts at consolidating banks, as well as the various banking scandals that erupted recently, the European people would not accept it if we were to find a solution in this direction.
Headings 1a and 1b of the European budget, on the other hand, include several programmes that are suitable for both job creation and increasing production. The effectiveness of these programmes could even be enhanced if Member States took a flexible approach and, instead of clinging to the implementation of their pre-crisis programmes, made reallocations. In order to be able to make better use of the opportunities provided by the 2013 budget, Member States should not hesitate to give preference to programmes that support production and job creation. Meanwhile, the European Commission should react more rapidly to support such proposals. This would constitute real crisis management. If we continue to dream about unspent funds and then create new plans for using them, all we will see is the mountain going into labour and giving birth to a little grey mouse; or maybe not even that. Instead of the myth of unspent monies, the budgetary authority should face the fact that payment needs grow in the final year of the cycle, and the costs associated with all those programmes will need to be paid.
In the hope that this will help us to find such a solution, I suggest that we grant this mandate.
Derek Vaughan (S&D). – Madam President, I would also like to thank Mr La Via for his excellent report. I speak as the rapporteur for the other sections’ budget under Heading 5. First of all, I will say just a few words on Parliament’s own budget.
Colleagues will recall the letter from the Commissioner urging all institutions to keep their increase next year to below 1.9%. Colleagues will also recall that in our estimates, we said we would aim for an increase of 1.9% for the moment. I say ‘for the moment’ because what we have done as a Parliament is to put in place a working group to look at making savings in Parliament’s budget. Currently, the working group is looking at such things as travel costs for Members and for staff on missions, and we are looking at a comparable study with other Member States and the US Congress as well. By September of this year, I think we will be able to recommend some savings in Parliament’s budget and by the end of the year, we will have a full report available as well.
I also want to say a few words on the budgets of other institutions. The Commission originally proposed an increase in their budget of 3.2%. I understand that the Council will be proposing an increase of around 1.8%, which is, of course, very close to the 1.9% originally suggested by the Commissioner. I think we need to look at all the institutions individually, however. We know, for example, that the Court of Justice and the External Action Service are already saying that they will need a much bigger increase. But I think that, in general, we should go for an increase of around 1.9%, if not lower. Then we can say – and the other institutions can say – that as a Parliament, we have had a cut in real terms in the administrative budget of our institutions. I think that would be a good thing for this Parliament and for the other institutions.
Hynek Fajmon (ECR). – (CS) Madam President, we are now debating, as we do every year, a mandate for the budget trialogue that is supposed to bring us a budget for the following year. As in previous years, I would like to make a call for common sense and support the effort to reach a compromise but, on the other hand, I am against Parliament needlessly adding fuel to the fire and issuing unrealistic demands.
The economic situation in the EU continues to be very difficult, and it will be no different next year. For this reason, it is not possible to force Member States to increase expenditure radically. In my opinion, Parliament should, in the first place, try to adopt next year’s budget in a timely and proper manner, so that we can avoid delays and provisional arrangements. I believe that this is our key concern, as any budget disputes over trivial matters would put at risk the economic situation across the entire EU, and we cannot allow that.
I would like to say that next year, the EU will, for the first time, achieve fairness in direct payments for farmers in the new Member States, which, as a politician from a new Member State, I very much welcome. In my opinion, this is a historic moment.
Jacek Włosowicz (EFD). – (PL) Madam President, we said in Parliament in March that it is a top priority to support growth in employment in accordance with the Europe 2020 strategy. My views on this are similar, particularly when it comes to support for the small and medium-sized enterprise sector and for young people. The draft budget submitted by the Commission is in sympathy with this position and, from this point of view, it is satisfactory.
We have to remember that the EU budget is an extremely effective and practical instrument of investment, which is, particularly at the present time, very much needed for stimulating economic growth and creating jobs in all the Member States. This is why I am going to support this budget, as it is heading in the right direction, and, in particular, because it resists proposals to reduce funding for a policy which is helping to increase employment. I do not like the fact that in the current situation, there is to be a reduction in funding for a number of purposes, including the Progress programme, which was meant to help reduce unemployment, particularly among young people, to promote equality between women and men and to advance the fight against discrimination.
