EU parliament president calls for ‘properly funded’ budget
26 November 2012, The Parliament Magazine
EU policymakers and NGOs have given a mixed reaction to the dramatic collapse of last week’s summit of EU leaders and heads of state.
As many had predicted, the summit broke up on Friday without agreement on the EU’s long-term budget.
The sticking point remains the commission’s demand for a five per cent rise for the seven-year spending period from 2013.
Some member states, including the UK and Sweden, insist the budget should be cut or at worst frozen.
There is also continuing conflict over the UK’s EU budget rebate and future farming funds for France.
EU leaders are now expected to meet early in the new year in another bid to reach agreement.
Reaction was swift, with parliament’s president Martin Schulz saying MEPs were “categorically opposed” to the freezing of the EU budgetm “let alone to cuts in that budget”.
The German MEP said, “The reason is simple: we know that the EU budget is the most powerful force for growth in Europe. Even more so at this time of crisis, Europe needs the EU budget in order to invest in growth.”
“We need a properly funded EU budget to supplement national efforts.”
Further reaction came from his colleague, the Party of European Socialists president, Sergei Stanishev, who said that the delay in securing an agreement on the EU budget “will be worth it”.
The Bulgarian said, “It will be worth the wait if we remember that the single biggest priority is ‘continent-wide’ economic recovery in Europe.”
He said, “These decisions take time and patience. It will be worth the weeks or months of delay if we can ensure future years of economic growth and job creation throughout the EU. We should make sure that we do not have compromise for compromise’s sake, but instead stay mindful of European people’s demands.”
European Liberals reiterated their concern about “wrong prioritisation” in the EU budget, saying it “does not focus on 21st century challenges”.
A statement said, “European Liberals demand the need for a budget providing European added value by focusing on long-term growth to strengthen European competitiveness in the global market.”
Brussels’ NGO community was also quick to respond to the stalled budget talks, with the anti-poverty group ONE saying the breakup of the summit without agreement was a chance to reverse “devastating cuts” to aid.
Eloise Todd, Brussels director of ONE said, “This summit was headed in the wrong direction with the latest proposals shifting the burden of cuts to the most vulnerable. There is now a chance to go back to the drawing board, rebalance the debate and protect the tiny proportion of the budget spent on development aid.
“Europe’s biggest aid champions like France, the UK and Germany must think through what the impact of these huge aid cuts would mean. They must not stand silent while Europe balances its books on the backs of the world’s poorest.”
“Most Europeans do not want to see cuts to aid spending, and new research shows that EU aid works and more than pays for itself. There is just no good reason to cut aid.
“We did not take the step forward we hoped for at this summit, but we did avoid a disastrous step back.”
Olivier Consolo, director of Concord, the European development confederation, said, “EU leaders are wrong to make the proportionally largest budget cut to aid that helps saves lives in developing countries.
“We urgently need to see EU leaders standing up for development aid.”
Elsewhere, Markus Trilling, EU funds coordinator for the CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe, said, “Europe’s people and our environment have been let down by our leaders once again, and for what?”
He said that while opposing member states have been “fixating over sums as tiny” as 0.005 percent of total EU GDP, the “pressing” issues of climate change, environmental degradation and resource use have been “totally short-changed”.
“If a further budget summit goes ahead in the new year, it must put the quality of EU spending at the top of the agenda, and recognise the huge potential of this money for improving the quality of life in Europe, our shared environment and our economic prospects,” he added.
BusinessEurope director general Philippe de Buck expressed “regret” that EU leaders failed to reach an agreement on the financial framework for 2014-2020.
He said, “Further uncertainty has been created that will harm the conditions for investment.”
He reiterated the need for an agreement “that ensures an EU budget that focuses on investment, growth and job creation across our continent”.
Eleni Marianou, secretary general of the conference of peripheral maritime regions, said it was a “pity” the summit had failed to reach a deal “in such difficult times. We hope for a brave [multiannual financial framework] early next year focusing on growth and jobs.”
Meanwhile, the president of the Committee of the Regions, Ramon Luis Valcárcel, also voiced “concern” that a new delay in the budget “will lead to serious problems for Europe’s cities and regions”.
He said, “The uncertainty about the future budget risks to create serious problems for local and regional authorities who are struggling to support recovery.
“European citizens need a good agreement ensuring the due continuity of the EU’s policies.”
Institution: EU Funds