Parliament approved the draft EU budget for 2015 and a top-up of the 2014 one on Wednesday. The budget foresees €145.32 billion in commitments and €141.21 billion in payments for 2015, and an extra €4.25 billion to settle unpaid bills in 2014.
ˮIt is clear that the amounts that we are to accept will at best only stabilize the level of European debt. What gives me hope is the payment plan aimed at decreasing the amount of unpaid billsˮ, said Budgets Committee chair Jean Arthuis (ALDE, FR), in the final debate on the budgets on 16 December. ˮGovernments had accepted the political commitments but then they failed to pay what they owed. Do we have to recall yet again that payments are only technical consequences of commitments?ˮ, he asked.
Parliament’s priorities have been to secure enough money to pay off the most urgent outstanding bills from contractors working on EU-funded projects in the member states; to agree a detailed plan to wind down an accumulated pile of bills; and to secure investment financing in areas that EU institutions prioritized in their political commitments.
Payments: €4.25 billion more for 2014, mid-way compromise for 2015
Parliament’s negotiators secured extra resources to pay bills from EU contractors such as local collectives, non-government organisations, and small firms. The 2015 compromise safeguards the payments to beneficiaries in areas that were most hit by delayed payments.
At Parliament’s insistence, the European Commission is to present a plan to wind down the unpaid bills backlog, which reached €23.4 billion by the end of 2013 and is set to hit €25 billion by the end of 2014, according to the latest Commission forecast. The plan will define a “sustainable level” that the amount of unpaid bills must not exceed.
Use extra revenue to reduce backlog
Parliament wanted all the €8.88 billion in extra revenues from fines against companies breaching EU competition law to be used to reduce the backlog. EU member states agreed to use €3.53 billion of this sum for this purpose, but decided to channel the remainder back into their national budgets.
Slightly more for growth, foreign policy
Parliament reversed €0.5 billion in Council's cuts in commitments, mostly affecting competitiveness, citizenship and external action. It alsonegotiated €45 million more for the EU’s Horizon 2020 R&D programme and €16 million more for the Erasmus+ student exchange programme. For foreign policy, the payments budget was increased by €32 million. Banking supervisory agencies and EU border agency Frontex also received more funding.
The resolution on the 2015 budget was approved by 443 votes, 250 against and 43 abstentions.
The EU's budget for 2015 pledges 2% more money for projects than in 2014 and is enough to deliver 1% more in payments. Of this amount, 88% is spent in and by the member states, 6% goes on external policy, and another 6% is used to run the EU. The entire EU budget represents slightly more than 1% of the EU-28 GNI. The draft budget is presented by the Commission and amended by the Council and Parliament.
Note to editors: additional parts of the budget package
In addition to the budget for 2015, the following votes are also part of the budget package:
- Use of the flexibility instrument for Cyprus for €83.3 million in commitments in 2015 (payments to be made 2015-2018)
- Use of the contingency margin for €3.1 billion
- Advance of €50 million for 2015 tapping European Solidarity Fund
- Draft Amending Budget (DAB) 3/2014: a revision of revenue forecast for 2014 by €1.568 billion, call for additional payment appropriations of €4.246 billion, to be used mostly for cohesion bills.
- DAB4/2014: further revision of fines revenue for 2014 by €2.433 billion
- DAB5/2014, and corresponding decision: European Solidarity Fund commitment of €46.9 million to Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Italy; payment in 2015
- DAB6/2014: another revision of customs revenue forecast at €420 million; revision of VAT and GNI balances of €9.5 billion. On 1 December, of the €9.5 billion, €4.1 billion was paid.
- DAB7/2014, and corresponding decision: European Solidarity Fund commitment of €79.7 million to Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria; payment in 2015
- DAB8/2014 (identical to former DAB2/2014): surplus from 2013 of €1.005 billion