Planning the budget means planning our future. If we plan it so as to give people – young people, who are the most creative – the tools to help them develop, become independent, find work and change their lives, it will help us all to overcome the crisis on the basis of instead of giving the needy fish, giving them a fishing rod.
Lucas Hartong (NI). – (NL) Madam President, last weekend, I went to see a new film, Ice Age 4. In that film, among the cast are two Australian possums who make a memorable comment. When asked why they get into so much trouble, they answer: ‘Do you want to know our secret? Because we are really, really stupid’.
This comment is very relevant in the context of this debate on the 2013 budget mandate. Anyone who reads the report by Mr La Via on the desired increase in the budget of 6.8% and the objectives as a result of which we are to throw money away all over again will think: who comes up with these ideas? The Commission and Parliament.
What will increase in cost in 2013? Just about everything. It might be better to ask what will not increase. Our citizens who want to know why Europe has ended up with such serious problems would best get an answer from the two possums called the Commission and Parliament: because we are really, really stupid.
Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska (PPE). – (PL) Madam President, the European Union budget is the most important expression of solidarity towards all the 27 Member States of the European Union and also between those Member States. The EU budget is more than an instrument with which to even out differences in the level of prosperity between inhabitants of European regions. First and foremost, it is a means of stimulating investment and competitiveness and creating jobs in the European Union. We do have ideas on how to stimulate economic growth across the EU. The instruments already exist, for example, the Structural Funds, the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the Lifelong Learning Programme. Implementation of these instruments does more than help the beneficiaries of these programmes. It also enables the entire European Union to meet the challenges of the 21st century, especially in relation to global competitiveness as well as job maintenance and creation.
I therefore believe that in next year’s budget, we should guarantee an appropriate level of expenditure, first and foremost, to allow past commitments to be met, while also supporting the process of economic recovery. As for details, I would like to emphasise that we must not allow the growing discrepancy between commitments and payments in the EU budget to worsen any further. This discrepancy, in my opinion, would be an expression of the European Union’s inability to meet commitments entered into previously. The 6.8% increase in payment appropriations in comparison to 2012 is, in my view, a minimum which should be accepted both by the Council and the European Parliament. We cannot focus exclusively on resolving the current situation, or on superficial and hasty solutions. We have to consider the future long-term development of the European Union, something I feel we are called upon to do.
Edit Herczog (S&D). – (HU) Madam President, Commissioner, I am pleased that this year, we are once again meeting to discuss the Competitiveness chapter. I would like to emphasise that since 2013 is the last year of this seven-year framework, it is very important that we spend our resources as efficiently as possible.
I would like to highlight four points. We would be pleased to see SMEs not cutting back on their investments; on the contrary, this field should be reinforced, for example, through support from the EIB. We would be pleased if the experiments and initiatives concerning project bonds were implemented and became successful, and could afterwards be available for similar infrastructural projects in information technology. Commissioner, we wish to very strongly emphasise that although we welcome the ITER project, we believe that it should be financed in such a way as to not hinder the successful implementation of other EU policies, in particular, the Seventh Framework Programme for Research. We managed to solve this last year, and I hope that a solution will be found this year as well. Lastly, I would like to stress that the SET Plan has yet to receive the budgetary allocations vital for its implementation. I believe that if we can make progress in these four areas then, Commissioner, we can smile at each other.
Sampo Terho (EFD). – (FI) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the economic situation in Europe is bad, as we know. Member States are being called upon to make huge cuts, which also means painful sacrifices in society’s key functions, such as defence, education and health care.
At such times, we cannot look as if we are an institution detached from the everyday realities of ordinary people. Making savings, or at least keeping appropriations at the level of inflation, must be something that applies to us too. If we now ask for unreasonable increases in our budget, we will not just be without funds, but we will be harming our reputation and presenting an image of indifference.
What is good about the report is the decision to examine overlap in the financing of actions by the EU, on the one hand, and the Member States, on the other. The EU does not need to do anything that the Member States can do by themselves.
Monika Hohlmeier (PPE). – (DE) Madam President, Mr Lewandowski, ladies and gentlemen, today, I would like to focus, in particular, on the subject of the agencies. I have noticed that there is no specific focus on financing for the agencies in 2013 or in the multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020.
To give you a few examples, there are the new supervisory agencies: the European Banking Authority (EBA), the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). If these agencies are to do justice to the job which we were discussing once again at the weekend, then they need to be equipped to do it properly, because otherwise, we will ultimately not be able to implement all the plans that we have put in place.
Another example is Europol. Europol manages its budget very carefully. In 2011, it had particularly high levels of transfers because some programmes had begun later. The fact that Europol is now being punished with a 10% reduction and is supposed to establish a cybercrime centre with its current funding is simply impossible. We need to ensure that the agencies are properly financed and, at the same time, we need to monitor the management board structures, because I believe that the large number of members on the boards sometimes means that the agencies are managed less efficiently.
José Manuel Fernandes (PPE). – (PT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the European Union budget that we are proposing for 2013 has been increased by 6.8% in comparison to 2012 in terms of payment appropriations, amounting to around EUR 138 billion. I hope that this increase is enough to deal with the commitments taken on by the European Union, where I would highlight the investments that each Member State is making, particularly in terms of cohesion policy.
I recall that at the end of 2011, the Commission was unable to reimburse around EUR 11 billion, so EUR 11 billion in legitimate payment claims was left owing, due to the insufficient level of appropriations.
This occurred because of the Council, which stubbornly acted against its own interests. I call on the Council to act rigorously and realistically, so as not to prevent the payment of amounts which are already contracted, are already allocated and which are important to guarantee economic growth and employment and, at the same time, to achieve economic, social and territorial cohesion. Finally, like the rapporteur, whom I congratulate for the excellent work carried out, I advocate the promotion of growth and jobs, support for small and medium-sized enterprises and young people, and investment in smart, sustainable and inclusive growth as priorities for the 2013 budget.
Jan Kozłowski (PPE). – (PL) Madam President, Commissioner, the EU budget should constitute an instrument for investment and solidarity. It should be a measure to stimulate economic growth and revival. In my opinion, therefore, reducing expenditure, in particular, expenditure allocated to the implementation of policies delivering growth and employment, is detrimental to the European economy. It should be stressed that many Member States also increased their budgets in 2012, in order to combat the effects of the crisis. Moreover, I am concerned about the ever growing level of outstanding commitments (RAL). This is a result of decisions taken to reduce payments in the framework of the annual budgetary procedure. The planned accumulated payments expected in 2013 may also intensify budgetary difficulties. A reduction in payment appropriations represents a serious threat to the implementation of cohesion policy, which should play a key role in economic revival and enable the EU to get back on track towards growth.
Elena Băsescu (PPE). – (RO) Madam President, long-term priorities and strategies need to be taken into account when setting the budget. This means that the objectives aimed at economic growth, competitiveness and employment in Member States must be consolidated.
I support, in particular, the targeting of a sufficient amount of budgetary resources in support of young people and SMEs. The majority of companies involved in the labour market are classified as SMEs, but they attract only a small percentage of the total investments. This is why I believe that increased support for small and medium-sized enterprises could successfully help us overcome the present crisis.
I should stress that financial accountability is particularly important during this period of fiscal consolidation and the EU budget must be supplemented by the recovery policies devised by Member States so as to ensure a positive impact on the economy.
Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE). – (NL) Mr President, allow me to briefly join this debate. We are at the end of the seven-year period and now we are faced with a number of payments that we have to make, in addition to those from previous years, especially for cohesion policy. It is crazy that the money should flow back to Member States, to net contributors, in the early years. And then they refuse to pay the bills. Should we not just set one off against the other? They receive the returns first and get saddled with the bills.
A system whereby we skim off whatever is left over every year is crazy in itself and then, when the bills come, we pretend that the money is not there. So, we have to be a bit more creative. Our citizens do not understand any of this. Neither do I. Can we not do this differently?
Jaroslav Paška (EFD). – (SK) Madam President, the economic situation in the European Union will also be very difficult in 2013. I therefore firmly believe that the European Parliament should not be overly engaged in the promotion of the European Commission’s proposal to increase the EU budget by more than 6%.
Member States must increasingly retrench and simultaneously invest in the development of their economies. I am therefore convinced that the European Commission and the European Parliament should also respect the opinion of the European Council on the redistribution of resources produced by Member States.
We all know, after all, that we still have a certain amount of reserves from ensuring effective spending of resources. For example, over the long term, we come back to the meaningfulness of the financing of multiple centres for the European Parliament, or the construction of a House of European History. I am not saying that funds for the financing of necessary activities should be abandoned, but with a more realistic approach, we would be able to achieve more.
End of the catch-the-eye procedure
Janusz Lewandowski, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, I should like to thank the Members for their comments. I see that it is very fashionable now to compare national budgets with the European budget and this is partly justified, but only partly, as there is no full analogy for several reasons.
The European budget is always in equilibrium: no deficit, no indebtedness. This is because of its size: our budget is 1% of gross national income (GNI) but it is not comparable to the 4% or 5% of GNI spent already on assisting the financial institutions of the European Union and this is not the reason for the trillions of debt accumulated in the Member States. However, it might be part of the solution of how to enhance, in a responsible way, growth and jobs opportunities.
If there is an analogy, it lies in our efforts to save whatever can be saved. This will be in administration because, for the first time since the beginning of the European Community, in 2013 the number of EU officials is going to be reduced, no longer growing. This also concerns agency staff – I am saying this for Ms Hohlmeier’s sake. Are there performance savings? Yes: if we need adjustments, for example, in the development cooperation instruments in Latin America and Asia where some programmes are not performing, then we are making savings and this is clearly reflected in the draft budget for 2013.
Taken altogether, our spending is now EUR 66 billion, less than agreed for the financial perspective for the period 2007-2013. This is the net result of performance savings and being restrained in budgeting in the European Union. But what is the budget?
This is about the means to cover legitimate bills, bills coming for approved projects in the Member States. Ninety-four percent of the budget goes outside Brussels; only 6% concerns administration. What is the result when we delay or do not pay? That is the problem of reimbursements to the finance ministries: this means deteriorating liquidity in Member States, or really reducing investment possibilities in the Member States or not supplying the means to overcome the credit crunch for small and medium-sized companies. And the net result, the final result, is the mountain of unpaid commitments. That is about the future bills; no real solution. This is not a real option.
The 2013 budget was built on the deliveries coming from the Member States and I agree with Alain Lamassoure that it is perhaps a little bit schizophrenic to send the bills to Brussels. We evaluate very critically and then we make an effort to respect the deals and we cannot be criticised for respecting the bills coming from 27 countries. This is a little bit of a schizophrenic approach to the budget. I do not think that anybody is surprised that with the 2013 budget, which is the last, we have additional requests for payments. But it is a practical test of what was called the ‘growth agenda of the European Union’, done in a fiscally responsible way.
Giovanni La Via, rapporteur. – (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, meanwhile, I would like to thank my colleagues for the interesting debate, which seems to have given rise to a large majority of speeches in favour of support for the committee’s position, as it is clear that payment needs must obviously follow the commitments made in previous years. It is undeniable that today, with outstanding commitments or reste-à-liquider (RALs) that have now reached EUR 207 million, there is now a mountain of bills to pay, accounts that are obviously legitimate because they arise from commitments lawfully made in previous years and which must now be honoured.
First and foremost, the need for payment focuses on those headings that are most closely related to development, to economic growth. This is why we have to fight the battle for payments, and Parliament, with this mandate for the trialogue, clearly gives an indication in this regard. We called for interinstitutional collaboration, as it is clear that without a common starting point in terms of information, we can and probably will reach different conclusions. We already had that experience during conciliation last year and we started from different assessments. We must monitor payments and, in this respect, we are calling upon what is today an empty chair, that of the Council, but through our mandate for the trialogue, we call upon the Council to take part in our interinstitutional dialogue so that by the end of our talks, when we discuss and settle the 2013 budget, we will have reached a joint vision of the real needs.
Finally, I would like to thank Commissioner Lewandowski for his sincere cooperation and the groups that tomorrow will give their support to this mandate for the trialogue, which I hope will pass by a large majority in order to give us the bargaining strength in the discussions that we will be holding next week with the other institutions.
President. – The debate is closed.
The vote will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, 4 July, at 12.30.